6 min read
October 4th 2022
Teaching – is the most respectful, noble, and valuable profession in the world.
For Muslims, this profession holds great importance as our way of life begins and ends with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who introduced himself as a teacher over 1444 years ago.
According to the Noble Qur’an, our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was sent to teach the people of this world about the Noble Book, wisdom, and unknown things.
“Like (a favour which you have already received) in that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our verses, and purifying you, and instructing you in scripture and wisdom, and in new knowledge.” [Qur’an, 2: 151]
Teachers are responsible for shaping the minds, moulding students’ personalities and educating them, and are honoured in every religion. Due to their essential role, Islam has granted teachers a high status and rights. Throughout history, Islam has paid great attention to teachers since they are the foundation for social development and perfection and the catalyst for guiding and developing individual and community behaviour.
A quote from Ali (RA) highlights the rank of teachers further: “If a person teaches me one single word, he has made me his servant for a lifetime. ”
Islam survived harsh persecution during its earliest and most difficult times because of an outstanding teacher. The success of the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Makkah to Madinah and the spread of Islam to regions outside of Makkah were made possible thanks to another teacher, second only to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
An eighteen-year-old man, Musab bin Umair hailed from one of the wealthiest families of Quraish in Makkah. He had grown up surrounded by luxury, affluence, and comfort. Musab was extraordinarily handsome and the apple of his mother’s eye.
He was intrigued when he heard that a group of people were gathering in Al-Arqam’s house to listen to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preach a new religion. He attended and found a man speaking softly, yet with an unwavering conviction, to the people. Musab knew in his heart that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was telling the truth and that he (peace be upon him) was delivering a message from God.
Musab bin Umair accepted Islam but kept his faith hidden while secretly attending meetings at Al-Arqam to study the Qur’an. He quickly became known among the Muslims as one of the best students of the Holy Qur’an and among the most proficient in recitation and understanding its meanings.
On several occasions, he was spotted praying and walking to or from Al-Arqam’s house until word spread that Musab bin Umair was a Muslim. Soon he was forced by his mother to denounce his beliefs and return to idol worship, but he escaped to Abyssinia and, many months later, was once again persecuted by the people of Makkah.
Musab’s family threatened to cut him off from all their wealth, leaving him with nothing. However, he remained firm in his faith in Allah and devotion to Islam. Despite having nothing but clothes on his back, he continued to follow Islam’s path.
A group of 12 men came from Yathrib (Madinah) to Makkah to pledge their allegiance to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They also asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to send someone who would return to Madinah and teach them about Islam.
Musab bin Umair was chosen by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to plant the seeds from which the new Muslim community would grow in strength.
He was intelligent, calm, eloquent, and well-spoken. He had a beautiful voice when reciting the Holy Qur’an and educated the people of Madinah through the Qur’an. When people asked him about Islam, he answered them by reciting verses from the Qur’an relevant to their questions. He understood people and had a way of reaching their hearts.
He became the first teacher in Islam and the first ambassador in Islam. Musab was highly influential. Scholars say that through Musab’s efforts, around 8,000 people in Madinah embraced Islam when the Prophet (peace be upon him) migrated from Makkah to Madinah.
He was martyred in the Battle of Uhud, protecting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who had assigned him the task of carrying the Muslim flag.
Musab bin Umair was a man who, by teaching people in Madinah, ensured the survival of Islam, and he set the stage for Islam to flourish and spread to all corners of the world. And until this day, the name Musab bin Umair is mentioned as one of the best teachers in history.
Makkah was the hometown of Shifa bint Abdullah bin Abd Shams bin Khalaf bin Shadad al-Qurashiyah al-Adawiyah. Although her kunyah was Umm Sulaiman and her original name was Laylah, she became well known as al-Shifa because she could heal some people with Allah’s permission.
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah converted to Islam in Makkah at a young age and married Abi Khaithamah bin Hudhayfah bin Amir al-Qurashi al-Adawi. Like the other early Muslims, she persevered and practised patience despite the suffering the Quraysh brought them. Until Allah gave the persecuted Muslims permission to leave Makkah for Madinah, at which point she followed them.
Al-Shifa bint Abdullah al-Adawiyyah, who had been endowed with a keen brain and valuable knowledge, was one of the few people who could read and write during the Jahiliyyah period. She was competent in the practice of ruqyah or healing supplications. After converting to Islam, she did not perform ruqyah; instead, she spoke to the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him), recited to him, and He (peace be upon him) gave her permission.
She then continued healing the Muslims using ruqyah and taught it to Hafsah (May Allah be pleased with her). According to a hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) entered the house of Hafsah bint Umar and found Shifa bint Abdullah there. He asked her to teach Hafsah bint Umar how to recite the ruqyah al-namlah as she had taught her to write. She also taught other Muslim women how to read and write, making her the first female teacher in Islam.
Not much mention is made about the details of the life of al-Shifa bint Abdullah; however, Ibn Hajar described her in al-Isabah as being from the intelligent and notable women.
Additionally, it was reported that Umar bin al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) trusted her judgement and gave her view precedence over others.
Islam’s first female teacher passed away during the rule of Umar bin al-Khattab in the year 20 Hijri.
Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and President Bill Clinton are some of the most famous and influential people who credit their success to great teachers growing up.
Since 1994, October 5th commemorates Word Teachers Day. A day when teachers worldwide are recognised for their importance in our societies as they continue their mission of education, it has become necessary to encourage others to learn and become tomorrow’s teachers for future generations.
In Islamic education, where teachers specialise in transmitting their knowledge of Arabic, the Quran, and Islam, this recognition is critical, as today’s stakes are much higher.
The teachers of secular studies are here to help us in worldly affairs, while those of sacred knowledge are here to help us understand and apply the keys to not only surviving this earthly life – the Dunya but, more importantly, to prepare for the next – the Akhirah.
Learning the language of the Quran, understanding its meaning, applying its principles and guidance in our lives, following the example of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): we turn towards those who have acquired knowledge so that we may improve, become the best version of ourselves, and teach others.
Those who transmit knowledge, especially teachers and scholars of Sacred Knowledge, have significant responsibilities and consequences, but they also enjoy special status, importance, and rewards:
Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. And Allah is acquainted with what you do. (Surah Al-Mujādilah, 58:11)