Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is a role model – in character, virtues and personality – for whole mankind. He was a great motivator, teacher and orator.
He knew how to address the hearts. He would inspire his followers to listen to his message. in order to maximize the effects of his message that could permanently transform the behavior of people, he used a type of speech that made his followers think.
Here are some of the key features of his teaching methods:
Use of Analogies: Prophet (PBUH) would use analogies to explain a topic verbally, and to enhance the imagination and curiosity of the listeners. For example, once he asked his companions, “What would be the condition of someone who has a river at his door and every day, five times a day, he comes out and he takes a bath in that river? At the end of the day would he have any dirt on his body?” They responded, “There would be no dirt on him, O Rasul Allah.” Then the Prophet said, ” five prayers are like that, they cleanse a person and wipe out the sins.”
Use of Drawings: Prophet (PBUH) also made use of drawings and graphs for illustration. In this context, the Prophet once drew a straight line through the sand and then lines to the right and lines to the left of the first line. Then, while the people were looking attentively at the drawing, he recited the Quranic verse “And verily, this is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path” (Quran; 6:153)
Use of Hands: Prophet illustrated his point using his hand as once he said, “I and the one who takes care of the orphans will be in paradise, like this (as he was speaking, he interlaced his fingers).”
Q and A session: Question-answer method stands out as his most used teaching method. He would sometimes ask questions randomly to the companions in order to keep their curiosity about learning alive, provide mental alertness and enhance better learning. Once he asked the companions; according to you who is the most strong person? They replied one who can wrestle down others? Prophet (PBUH) said No, most strong person is the one who can control his anger.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) encouraged the companions to ask questions too and they would often ask questions to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) about various subjects that they wanted to learn. One day, Abdullah bin Amr came to the messenger of Allah and asked “Is it vanity if I wear a nice cloth?” The Prophet answered, “No.” then Abdullah said “Okay” and asked “Is it vanity if I cook and invite people?” the messenger of Allah answered, “No.” “So, what is vanity?” asked Abdullah. The messenger of Allah said: “Vanity is underestimating the right and looking down on people” (Hadislerle Islam, Vol. 3, 2014: 520). When a companions asked to the Prophet “Whom should I do favour?” the Prophet answered “Do firstly your mother, then your father favour.”
“One day, people asked to the beloved Prophet “Oh, the messenger of Allah, which of the believers is more virtuous?” Beloved Prophet replied, “The one from whom the Muslims are safe from the harm of his/her tongue and hand”. Asking and seeking questions is the best way to clear doubts and enhance better learning. It enriches understanding and provides food to thought.
Teaching People According to Their Nature and Ability : It was also part of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wise method to teach people on the basis of their level of intellect and understanding and in a way that suited their psycho-emotional faculties, their nature, and their customs; and would impart his message with a spirit of tolerance and ease. He would use with each group the discourse that suited them, and address them in their own language. The Prophet (PBUH) used to bring himself down to the level of those whom he was talking to. It was narrated by Umar ibn Abu Salamah; Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said “Come near, my son, mention Allah’s name, eat with your right hand …”(Sunan Abi Dawud 3777). In every gathering prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would come up with something beneficial. His way of imparting knowledge was such that both wise and mediocre could learn something.
Effective Comparison Technique: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would often teach people by giving comparative examples for clear understanding. Once the prophet went to market with his companions. They saw a dead lamb and the prophet asked companions who would buy it for one dirham. One of the companions replied even if I will be given in free I still will not take this. This is just useless. Prophet replied same is the value of Duniya in comparison to Akhirah. This world is more insignificant in the eyes of Allah than it (dead lamb) is in your eyes
Criticize the behaviour not the agent: The prophet made people realize that what is wrong is the behaviour, and he never insulted or scolded people. He did not criticize the person, but rather the faulty action and he always did this correction in the best of ways. Educationalists and psychologists say that for sustainable long-term education, a stable and uncritical relationship between teacher and learner is a must. Artful criticism aims at correction and learning not in personal attack and demoralizing.
Repetition: Prophet (PBUH) would often repeat his lesson three times to the same people so that they can understand and retain well. Once a companion requested prophet to show him how to perform ablution? The prophet performed ablution three times so that the companion could retain it well.
Learning by doing: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would perform the actions in front of companions so that there remains no discrepancy between words and actions. From performing ablution to offering namaz, to skinning an animal, to wearing Ihram; everything was shown in a hands on training approach.
Exhaustive learning: Prophet Muhammad(SAW) as a messenger and teacher would impart knowledge about each and every aspect of life. He would shed light even on the most private and personal aspects of life without inhibition so as to save people from hellfire.
Home message: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the best of teachers. His teaching strategy was so modern, applied, and appealing that it would engage all senses. He would make use of analogy, question-answer method, and experiential learning. He was an empathetic teacher and an epitome of virtues. He would never teach anything that he didn’t follow. Words and actions were in complete consonance. He was an effective communicator and a great motivational speaker. All the 7 Cs of effective communication: Clarity, Correctness, Conciseness, Courtesy, Concreteness, Consideration and Completeness were there in him. If we reflect on the way our prophet would teach his companions we will surely learn the art of effective teaching. As role models in teaching we usually quote Aristotle, John Dewey, Piaget, Berkley and Rortey etc., but we overlook the teaching-learning methods of our beloved prophet who is a great role model for all.