Today I realised how little time I have been giving to this blog, when one of my most respected students showed me how they searched for my blog and then set about checking it each day for new articles I was left sat in silence. Therefore out of respect for them I decided to write a little piece upon the relationship between a student and teacher.
With Love & Honour
Anas, Ḥudhayfa and Kaʿb ibn Mālik Raḍiallāhu ʿAnhum all stated that the Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallallāhu ʿAlayhi wa Sallam) said, “Whoever seeks knowledge so that he can contest fools, vie with the scholars, or attract attention toward himself, occupies his seat in the Fire.” (at-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah & al-Bazzār)
If the teacher is there to show to others how deep and great his or her knowledge is to gain respect or status among a people then they have missed the point of knowledge itself. If one does not become more humble the more they learn then they should either change their class, change teacher or go back and search within themselves for an answer to why they are seeking knowledge about the religion of Allāh in the first place. The religion of Allāh does not need anyone, if we neglect it Allāh will create another group of people whom will spread His religion.
A true teacher can be seen in how they conduct themselves, the manner in which they address their students and the silences they observe when asked a question to which they do not know the answer.
Imām an-Nawawī relates in his book aṭ-Ṭibyān fī Ādāb Ḥāmilāt al-Qurʾān,
“The teacher should make every effort to be sincere with whomever recites to him, since the Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallallāhu ʿAlayhi wa Sallam) said, “Religion is sincerity: towards God, His Book, His Messenger, the leaders of the Muslims, and their common folk.” (Muslim)
Sincerity towards God and His Book includes, honouring its reciter and its student, guiding him to his best interest; being kind to him; assisting him in his studies with all that once can. It includes harmonising the student’s heart; being open-handed by teaching him gently, being kind towards him, and encouraging him to learn.
The teacher should mention the superiority of learning to the student, so that it causes him to be eager and increase his desire, makes him abstinent in this world, and changes him from being inclined towards [the world] and from being deluded by it. The teacher should mention to him the superiority of being occupied with the Qurʾān and all other religious sciences. This is the path of those who have knowledge of Allāh, the resolute, and the righteous worshipers of Allāh. And it is the rank of the Prophets (Upon them all be peace
The teacher should feel compassion for the student and pay attention to his well-being, just as he pays attention to his own well-being and his son’s. The teacher assumes the role of the student’s father by having compassion for him, concern for his well-being, and patience with his roughness and ill manners; and he pardons him for his poor behaviour in some circumstances – since he is prone to shortcomings, especially if young in age.”
Another narration which exemplifies the teacher and student relationship is what an-Nawawī narrated from Ibn ʿAbbās,
“The one I must respect the most is the one sitting before me – he who stepped over people’s necks until he sat before me. If I were capable of preventing a single fly from landing on his face, I would have done so!” in another narration he said, “…and flies land on his face and it bothers me!” (al-Bukhārī in al-Adab al-Mufrad)
This narration to me shows the genuine care a teacher needs to possess for their students, the relationship that is taking place is not something minor or trivial. One of my Shaykhs once said to me, ‘This dīn is passed from heart to heart… from soul to soul.’ One should keep in mind the immense blessings and mercy which descend upon those who gather to learn about their faith, a teacher and student will remain connected to one another throughout their life in this world and in the Hereafter as well, if the teacher taught them what was good and correct they will continue to gain reward through the actions of their students, and if they taught them wrong they will share in the sin.
Some readers may be surprised as to the start of this post, where I stated quite clearly that this writing is for the pleasure Allāh and in respect of perhaps the most honourable person ever to sit before me, one who possesses outstanding moral character, sacrifice and respect for their Islamic studies and their teacher. Well for those who feel this is wrong then I present a further quote from al-Imām an-Nawawī,
“When there are many students, the teacher gives precedence in instructing according to the order in which they arrive. If the first student approves that another be given precedence, it is duly given. He should show them joy and a cheerful face. He should inquire about their circumstances, and ask about someone who is absent.”
All of the above are the etiquettes the teacher should show to their student out of love and respect. Each issue also applies to the student in their behaviour towards their teacher. In addition an-Nawawī says,
“The student must look to his teacher with the eye of respect, believe in his competence completely, and his superiority over his contemporaries, since this makes it more likely that on will benefit from him. One scholar from the earlier generations would give something in charity whenever he went to his teacher and say, ‘O Allāh, cover my teacher’s faults from me, and do not take the spiritual blessing of his knowledge away from me.”
Today we have many people who a teaching, yet the effects of knowledge are not seen upon their students. Superficial relationships exist through teachers who only interact with their students via Skype or YouTube or webinars with follow-up forums for Q&A. while these may fill-in a gap for some it will mean that the knowledge the teacher imparted only remained as information, when you see your teacher walking the same streets you walk, eating in the takeaways you eat in, going through the same rigours of daily life you feel and yet they show you how to continue in your daily acts with a fresh mind and perspective and how to be a slave of Allāh in all that you have to do, then you will see the effects of knowledge.
While the teacher may possess the theoretical and practical knowledge they need to impart to others, a realm of learning remains for them as well, human experience. Nothing softens the heart of a teacher like seeing a dedicated student sit before them; writing down every word they say and raising their heads to ask carefully crafted questions.
When you wake up in the night remembering and making duʿā for your students by name, and for your teacher in the middle of the night then you will know you have taken a portion of knowledge, Shukr, gratitude.