Lesson #1 – Less is More

ʿĀʾishah said that when RasulAllah sala Allahu Alihi would speak, a person listening to him could count the words on his own fingers. The people could count that The Prophet said this, this, this, and this.

In Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Imām al-Bukhārī has a chapter entitled ‘Being Moderate When Teaching’.

Ibn Masʿūd used to teach on Thursday every week. The people wished that he would teach every single day. He said, ‘I could do this, I could teach you every single day, but this is not how The Prophet taught us and I am afraid that I will bore you and you will not learn.’

Lesson #2 – Be Audience Specific

In al-Bukhārī we find a chapter entitled, ‘Teaching Knowledge to Some and Not to Others for Fear of Them Misunderstanding’.

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalam told Muʿādh, ‘Whoever says lā ilāha illa’llāh Muḥammadun rasūl Allah sincerely from his heart will enter paradise.’

The companion radi Allahu anhu said to RasulAllah, ‘Shouldn’t I tell everyone?’

The Prophet said, ‘No, because they will begin to lean, they will become lazy in their deen after that.’

Similarly, Ibn Rajab rahimahullah says that facilitations, called rukhsa in Arabic, ‘should not be passed on to the lay people because these people would then take them as the complete Sunnah.’

For example, if there is not enough water, it is permissible to only wash the body parts one time rather than three times in wuḍūʾ, but the preference, or afḍal, in normal situations is to wash three times.

For example, in the ḥadīth of the person that asked The Prophet about kissing while fasting, the Prophet gave permission to one person and did not give permission to another. When they asked about this, the Prophet said that the difference was that one person was an elder and the other was a newlywed. The elder has more control over himself compared with the newlywed. Thus, the ruling of The Prophet changed based on the situation of the person who was asking.

Lesson #3 – Discuss More Than Lecture

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi asked, ‘Who is the Muslim?’ We know the common definition- one who has submitted to Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala. However, the Prophet responded with the literal meaning of the word salim, saying, ‘The Muslim is the one who other people are at peace from his hands and his tongue.’ Then the Prophet asked, ‘Who is the muhājir?’

The people responded, ‘The one who emigrated from Makkah to Madinah.’

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi replied, ‘The person who emigrates and goes away from those things that Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala forbade.’

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi then posed another question, ‘Who is the bankrupt person?’ They responded, “A person who does not have money is the bankrupt person.” The Prophet sala Allahu alihi waSalam said, ‘It is the person who comes on the Day of Judgement with all these good deeds, but he is hit and cursed and his good deeds start being taken from him until he has no good deeds left and he goes bankrupt. Then he starts getting the bad deeds of the people he hurt and he is thrown into the Hellfire.’ Being able to interact with those you are instructing is a Prophetic Art. We are more likely to be convinced through discussion than through commands handed down to us.

Lesson #4 – Paint a Picture – Use Analogies

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi would also often compare in many of the aḥādīth things to the Mount Uḥud. Today someone might give an example comparing something to the weight of Mount Uḥud, but since many people have not seen Mount Uḥud, they will not understand the analogy. But when the Prophet would say it to someone, all that person had to do was listen to the Prophet and he would know what the Prophet sala Allahu alihi WasSalaam was talking about.

An example from the Prophet r is the ḥadīth of the woman who came and asked him about her mother who made an oath to do Ḥajj but then died. She asked the Prophet, ‘Should I do Ḥajj on her behalf?’

The Prophet said: ‘If your mother had any debts, would you pay them on her behalf?’

The woman replied, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet said:

 ‘The debt owed to Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala is more worthy of being fulfilled and paid off’ (al-Bukhārī).

Lesson #5 – A Picture is worth a 1000 words

The Prophet sala Allahu aliihi taught people to use drawings on the earth, or on the dust. Once the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam made a straight line through the sand and after that he made lines to the right and lines to the left, and then he mentioned verses relating to the sabīl (way) of Allah: And do not follow the other paths as it will distract you and divide you from the path of Allah. The Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalam said the verse and the people were looking down at the drawing in the sand.

Another diagram that the Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalam drew was a box with a line going from the middle of it to the outside of it and then he drew other lines that were cutting into that line. The Prophet sala Allahu alihi said the middle represents a person and the line going out are his hopes. That is the man’s goals beyond the box, and the box is his qadr, for example his destiny to die, and his ajl (appointed term), for example when it is written for him how long he will live. And those arrows that are coming to the person, they are different things that will happen in a person’s life. If one of these ‘lines’ misses, then surely another one will hit the person, changing what he was planning for.

Lesson #6 –Exhibit A

The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalaam would occasionally raise something up that was haram as an exhibit to emphasise it as haram. The Prophet sala Allahu alihi WasSalaam raised up actual pieces of gold and silk and said:

‘These are haram for the men of my ummah and ḥalāl for the women of my ummah’ (Abū Dāwūd).

In another ḥadīth, the Prophet was speaking about ghulul, which is to steal from the war treasury before it has been distributed.

When talking about ghulul, the Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalaam actually picked up the war spoils and he began explaining to the Sahaabaa radi Allahu anhum about the intensity of the haram of stealing from the war spoils. He did this holding and standing beside the war spoils after battle. So he didn’t just make a reference to the war spoils; he actually held it up (al-Bukhārī).

Lesson #7 – Value Added

Go beyond the normal discussion & anticipate follow-up questions

People came to the Prophet sala Allahu alihi wa Salaam and asked him about making wuḍūʾ from seawater. Because they couldn’t drink the sea water, they were also thinking that it was not pure/ṭāhir. They asked about a situation where they have drinking water, but if it is used for wuḍūʾ, then there would be none left to drink when they are thirsty. So the Prophet said the famous ḥadīth: ‘The water is ṭahūr.’

So one can make wuḍūʾ with sea water, but then the Prophet also began talking about seafood, that the animals that die from the water are halal to eat.

Another example of providing more than what is asked is the ḥadīth of the woman who asked the Prophet about Ḥajj for her infant.

The Prophet asked, ‘Who are you all?’

They said, ‘We are so and so. Who are you?’

He said, ‘I am RasūlAllāh .’

When he said that, the woman raised her baby and said, ‘Is there Ḥajj for this baby?’

The answer is yes, and that was the end to her question. But the Prophet said, ‘And you will have the reward.’ Meaning that you will be rewarded for the effort that you put into taking this infant for Ḥajj. 

Lesson #8

A person came to the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalaam and asked, ‘When is the hour?’ The Prophet sala Allahu alihi WasSalaam did not say, ‘Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask that question?’ But he said, ‘What have you prepared for that final hour?’ Meaning, it is surely going to come, it does not matter exactly when, but it will come. The more important question is, ‘What have you prepared for it?’

The questioner said, ‘I haven’t prepared a lot of ṣalāt and I haven’t prepared a lot of zakāt (in addition to the fard), but I am preparing one thing – my love for Allah and His messenger.’

The Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalam said, ‘You will be with who you love.’

The companions and Anas said that there was no ḥadīth more beloved to him than this ḥadīth. So, it went from a question that did not have any benefit, to the most beloved ḥadīth of the companions.

Another example of this is the ḥadīth where the Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalaam was asked, ‘What should the muhrim (someone in ihram) wear?’ The Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalaam answered the question by enumerating what the muhrim should not wear.

Lesson #9 – Seize the Teaching Moment

There was a dead goat with a deformity in its ear and The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam passed by it. Others were passing by, and no one was paying attention to the dead animal, yet the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Look at this. Which one of you would buy this for such and such amount of money?’

They said, ‘Ya Rasūl Allāh sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam , even if it were alive, no one would want to pay money for it. Because of its deformity, no one would care for it, and how much more so since it’s dead.’ In other words, its road kill and nobody cares about it.

The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Verily, the dunyā is more worthless to Allah than this animal is to you. Just like you don’t care about this, in the sight of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, this dunya is less worthy than this.’

The next example is the ḥadīth of the woman throwing her child into the fire. This woman had lost her child, who was still nursing, for a long period of time. The child was away from his mother for so long that he could have died. So when the mother finally found the child, she grabbed it and immediately started feeding him. The companions were looking and were amazed at the immense love of this mother. At that moment, the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Do you imagine that this woman would throw this child into the fire and burn it alive?’

They said, ‘Ya RasulAllah sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam , she would never do it so long as she is capable of protecting the child from that.’

The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam then said, ‘Indeed, Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman to her child.’

Lesson #9 – Seize the Teaching Moment

There was a dead goat with a deformity in its ear and The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam passed by it. Others were passing by, and no one was paying attention to the dead animal, yet the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Look at this. Which one of you would buy this for such and such amount of money?’

They said, ‘Ya Rasūl Allāh sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam , even if it were alive, no one would want to pay money for it. Because of its deformity, no one would care for it, and how much more so since it’s dead.’ In other words, its road kill and nobody cares about it.

The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Verily, the dunyā is more worthless to Allah than this animal is to you. Just like you don’t care about this, in the sight of Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala, this dunya is less worthy than this.’

The next example is the ḥadīth of the woman throwing her child into the fire. This woman had lost her child, who was still nursing, for a long period of time. The child was away from his mother for so long that he could have died. So when the mother finally found the child, she grabbed it and immediately started feeding him. The companions were looking and were amazed at the immense love of this mother. At that moment, the Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam said, ‘Do you imagine that this woman would throw this child into the fire and burn it alive?’

They said, ‘Ya RasulAllah sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam , she would never do it so long as she is capable of protecting the child from that.’

The Prophet sala Allahu Alihi wasSalam then said, ‘Indeed, Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman to her child.’

Lesson #10 – Pay attention to Special Interest Groups

The Prophet salaAllahu Alihi wasSalam would pay specific attention to women’s education by admonishing them and giving them advice. Not only this, but the Prophet would also pay special attention to the children, such as what we saw with Abū Umair when his pet sparrow died. You will also find that The Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalaam would go into the market speaking to business people.

In the Eid Khuṭbah, the Prophet Sala Allahu alihi wasSalaam would give the khuṭbah and then go in front of the women and give a speech directly to them and for them. You will see in the ḥadīth that the words come in the feminine – he’s speaking directly to them – and if you look at what the Prophet Sala Allahu alihi WasSalam spoke about, one of the things was to give ṣadaqah. The men would overcome the women in speaking to the Prophet and so the women mentioned this to the Prophet sala Allahu alihi wasSalam and he gave a special day to them so that he could teach them and they could freely ask their questions.