The following is a short article I specially authored in conjunction with the Lecturer's Day (Mentor; The Magical hands) organized by the student body, APAcS at UiTM Shah Alam on Friday, 11th of April 2014.
Allahua'lam (Allah knows best)........................................
“Jika hari ini seorang Perdana Menteri berkuasa
Jika hari ini seorang Raja menaiki takhta
Jika hari ini seorang Presiden sebuah negara
Jika hari ini seorang ulama yang mulia
Jika hari ini seorang peguam menang bicara
Jika hari ini seorang penulis terkemuka
Jika hari ini siapa sahaja menjadi dewasa;
Sejarahnya dimulakan oleh seorang guru biasa
Dengan lembut sabarnya mengajar tulis-baca.”
-Guru oh Guru (1979), Usman Awang
In the name of Allah SWT, the Most Generous, Most Merciful.
Let me begin with the universal prayer of Islam, “May peace be upon all of you.”
1. It was related, a true story of a teacher (Shaykh) that one time when he was teaching, he occasionally stood up while he was giving his lecture. (Note: traditionally a Muslim teacher sits when delivering his lecture)
2. His students, eager to know why, asked for explanation. He said, during his lecture, he saw through the door, the children of his own teacher were playing with other kids outside, so he stood up to show respect towards the children of his teacher.
3. Such is a very high attitude. We find in these days, not only hard to see people respecting the beloved of their teachers, but there are many students, not showing respect even to the teachers themselves.
4. In this short and humble piece of article, I shall put together some thoughts on the purpose of education, plus several things closely related to it such as knowledge, its seekers (students) and its bearers (teachers).
5. Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, a renowned Muslim scholar from Malaysia, makes it very clear in his book Islam and Secularism, that education should not only aim to produce a good worker, but to produce a good man instead.
6. He further elaborates that a good man is of course a good worker, but a good worker is not necessarily a good man, and by this we mean that we can produce as many professional individuals as possible, very competent in his knowledge and skills, yet he can be corrupt and commit crimes; resulting in harms, rather than benefit to the society. White-collar crime, they call it.
7. Great scholars, in the past and present time, spend more time explaining to students about good manners and right action (akhlak and adab) before they talk about knowledge. What is more unique about them is that, from their own akhlak and adab, students can reap benefit even when they don’t speak a single word.
8. These are the great teachers of not only knowledge, but actions. They teach not only by quoting examples, but they themselves are the examples, and this was the state of great companions, when they were with the best of teacher, Prophet Muhammad Sollahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam (SAW) i.e may peace be upon him.
9. Islam teaches that we should not worship knowledge (by solely focusing on amassing knowledge) but to worship the Owner of knowledge instead. And to do this we need to have adab, to put a thing in its proper place.
10. Those who understand this, knowing that not even a drop of knowledge belongs to him but God the Almighty, will be more humble (rather than arrogant) when he gains more knowledge. It is this attitude that will make a student have more respect towards not only his teachers, but also his friends who study with him.
11. Islam has never abandoned the need to learn worldly knowledge. In fact it encourages it. But such matter has to be put in its proper perspective i.e as we have mentioned earlier about being a good man, one has to understand that we are created for a purpose and success in this world is merely a tool, a means to an end, rather than an end itself.
12. The purpose of creation, is no other but to be a servant of God, who is Eternal and most Merciful to His servants.
13. Ibnu Abbas Radhi-Allahu ‘anhuma (may Allah be pleased with both Abbas and son), the great companion of Prophet SAW, when commenting on a verse in the Quran about the purpose of creation, said that, to worship Allah SWT means to know Him. It is by worshipping Him that we know Him. It is by surrendering our wills to His Will that we shall fulfil this higher purpose of our existence.
14. Hence, it is important to especially students of religious knowledge, to internalize the fact that there is no benefit from increase in knowledge if it doesn’t make us fear God more. In fact, in the Hereafter, the knowledgeables will either be raised to a rank close to Prophethood, or they will receive the most severe punishment instead.
15. Why? Because there are people who seek knowledge to gain worldly fame and publicity and during the Judgement Day, Allah SWT will command that you have got what you desired i.e fame so now your place will be in Hellfire. May He protect us all. Amin. Allahumma amin.
16. In other words, we have to know the right place of knowledge, because it can be either an asset or a liability for us in the next World, depending on what our intention is, and what we use the knowledge for.
17. It is very interesting that the true scholars always emphasize on long period as one of many conditions in studying knowledge. This may not be quite common these days, when modern people are more used to things that are easy, quick and fast.
18. Just look at the terms that we use to describe many things; instant messaging, instant food and many other forms of instant products. Time is treated as though it is our enemy. We don’t like slow process or slow progress.
19. In case we forget, the Quran was sent down piece by piece over a period of 23 years. In case we forget, God has made our formation (from a zygote to a baby) in mother’s womb for about 9 months. If we observe and reflect the nature within and around us, long period is the key to perfection.
20. It is not something against our nature to prefer for instance, a doctor with 20 years of experience, rather than a houseman doctor who just graduated. We always naturally associate long time with maturity and perfection.
21. Short time seems to provide us luxury, but it comes at a cost. In relation to studying, it is always an advantage to be able to finish our studies quickly, but we have to bear in mind that learning is a life-long process. The mentality that graduation (receiving certificates, scrolls etc.) is a ticket to stop learning is an unfortunate misconception.
22. I may not provide clear nor sufficient discussions on all points aforementioned regarding education, but that is not my intention. My intention is make us think about it and hopefully trigger some motivation, followed by actions to change and become better seekers of knowledge, either as a student, or as a teacher.
23. To end, I would like to quote one of the beautiful advices by our Prophet SAW which I believe is pertinent in a culture of learning and teaching i.e we need the elderly to love the younger generation, and the younger generation to respect the older generation. Like the leaves and roots, they should not be separated or otherwise the plant will die. Our tradition (in Islam) is a tradition of connectedness, a tradition of transmission (sanad).
24. Even Prophet Muhammad SAW had a teacher, Gabriel (Jibril AS) and this gives a very strong message, that to get to the original knowledge (from God), we have to be connected to each other.
25. Nevertheless, it is antithetical to Islam to have bad adab towards non-Muslim teachers. I as a Malay Muslim personally have great admiration towards many resourceful lecturers we have at UiTM although they are neither Muslim nor Malay. Their sincerity and passion in teaching is not only an example, but more of a reminder to us Muslims that Allah SWT (Exalted is He), has honoured people with knowledge, no matter who they are, and we therefore have to give them due respect, love them and interact with them in the best manner.
26. Let me take this opportunity to thank APAcS for holding a special event for our lecturers and staffs and also apologize for many shortcomings I have in this article. I would also like to extend my sincerest apologies to all lecturers on behalf of all students if we ever hurt you or displease you, especially myself. May God bless us all.