There are many gems within Imam An-Nawawi’s 40 Hadith collection. One of them is found in Hadith #29.
In this hadith, we learn something about Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) as a teacher that is useful to us as teachers.
The source I am using for the information below is the explanation of the hadith given by Dr. Saleh As-Saleh. The audio lecture of this explanation can be found online at Understand-Islam.net Hadith 29.
May Allah make all of us better teachers.
The Praiseworthy Characteristics and Abilities of The Prophet
(sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) as a Teacher
Use of Additional Benefit
One of the merits of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) in teaching and educating is that he (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) brought benefits [that was] not asked about [by the person] in a question. It was his (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) habit to add what is
beneficial to the answer .
For example, when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) was asked by some of the Sahaba if it was permissible to make ablution using water from the sea, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said that it was permissible. He also added that the animals of the sea are halal to eat, even the dead ones. The Sahaba did not ask about the animals of the sea, but the Prophet gave them some extra information related to the question they were asking.
Use of Action Along with Statements
The use of teaching by way of statements AND actions is an effective teaching method. For example, when the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) was answering a question that Mu’adh asked, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) took hold of his own tongue and said, “restrain this.”
This method of teaching makes an imprint on the heart and mind and will not be forgotten.
Likewise, the Sahaba used to teach people by actions also. For example, instead of telling someone how to make wudoo, the Sahaba would make wudoo in front of the people to teach them.
Use of Comparing Things
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) used to compare the tangible to the intangible. For example, he said, “Charity extinguishes the sins like water extinguishes the fire.”
Use of Analogy
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) used analogy to both help people understand and to convince them. For example, the Prophet used the expression, “My your mother be bereaved of you, O Mu’adh!” as a way to incline someone to do something. The Prophet used non-literal expressions in analogies.
Use of Evidence
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) cited the Qur’aan as evidence.
The Praiseworthy Characteristics of the Sahaba as Students
The Emphasis on Understanding the Meaning
The keen-ness of the Sahaba was in seeking knowledge to know the meaning and not the ruling.
They Sought Action
They sought knowledge in order to act not just to know something.
Mu’adh was highly motivated to learn and thus was the most knowledgeable Sahaba; he was sent by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) to Yemen as a Mufti, Judge, Caller to Islam.
English Translation of Hadith #29
On the authority of Mu’adh bin Jabal, who said:
I said: “O Messenger of Allah, tell me of an act which will take me into Paradise and will keep me away from Hell fire.” He said: “You have asked me about a major matter, yet it is easy for him for whom Allah Almighty makes it easy. You should worship Allah, associating nothing with Him, you should perform the prayers, you should pay the zakat, you should fast in Ramadan, and you should make the pilgrimage to the House.” Then he said:” Shall I not show you the gates of goodness ? Fasting [which] is a shield, charity [which] extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire; and the praying of a man in the depth of night.” Then he recited: “Their sides forsake their beds invoking their Rubb in fear and hope and they spend out of what we have bestowed on them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.” (As-Sajdah 16, 17)
Then he said: ” Shall I not tell you of the peak of the matter, its pillar, and its topmost part?” I said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “The peak of the matter is Islam; the pillar is prayer; and its topmost part is jihad.” Then he said: “Shall I not tell you of the controlling of all that ?” I said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah”, and he took hold of his tongue and said: “Restrain this.” I said: “O Prophet of Allah, will what we say be held against us ?” He said: “May your mother be bereaved of you, Mu’adh! Is there anything that topples people on their faces – or he said on their noses into Hell-fire other than the harvests of their tongues ?”