How the Prophet Taught Moral Lessons
  • Sun, 10/07/2012
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In Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to set aside time every morning to teach his Companions. He was renowned for his eloquence and clarity of speech. He did not speak too quickly, and though his phrasing was precise, he did not speak slowly, or in fragments with lots of pauses. It was easy for everyone to follow what he said.

`A’ishah described his way of speaking as follows: “Allah’s Messenger did not ramble on the way you do these days. His speech was clear and precise. Those who listened to him easily remembered what he said.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (3568) and Sahīh Muslim (2493)]

Almost every day, he would sit in the mosque in Madinah with his Companions gathered around him. He would often start a discussion by posing a question. Once, he asked: “Might I inform you of the gravest of major sins?” When his Companions replied in the affirmative, he said: “The gravest of major sins are to associate partners in worship with Allah, to disrespect your parents, and to bear false witness.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2654)]

Sometimes, he posed questions to open their eyes to some new idea or perspective that they had not thought of before. For instance, once he asked: “Do you know what it means to be bankrupt?” They replied that it means to possess neither money nor goods. He said:
With respect to my followers, the one who is bankrupt is one who is brought forth on the day of judgment with prayers, fasts, and charity to his credit, but he had spoken ill of some people, falsely accused some people, misappropriated the wealth of others, and assaulted people or shed their blood. Those he had wronged will be compensated from his good deeds until he has no more to his credit. Then the remainder of those he had wronged will be compensated by having some of their sins placed on him. As a consequence, he is consigned to Hell. [Sahīh Muslim (2581)]
Sometimes, he simply wanted to stimulate their minds. Once he asked: “Tell me which tree is like a Muslim. Its leaves do not scatter everywhere and it yields up its fruit on a regular basis.” His Companions suggested one desert tree after another, and each time the Prophet replied in the negative.

Then it occurred to `Abd Allah b. `Umar b. Al-Khattāb that the tree in question might be the date palm. However, he was the youngest of the ten Companions in the Prophet’s company on that occasion, and his father `Umar as well as Abū Bakr were also present, so he felt shy to speak. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is the date palm.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2209) and Sahīh Muslim (2811)]

The Prophet would sometimes repeat a statement three times to emphasise its importance. For instance, once when enumerating the major sins, he came to the point where he said: “And beware of making false testimony; beware of bearing false witness.” He began repeating it over and over again, until his Companions started to utter: “If he would only desist...” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2654)]

They were not saying this out of boredom, but out of anxiety and concern for the Prophet, because they could see how much it was affecting him.

Sometimes, the Prophet took his Companions by surprise with a question in order to bring the discussion to a surprising conclusion. For instance, once he asked: “Who among you is fasting today?” This question took them off guard, since he had not even hinted to them earlier that they should fast on this day. Had he done so, they would have all been fasting.

They all sat silently for a while. Then Abū Bakr spoke up: “I am fasting, O Messenger of Allah.”

Then the Prophet asked: “Who visited a sick person today?” Again, they were all quite, until Abū Bakr again spoke up saying that he had done so. Then he asked two further questions: “Who followed a funeral procession today?” and “Who fed a poor person?” Each question was met with silence until Abū Bakr spoke up admitting that he had done so.

Finally the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Anyone who carries out these four deeds in a single day will enter Paradise.” [Sahīh Muslim (1028)]

Sometimes, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used drawings to illustrate his point. On one occasion, he drew a square on the ground. He then drew a straight line going through the middle of the square but emerging out of it at the top end. Then he drew other smaller lines coming from the edges of the square and pointing inwards towards the larger straight line. Then he asked his Companions: “Do you know what this means?”

They replied: “Allah and His Messenger know best.”

He said:
The line going through the middle of the box represents the human being. The other lines aiming towards it are the trials of life that come at him from all directions. If a person manages to avoid one of those trials, he will run into one of the others. The surrounding square is the lifespan that encompasses a person. The extension of the line outside the box represent hiss hopes. The person remains busy with those hopes, but the term of life comes to an end before they are fulfilled. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (6417)]
The purpose of these daily gatherings in the mosque was to teach his Companions about Islam and provide them with moral lessons. However, it was not about lecturing or preaching. It is always a dynamic discussion; never a one-way exchange, and it was always thought-provoking.