Duties of a teacher

All praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah.

One of the most important duties of a teacher is to make students keen for knowledge-seeking, so that they will learn about the religious matters that they should not be ignorant of, such as knowledge of the sound ‘Aqidah (creed), the rulings of Salah (Prayer), Zakah (obligatory charity), Sawm (Fast), and Hajj, and the rulings on transactions for those who buy and sell commercially, and other profit-making domains. In this way they will be fully aware and guided regarding such affairs. Allah (Glorified be He) created humans and Jinn to worship Him Alone, without Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). The ‘Ibadah (worship) of Allah is to dedicate all forms and acts of worship to Him Alone, and to obey His Commands and abstain from His Prohibitions. The only way to know these issues in detail is through seeking knowledge. The more effort a student exerts in seeking knowledge, the nearer they are to success and to achieving the sought-after goal through Allah’s Help.

Amongst the most important means of achieving this goal and attaining the desired knowledge of the Shari’ah (Islamic law) is sincerity to Allah in this quest and taking care not to seek it for another purpose, such as Riya’ (showing-off) or such worldly purposes. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “Anyone who acquires knowledge by which Allah’s Pleasure should be sought, but acquires it only to gain some worldly advantage, will not smell the fragrance of Jannah (Paradise) on the Day of Resurrection.” (Related by Abu Dawud through a Hasan [good] Isnad [chain of narrators]) 1

Also, Al-Tirmidhi recorded that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Anyone who acquires knowledge to compete with the scholars, dispute with the ignorant, or attract the attention of people to themselves, Allah will cast them into the Fire.2

It is, therefore, obligatory for the student of knowledge and for every Muslim to devote their deeds sincerely to Allah Alone, acting upon the Words of Allah (Exalted be He): “So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” [Al-Kahf: 110]

And His Words: “And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allâh, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him)” [Al-bayyinah: 5]

Also the Hadith Qudsi (Revelation from Allah in the Prophet’s words) in which Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says: “I am the One Most Self-Sufficient Who does not stand in need of a partner (associate).3

Therefore, it is obligatory for the teacher to devote care to this issue and first be the living example of it by showing sincerity to Allah in all their deeds and maintaining a good reputation and conduct, as students follow the example of their teachers in both the good and bad things. A teacher should exert utmost efforts in acquiring the knowledge inherited from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and direct their students to that which is beneficial and helpful to them in acquiring knowledge. A teacher should always remind students of the good end of the devotees and the bad end awaiting others.

Another most important means to acquiring knowledge is Taqwa (fear and wariness of offending Allah) and being mindful of Allah in all circumstances. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) says: “And whosoever fears Allâh and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine.” [Al-talaq: 2-3]

It is well known that acquiring knowledge is the best provision, as it takes people out of the narrowness and darkness of ignorance to the wideness and light of knowledge. Allah (Exalted be He) says: “…and whosoever fears Allâh and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.” [Al-Talaq: 4]

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest gifts of ease and facility one can be blessed with from Allah is acquiring beneficial knowledge, because through the obtained knowledge a student of Shari’ah can understand the ways to good and salvation that are not easy for an ignorant person to understand. Allah (Glorified be He) says: “O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allâh, He will grant you Furqân [(a criterion to judge between right and wrong), or (Makhraj, i.e. a way for you to get out from every difficulty)], and will remove from you your sins, and forgive you” [Al-Anfal: 29]

The word Furqan is best interpreted to mean the beneficial knowledge that can differentiate between truth and falsehood, guidance and misguidance, deviation and rectitude. The more knowledge a student gains, the more fear of Allah they have, and the more they shall honor the sacred Ordinances of Allah; therefore, it serves them as the criterion to distinguish the truth from the falsehood. Allah (Glorified be He) says: “It is those who have knowledge among His slaves that (most) fear Allâh.” [Fatir: 28]

He (Glorified and Exalted be He) also says: “Verily, those who fear their Lord unseen (i.e. they do not see Him, nor His punishment in the Hereafter), theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward (i.e. Paradise).” [Al-Mulk: 12]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: By Allah, “I am the most fearing of Allah among you and the most devout to Him.4

One of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) said: “The one who knows Allah more, fears Him more.”

One of the greatest signs of happiness and clearest indications that Allah wants to do good for His servants is for them to have eagerness to acquire knowledge of the Shari’ah and comprehend their religion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If Allah wants to do good for a person, He makes them comprehend the religion.” (Agreed upon its authenticity) 5

This is because comprehending the religion exhorts a servant to comply with Allah’s Commandments, to fear Allah, to perform the duties He has placed on them, and to be on their guard against committing anything that may incur His Wrath. It also encourages good conduct, righteous deeds, and sincerity towards Allah and towards people. Also, one of the greatest means of retaining and increasing knowledge, and deriving benefit from it is unshakeable persistence in obedience to Allah and avoidance of sins.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “A servant (of Allah) is deprived of Rizq (provision) because of the sin they commit.6

More eloquent still is the Saying of Allah (Glorified be He): “And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much. (See the Qur’ân Verse 35:45).” [Al-shura:30]

Allah (Exalted be He) also says: “O you who believe! If you obey and fear Allâh, He will grant you Furqân [(a criterion to judge between right and wrong), or (Makhraj, i.e. a way for you to get out from every difficulty)]” [Al-Anfal: 29]

There is no doubt that a decrease in or forgetfulness of knowledge is one of the worst calamities. It is obligatory to be wary, therefore, against the reasons that can lead to this. It is reported that Malik (may Allah be Merciful to him) said to Imam Al-Shafi’i, who was sitting in front of him in his learning circle: “I see that Allah (Glorified be He) has shed upon you from His Light; so do not extinguish it by sins.” It is also reported that Al-Shafi’i (may Allah be Merciful to him) said: I complained to Waki’ about my poor memory. He advised me to refrain from sins, he said: know that knowledge is a light, and Allah’s Light is not granted to a sinner.

There are many other Ayahs (Qur’anic verses), Hadiths, and Athar (narrations from the Companions) to the same effect, and a wise person can benefit from the subtlest evidence. May Allah (Glorified be He) grant us success.

  1. Abu Dawud, Sunan, Book on knowledge, no. 3664; Ibn Majah, Sunan, Introduction, no. 252; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 2, p. 338. 

  2. Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Book on knowledge, no. 2654. 

  3. Muslim, Sahih, Book on asceticism and heart-softening narrations, no. 2985; and Ibn Majah, Sunan, Book on asceticism, no. 4202. 

  4. Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Book on marriage, no. 5063. 

  5. Al-Bukhari, Sahih, Book on knowledge, no. 71; Muslim, Sahih, Book on rulership, no. 1037; Ibn Majah, Sunan, Introduction, no. 221; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 4, p. 93; Malik, Al-Muwatta, Book on miscellaneous matters, no. 1667; and Al-Darimy, Sunan, Introduction, no. 226. 

  6. Ibn Majah, Sunan, Introduction, no. 90; and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 5, p. 280.