3. Expertise in Teaching (ملکہ تدریس)
The expertise Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) showed in his unique teaching style is something widely recognised and appreciated by both students and peers. The style to deliver lessons and explain difficult concepts in an easy and logical manner was the norm and habit (i.e. Ifham & Tafheem / إفهام و تفهيم). Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was in a league of his own.
Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) remained an extremely successful ustaz (کامیاب مدرس) and on top of his game throughout his teaching career. Very very few could match or come close to this. It is a sign of a great ustaz (کامیاب مدرس) that even the not so smart students or those who are lacking the aptitude would understand difficult concepts due to the easy way it was explained. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was the epitome of this. And another sign of a successful and great ustaz (or a great sheikh) is that you not only benefit from them in the subject they are teaching you but you get to learn about and create depths in other subjects and sciences too as part of their expert teaching and guidance style. I studied Jāmī Tirmiz by Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) but the benefits I gained was far reaching and covered many sciences and arts. To me I personally feel I have studied many sciences and arts (علوم و فنون) by Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) due to the immense expertise of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA).
To understand knowledge or difficult concepts is one thing and then to be able to express that in an easy and logical manner others can grasp and understand is a totally different skill and demands a lot of mental aptitude and a certain way of thinking and specific skills set.
It was a frequent plea of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) to the students and ustaz of all Madaris associated and linked with Darul Uloom Deoband that they pay attention and develop this skill of Ifham & Tafheem (إفهام و تفهيم) so they can do justice to themselves, their students and can effectively pass on the knowledge to the future generations of scholars and torch bearers of Islam and Muslims. Teaching is a big responsibility and it demands certain skills and all teachers need to develop these skills so they can effectively discharge their teaching duties.
The take and lesson from this trait for all the students of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) in particular and all those teaching at the Darul Ulooms or already graduated is to that they develop this skills of Ifham & Tafheem (إفهام و تفهيم) and work towards achieving this and doing whatever it takes so it can be achieved. For example, investing in learning this skill by getting the required training from those who are masters of this skill.
# It should be noted that the take away and lesson mentioned in the first trait is a pre-requisite to developing this skill i.e. having the aptitude and capacity (استعداد) and depth of knowledge in all the sciences and arts and the ability to dissect and analyse the text.
# The ustaz needs to study prior to coming to the class to teach i.e. should have done the Muta’lah / مطالعة) and should have prepared adequately for the class. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) used to say that just turning up to the class is not sufficient and just teaching in a Darul Uloom will not increase knowledge. For knowledge to increase the ustaz needs to read. The students will notice when the ustaz has turned up to teach and not studied adequately prior to teaching.
# The ustaz needs to focus on solving the textbook (Hall Kitab / حلِّ كتاب). Just giving a speech (ہوائ تقریر) that had no grounds is not sufficient. Also, it is important on the ustaz to provide relevant contextual and introductory knowledge on the subject to the students.
# The ustaz need to make sure that even the weakest (کمزور) student is able to grasp and understand the lesson and the difficult concepts. The smart (ذہین، فطين و لبيب) students with good aptitude (استعداد) and who come prepared (i.e. have done Muta’lah / مطالعة) after a time understand the lesson before the class starts and sometimes even better that the teachers. Hence, the focus should be at the weak students.
# Students should be developing insights as a result of your (ustaz) lesson. It should not be that even the smart and keen students do not get anything from the class. That would be an injustice and travesty.
# The ustaz should be open and frank if they do not know an answer to a question the student has asked. There is no need to give vague answers to deflect the questions and pretend you know. Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was very frank in this area. If he didn’t know an answer to a question then he would plainly say he didn’t know. If after some thought he reached to an answer or found the answer then he himself would mention that the question you asked the answer to that is this. This only instills more confidence in the knowledge you impart to the students that they know you are confident on that and it also develops the habit in the students to say they don’t know if they don’t have an answer as that’s what they observed from their ustaz. This is a sign of a good ustaz and it displays integrity, maturity and humility. The reality is only Allah Ta’ala is Al-Aleem (العليم) and knows absolute everything. So face up to this reality.
# The management of Darul Ulooms should facilitate the right kind of training for new ustaz or those lacking in the required skills to teach or lack the required expertise in the subject.
4. Style and Expertise in Authoring Books (ملکہ تصنیف)
I have been used to reading the books and works of Hakeem-Ul-Ummah Mujaddid-Ul-Millat Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) since my early teens. In it every sentence is a pearl, a gem and a nugget of wisdom. You read a sentence and you come out of it a bit wiser. Your mind has developed and your understanding increased a notch further. The books of Hakeem-Ul-Ummah Mujaddid-Ul-Millat Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) - over a thousand - are pure wisdom. They are not just to have a number next to the name that he has authored x number of books. They serve a purpose and add value and enhance the rich Islamic literature collection. The point is that in the art of authoring books it has to add value and serve a purpose. It should just not regurgitate information from one book and source to your book without adding value or providing a new and fresh insight and perspective to a matter, etc.
I have observed and seen this trait in the books and works of Hazrat-Ul Ustaz. Any topic Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz has decided to pen and write it has added value and has shown and led by example to other prospective writers how to write and how to add value as he has done justice to the topics he wrote on. I think something Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz learnt from Hakeem-Ul-Ummah Mujaddid-Ul-Millat Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA) as he was highly inspired by, admired and had love for him. It was evident.
Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz has many books and works and they cover all the Uloom Aaliyah with Ayn and many of the Uloom Aaliyah with Alif. Each one is adding value and unique in its approach and serves a purpose that was not there before its existence.
I don’t intent to discuss them individually here as that’s beyond the scope of this piece as as my focus is to draw collective lessons from them so current and future writers and authors can learn from the lessons of this trait of Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz.
Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz wrote on complex topics, some topics no one had written on and did justice to it. The commentary of the master piece of Hazrat Shah Waliullah (RA) - Hujjatullah Al-Baaligah - titled Rahmatullah Al-Wasiah is one example. It is a masterpiece of its own. One great title of Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz was ‘Sharih Uloom Waliullahi’ (شارح علوم ولى اللهی) - a well deserved and unique title.
At the end of this section on books I want to mention آسان بیان القرآن which is a work of a student of Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz to simplify and make بيان القرآن more accessible. Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz was reviewing and editing (نظرِ ثانى) this with great passion and really desired to complete it and Alhamdulilah it was completed. Due to the review and editing by a scholar of Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz calibre in the required Uloom to fully grasp بيان القرآن it has added tremendous weight to this valued and well needed piece of work. Anyone with interest in Tafseer appreciates and values the masterpiece Tafseer بيان القرآن by Hakeem-Ul-Ummah Mujaddid-Ul-Millat Hazrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA). This revision and Tasheel (تسهيل) has made it accessible to more scholars and more people.
The take and lesson from this trait for all the students of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) in particular and all those scholars interested in embarking on writing, authoring and publishing books and works is to only engage in this if you are adding real value. And it is worth engaging in writing and is required and will always be required but the key is to acquire the required knowledge and expertise in the subject and then write in a manner that is adding value and fulfilling the needs of your targeted audience and of the current times. Don’t engage in writing books to fulfil your interest (Shawq / شوق) or you can say you are an author or people will say you authored a book. These are naive and immature reasons and not worth writing for. The aim is to address a gap, fill a need and add value to the already rich Islamic literature.
I suggest maybe using a gradual approach by starting off by translating some useful small works of our great scholars that is easy to translate and require translating into the needed language like English or Urdu and then progress to bigger and then to more complex translation works. Once you are confident, you have the required skills and you can add value through your own writings then start with short pieces in the subject you are most familiar with but also keeping in mind that you are addressing a gap, a need or adding some form of value and not just to add one more book to the market.
5. Propagating the Deen (Tableegh / تبليغ)
Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz has travelled extensively in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and to many countries of the world for the sole purpose to propagate the Deen. Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz had a close connection to the UK since the 80s.
Despite the sickness and ill health in the latter years Hazrat-Ul-Ustaz has been spending his entire Ramadhan and holidays away from his family for the past 40 plus years to propagate the beautiful Deen. This demands great passion and is motivated by great worry and concern about the Muslim Ummah.
One of the topics Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) was passionate about was the Aqeedah of Khatme Nubuwwat (The finality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace, blessings and salutations be upon him). It so happened that Allah Ta’ala made him talk about this on his departing and final speech before his meet with his Merciful Creator.
The take and lesson from this trait for all the students of Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) in particular, all scholars in general and all the believers that to engage and to engage sincerely in propagating the Deen of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims is a duty on everyone. It will and can take different forms and will be carried out at different levels based on the authority you have due to your level of Islamic knowledge, etc. However, the base duty of propagating the Deen of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims is a duty on everyone and all should carry it out.
To effectively carry this duty out learn the required knowledge on the etiquettes of Dawah so it can be discharged in the correct and prophetic manner. This is a poignant advice Hazrat-ul-Ustaz (RA) used to emphasise and give to those engaging in the propagating of the Deen.
Scholars can also engage in this duty by delivering Tafseer Dars, Hadeeth Dars, Seerat Dars, etc in their localities and in the neighbouring ones at the very least.
Also, some form of Dawah work needs to be propagated and engaged with the non-Muslims too.
to be continued......