Societies are made up of individuals. It is essential for the peace and harmony of society for the individual to undergo a good education. Thus, Prophet Muhammad gave utmost importance to the training of children and youth in the education of the individual. The Prophet did not undertake such education in a random way, but implemented extremely important methods that took into account the psychology of youth. Due to the methods he implemented, he was able to turn a society in which most of the humane values had been destroyed into a nation that was admired by all of humanity, by overcoming a number of difficulties. The main lines of the methods he used in the education of youth can be put into four groups as follows:
- Addressing the emotions of the young people
- Avoiding embarrassing young people
- Being tolerant and gentle towards young people
- Attracting their attention by asking questions
1. Addressing the emotions of young people: Prophet Muhammad always took into account the situation of people who were to undergo education, and was always careful to ensure social and psychological conditions that would lead to productive learning. When asked by different people at different times and in different situations what was the most blessed action he would answer according to the conditions of the respondent, sometimes saying "praying on time" (1), or sometimes saying that the most blessed activity was "Belief in Allah and jihad on the path of Allah". (2) In fact, on this matter he said: "We prophets have been ordered to talk with people in the manner most suited to their comprehension." (3) As necessitated by the fact that people do not have the capacity to comprehend or to evaluate correctly some things, he desired that they be left unknown. The Prophet's desire for this was born of the consideration that people had not yet come to the point where they could correctly interpret such events. According to the report of Muaz b. Jebel, who was 17 years old during the migration, Prophet Muhammad said: "Allah has forbidden hell for everyone who believes from their hearts that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His prophet." Muaz then asked: "O Prophet! Shall we tell the people this?" Prophet Muhammad answered "It would be better not to, because if we did they would rely on this." (4)
Prophet Muhammad took into account the young people's capacity to understand when educating them, and he approached them with methods that were suitable to their inclinations and characters. He encouraged their emotions and feelings with prayers, and he did not neglect to praise them to encourage their pride. For Abdullah b. Abbas he said "My Lord, in religion make him an expert and teach him how to interpret" (5), addressing his emotions and feelings, and to the young Abu Musa al-Ashari he said "O Musa! You have been given a beautiful voice like that of the family of David". (6) According to what the young Anas b. Malik reported, Prophet Muhammad said: "Any young person who treats an elderly person with respect because of their age will be blessed by Allah and will be treated with respect when they are old." (7) With these words, it is as if Prophet Muhammad had taken the young people to the world of the elderly, awaking the emotion of old age, a time when one is in need of respect.
In the division of the spoils captured during the Hunayn Battle Prophet Muhammad increased the amount given to the leaders of the Quraish to warm their hearts to Islam and to connect with them. The Ansar (residents of Medina) were upset by this and there were some who complained. When Sa'd b. Ubade informed the Prophet of this situation the Prophet called these people to his tent and said "O, Ansar! It has been said that you have complained of me, is this true?" The Ansar said "O Prophet! Our leaders would not have said words in criticism of you. These are the words of youth." Then Prophet Muhammad said "O Ansar! I find that you have gone astray. Has Allah not given us friendship and love? When you were few did He not increase your number? When you were poor did He not make you rich? The Ansar responded: "O Prophet, your goodness and gifts are innumerable. May Allah reward you!" Again Prophet Muhammad said "You say ‘When your tribe told lies about you we supported you. When you were distanced from Mecca we gave you a home. When you were in need we did not refrain from giving of whatever we had. When you were frightened by the enemy we gave you security.' This is what you say, and this is true. I confirm you in this." In this way the Prophet complemented the Ansar. The Ansar began to weep and the Prophet said: "O Ansar! I have faith in the sincerity of your belief. The Quraish have only just come to Islam. Until now they have been defeated often by Muslims in the battles. I have given them extra to soothe their hearts. They will go home with sheep and camels. You will go with the Prophet. Do you accept this?" The Ansar said: "O Prophet! To be close to you is more beneficial than this world and the things of this world. May Allah not remove your shadow over us." Then the Prophet said: "The Ansar are my friends and confidants. If all the people go one way and the Ansar go another, I will go with the Ansar." He lifted his hands and prayed for blessings for the Ansar, their children and grandchildren. (8)
2. Avoiding embarrassing young people: We can see that when Prophet Muhammad was educating others he did not employ offensive behavior nor did he use rude words. But he did not only speak gently to those he was dealing with, he also ordered those around him to avoid harsh words. Muaviye b. Hakem tells us how fair and polite Prophet Muhammad was when correcting errors. Once when Muaviye was praying behind the Prophet he said "Yerhamukellah" (a blessing given when another person sneezes) to a man who had sneezed; he was not aware that one was not supposed to speak during the prayer. The people next to Muaviye began to stare at him. He asked them "What's wrong, why are you staring at me?" and the people next to him started hitting their knees with their hands to tell him what he was doing wrong. Muaviye understood by their silence what they wanted and fell quiet. After this Muaviye b. Hakem goes on to tell us: "He was a teacher who taught better than any other teacher I have met. I swear that he did not strike me or insult me when I had prayed. He only told me that when praying no earthly words should be uttered, only praise of Allah and recital of the Qur'an." (9)
Even those young people who acted in a way that was contrary to the beliefs and principles of Prophet Muhammad were not criticized in a way to cause embarrassment; the fact that they had made a mistaken was simply expressed in a suitable way. One of Prophet Muhammad's favorite young people, Usama b. Zaid, came to the Prophet to beg forgiveness on behalf of a woman who had stolen. The request of the guilty women for the crime to be ignored was based on the fact that she came from a noble family and was someone who was respected; this greatly angered the Prophet, but despite this, he did not say any harsh words to Usama that might have embarrassed him. Rather he made his reaction clear without hurting the youth's feelings. The Prophet approached the pulpit and said "O people! Before now, when a person who was important and had influence was guilty they did not punish them. However, those who had no influence and who were weak were immediately punished. They were destroyed due to this injustice. I swear by Allah that if my daughter Fatima were to steal I would cut off her hand." (10) Thus Prophet Muhammad not only demonstrated the importance of justice, but he also warned the young Usama not to be a tool in the hands of those who perform wrong deeds.
3. Being tolerant and gentle towards young people: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an individual who displayed all the virtues that are necessary for human beings. He is a monument of mercy for humanity. The Prophet who possessed these characteristics, when he was to teach or warn about a matter, would first win the heart of the person he was addressing and then say what he had to say. Prophet Muhammad was described with the attribute hilm, which means gentle-mannered, and even in situations that made him very angry he behaved calmly, rather trying to convince the person he was addressing by informing them, without making them angry. He advised that when teaching one should not rebuke or scold. The manner in which he treated the young man who came to him one day asking for permission to perform adultery should be an example for anyone involved in educating the young. A young man of the Quraish came to the Prophet one day and said: "O Prophet! Give me permission to commit adultery." Some of the Companions who were present, seeing this request as being against Islamic morals, told him to be quiet and scolded the young man. Prophet Muhammad was very calm and told the young man "Come over here and sit down." Then he turned to him and started to talk with him. "Tell me, would you like for another to commit adultery with your mother?" The young man said "O Prophet of Allah, I would never desire such a thing." The Prophet said: "No one would want such a thing for their mother." He continued, and said: "Would you want someone to commit adultery with your daughter?" The young man said "O Prophet of Allah, I would not." The Prophet said: "No one would want for their daughter to commit adultery." Then he went on to ask if the young man would approve of his sister, paternal aunt or maternal aunt committing adultery. Each time, the young man answered: "No, I would not want that." When he saw that the youth had understood his error the Prophet put his hand on the young man's shoulder and said "My Lord, forgive him his sin, clean his heart and protect him from committing sins." The young man, according to his own words, did not allow the emotion of lust to enter his heart again. (11)
In order to understand the tolerance that Prophet Muhammad showed, and the gentleness and kindness he showed to young people, it is enough to listen to the words of Anas b. Malik, who, as a young man, served the Prophet for 10 consecutive years. Anas says: "I served the Prophet for 10 years. He never once sighed in exasperation about me. He never scolded me for an action, saying "Why did you do this?" Morally, he was the most perfect of humans." (12)
4. Attracting their attention by asking questions: As seen above, the Prophet asked the young man who wanted to commit adultery a series of questions, "Would you want someone else to commit adultery with your mother, daughter, or aunts?", thus getting the young man's attention and convincing him though gentle instruction of the ugliness of adultery. When teaching Ali what to say when in difficulty the Prophet first asked him "O Ali! Shall I tell you what to say when you are in a difficult situation?" The Prophet then told him what the words were and said: "Say ‘Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, vela Havel vela Kuvvete Illa Billahi'l-Al'yyi'l-Asim' and this will prevent all troubles that might come to you." (13)
1. Bukhari, Abu Abdillah Muhammad ibn Ismail, Sahih al-Bukhari, compiled by Mustafa Dib al-Buga, Dimashki, 1993, I, 197 (Kitab al-Mawakitu´s-Salat, 504).
2. Ibid., II, 892 (Kitabu´l-Itk, 2382).
3. Acluni, Ismail bin Muhammad, Kashful Khafa wa Muzilul Ilbas, Beirut, 1988, I, 196.
4. Shaykh Mansur Ali Nasif, Al-Taj’ul Jami'lil Usul fi Ahadith ar-Rasul, Istanbul, 1981, I, 31.
5. Ajluni, op.cit.., I, 192.
6. Tabridhi, ibid, III, 1748.
7. Tirmidhi, Abu Isa Muhammed b. Isa, al-Jami' al-Sahih (Sunan at-Tirmidhi), Beirut, ts., IV, 372.
8. Bukhari, IV, 1574-1575; az-Zabidi, Zaynuddin Ahmed b. Ahmed b. Abdillatif, Sahihu Bukhari Muhtasari Tajrid al-Sarih Translation, trans. by Ahmed Naim-Kamil Miras, Ankara, 1987, X, 340-343.
9. Muslim, Abu´l-Huseyin Muslim b. Hajjaj al-Kushayri an-Naysaburi, Sahihu Muslim, compiled by Muhammed Fuad Abdulbaki, Egypt, 1955, I, 381-382.
10. Bukhari, supra footnote 1., III, 1283; Muslim, ibid, III, 1315.
11. Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musned, Beirut, IV, 256-257.
12. Tirmidhi,supra footnote 7, IV, 368.
13. Acluni, supra, footnote 3, II, 382.