Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani is one of the young and gifted seminary scholars who has been welcome greatly by the youth during the last one decade. He teaches the kharij (advanced) level of jurisprudence and legal theories in the Islamic seminary and maintains active presence as a thinker and theorist in social and cultural arenas.
We have conducted an interview with this member of the Iranian Association of Philosophy on the eve of Teachers' Week to discuss about teacher and teaching. What follows are his words to Qalam Mehr Special Issue.
Education is concerned with much of the population of our country and it has been one of the serious concerns ever since the victory of the Islamic revolution. In the year 1367 (1988), the Supreme Leader who then served as the president of the country and head of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, not only underscored the importance of bringing positive changes into the university but he also drew the attention to the fact that if any changes were to take place in the university, the education system has to undergo a thorough change in the first place. These emphases led to the creation of the "Education the Islamic Republic" which was scrutinized and meticulously studied in 1988 by a number of experts. A lot of theoretical work was carried out in the area of Islamic studies including a thorough study of Tafsir al-Mizan with a view to improve the education.
Learning is a duty
The prophets came to purify and educate people. There is no doubt that education, according to the prophets, were meant for purification. Hence, the prophet's duty is concerned with education. Of course, when we talk of the prophet's work and duty, we do not mean to say that they were professionals in the sense we speak of a skilled person e.g. a carpenter or a blacksmith.
The Islamic perspective towards education especially in the religious culture is that you should learn and that learning is a duty. Meanwhile, it has been stressed in Islam that acquiring knowledge is a duty and that the Zakat of knowledge is to impart it. Considering these two duties, the question which arises here is how these two groups of people should run their lives. The answer is that the Islamic government is duty-bound to financially support these two groups of people.
Let me add this point that knowledge in the capitalist system has turned into a commodity which is bargained like other commodities. Hence, it is very meaningful in this culture to say that I will teach this or that science and I will take this amount of money. As for knowledge in Islamic culture, it is considered to be a holy thing. It is an Islamic duty to learn and to teach and it is also the duty of the government to provide you with financial support.
Peace of mind is a serious concern of teachers
When it comes to education and moral training (tarbiyah), moral training enjoys priority. The main aim of education is development of the individual in society. A good and useful human being means a person who is acquainted with his religious duties and adheres to them. He should be sincere and sympathetic and should fulfill his responsibilities towards others in a good manner. This trait can be achieved through education. It is possible that someone might have a diploma certificate but he should have been trained in such a way that he should be useful. This is the result of training at school which has a scope wider and more extensive than education.
Another problem which is observed in the education and training domain is that education is imposed on the student and it is for the same reason that he tends to shun education. Keenness should be created in the student. In order for the student to be interested in learning, the values governing the education should be modified; job security and peace of mind should be created for teachers. Furthermore, the teacher should be acquainted with religious values and he should understand that if he is going to educate someone, its effect is much more valuable than working for a thousand years in the world and in the hereafter.
Teachers should be attractive
He who is in a position to teach and educate should bear in mind that his action and attitude have much influence on others than his words. Why were people attracted to the Prophet (pbuh)? The Quran says about the Prophet (pbuh) as such: "If you were hard-hearted, the people would turn away from you." A teacher should be attractive and one of the causes of attractiveness is to be soft-hearted. A teacher should take personality characteristics into consideration. Punctuality, discipline and regularity are features that can make students interested. It is very important to pay attention to personality characteristics of the student.
I have the experience of teaching middle classes. At that time I was teaching, we had a student in the school whom every teacher considered to be unable to learn any lessons. He used to score excellent marks in science class. That was because I had known that student's personality. I had got close to him and trusted him. That is something that we should take serious.
A student is a trust in a teacher's hand
If a teacher does not believe in teaching and its effects and the task has been imposed on him, it is very unlikely of the teacher to be effective. When I was studying in Sharif Industrial University, we had a math teacher whose class was very crowded. One day, one of the students told: "I do not understand what the teacher is speaking all about but I am certain that his class is interesting and pleasant." In fact, it was the teacher's keenness that affected the students. A teacher can revive a student's motive and he can also destroy it with his behavior. Another effective factor in education and training is respecting the personality of the student. This attitude will cause him to respect the teacher in the same way. We have many traditions about the way a teacher and his student should behave with each other. I believe all these traditions can be summed up in the word "respect". The teacher must note that the student is a trust in his hand. If a student's morality is destroyed or he gets fed up of learning and acquiring education due to the teacher's behavior, he will be responsible. This is the responsibility which we should take into account in our behaviors. The younger the student the greater would be the influence of the teacher on him.
Reviving teacher's status to promote the educational role of teachers
A teacher loves his student and the feeling that he is the student's second parent affects his behavior and causes the student to be attracted towards his teacher. If these norms spread in our educational environment with teachers respecting the students and students respecting their teachers on the basis of Islamic moral codes, we will see a change in the educational atmosphere. The educational atmosphere is also a part of the overall atmosphere of the society which will not change, if we fail to develop and promote morality and good manner in the public culture of society.
Reviving the personality and status of teacher in society is effective in creating the educational role of teachers.
One thing to note in regards to education is the belief of the teacher and the value of his task. It is only at this time that benefiting from educational tools and technologies would be meaningful. If we simply prescribe the use of such tools, we will be just relieved of obligation but it will not be of any other use. Teacher should provoke the student's sense of curiosity by using these instruments. Another point is that a believing and faithful teacher should remind the student of the signs of God so that when the student observes them in one form or the other in lessons like chemistry and physics, they should get rooted in his heart.
To create a coherent relation between what a student learns and his life is one of the important points that should be taken into consideration in the course of teaching. The teaching should take place in a way such that the student realizes that what he learns will be of some practical use in his life. It is only then that the student will take interest in the lessons.
Teachers are hardworking people and they should be respected in society; their position should be promoted. Teacher's Week should not be the only week in which attention is focused on teachers. We must accord due attention to the teachers throughout the year and we must know that these are the people who train and educate the basic elements of society. The teachers themselves also should be mindful of their value and their important position in society. Therefore, they should do their work with keenness and eagerness.
 - Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani's talks on the occasion of Teacher's Week published in Qalam Mehr Gulistaneh magazine (Special issue). Interview conducted by Muhammad Ali Husseiniyan (May 2011).