Content of Character

The Perfect Teacher: Content of Character 01 – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

The perfect teacher is one who constantly teaches. Whose states are always edifying. Whose character is such that one learns from every word or moment of silence, from every act even when it is to refrain from acting.

Before we look into this book of the sayings of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, it is important that we understand that our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was a mu‘allim. He was a teacher and the Qur’an tells us this when Allah Most High tells us in Sura Jum‘a 62:2:

It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger from themselves reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom – although they were before in clear error.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was the best teacher in history. More people attained ‘ilm, (knowledge), through him than any other. In particular the knowledge that is beloved and pleasing to our Lord Most High.

Seeking Knowledge is Worship

It is narrated in the collection of Ibn Majah that our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, came out from one of his chambers and entered into the mosque where he found two circles. In one of the circles they were reading the Qur’an, and they were supplicating Allah Most High. In the other one there were people teaching and learning.

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Everyone of them is upon good. Those people are reciting the Qur’an and supplicating Allah. If He so wills He will give them, and if He so wills He will withhold from them. Those people are teaching and learning, indeed I have only been sent only as a teacher.” He then sat with those who were teaching and learning.

Some will see that the general mission of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was to teach. Others will see that every moment of the Prophet’s life, Allah bless him and give him peace, he was teaching us in his words and actions. When he prayed, when he walked, when he sat, when he was still, when he was alone and with other people, the way he was at night and the way he was during the day.

The Character of the Perfect Teacher

He, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught us with his great character traits. He taught us first and foremost with his own state. He was the perfect example to us in all of our affairs inwardly and outwardly. All of our different relationships, our relationship with Allah, our relationship with the people and our relationship with creation. So in every single moment of his life, Allah bless him and give him peace, he was teaching.

When we think about his words in particular, one of the best ways to prepare ourselves for the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is to understand the magnitude of his words. Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:

He does not speak from caprice (his inclination) indeed that it is revelation revealed. (53:3-4)

Our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, was unlike other human beings.He, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not speak from caprice. He received revelation from Allah Most High. To understand the greatness of the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, we have to understand the greatness of revelation.

Revelation is the Key to All Knowledge

Indeed only a Prophet and messenger will truly understand the true nature of revelation. We can understand that the revelation is something great. We can understand what we are being taught by the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, is how to align ourselves with the true nature of reality. How to align ourselves to the Divine Will and to do that which is pleasing to Allah Most High so that we become beloved to him Most High.

Without revelation there is no way for us to really understand all other types of knowledge. It is revelation that helps us with this. Revelation allows us to access knowledge that would otherwise be impossible.

The words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, are immense. He was the wisest of all of those that Allah Most High created. Everything he said was put in its proper place. Everything he said had deep and profound meaning. And one of the great ways we come to ascertain the truth is by taking his words and by putting them into practice. Once we know this, we are meant to prepare our hearts to be able to receive.

How to Receive the Words of the Prophet

If you look at the way the people before us received the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, you see that they had ta‘dhim . They exalted, magnified and respected the words of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

We know that the people of Allah when they heard the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, being spoken, transmitted and narrated, they imagined the Prophet himself, Allah bless him and give him peace, speaking directly to them.

In general, we should imagine that the words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, come from his blessed mouth and we have an intimate description of what the mouth of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, looked like. We can imagine that it was wide and beautiful. He had white teeth with a little gap between them. We know that it was as though light was coming from his mouth, Allah bless him and give him peace.

You can imagine these words being uttered and you can imagine where these words are coming from. What then was the reality of the heart of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that was expanded?

The Raiment of the Heart

Everything you say is clothed in the state of your heart when it is said. What then was the state of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace? What then was the light of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace?
What then when he uttered words? How important and blessed are these words? If we open ourselves up to receive them, how much good could come to us as a result?

The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, spoke of ghain. “Indeed my heart becomes clouded.”
One of the righteous said, this is not the cloudiness from otherness. This is the cloudiness from the Light that is coming to the blessed heart, Allah bless him and give him peace.

If this is the state of his heart – a state of radiance, a state of illumination — whenever our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, utters words and we receive those words, the seed will be planted in the fertile hearts and then what will come from that is all good and the source of all good is the prophetic inheritance.

Three Steps to the Prophetic Inheritance

One of the greatest ways we access that Prophetic inheritance is by opening our hearts and our minds and our souls and every dimension of our existence to the blessed words of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

In this process there are a number of steps we can go through, whenever we hear words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.

The first is that we have to learn to remain silent. It is impossible for us to listen if we cannot remain silent.
When can do that, we can take the second step which is to listen carefully to what is being said. Then we can move on to the third step where we reflect on what is being said. And it is reflection that will lead to understanding. Then we need to put that knowledge to memory. And as we memorize we also need to put it into practice.

So we need to remain silent, listen, reflect and then understand, memorize and simultaneously put into practice. Only then can we teach the blessed knowledge we are learning – first and foremost by example and then by words.

Preparing Our Hearts to Listen and Learn

We will be looking at this great book translated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf titled The Content of Character and was compiled by Shaykh Al Amin Mazrui. As we journey through the beautiful words and sayings of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, we ask our Lord Most High to prepare our hearts to receive, to benefit us immensely and turn it into deeds that are pleasing to Him, the Most High.

There is a hadith that shows us the nature of our Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and how he taught. This hadith is narrated in the collection of Imam Muslim.

While I was praying with the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, someone sneezed in prayer I said: May Allah have mercy on you. People started looking at me and I asked why are you looking at me? They struck their hands on their thighs.

When I saw that they were trying to get me to remain silent I became quiet. When the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, finished praying he called me. My father and mother be his ransom, I saw no teacher before him or after him who was better in teaching than him. By Allah he didn’t rebuke me. Nor did he hit me. Nor did he insult me. What did our Prophet Say? “This is prayer. It is not appropriate that we say things that people normally say in it. Indeed the prayer is to glorify Allah and Exalt him and to recite the Quran.”

Look at this individual. He made a mistake and look at how he was taught, gently. There was no one before or the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, that taught as he did.

Allah willing, we will open our hearts to be taught by these blessed words of master Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace.


The Content of Character podcast is brought to you by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid Institute, and powered by SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. Listen to this episode in full on the SeekersHub website, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Android, or RSS.

NB. Shakyh Yahya Rhodus is teaching from The Content of Character. References are given by title abbreviation and hadith number CC:001, and so on.