By Omar Husain
The student of knowledge, da`i (caller to God), or scholar has been given a great blessing by Allah (Exalted is He) to be in a position to learn, and teach others.
However, with teaching comes a great responsibility, as you are responsible for people’s spiritual well being. With this in mind, I feel it is important to highlight a few ways to be more effective for those who are in positions of teaching or preaching, be it a small weekly study circle, a course, or an Islamic conference.
1- Do Not Assume People Know
This is a mistake we see often in our religious teachers. Just because you don’t even think twice about who Imam Nawawi is, or who Ibn Al-Qayyim is, does not mean anyone else has a clue who these great individuals were. It would be more effective to perhaps mention something briefly about them, and proceed.
I remember one time, someone mentioned the term ‘Malikis’, as in followers of Maliki fiqh (jurisprudence), and a brother, who regularly prays and fasts, asked: ‘Are they Muslims too!’. This was not intentional; he just had no idea what the term meant.
Also, people in your audience are constantly changing. New generations are there for the first time, people who have started taking their religion seriously are there for the first time, new converts, etc. By being clear, you are only helping all of them out.
2- Don’t Forget to Translate
An inspiring or informative class or lecture could be even better by not leaving Arabic terms or phrases untranslated. I have seen this many times with teachers, especially the more advanced they get. Sometimes, it is central to the theme of the subject. So, for example, you have to translate `urf (customs and traditions), or Qur’anic verses completely, otherwise it is less effective for the audience.
It is frustrating for a listener to be following you every step of the way, and then lose you at your main point because you used language they don’t understand.
3- Observe General Etiquette on Stage
Nothing is more discouraging or disheartening to your audience than seeing a presenter or speaker texting away on the stage, or looking around randomly. It shows, fairly or unfairly, that you don’t care, and that you don’t want to be there. If you don’t want to be there, why should anyone else?
Like it or not, this is what people are thinking. Yes, sometimes it is necessary in coordinating events, but you have to keep it to a bare minimum.
4- Do Not Be Sarcastic When Answering a Question
No matter how ridiculous a question seems to you, laughing sarcastically is the worst thing that can be done. Keep in mind, at least that person is asking to try to find out the truth. By mocking their question, you are telling them: ‘What a stupid question to ask’.
Is that going to encourage them to come to the masjid, lecture, or class in the future or discourage them from doing so?
5- Come Prepared
Your audience is giving their time, and often money, to be there. They could be several other places, but they chose to come listen to you.
Showing up without properly reviewing your material and wasting time gathering your thoughts kills the momentum of the class, lecture, presentation, etc. Unless you’ve been teaching a subject for years and don’t need to review, you owe it to the audience.
May Allah make us amongst those who have the ability to convey the message, and more importantly, follow it. Ameen.