Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stimulating the Intelligence

Understanding the Prophet's Life
Stimulating the Intelligence

Throughout his mission the Prophet, peace be upon him, sought his
Companion's advice, encouraging them to express their opinions
and paying them careful attention. Furthermore, the Prophet had
evolved a genuine teaching method through which he allowed the
Muslims to develop their critical faculties, express their
talents, and mature in his presence. He would often ask questions
on various subjects and give the answers only after his
Companions had thought by themselves and expressed different
conjectures. Sometimes, more subtly, he would utter a judgment in
a paradoxical form, thereby prompting his listeners to consider
the matter more deeply. For example, he once said: "A strong man
is not a man who overcomes his enemy!" The Companions mulled this
over among themselves, then asked him: "Then who is a strong
man?" The Prophet surprised his audience and led them to a
deeper understanding of the question with his answer: "A strong
man is a man who controls himself when he is angry!"

He would sometimes speak figuratively: "Wealth does not lie in the riches
you possess!" After the Companions pondered this, Muhammad would
elaborate: "True wealth is the wealth of the soul." On occasion
the Prophet's statement appeared to contradict common sense or
ethics: "Help your brother, whether he is just or unjust!" The
Companions could not but wonder about the nature of the help they
were to give an unjust brother: how could that be? The Prophet,
inverting the perspective, would add: "Prevent him [the unjust
brother] from acting unjustly, such is the way for you to help

Both by asking questions and by formulating paradoxical or
seemingly contradictory statements, the Prophet stimulated his
Companions' critical sense and their ability to go beyond mere
blind obedience or mechanical mind-destroying imitation. This
method developed the intellectual capacities necessary for
consultations to be effective. By stimulating their intelligence
and giving them opportunities to speak, he exercised a type of
leadership that made it possible for his Companions to learn to
assert themselves and take initiative.

"In the Footsteps of the Prophet" - Tariq Ramadan, pp. 102,103

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