By Rafi M. Ali, M.D.
Director of DarusSalam Seminary’s Tadrīs Integrated High School Program
Effective teachers are gifted with compassion and an unfailing commitment to their student’s welfare…a commitment that is not confined by the narrow perimeter of a paycheck. Lacking this, it will be difficult for one to breach the threshold separating the commonplace good from the uncommon great teachers. As with all matters, the matters of the heart are, as the reader undoubtedly appreciates better than the author, in the hands of our Creator. In this, we find comfort, for Allāh is ever Giving and Merciful. It is to Him that we turn to soften and revive our hearts.
Students are inspired by uncommon commitment. This is the oft overlooked reason for the success of great teachers. Such teachers do not sleep easy. The death of our beloved Prophet , humanity’s greatest teacher, was an unfathomable catastrophe for the generation of the best students. His bond with them was unimaginably strong.
A lesser, yet still great and touching example, will illustrate the power of this bond. Socrates sacrificed his life for his principles. Plato describes the death of Socrates thus:
“Then holding the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could no longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept over myself, for certainly I was not weeping over him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having lost such a companion. Nor was I the first, for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up and moved away, and I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out in a loud cry which made cowards of us all. Socrates alone restrained his calmness.”
Tears, perhaps, submit the greatest tribute. Even in death, Socrates was teaching by example. Plato, of course, would go on to teach Aristotle, and these men would shape history. Common efforts lead to common results; uncommon efforts lead to uncommon results. History does not remember the average. Let us strive for uncommon excellence.
. A paycheck, of course, is important. Most teachers are overworked and underpaid.
. Charles W Eliot, ed., Plato Epictetus Marcus Aurelius (New York: P. F. Collier, 1937), 112-113.