Whether at work, school, with friends or family, there are times when we are all affected by moments of low self-esteem or lack of motivation to navigate through the day. In times like these, it is helpful to have someone that makes us feel motivated, uplifted, and encouraged to persevere. Someone that is aware of Prophet Muhammad’s motivational techniques would be ideal.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encouraged his companions using a variety of techniques designed to adjust their behavior, making it beneficial to them in this life and more pleasing to Allah the Almighty.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) turned a large group of people accustomed to living under harsh desert conditions into a united community of high virtues and morals. How did he do it?
Uncovering the Prophet’s Motivational Techniques
The Department of General Studies at the International Islamic University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, conducted a study titled, The Impact of Prophet Muhammad Motivation Techniques on Students’ Performance (2012).
The study involved cognitive and behavioural psychologists and it was based on the Hadith literature of the Sahih collections of Imam al-Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Sunan Abu Daud and Sunan Tirmidhi.
The study, conducted with a large group of students over an extended timeframe, showed increased concentration, better behavior in class, higher grades, and fewer conflicts among the students.
Below are six of Prophet Muhammad’s motivational techniques that we can all learn from:
1. Technique of Giving Reward
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.Bukhari
Receiving a reward when completing a task reinforces our learning process, a technique founded on the principle of this hadith. To correctly apply the rationale of a motivational reward, it should follow a completed task. If the finished undertaking was societal, it should be public. It is crucial to abstain from criticism for an incorrectly completed assignment.
2. Technique of Discouraging Bad Behavior
Jarhad, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by him when his thigh was uncovered. The Prophet said:
Cover your thigh because is part of your Awrah.Tirmidhi
When criticizing someone for misbehavior, a person can feel personally attacked, contributing to the rise of psychological defenses. To avoid causing anguish, calmly reiterate the task instructions to instill motivation to do better the next time.
3. Technique of Giving Praise
As a motivational technique, the Prophet (peace be upon him), gave his companions titles that highlighted their skills.
For example, he told Abu Ubayhdah ibn al-Jarrah,
You are the protector of this nation.
And he said to Khalid ibn al-Walid,
You are one of the swords of Allah.
There is a hadith-based manner of giving praise to maximize its effect.
For maximum positive behavior reinforcement, praise is given immediately after good behavior/effort/effective action-based outcomes, not on the person or their personality. If the task was societal, the acknowledgment should be made public and, when possible, in front of VIPs.
4. Technique of Encouraging Good Behavior
The Prophet (peace be upon him), said:
You shall not enter Paradise until you believe, and you have not believed until you love one another. Shall I tell you of something you can do to make you love one another? Spread the greetings of Salam (peace) amongst yourselves (i.e. between each other).Muslim
From this hadith, it is clear that the structure of encouraging words in this. motivational technique should commence in assembly or upon meeting one another by (1) expressing enthusiasm, then (2) warning about the difficulty of the task, followed by (3) stating a first and second condition to achieve it, (4) accompanied by a question to incite curiosity to complete the task. Lastly, offer simple terms for carrying out a duty that everyone can perform.
5. Technique to Raise Self-Confidence
The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said:
Whoever is pleased with Allah as their Lord, with Islam as their religion, and with Muhammad as their Messenger, Paradise is guaranteed for him.Muslim
This hadith reflects a simple and effective way to raise self-confidence.
To apply it requires asking questions to gauge whether or not those who are listening have completed assigned tasks or acquired certain knowledge. It is important to be aware, to the extent possible, that such questions can be answered affirmatively. This is followed by asserting that those who have done so are the ones who will be successful.
6. Technique to Deal with Bad Behavior
‘Umar ibn Abu Salamah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: I was a young boy under the care of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) and my hand used to wander all over the platter (of food). The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said to me:
O boy, mention Allah’s name, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is nearer to you.
Since then, I have been eating that way. (Al Bukhari and Muslim)
Often our first reaction to inappropriate behavior is criticism, but this was not the practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Instead of criticizing bad behavior, He would guide the person toward a more appropriate manner of conduct or offer a solution to the person’s problem.
Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) changed the world by modifying people’s beliefs, behavior, customs, and social norms, winning them over with kindness and gentle persuasion. Except for instances of necessity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not force others to agree with him or resort to displays of strength. The motivational techniques shown above are as valid then as they are now.