2018 Nov Class Notes by OK age 28

(actual note(s) from student(s)) submitted within one week of class

(These notes are mostly unedited and represent a GISLA students understanding of the previous class the attended.) Student attend class on Sunday and submit their essay of what they learnt before the next class. Interestingly, as can be seen below the same class yields different lessons for each student even though the content of the class they hear was the same.)
Students graduate level 1 IF and WHEN they pass the Level one exam (some do it in 6 weeks and some take 3 years and counting…) and students from anywhere in the world can test out to pass and earn the GISLA Level one trophy)

Week 1 for me Week 7 for class October 28   There are a few things that stood out to me and affected me the first lesson at the green stairs academy. The first thing that affected me was how accepting and different the perspective of Islam compared to what I have been raised to believe and think. Understanding that we should use GOD & the Quran as the guide to apply it in our society and not just following verbatim what the Hadeeth says we should do since there has been a lot of changes and evolvement over the years. Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was extremely intelligent in breaking down these principles and teaching them to people during his life time, However the teacher made a great analogy that unfortunately Muslims worry more about following what the Prophet says and place him before GOD and that’s where we need to shift our ideals. We need to use God & Quran as the blanket principles and adapt with these principles to the times we live in.

I was tested on the spot with texts of the Quran and it’s surprising what I still memorized even after not using it for years. It showed me that the simple reading of the text could keep the texts fresh in your brain to use in variety through prayers. It emphasized to me that reading the Quran shouldn’t be something to do in Ramadan only but year-round, that was my take away for that test.

Understanding that it’s OK to question religion was a mind boggling concept to me, I was taught that if you question Islam then you are not Muslim, but the teacher said that you’re welcome to question, that’s how you learn and grow and that gives my heart peace knowing that it’s OK to have doubts sometimes since we are only human. The other thing that made me very happy was learning that not only Muslims will go to heaven. I was led to believe that only Muslims will go to heaven and everyone that doesn’t believe in Islam will not make it to heaven unfortunately. That always made me very confused and upset because I never understood why people will end up missing on heaven because they were born into different religions/countries/cultures and their environments didn’t allow for questioning, were they just unlucky not to be born in Islam? But some of them were better people than me, they were kinder & more generous, they were positive and never spoke ill of anyone, why would they not make it to heaven? Teacher broke it down very simply, a person born in Islam you will be judged based on their knowledge base and not only your prayers but their good deeds. Teacher said that your Prayers, fasting, Zakat, etc… that’s what determines where you sit in the stadium (Heaven), are you ring side or in the bleachers, However your good deeds, how you treat people, family friends, what type of person you are will determine if you have enough point to make it into the stadium or not. The simple explanation that Islam such as many other religions is making a world a better place and do good, treat people as you like to be treated or better, and help as many people as you can.

It’s very easy to get caught up with things such as the prophet used to do something a certain way, so you must do it the same. I think we forget that the real connection is with GOD. Less criticizing and telling other what’s right or wrong and more connection, not just going through motions of prayers but real connection. Praying 5 times a day is not a chore but a hope and a wish that while you are praying and submitting to GOD you feel his presence. What if he stands in front of you for those 8 seconds? Didn’t you just hit the Jackpot/lottery/Heaven and earth combined? Now what if he was there and you weren’t asking for anything? Did you miss your chance? How is he going to give you your blessing and what you’re asking for? I wish I can be that lucky to have a personal visit while I’m praying and I hope he hears the full prayer ISA

Week 2, Sunday 11/11 This week’s class was very interesting because we started off by a 2-minute prayer and the objective was only to connect with god. It was as simple as just getting lost and trying to speak with god not going through motions of prayer. Then we prepared the chairs in a half circle facing the professor which is a great set up compared to having chairs behind desks in my opinion, it was more intimate and open for conversation than just a classroom setting.

We started off class with a debate about who was for and against the kneeling during the national anthem. I don’t think we made too much headway in the debate but what I found interesting is the teacher was trying to get these young teenagers to argue for and against a topic, even if they don’t agree with the side that they’re on, it was very clear that there was teaching of standing up for yourself/beliefs/point of views or thinking critically to put yourself in someone’s shoes that you don’t agree with how they think, wish I had someone teaching me that when I was that age!

This led us into a little history and background about the Prophets and how there was 4 Rulers after Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) Abu-bakr, Omar, Othman, Ali.
We learned the concept of 4-5-6. 4 rulers, 5 Pillars, 6 steps of how Qur’an was written. There was a discussing of how PPP (Power, Passion, Poverty) was a determining factor to how you judge and assess situations.

I have never heard an Islamic teacher discuss Adultery as anything other than forbidden and against religion (HARAM) however, he asked what if a lady in Afghanistan can’t feed her children and her only option is sleep with someone to be able to feed them? People that out of fear of losing their life did things that are not “HALAL”. Poverty unfortunately can push people out of necessity to do things they would never do otherwise, it’s a desperation that hopefully we would never experience, and I would never wish it on anyone, and on the opposite side of that most people in power crave more power and if they are not secure in their power they abuse the poor, poverty can also be in self-esteem & knowledge/education.

He teaches to not judge people because we are not in their shoes. Islam is not a religion of Black & white I’m starting to realize more and more, there is a lot of grey areas that you must utilize your brain and really think not just is it Halal (permissible) or Haram (forbidden), the religion unfortunately has been watered down through Hadeeth and sayings that people said, they have conflicting messages that confuse followers of the religion and that’s why some choose the ones they like and disregard ones that don’t follow their agenda.

Deferring to the Quran and running the PAPA test will help you filter through what GOD said after prophet Mohamed not before, and do it twice to really be sure, is this GOOD or not and if it’s not then probably this is not what GOD said.
Teacher said that you should always be learning and be creative, use music since it’s not haram but choose what you listen to because it became how you think and who you are, so choose carefully.

He mentioned self-development and growing yourself, we should be always learning and growing not watching TV. Things happen to us for a reason, most of the time it’s to teach others about how to overcome things in life or just simply to be grateful for the little things that you grow accustomed to and forget to thank god for, such as your sight, hearing, smell, etc..

Notes from November 18 class (999 words)

Today we started off today’s class with the pledge of allegiance, right after that teacher started discussing how to be informed in the world, we live now through news payers. It’s important to be up to date with current events, where the market is and how the world revolves day in and day out. He mentioned that the business section in the wall street journal is a very important piece to follow to know what’s happening in our economy. Teacher was talking about how in the article about Atheism, every person believes in a higher being or a creator. Maybe they don’t believe in him or pray for him everyday but if you just use your brain for a few minutes and think about how the world revolves, the sun rise, sun set, the moon showing up every night and the sun every day without fail, the colors of everything in nature, there is no possible way humans created that, even with the big bang theory there has to be someone that wrote the algorithm for the universe. The universe is like a computer program and there is a very specific program that flows and we are just a very small piece of dust in the universe.

God had sent Adam & Eve down to earth to live there after the eating of the apple incident, humans have free will, they run the show down here on earth for lack of a better term. However, the algorithm is already set up by the creator. We are simply uncapable as humans to even imagine running the world how it is now. The human minds did evolve with time, we went from just surviving and living in caves to having building, driving cars, amazing technology, but still air, water, child birth, sun, moon, etc.. all that was there before we evolved. There were times where people used to travel by horses and camels but now, we fly, take boats and drive and I’m sure the future will hold even more technology and discoveries in the world, but what about their discoveries we just learned about in the past 100 years or so being written in the Quran decades ago, 1400+ years ago to be more accurate. Isn’t it crazy that the Quran had the creating of a child from Sperm to child birth already in the text? The description of the sun & the moon, the 7 seas, just to name a few. How could anyone doubt there is a higher being regardless of your beliefs?

My favorite part of the lesson this week was when we started discussing stories about religion, tends to stick more in your brain when it’s in that format. Teacher started giving examples from the Quran about Abraham cutting up the birds and placing them on different mountains and calling them and they come back to life and fly towards him, Jesus walking on water, through god healing the sick, made a blind man see again. Moses hearing god’s voice in the fire and throwing the stick on the ground and it changes into a snake, then grabbing it again and turns back into a stick. The story of the birds dropping stones on one of the strongest armies and defeating the army by the stones that either killed immediately or spread diseases. The elephants not moving once they get to a certain distance from Kaaba which is the house of god, where all Muslims pray to. Those stories were a part of my childhood so it was nice to revisit some of them again as a refresher.

Teacher also asked us to pick up the Quran more, to go to the source and read/apply lessons from the Quran every day. He asked to have us turn to any page in the Quran and read that one page, once you do there will be at least one lesson that teaching you something to do or something to avoid doing. There will always be something to learn from that one page and as your understanding of religion grows, reading those pages again will affect you and impact you differently every time

One thing that really stick with me is how would I have reacted if I was in one of the prophet’s shoes? Where would I find the strength and the belief? Its not easy to go against the norm, especially back in there times where religion wasn’t a popular thing. How would I have reacted? Would I have failed the test? It’s very fascinating and impressive the amount of scrutiny these prophets were under, it was the biggest test of their life and they passed. I am very glad that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) will be the last one in heaven waiting till everyone from his followers enters heaven, it’s reassuring to know that as long as you are a good person, you live right, treat people well, believe in god you can enter heaven. Now the quest turns into how close can you get to the prophets and god in heaven? But it’s still reassuring that anyone that’s good will go to heaven, even if they are not Muslim. I struggled with that thought for a long time and I was always baffled by what I previously learned that heaven is only for Muslims, that was untrue and I believe that, good people will/should go to heaven too, why would they be penalized for being a different religion, growing up in a non-Muslim family, culture or country?  The sad but fair part is everyone will do their time based on their actions, there will always be accountability between god and us humans, since he gave us the right to choose and make our own decisions, he gets to judge us on judgment day or else why would there be a heaven & hell. Its reward and punishment just like we do for ourselves and our kids in day to day life.

By OK Week of 12/2 – Male Age 28    Today’s class we started off meeting the professor a little earlier before the class to ask him a few questions that we have been encountering in our day to day life. It was very interesting to learn about things that are purely cultural that we confused for being wrong/against religion. Growing up we learned that you can’t place your shoes facing up or have the bottom of your feet facing towards a person, having alcohol at home or being in a setting where alcohol is served, teacher explained to me that there is a lot of purely cultural believes that get taught as forbidden simply because there is no reason or explanation. Teacher referred to Quran and checking the source, you must really think about the little things we are told are wrong and question if it makes sense.
Class kicked off by saying the pledge of allegiance and the pledge of faith. Then teacher asked us about what was happening in the world over the past week or two, who knew anything about the stock market, the business world, etc.. simply all our class wasn’t up to date at all with current events. Teacher asked how will you lead if you are not current on world events? He discussed how a wombat is the only animal in the world that has a square shaped poop. Teacher was fascinated by how engineers are studying elephants and how they can pee half tub in 20 seconds and they are studying how elephants do that and how to apply it to the world to potentially stop the California wildfires. It’s interesting how answers can come from unexpected sources and how you can be a hacker and use your knowledge to better the world.

That was a great transition into teachers next lesson, CCC (Creator of Computer Code) people that succeed in life develop skills and hack life, everyone falls in one of 3 categories a Hacker, Operator or slacker. Hacking generally have a negative connotation to it, but to be a hacker or a slacker you must be an operator first, you must understand how things work before you can hack it to improve/help society. Teachers are the ultimate hackers of the world because they must learn and master something to be able to not only hack it to improve it, but they do research to teach others and pass along what they learned. Not all hackers are helpful unfortunately, sometimes a person can hack something that might be harmful to them (self-destructive).

We discussed Tayamom (washing to get ready for prayer) the purpose of doing that isn’t to get clean but to get mentally ready to leave the world behind and focus on your connection and communication with god, when people had to travel for months at a time their only way of preparing for prayer was tapping on the sand and going through the practice of wash for prayer. There is always a way to get mentally ready for prayer and standing in front of god focused and ready for your communication with him. In Spain a long time ago, people would lose their lives if they were seen doing wash for prayer, they would even give kids candy and start doing wash for prayer the wrong way till the kids correct them then their parents taught them, and they would get executed. It was advised to protect themselves by looking at the sea/ocean and doing the Wash with your eyes not even needing tap on the sand and do the movements because it would have caused someone to lose their life.

Intentions are everything in Islam, we get judged based on what our intentions are, fortunately for us god is so generous to give us good credit when we think a good dead or do a good dead, but when we think of a bad dead we do not get penalized for the thought that go through our head but only the actions that we take, an unfair advantage that we were blessed with.

Later in the class we were joined by teacher’s friend/colleague when we were learning the right way to perform the wash for prayer after we had a debate for about 30 minutes to defend the flag, it was fun to be able to help younger guys to develop their thoughts on how to go through a debate and how to argue for and against a topic even if they disagree with it, but giving them the first exposure to debate and standing up to what they think is right or wrong was refreshing. At the end of class teacher’s friend told us about a man that he saw standing in the rain on his way to the mosque and he said it is very easy to be ungrateful for things that we might have but when we look and see what others don’t have, it makes us very grateful to what god has blessed us with.

It’s safe to say that even thought we might not have learned a lot of Islamic teaching this lesson we learned a lot of leadership and life lessons that we can apply every day in our lives, to be leaders not followers, to stand up for what we believe in and have a civil debate to understand different points of views.

By OK Week of 12/16 I came to class today at 9:55am, we started by reciting the pledge of allegiance and the pledge of faith per usual and one of our classmates was given the role to start the pledge of allegiance and pledge every class exactly at 10am even if the teacher is not there. Then we sat on the ground in a circle and practiced some meditation while listening to Zikr (remembrance of god) for the first 20 minutes of class.

Professor started talking about how you should always keep your brain engaged and challenge your brain every single day, he referred to the sudoku in the newspaper asking which of us (students) tries to solve it every day/week and which of us goes online and used applications to take tests and challenge your IQ. The reason why he was asking is a lazy brain is a brain pre-determined for Alzheimer’s unfortunately, a decade or 2 ago people used to memorize phone numbers, have to use an actual map to get somewhere and not just plug in the address in your smart phone, etc.. We are getting brain lazy because of all the evolving technology around us unfortunately. I think that’s what the teacher was wanting to instill in us as leaders we can’t just go through our days, we must challenge our brain to at least learn one new thing every day, take a test, do something new or out of your comfort zone to engage your brain since life could get repetitive and robotic sometimes.

Teacher then dressed up as an elf celebrating the Christmas holiday, now I always thought Christmas was a Christian holiday, but as we learned from the discussion that it’s a pagan holiday, one of the classmates was extremely against Christmas celebration but I was a little unclear as to why. There was an argument that in schools and churches they explain that Christmas is a Christian holiday, but it should be a pagan holiday, and no one identifies as such. But is that enough of a reason why he was against it? Now from my own experience there has been Muslims that have the opinion of not celebrating any other holiday other than Islamic holidays, I was raised like that and my father taught my brothers and I this. However, when you move to a different country and you must learn to adapt to a different culture with its rituals & holidays, what’s acceptable and what’s not, you come to realize that most people from different religions celebrate to bring their families together.

Regardless of religion/culture/race/color people celebrate holidays in my opinion because there is a mix of culture/religion purpose to the holiday, now I agree that not all people dive into why this holiday exists and what happened that caused us to celebrate this day and for that I have much admiration to my classmate. What teacher explained next was profound in my opinion, if you look at holidays and try to dissect each holiday and judge what people before us many decades ago did, you will end up not following any religion and not celebrating anything for as long as you live. Unfortunately, history has been filled with wars, killing, expansions that caused a lot of bad things to happen that had the ripple effect of where we are now. If you trace back all the events then even Islam has some chapters where we shouldn’t be celebrating it because of what some rulers did, same with Christianity and Judaism. Now teachers point was not to stop celebrating everything but to look at what are people celebrating now and how they are celebrating it and have the respect as being a part of the community to wish them a happy holiday even if you don’t celebrate it. Take yourself and your ego out of the equation because it doesn’t hurt to wish someone else happy holidays, “It doesn’t make you less of a Muslim” the teacher said. Knowing who you are is very important because it’s a sign of respect such as in South Africa where doctors gave up their days off, so their colleagues could spend the day with their family on their holidays. I think that’s very admirable and it was started by a Muslim that offered to work a day another doctor was scheduled but he had a holiday and it kept rotating till now it’s the norm that people who don’t celebrate that specific holiday can work while others celebrate their holiday and vice versa.

The moral of this lesson in my opinion and what I gather from what teacher was trying to get across was don’t try to find the negative in each situation, if you look for an excuse not to support/celebrate or be involved in something you will always find that, because you always find what you seek. Do the opposite, celebrate with people, you don’t have to change anything about your beliefs to wish people well and use these holidays to learn more and get more involved in people’s lives and learn more about their cultures and beliefs and a lot of that come from looking at where we are now and our understanding of our religion and how can it be applied to today’s life. It all falls back to using the Quran as a guide and applying it within the scope of the time we live in.

Next teacher asked the class about current events and unfortunately we were unprepared with topics for the 2nd time, it’s unacceptable to not know what’s happening in the world as leaders, but the conflict is most news are negative in my opinion and that’s why I tend to not want to get involved or learn about it because it’s very opinionated and unfortunately not all that good. There are some positive things that happen in the world such as the Paris climate agreement which is refreshing to see that it’s being recognized as a topic taken seriously that needs to be handled now to prevent global warming disasters in the future and the frustrating part is non-Muslims are making the world a better place and we are not stepping up to the plate and doing our job unfortunately. Hats off to any country that’s taking this project on, but we should have some Islamic representation because it’s our job to make the world a better place as well, I think we as Muslims are benching ourselves and becoming more spectators to what happen in the world instead of leading. Extremely disappointing to see the US, and most if not all Muslim countries either bowing out of that agreement or not even taking initiative. Teacher cover a few more topics such as Australia recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and so did Oman. The largest casino in the world is in the middle east now.

Teacher is still working on developing a new concept to teach which is PMS (Public M Sensibility) not fully developed yet but the idea is what’s acceptable on the beach in Miami isn’t acceptable on a beach in North Carolina. Then we learned that canaries are used in caves to detect carbon monoxide and warn people to get out since they have a great sense of smell.

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