2018/9 Class Notes by AB age 24 – – (actual note(s) from student(s)) updated weekly
(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)
Sunday October 28, 2018 Week 1 Week 7 On Sunday, I came to the class not knowing what to expect. I am a Caucasian female so in my head, I thought I would feel out of place. The teacher was very welcoming and made me feel like I truly belonged in the class. The first thing that I learned is that the class is aimed to teach people as young as teens, leadership skills that are beneficial in everyday life. Once the class started, this was apparent. The teacher taught everyone how to have conversations and keep the conversations going. I think this is a very important aspect of the class. In the digital world that we live in, face-to-face conversations seems to be a dying art.
The first thing I learned was how to correctly wear a hijab. I brought a scarf to the class not knowing if I should cover my hair or not. I was not required to cover my hair, but I happily learned the correct way to tie the scarf.
After the hijab was in place, I was given a paper with prayers that had been translated to English (thankfully). Coming from a Christian background, the teacher told me to memorize the Islamic equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer – “Al-Fatihah”. After memorizing that and saying back to the class, I was then instructed to learn what is said during prayer when the person touches his or her knees. On this part, I learned the Arabic pronunciation.
Once the class had learned the prayers that the teacher had given us, the class was then open for discussion. This was my favorite part. I have a lot of questions about Islam and religion as a whole. I grew up Lutheran, which is a sect of Christianity, but have felt myself straying further and further from the church and their teachings because of the strict rules. I started asking questions and the teacher was eager to answer them. I had not experienced this in the past. I had often been ridiculed for even asking for clarification and for questioning my religion. I did not feel this way in the class. I felt like I was free to ask as many questions as I wanted.
One thing that really stuck out to me was what the teacher said. He explained that if something makes common sense, then it is probably acceptable in Islam. He further explained that Islam is a religion that should not defy common sense, but help you act in accordance with it. The teacher then explained that good things are things from God. This is why “good” and “God” are so similar in spelling.
The topic that really stuck in my head is what is referred to in class as MBA, meaning “Moderation and Balance”. Everything in life should be done in moderation and with balance. This was a very refreshing perspective. I think most people practice religion out of fear. If you are doing something out of fear, the I think that is unbalanced. I also think moderation is key. I think many people feel as though religion is all-consuming and many people have a very unbalanced way of practicing religion. Missing out on what life has to offer because of fear, is not how God wants us to live. Everything should be balanced and we should live our lives in moderation.
Week 2, Week of 11/11
This week in class we talked about many different topics. Class first started off by welcoming a guest who had been through the program and had graduated. The teacher went around the room asking people what they would improve about the program. He did this in order to get suggestions, but he also did this to help the students who were shy. He wanted the shy students to be able to speak up and voice their opinions.
This is a very important lesson. This class is not just learning about Islam but learn how to be a leader in the community. You have to have confidence and be able to speak up and voice your concerns. I really enjoyed and appreciated this lesson in the beginning of the class.We also talked about politics and history.
We split the class up into two different groups for debate. The topic of debate dealt with the National Anthem and whether or not Colin Kaepernick had the right to kneel during the anthem and create a movement. Even though there were people in both groups who agreed with Kaepernick’s movement, they had to be able to argue the opposing side, a side they didn’t necessarily agree with. This was also a great learning lesson for the students. I think it’s very important for us, as Americans, to be able to have compassion and understanding for people who might be opposed to our beliefs. We don’t have to agree with them but we should be able to understand their argument, regardless of their position. This helps us humanize those who we don’t agree with and it helps us to be able to have a civilized conversation with those who have differing views and opinions.
As we continued talking about politics and history, we focused on politics from a few thousand years ago. We discussed the political climate during the time of the Prophets and shortly thereafter. I learned what a Khalifa is, which is essentially a religious leader of the community. They held a great deal of power. So much so, that people followed them out of fear. If the Khalifa was doing wrong according to Islam, no one would speak up because in many instances, they would be killed. They were forced to follow out off fear and not out of religious conviction. This same story has been told time and time again, through all religion. The Christians experienced this during the dark ages. People followed out of fear and out of desperation. This lesson was meant to teach the class that we can learn what the future holds by studying history. History will repeat itself time and time again and we will be better prepared for it the more we learn about the past.
We also learned that history repeats itself because of the 3 Ps: Power, Passion, and Poverty. People seek power and passion at the expense of an impoverished group. This is basis of every event in history. World events occur because of the 3 Ps. Someone, or some nation is seeking power, out of passion, and taking advantage of the poor. This has been happening for thousands of years and will continue occurring for the rest of humans’ time on Earth. Power is a drug that people crave. It makes us do unspeakable things and it makes us turn our heads to things that we should be speaking up and fighting against. We learned that ISIS isn’t a new concept. The concept is as old as time- brainwashing and using religion as an outlet for violence. This has been around for thousands of years but today, it just has a new name. The reason why things like this keep happening and why we don’t learn from it is because nations and groups of people are like children in a sense. They have to experience things for themselves, even though they were forewarned of the inevitable outcome.
The teacher then discussed how we can become better humans and try to stop history from repeating itself. The only way to do this is through learning. As a member of society, it is our duty to feed the hungry, physically, by donating food and money, and intellectually, by helping teach those who may not have the same access that we do. Intellect through education is the only way that we can start to change a nation. Because of this knowledge, the teacher explained that we should be doing everything in our power to feed our brains. We continually want to take the easy way out and just come home and watch TV and waste time, but this is detrimental to our health.
The example of this that readily comes to my mind is Stephen Hawking. Once he was clinically diagnosed with his disease, he was only given a few months to live. But because of his incredible thirst for knowledge, he was able to defy all odds and live a long life. He continually read and published and greatly contributed to the Physics community and is arguably one of the most influential scientists of the modern era.
The importance of seeking knowledge is not just beneficial for your health, it can also be beneficial to the human race. We discussed Bill Gates and his invention of the waterless toilet that turns human waste into a powder fertilizer. This is just a prototype at this point, but if it were ever able to be mass produced, it could change the world. The teacher explained that our time here on earth is precious and we will be judged not only by how we treated others but by what we contributed to the world.
We also discussed a fable where a woman seeks out a Sheik to help her with her son. Her son is addicted to candy. He eats it all the time and he can’t control himself. She pleads with the Sheik to help her get her son to stop eating so much candy. After a few days, the Sheik finally came up with an answer – put chili on his hands so we he goes to eat the candy, it will taste bad. The woman was very annoyed by this lack luster answer and asked the Sheik why he made her wait all this time and then travel all this way for such a simple answer. The Sheik replied and told the woman that he had struggled with a candy addiction himself and had to find a solution before he could suggest one to her. The lesson here is empathy. Sometime the best way we can help others is to see it from their point of view. Step into their shoes and try to find the best solution looking through their lens.
Another lesson that we learned dealt with the number of blessings that we ignore on a daily basis. We take advantage of all of the wonderful things God has blessed us with and we overlook how wonderful our lives are. The teacher told us about when he had surgery on his throat. He was unable to swallow for days and all he could thing about was being able to swallow. And in those moments, he realized how fortunate he was to have been able to swallow all those years prior. He then asked the class, “do you ever thank God for being able to swallow?” This really impacted me. I think we get caught up in all the bad things that happen to us on a daily basis without thinking about all of the blessing that we have, that many other people don’t have. We should be more thankful everyday for waking up and being able to spend time with our loved ones.
We then switched gears to talk about the biggest problem with Islam today – some people tend to put the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) above God. This is a major error of modern Islam because the Prophet was a man. We learned about the three instances that prove his human-ness.
1. The Prophet had told people that they could worship idols. Once he said this, he immediately took it back and it was not included in the Quran. The Prophet explained that this was the Devil’s influence.
2. The Prophet went to a dinner party and one of the guests cast a spell on him. The angels came down and told him what to do to break the spell and he was successful. If he was a god, the spell would not have worked against him.
3. The Prophet lost his son at a young age and greatly mourned the loss. He was inconsolable for a period of time.
The Prophet was a human but many Muslims today try to solely focus on him instead of reading the Quran and learning what God said. By putting the Prophet above or on the same level as God, we are committing a grave sin. We cannot put a human above God.
The last lesson that we learned was about what to do every night before going to bed. Before we go to sleep, we should ask for forgiveness. God knows we are not perfect but we should accept that and acknowledge that. When we ask for forgiveness, we should then try to be even better the next day. We should strive to improve on a daily basis. If we ask for forgiveness but keep making the same mistakes, then we don’t deserve the forgiveness that we seek.
Notes for class of the Week of 11/18 (2072 words)
This week in class we sat in a circle again. I much prefer this way because I feel like the room is set up more for a discussion instead of a lecture. There’s something about sitting this way that welcomes questions and openness.
We started class by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the Pledge of Faith. I had never heard of the Pledge of Faith before so I was interested in hearing it. The Pledge of Faith essentially states that Muhammed is God’s messenger, just as Jesus was and as Moses was. It was really welcoming for me to hear about the acknowledgement of Christianity and Judaism at the start of class. I was born and raised a Christian but am taking this class to learn more about Islam. My husband is Muslim so I want to expand my knowledge to help him with his faith and be able to have meaningful conversations about it.
After the Pledges, we started talking about the Washington Post. In the Washington Post, the teacher told us about an article that was written about the book “Seven Types of Atheism”. This article explains how even the most famous and outspoken atheists actually have a great deal in common with those who are religious. Atheists often have religious beliefs without actually acknowledging that those beliefs are religious in nature. The author of the book essentially describes this as intellectually lazy because of the lack of self-reflection. The teacher then explained that even the most famous atheists still acknowledge the existence of a creator or beginning because as humans, we crave to know the answers to why we are here and who we are. We search to explain the inexplainable.
Once we were done discussing this topic, the teacher then told us about another fact that he read in the new this week regarding the kilogram. He informed us that the kilogram measurement had changed. The weight of the kilogram had been based off of a metal that was kept in Europe. The reason for this change is because the master measurement had changed as they deteriorated over time. The scientists voted to switch to a more constant measurement that wouldn’t deteriorate over time. They did this because even though the measurement had changed slightly, when used in large amounts, this slight change could have a large impact.
Both topics, the review on the book about atheism, and the new of the kilogram, are important facts that we should have known. Not one person in the class, including myself, had any knowledge of these topics. The teacher then explained to us that we should be more in tuned with what was going on in the world and suggested that we start implementing reading the news into our daily routine. He explained that by reading this information, you can learn how the world works. He explained to us that we should not remain ignorant with what is going on because we are only hurting ourselves by not seeking knowledge.
From these topics, we moved on to talk about belief and rituals, which is referred to as “B&R” in class. The teacher told us about the two different ways that B&R is applied. Either you do the rituals in the hopes that you gain belief or you have the belief and therefore act in the rituals. The teacher explained to us that the latter was the better. If you just do the rituals because you are supposed to or told you, your belief is not as strong or possibly even non-existent. But if you have a strong belief and practice the rituals, these rituals will bring you closer to God, when paired with the belief. One without the other is not practicing the religion in whole.
The teacher then explained that you, as an individual, should not get so caught up on the act of the rituals because, no matter what you do, there will be others who will tell you that you aren’t acting out the rituals correctly. The teacher encouraged us to practice the rituals in the way that we see fit, or feel convicted to do. He explained to us that even in life, there will always be people who tell you when you are wrong and point out these “faults”. In order to be successful, you shouldn’t get caught up on what others are proclaiming. You should focus on your own convictions and stay true to them.
After acknowledging this, we started talking about humans over time. Throughout history, our IQ has been steadily increasing, as our understanding of abstract concepts increase as well. Just as our understanding of concepts increases, so does our understanding of God. The teacher then explained that the Quran is a perfect framework of understanding and that we should constantly look to the Quran for daily lessons and understanding. The teacher suggested that once a day or once a week, we should go to the Quran, open it up to a random page, and read it like a play, like a discussion, because the Quran has a beat to it. When reading it aloud, you will be able to hear this beat. From our reading, we should take implement the teachings in our lives. The teacher encouraged us to learn life lessons based on what the Quran says because of the idea that it is a framework for a way of life.
We also started discussing that the existence of a God can’t be ignored because there are things that happen every day that follow codes and laws. The teacher then made the comparison of everything being a computer that God wrote the code for. He explained that our understanding of Him is based on our internet, which is our connection to God. We should always try and strengthen our internet connection to be able to work better with the computers that we work with every day.
Once we moved on from this topic, the teacher then referred to history for a lesson. He told the story of Abraha and how he wanted to take over the Kaaba (house of God on earth in mecca village. He did everything in his power to take over the village. He even stole from the Prophet’s grandfather. He took 100 camels from him and demanded a negotiation of withdraw. The grandfather agreed to meet with Abraha, which boosted Abraha’s confidence and ego. Once the grandfather met with him, the grandfather made it clear that he was not there to discuss the terms of withdraw. This angered and confused Abraha. The grandfather then explained that he wanted his camels back. He wanted this because Abraha had stolen from him, not the Kaaba (house of God on earth) mecca village. The grandfather then told Abraha that he wanted his camels back and that was it. He further explained that he has not fear for the village because the Village is God’s and God will protect it. Abraha basically laughed him off. The next day, birds came by the thousands and dropped stones on Abraha’s army. These stones had pestilence that sickened the entire army. Even those who didn’t get hit with the stones still got sick from coming in contact with those who had been hit. This story shows that God will protect the holy villages and cities and that we should not fear. We should look at history and understand that God has always protected these cities throughout time.
We then talked about another story where God appeared and asked Moses to take off his shoes in His presence. At the core of this request is to give up something that you hold valuable when you are in God’s presence because you will not need anything in his presence. God then asked Moses to take his walking stick/cane/rod, and throw it down. Moses followed the orders and when he threw the cane, it hit the ground and turned into a snake. God then told him to pick the snake up. Moses again followed His orders and when he picked up the snake, it turned back into his cane but was restored to a beautiful, white version. The teacher explained to us that throughout the Quran there are examples of why we should listen to the requests of God.
We also discussed why women wear hijabs. This had always been a question for me because I believe that wearing the hijab was meant to help women cover up and I had a little bit of anger for that because I couldn’t understand why the burden of covering up is placed on the women. The teacher then explained to us that women had always covered up while going to the Mosque and back during The Prophets time, he and his family lived very close to the Mosque. Because of this proximity, he requested that his wives wear the hijab because they should hold themselves to a higher standard. They should be conscious of their political standing in the society and The Prophet thought that by asking them to wear the hijab, they would be more conscientious members of Islam and the society. The teacher then explained the second reason why women wear hijabs. Back during that time, only the rich would wear a hijab because it was a status symbol. Those who could afford silk would wear it around their heads, as a symbol of their wealth. Once the hijab was requested for all women, it was to protect those who did not have money. Outsiders couldn’t tell the difference between the rich and the poor because all women were wearing the same head-covering. After discussing this, I felt much better about the hijab. I think my own ignorance and lack of pursuit of the truth resulted in me having negative emotions linked to the hijab, which is wrong. I think if we have negative emotions attached to something, we should seek out the truth to better understand it.
Once the class understood this, we moved on to talk about heaven. My husband and I had always talked about heaven and we couldn’t understand why those who may not believe in the same things wouldn’t go to heaven, regardless of how good of a person they were. I couldn’t understand why a good Christian and a good Muslim could not end up in heaven. I had always been taught that one group is right and would go to heaven and the other group was wrong and would go to hell. This had always been a very difficult ideal for me to grasp. I couldn’t understand why people who seemed like better people than me, would not be let into heaven because they were born into a different religion. The teacher explained to us that all those who believe in one God will end up in heaven. The only difference would be whether or not they were “ring-side”. Those who were really great people would end up getting the “ring-side” seats in heaven.
We then discussed charity and giving. The teacher told us about how every year during Ramadan, there is always a story praising a person who bought a bull from Argentina and donated it to the poor. The bull would feed 1300 people. He explained to us that the bull always gets more attention even if someone donates 500 sheep that would feed 2000 people. The teacher helped us understand that God does not want you to give to the poor to boost your own standings in society and have everyone praise you. God wants you to have pure intentions when donating. We should not help to get attention but we should help because these people need it. Everything is about intention and if you do not have pure intentions, you do not receive the benefits that God has promised from charity.
The teacher then told us that we should be devoting time to God and that he was happy that we were in class. Throughout the week, in the world we live, we are very busy. Especially in America, we are constantly moving and working and running around and we tend to forget, or not readily think about God. The teacher explained that in addition to reading the Quran, we should be devoting our Sundays to spending time learning about and connecting with God because without improving our internet connection, we are not taking advantage of the incredible computer and using it to its full capacity.
Week of 12/16 Female, Age 24 This week I arrived to class at 9:56am. We began by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and then the Pledge of Faith, as we do in every class. After saying the pledges, we were all instructed to remove our shoes and sit on the floor. We usually sit in chair in a circle but this week we sat on the floor. The teacher had us sit in a circle, close our eyes, listen to meditation music, and meditate. It was also referred to as Zikar. In the background of the music, the singer was reciting a chant. In the first song the chant was “Allahu” and he said this in rhythm with the beat. It was very faint but the teacher told us to focus on that and recite it in our heads as well. We were also told to keep our eyes closed no matter what and to try and remain as still as possible. I don’t normally sit on the floor so I was feeling very uncomfortable, but I tried my best to remain still and mindful of the chant. I took this time to try and relax my mind and body and focus solely on the chants. This was a very difficult task.
I kept wanting to move and reposition because of the uncomfortable position. We were supposed to sit cross-legged with our hands near our knees. I kept wanting to fidget. Every time I wanted to move, I realized how weak I am. At the smallest sense of discomfort, I wanted to immediately fix it. I think doing zikar was meant to show me that. I try and take every lesson personally, like the lesson was made just for me. It helps me really embrace what the teacher is saying. This lesson was no different. I realized just how weak my mind was when I was feeling discomfort. All of the sudden I couldn’t hear the “Allahu” chant. I could only focus on my back starting to hurt and my feet starting to fall asleep. Once I was conscious of what was happening, I tried to re-focus my mind to the chant. We did this for about 20 minutes, with a 3-minute break half way in between to shake out our legs and stretch. Once we went back into Zikar, I tried to focus all of my energy on the chant and ignore every single thing about my body. Every itch, every discomfort, every sensation. It was extremely difficult. My mind kept wondering and I kept thinking about how much longer it would be until I could stretch again.
This was a profound lesson for me. I realized just how little ability I have to focus on one task, especially if that task brings any sort of discomfort. I was never able to focus all my energy on the chant and keep my mind from wondering. I presume with more practice, I will be able to focus my energy on something for more than just a few moments. Living in a developed country, we are so spoiled with every day comforts. So much so, that we can’t think straight if we do without for just a few moments.
We then moved on to the “testing” period of the class. This is when everyone recites what they were supposed to memorize from the previous week. I was supposed to memorize Al-Iklaas and Al-Falaq. The teacher then told me about the back story of these verses being revealed to The Prophet. The prophet was poised by someone using the dark arts. The angels came down and gave the Prophet the recipe to cure himself of the poison. These surahs were meant to defeat the black arts.
We then started talking about how we should be challenging our brains every day. The teacher explained to us that our brains get lazy if they are not stimulated on a daily basis. If you continue to be lazy with your brain, you start to lose brain power. By not challenging your brain every day, some believe that this is a pre-determining factor that leads to Alzheimer’s.
After finishing the memorization review of the class, the teacher put on a shirt that make him look like a Christmas elf, as well as a Santa hat. He went around the room and asked everyone what they thought of him dressing that way. Some people were indifferent, some were negatively affected by this. The teacher listened to everyone’s arguments, both supportive and opposed, and decided to address those that were strongly opposed to anyone dressing in that way. One of the arguments against wearing this was the fact that the Christmas tradition of celebrating on December 25th was taken from the Pagans, and for that reason, we should not participate. Even though this was a valid point, the teacher always makes a point of challenging opinions. The teacher told us that if we are going to nit-pick at this holiday, then we should be able to do that with every other holiday. We shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because the settlers murdered the Native Americans by the tens of thousands. We shouldn’t celebrate MLK day because he was unfaithful to his wife. The teacher told us that if we were going to use this thought process against Christmas, then we should use this against every holiday because you can find something wrong with every holiday. The teacher was trying to help the class understand that if you are going to be rigid about one thing, then there is nothing wrong with that, but you have to apply it to every other aspect (holiday) as well. The teacher wanted us to know that it’s ok to participate in other holidays. It doesn’t make you less of a Muslim. It just shows that you are able to be tolerant with others and celebrate with them as neighbors.
We then talked about first world tolerance. In the world we live in today, and the diverse country, state, neighborhood, etc., we have to be tolerant of other viewpoints and religions. The teacher explained to us how in more diverse and modern countries, people of different faiths were helping each other out. He explained that many Muslims work on Christmas to allow the Christians to take time off to spend with their families. Many Christians and Jews return the favors on Eid and Christians and Muslims also help out during Jewish holidays. Being tolerant of other view points is a very humbling and important quality to have. If we are tolerant and respectful, then we make the world a better place.
Once we were done with this, we switched gears to talk about our assignments and the format in which the teacher wants our essay. While he was discussing this, he told us to write about what we brought to class. At first, I didn’t really understand this. What did I bring to class? Nothing. I brought myself and my notebook. I couldn’t understand why he was asking us to write about what we brought. Was I supposed to bring something? Did I forget to bring something? Will I have to do pushups?
The teacher then explained what he meant by “What did you bring to class” He told us that he wanted us to describe whether or not we were prepared for class. Did we memorize what we were supposed to memorize? Did we put in the time during the week to come to class prepared? What did we bring? Once I understood the question, I started to think and question myself? Was I putting in time outside of class to make sure I came to class prepared? Did I come to class with the right attitude? Did I come to class with a clear mind? Did I come to class with the intention of learning? In Islam, intention is one of the most important things. As long as you have pure intentions, you will be rewarded. I did have pure intentions when coming into the class but I could have prepared more. I could have tried to clear my mind a little better and I could have put more effort into having a more outwardly positive attitude.
Once we discussed this, we then moved on to talk about the news. This time, the other classmates knew more information about the news than the previous weeks. I read the news every morning but I still found myself not knowing many of the major world events. I knew many things about American news and politics but I didn’t know much about what was going on outside of this country. Once I realized this, I felt a little embarrassed and ignorant. I have the tools to be more informed but I was being lazy. What did I bring to class? A lack of knowledge of world affairs.
When talking about the news, the teacher spoke about different events that occurred. The first topic was about a woman in Michigan. The teacher explained to us that there are different frames of reference. Some people are very old school in their thinking. Some people just arrived in this country so they might have a very narrow-minded approach or viewpoint. We talked about a woman in Michigan who believed it was ok for women to go through genital mutilation. The teacher explained to us, that according to this woman and her frame of reference, she believed that there was nothing wrong with this practice. Even though it may seem wrong to us, she may not have had the same exposure that the rest of us have had.
We then started talking about the Muslim community in the UK. The teacher explained to us that most of these Muslims showed up around the same time so they have very similar thoughts. They decided that if they wanted to truly make their mark, they would have to get more people involved in the cause. They decided to start involving more Muslim women. These people recognized that women should have a say in Islam and if they want to make noise and step up, then the women need to be given a voice as well.
The next news topic that we discussed was the Paris climate agreement. We talked about how the US was pulling out of this and how we should know more about this. The teacher explained to us that this agreement is the most Muslim thing that occurred in recent news history. When a few of us looked confused, the teacher then explained that in order to be the best Muslim you can be, you have to do good deeds and leave the world in a better place. By reaching an agreement to better the environment and try and reverse the damage that has been done, this agreement is trying to better the world for all of humanity.
We also talked about canaries in coal mines. The teacher explained to us that canaries are often used in coal mines to detect carbon monoxide. When the canary starts chirping, the miners know to get out of the mine. The teacher told us that these canaries are detectors of what’s to come. He then asked us who we thought of as a figurative canary. He explained that Trump is a canary. He wants a wall built but the underlying message is that he does not want immigrants in this country. He is warning those of that is to come. The teacher also told us about the judge in Texas that struck down Obamacare and deemed it unconstitutional. He explained that this judge was a canary warning of what is to come. The teacher also described why this was a problem. He told us about Japan and how Japan went through this phase as well. The country didn’t want immigrants. They only wanted Japanese people. Now this country is facing trouble because the younger generation moved away to experience diversity. Japan is now faced with an older population which has consequences for the economy. Japan is now short of begging people to come to their country.
Once we were finished discussing current events and news, Teacher2 came to class. We explained to him what we had done and what was discussed. He started by asking us a question: If there is a fire during your prayer and you can go help others, should you stop your prayer to go help them? And the answer to this is absolutely yes. Why? Because you can always make up your prayer. Another reason is that as a Muslim, you have an obligation to do good and help others. You should not refuse help because someone may be of a different faith than you. When you start hating what others are doing, then it is not good. Hate is not good and hate is not of God. Love is good. Love is of God.
We then talked about the significance of Zikar – to clear your mind, concentrate on God and focus on your chants. When you are remembering God, you are thanking him. You need to remember that God wants you to thank him without an external source. You should have an open line of communication to be able to thank God for all of the blessings he has granted you. Through chants and words, you are calling upon God to have a connection.
We also talked about testing The Prophet and I learned that he did not have a formal education. He couldn’t read or write. The first direction from Allah was to read. This tells us that the most important thing as a leader is to read more and to read often. Reading is the most important thing you can do with your life. If others don’t read as much as you, you can’t react or blame them coming from your understanding off the world. You must give them time to get the new tools to get better. And others should be open minded to make life easier, happier, and better. We should read more and we should study.
But what should we read? You seek the knowledge which is beneficial for you. Whether it’s about disease, leadership, or how to grow your wealth. Read things that help you. Don’t read things that fill you with useless knowledge. Be mindful about what you spend your time reading. Reading should be done for self-improvement. You should also spend time reading the Quran. By reading Quran, you get a first-hand knowledge of what God is telling you. It’s the direction for you! Not others. God is talking directly to you. You will find most of the solutions to the difficulties in your life.
We then discussed a mistake that many people make when thinking about GOD. The biggest mistake is that some people believe that GOD likes misery. They think he only comes when you’re depressed or hurt. But that’s not true. Allah comes even more to those that are happy and thankful. The fatal flaw that most of us have is that we tend to only ask for help instead of give thanks. When you’re in a hardship, don’t think that you are being punished. Think that GOD is trying to teach you to be more thankful and be more careful so this doesn’t happen next time.
Teacher2 told us about a time where he was depressed because he lost a large amount of money. His young daughter came to him and asked him why he was sad. He explained to her what was happening. He told us that his daughter looked up at him and simply asked why he couldn’t just go out and make that money again. This was profound. He explained that, looking back on this moment, he realized just how blessed he was to have lost that money because it helped him instill a great work ethic in his kids, instead of them growing up entitled.
Teacher2 explained that as a teacher, his job is to show his short comings in the hopes of helping others not make that same mistake. On judgement day, you can’t say no one told you or warned you of the consequences. You should also strive every day to be truthful. When you are truthful and pure in your intentions, it gives you a satisfaction deep in your heart. If you have a problem with your parents, forgive them for whatever they have done to you. They have a different mind. Once you forgive them, you can then appreciate everything they have done for you. Until you can forgive and give thanks, you will not have peace in your life.
Teacher2 then told us that we should always be good to our neighbors. We should encourage others, learn their desires, support them, and build them up. As the new year approaches, we should be more mindful of this. He also told us that we need to write down our goals. If you have a plan, you have direction. Allah gave you your brain so you need to use it and establish a plan. If you can’t find the answer, you should ask. Find someone who knows more than you to ask your questions.
He also told us about the dajJaal. We think that if the DaJal has not come, we don’t have to worry about it. He explained to us that the Jal is not a persont; is simply a representation. If someone is misguiding you, he is the Jal for you. The Quran tells you to stay away from those types of people. We also learned that we should be tolerant of others and if they are upsetting us, we should not react immediately and take time to answer. If we don’t take time to gather our thoughts, we often will react out of hate. When you do something out of hate, you will do more harm than good. If you take time to think, you will not get upset about things that are very petty. When bad things happen to you, you should not ask why, but ask what it is trying to teach you. Just like in Teacher2’s case – he lost the money to teach him how to raise kids to work hard to achieve their dreams. If he had been rich, he might not have been able to raise his kids the same way. If you do still ask why these things happen to you, you should ask for all the things you need but add addendum. Ask God to give what is best for you and admit that you don’t know what is best for you. If there is something better than what you are asking, ask God to send that to you. Be careful in your prayer because your prayers are heard. If bad things come from what you asked, then it is your fault for asking. That’s why you should always ask for what is best. Teacher2 finished talking to us by explaining that a successful person is someone who is at peace and has happiness in their heart.
We ended the class with a student lead prayer where the teacher helped each student pray in the correct form.
Notes from class of 1/6/19 Female, Age 24
I came into class and set my things down at 9:52. I had not attended the last two weeks of class so I was happy to be back. At the start of class, I was instructed to sit on the floor and we listened to the chants again. The teacher told us to focus on when the singer would chant “Bismilah”. This was heard very softly in the background of the music. The teacher told us to ignore all other sounds and to just focus on when we heard “Bismilah” We sat there for about 15 minutes while we waited for everyone to arrive. When people were coming in the class, another student instructed them to do two cycles of prayer, as the chat was playing in the background. After they prayed, they were instructed to sit on the floor as well and listen to the chants.
At 10:05 I was instructed to lock the door and if anyone was to arrive after 10:05, I was supposed to tell them that they would not be able to come into class until 10:30 if they were late next week. Thankfully, no one arrived after 10:05. The teacher then explained this to the class because he didn’t want the class to be interrupted during the time when we listened to chants.
We then moved on to the testing-out period of the class. We spent the rest of the hour testing out and going over the prayers. The class divided and helped each other test out of the memorization that each person was supposed to learn. I came to class having learned Al Naas. I tested out with a former student who had graduated from the program already.
While everyone was testing out, the teacher was talking to a few students. He was asking them about different concepts that they had learned in class. The teacher then told us that it took two years for additional verses to be revealed to the prophet, after the first 5 verses were revealed. The teacher explained to us that the Angel knew that the Prophet could not handle all of the verses at once. He had to space them out in order for them to be fully absorbed by the Prophet.
The teacher then helped another student explain APS which is the Angel Parcel Service. It also encompasses the 6 beliefs: Belief in God, angels, the prophets, the books, the day of judgement, and that you will be accountable for your sins on the day of judgment. The student then explained belief and rituals, and then explained PPP.
The belief and rituals concept is important because you can have one without the other but just having or practicing one, will lead you to the other. For example, if you have belief, it will lead you to do the rituals and if you do the rituals, it will lead you to have belief.
PPP stands for Power, Passion, and Poverty. People take advantage of others because they seek power. Passion is temper. How does one handle themselves? What do they care about? Most people have a passion to obtain power. People in power always want the masses to be in poverty because they will have more control over them.
The teacher then asked the class why Christians are going to heaven. This seemed to confuse a few students because, their whole lives, they have been told that if they are not Muslim, then they were going to spend eternity in hell. I think this is a defense mechanism for many parents to try and assure that their kids fall in line with the faith. But the teacher explained to us that this is a flawed concept – that Christians or Jews are doomed to hell. The teacher explained that the Quran teaches if you believe in one God, then you still have a chance to get into heaven, only if you are a good person and act in accordance with what God wants. God is the ultimate judge.
The only way you do not have a chance to get into heaven is if you do not believe in God at all. The branch of religion that you choose to follow, as long as you believe in one God, will determine your stadium seats in heaven. Muslims will be ring-side. Other religions will not be turned away but they just want get as good of seats.
We then sat in a circle again and passed around an object. The teacher asked us what the object was. It was about an inch long and had Arabic writing. We then past around what looked to be a weighted vest. It was much heavier than I imagined. The teacher explained that during the judgement day, people would be swimming with the weight on their back, struggling to keep their heads above water, and once they arrived to land, the ones who rejected God would be pushed away to go back into the depths and tread water. The ones who accepted God would be allowed relief of being able to relax on the land.
On Judgement Day we would have to answer for all of our sins. The teacher explained that one of the biggest sins that you could commit is talking about someone behind their back. When you do this, you place your forgiveness into the hands of another person. The person who you have gossiped about will ultimately determine whether or not they want to forgive you. The only way to avoid this is to discuss your issues with the person directly. You should try and solve your problems face to face and avoid talking about people when they are not there to defend themselves.
We then talked about how the Prophets grandson was killed. His grandson was instructed to travel to Karbala, and upon arrival, he was promised to be made the leader. He told others to meet half way. Once he got half way, no one was there. When other people think of this story, they cry after praying. The teacher then explained the 4 Khalifas – A O U A , 3 of them were killed. By the time #5 came, the fatal flaw of seeking to obtain Power had corrupted the 5th Khalifa.
The teacher then explained that the prophet’s wife went to battle against the fourth Khalifa, the prophet’s son-in-law.
We then started discussing Zamzam. When one of Abraham’s wives, Hajera was walking around, the king started to covet her but saw her with Abraham. The king wanted to kill the supposed husband. The king asked Abraham who she was, thinking he would say that she is his wife. Instead, he told the king that Hajera was his sister. The king believe that she was available to potentially marry. However, every time the king tried to make a move on Hajera, he would get a migraine. This lead the king to cease all advances and move on from wanting to marry Hajera.
We then talked about the dynamic between Abraham’s wives, Hajera and Sarah. Hajera and Abraham had a child together, Ismail. Sarah became jealous because Abraham was spending most of the time with Hajera and Ismail. He was trying to raise his son which took all of his time away from Sarah. Than angered Sarah so she later demanded that Hajera be sent away, so Abraham obliged. Hajera was sent out to fend for herself. After the food ran out, she started looking for food in the mountains. She started to become desperate. After all, she had a child to feed. She was visited by an angel who instructed her to tap her foot on the ground. She listened to the angel and did just that. Once she tapped her foot, water came pouring out of the ground. Zamzam is the name of this water, that is still in existence today. It has a historical significance. Many people claim that they have been healed by this water. This works on two levels: Psychosomatic and because of the minerals it has. Researchers cannot find the source of water. It is a miracle that it even exists.
The small object that was passed around in the middle of class, is an equivalent of Zamzam to the Shia community. Just like Kaaba had 365 idols in it before the Prophet destroyed it and it was cleansed. The reason these idols existed was because people would come from very far away to Mecca. It was a major thoroughfare. It was essentially a rest stop for those traveling far distances. Once arriving at Mecca, many people were missing their God and brought a statue as a remembrance. They believed these statues had great significance. People in the middle east would also bring sand. They would take baked clay from the grounds of Karbala. The idea is that you are praying on the ground of Karbala where the Prophet’s grandson was killed. The little object was a piece of clay from Karbala. The Shias use this to pray. They place the piece of clay on the ground and rest their heads on it during the prayer. This is very controversial to some sects of Islam, because some people view this as idolizing an object. The teacher explained to us the meaning behind it to try and clear up any confusion.
The teacher then talked about someone, during the Prophet’s time, who needed to relieve himself while he was in the mosque. He happened to be an uneducated person who was deemed unrefined and improper. They were called the Bedouin. This man went to the other side of the wall, just outside of the mosque, to relieve himself. People became irate. They saw him doing this and immediately wanted to kill him. They believed that he was showing great disrespect by doing this so close to the mosque. The Prophet told them to relax because the man did not know what he was doing. He had no intention of being disrespectful. The whole reason he went outside was to try and respect the place of worship. The teacher explained this to us to try and remind us of the lesson about intention. Sometimes, what looks very clear to us, may not be as clear as we think. Our understanding of the world is based on our experiences and our up-bringing. This Bedouin man was not raised or taught the same things that the other’s in the mosque were taught.
We then briefly touched on the beliefs of the Shias. The Shias differ from the Sunni sect because they believe when the Prophet was dying and requested to speak to Ali, that he was going to pass on the leadership to Ali. Unfortunately, Ali was never told to go visit the Prophet because people believed the Prophet was delirious. The Shia’s believed that the Prophet was going to give the Dynasty to Ali, therefore they more closely follow the teaching of Ali, whereas the Sunni’s follow the teaching of Mohammed.
Once we finished this topic, we then met the guests that came to class. The teacher asked one of his former student what value she believed the class added to her life. She explained that it taught her many valuable lessons that have followed her through life. For example, being in class on Sunday, you are constantly connecting with God. When you don’t have that, you have to be more focused on making it a part of your life while you’re away. Being a goat instead of a sheep and being motivated to be the best and be a leader in whatever you chose to do. She also explained how learning many important lessons from the Quran taught her how to be a good person in the world and combine the two. These core messages are still with her.
The teacher then added on to this. He explained to us how important it is to see the trees from the forest. You should continually strive to be a good person. He touched again on why we should not talk poorly about someone behind their back because then our forgiveness is up to them.
The teacher then asked the class what it means to be religious. Some students said praying 5 times a day. The teacher asked why people considered themselves religious. Some said by keeping God on their minds. The teacher challenged that idea by asking “if you keep God on your mind and steal, does that mean you’re religious?” Some will measure you by how many times you come to the mosque. The teacher then said he judges how religious people are by whether or not they stick to their word and if they are a person of character. If you are accountable for what you do and you have a good character, then you are a good person. You still have to pray but if you pray and you have bad habits and treat people poorly, you are not religious. If you spend time in the Mosque but you are a bad person, then you are not truly religious. The teacher helped explain this idea by using the Flip phone vs iPhone analogy. If you are simply a good person but you don’t pray, you are using a flip phone. But by being a good person and praying, these combined actions are equivalent of you using an iPhone; being up to date with the times and using the advanced technology.
We then started talking about a recent event that occurred in our area. Someone that looks like an Imam was putting cameras in women’s changing rooms at the mall. He was later caught and was found to have done this over 10 times. His face was all over the news. These types of instances put the religion at jeopardy for outsiders because people see these devout looking Muslims, see their crimes, and start to associate the religion with those who do wrong. The teacher wanted us to understand that just because someone looks the part, we should still be careful. Just because you wear all of the right clothing and go to the mosque all the time and pray 5 times a day, you can still be a bad person. At the end of the day, if you follow all of the rituals but have malice in your heart, God will not forgive that, just because you outwardly looked the part.
We then began to wrap up the class by discussing reasons why the first-time guests should continue attending the class. Below is a list of what we came up with.
- To grow religiously
- Helps you grow as a person and a leader
- How to portray yourself as a good person
- Learn about Islam in a way you an apply to your life
- Learning the prayer in English will help you explain to others
- Learn how to understand the importance of prayer and why you pray
- Learning different ideas and points of view
- Understanding the meaning is creating love and affection. It helps you focus more. It helps you clear your mind of all outside thoughts.
We then discussed the concept of soap, which refers to prayer. If you are praying without the meaning, you are essentially taking a shower without using soap. You’re not getting as clean as you need to be. If you understand what you are saying and why you are saying it, you are getting the full benefit – you are using soap. Just like saying “Bismalah” before you eat, you are getting the benefit of the food in your body and in your soul. If you don’t say it, you are still getting the benefit, but not the whole benefit. If you shower just using water, you are still getting cleaner than before you entered the shower, but not as clean as you could be. If you have an understanding of what you are saying, it creates a different version of love. If you don’t understand, you are being nice to god but it’s almost as if you are speaking a different language. If you understand, you have a deeper connection.
The teacher told us that we need to come to class prepared so we can learn more instead of wasting time with the testing out portion. He explained that there is a $50 penalty if you don’t do your homework. If you don’t do your homework and you don’t pay $50, you will be suspended. Justice will be wherever justice needs to be. Justice is blind. Umer killed his own son in public because he had done wrong. The teacher is trying to help the class understand what is expected of them.
We then discussed the concept of time and why we should always strive to be on time. If someone is late, they are stealing your time. Simple things will get you in trouble on the judgement day. You have to be Muslim in your everyday life. You have to be a role model in how you present yourself, how you act, and how you treat others. If you look normal and act in accordance with how God wants you to act, then you are a better Muslim than those who wear the dress and do wrong. Just because you look like a Muslim does not mean that you are. You have to act in accordance with how God wants you to act according to the Quran.
We then talked about news topics that had come up in the past week. There was an auction in Japan in which a tuna was sold for 3.1 million dollars. A Muslim congress-woman cursed out Donald Trump. A Turkish basketball player refused to play in London. There was a suspected arrested in the murder and dumping of a 21 year old in DC. The husband had originally been questioned but a man working the kitchen of a nearby restaurant was the real killer. The guy who saved Southwest airlines $300,000 by taking out 3 peanuts in every package, just passed away. He had no formal business education. He believed that if he had good employees, he would have good customers. Normal airlines use plane for 8 hours a day, Southwest uses their planes for 11 hours a day. They turn a plane around in 15 minutes. They were able to do this by following a strict system. The teacher told us that everything is a system.
We then started talking about kids and parents. The teacher explained that as a parent, you have to give your kids a good grounding and then let them go. Everything is a rubber band. If you push too much, it will come back the other way. The best rubber band is the one that is not stretched too much!
We then started talking about women and daughters being allowed to have their own life and leave the home to pursue their passions. We started talking about why. The only way to help yourself is to be economically independent so if your husband dies, you will still be able to support your family and you won’t fall into the trap of doing things that you shouldn’t do.
We went back to talking about the news. Recently a comedian and human rights activist couple had disappeared in the Saudi penal system. They were living in Dubai and got taken by the Saudi’s. The woman has been arrested for 7 months for trying to drive a car in Saudi.
After that we discussed science. If you marry your 1st cousins, your children will have defects. 33% of all British citizens needed liver transplants and most of them were Muslim kids that were products of 1st cousin parents. In the face of science, you should listen. You should not use Islam to ignore scientific warnings.
We ended class by talking about how important it is to attend every week. We need to give God at least 3 hours of our time every week and we need to plug in by coming to this class. We need to be equipped with and iPhone instead of a flip phone.
Week of 1/20 by Female, Age 24
This week in class the teacher told us to write about something other than the class. At the end of the class, he told us about two people: Mary Daily and Chuck Feeney.
Chuck Feeney was born in New Jersey during the Great Depression. He served in the Air Force and, after his service, attended Cornell University. He always wanted to work for himself and be a business owner. One day while he was in France, he had the idea of buying duty free liquor and selling it for a profit. While running this business, he opened a store-front and started selling perfumes there as well. He began getting requests from customers about purchasing cars, so he decided to go down that business path as well. This business ended up failing, but Chuck did not give up his dreams of entrepreneurship.
He then found out about a chance to open a duty-free store in Hawaii’s airport. He placed his bid and won. That is where he opened his first airport shop. After this, his small business expanded exponentially and soon enough, his stores were in almost every airport across the globe, averaging revenue of approximately 3 billion a year!
With this fortune, Chuck decided that he wanted to give back. He used his money and started a foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies. This foundation has donated around 6 billion dollars to different causes around the world.
During the class, the teacher was telling us about this man, who had lived a modest life, flew economy, and carried his belongings in a plastic bag until it was too worn to use. When that happened, he would simply get a new plastic bag. This man, Chuck Feeney, has donated billions of dollars of his wealth to causes greater than himself. When the teacher was describing this man, without telling us how he obtained his fortune, the teacher said that this man had lived his life as a Muslim should. I couldn’t understand exactly what he meant until I read more about him.
Chuck Feeney had built a business with his bear hands, watched that business fail, and then built it again. He did not let a minor setback throw him off course. Many times, people try and use failure as an excuse. They see it as a sign that God does not want them to pursue this dream. That assumption is, at the basis of it, wrong. Sometimes, failure is God’s way of testing you. How bad do you want it? How hard are you willing to fight for it? Do you deserve it? Without failure, people will not appreciate their successes as much as they should.
Even though Chuck Feeney was not Muslim, he built a business and donated billions of dollars to wonderful causes. He has helped the world more than most people. This is the reason why the teacher believes Chuck has carried out his Muslim duties. His time here has made the world a better place. Sometimes we get caught up in the fact that he sold liquor, and I understand that moral dilemma. But, without this, he would not have been able to help millions of people or establish a charitable foundation. Chuck experienced success and then did the right thing with his earnings. He took care of his family and used his excess to help change the world.
Mary Daily was the other person that the teacher wanted us to research. She was a high school drop out who made a name for herself. She dropped out of high school at 16 years old. She was fortune enough to find a mentor, Betsy Bane. Betsy encouraged Mary to go back to school to get her GED and to not give up. Betsy told her not to be afraid to forge the path for other women to follow. Despite a rough sequence of events at home, Mary got her GED and went on to get multiple advanced degrees. She listened to her mentor and now she is the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Not only is she a woman in a man-dominated industry, she is also gay. She is a double-minority. What many other people would use as an excuse of why they can’t achieve something, Mary used this as a reason to work even harder.
Aside from working at one of the most influential federal reserves in the nation, she also spends her time mentoring youths, just as she was mentored. She gives much credit of her success to Betsy, the woman who never gave up on her. She believes that the best thing we can do is to educate others and inform the younger generation on the importance of pursuing higher education. After years of studying and working in the federal reserve, Mary believes that the best way to help the US economy is by having a more educated work force. Pursuing higher education completely changed her life and she wants others to learn from her past. Before Betsy came into her life, Mary thought she would just become a bus driver. Now she is one of the most powerful women in finance.
Sometimes, when we want to give up, that just means that there is something really great on the horizon. Mary Daily was about to give up at many points in her life, but she continued to persevere, with the help of Betsy. Sometimes all we need is another person’s support to help us reach our potential. We also need to be less judgmental. Chuck Feeney made his fortune selling alcohol, but when we get to Heaven, who will have done more good deeds in the world; you, or a man who donated billions of dollars to charitable causes? It’s not about how you get there. It’s about not giving up and continuing to give back to those who are less fortunate.