2020 August 30 – HL – male age 15 – Class Notes

            This week the teacher sent a message in the Green Stairs Leadership Academy group chat via Whatsapp informing all students and parents of a potluck being hosted at the mosque the following Sunday. Naturally, I became interested as there is usually a lot of good food at these potlucks. I decided to bring biscuits from the grocery store as my item to share with the class. I woke up that sunny Sunday morning at around 9:00 AM, went downstairs to eat breakfast, and subsequently went back upstairs to shower and brush my teeth. I usually eat eggs with toast in the morning but that particular day I decided to only eat a banana as I knew I would be feasting at the mosque and didn’t want to be too full when I arrived. 

            9:30 AM came (the time I am supposed to be in class and ready) and I still hadn’t left. Both my parents were still sleeping so I knocked on their door and asked my dad if he could drop me off at the mosque. I assumed the potluck would be in the back parking lot as that was where it was held the previous year. I arrived in the back of the mosque parking lot and found that there was nobody there. It was already 9:42 AM by then so my next guess was that the potluck was being held inside the classroom this year. As I entered the building grounds I saw one of the adult student members of the class (M) and said Salam (Arabic greeting which translates to “Peace be Upon You”). The last time I saw him was in March before the Covid-19 Pandemic got to the point where it would be unsafe to conduct a class. Even though we weren’t able to have a physical class, we still decided to have a class via Zoom, which is a virtual conference call application, similar to Skype. Student M had told me that I had gotten taller over the break and I replied back with “Yeah, I’ve been drinking my milk.” He laughed and we headed on into class. As I walked in the first thing I noticed was that the layout of the classroom had changed. The bookshelves seemed to be more organized than the previous year (admittedly there was still quite a bit of clutter but we managed to clean all of that up later) and it also looked like the burgundy carpets in the classroom had been recently vacuumed. 

            I said Salam to my teacher and rather than saying “Wa’Laikum Salam” (typical response to ‘Salam’) he disregarded my Salam and asked me why I was late. He also told me to set down my things (including the food I had brought) and told me to introduce myself to the new student. The new student was also named M and he told me that he was a senior and attended Fairfax High School. I told him that I was a Sophomore at Robinson High School and I subsequently asked him what he wanted to do after high school. He told me that he wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to study but said that he was most likely going to attend the Northern Virginia Community College after he graduated. He followed that by asking me what I wanted to do after high school and I told him that I was planning on going into medicine.

            The teacher subsequently told the entire class to organize the bookshelves by topic. For example, there was a shelf for Islamic history, there was one for all religions, there was one for books of the Prophet PBUH’s Hadiths, and finally, there was one for books that were miscellaneous. At this point, another student by the name of H and her mother had arrived along with her mother, and her younger sister who was planning on joining the class that year. The other student that showed up at this time was F, who had joined the Green Stairs Leadership Academy the previous fall. After the bookshelves were organized, the teacher told us to put out the chairs for everybody to sit. While we were setting up the chairs a kid and his father had walked in and introduced themselves to the teacher, explaining that they had heard about the class from a friend and they were planning to join. The son sat down next to the teacher and began to introduce himself. The teacher asked him what school he went to and the kid told him that he was a rising freshman at Robinson High School (the same school I attend). The teacher asked the class if there was anybody who went to Robinson and I raised my hand and said I did. The teacher had me introduce myself to him, and I soon learned that his family had recently moved to Fairfax from Alexandria, and his name was (S). 

            As the class began to settle down, the teacher asked the question that students everywhere dread; “Ok so who’s ready to test out?” I think we had all assumed that it would just be a laid back class with not much work involved but that is one thing you learn in the Green Stairs Leadership Academy, never make ill-advised assumptions as they may come back to haunt you. All of the students who had been in the class the previous year were to play a game called ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ to decide who would test out first. I lost and stood at the front of the class to test out. I had finished the standing portion of the prayer when he stopped me and told the next student to test out. The testing out portion of the class continued for the next 40 or so minutes, right after which the lecture portion of the class began.

            The first thing we talked about was why Muslims and Jews were fasting on that particular weekend. Muslims were fasting because it was the 9th and 10th of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and Jews were fasting for Ashura. The significance of fasting on these two days was to commemorate Noah leaving the Ark and the day when Moses and the children of Israel were saved by God.

            The next topic we talked about was modesty. In Islam, both men and women have to cover their aura, and although the aura of women is often overemphasized when compared to the aura of men, both are equally mandatory. For men, their Aura is from their navel to their knees, and for women, it is from their hair to their ankles (disregarding hands).

            We had two new students in class this day and the teacher asked them both questions that he always asks new students, “Are you full of BS?” Now although at first glance, this may seem like a strange question to be asking in a house of worship, it is actually a concept our teacher has that stands for “belief and sincerity,” the new students seemed to be perplexed when first hearing the question but became quite amused when they heard the meaning behind the acronym. An important lesson they learned that day was to not make blind assumptions.

            The final concept we discussed in class that day was why God put us on this earth. The teacher said that even though doing things like praying, going on Hajj, and fasting in Ramadan is mandatory, the most important things in Islam are to make this world a better place and to seek knowledge.

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