2020 October 11 – HL – male age 15 – Class Notes

            This week In the Green Stairs Leadership Academy I woke up at 8:16 AM and headed downstairs for breakfast. For whatever reason, Teacherji seems to have a problem with the essays I typically write so let’s see if this one strikes a similar cord with him or if it will be enough for him to let me off the hook for a while. Nevertheless, I will get straight into the point so as to not piss him off more than I previously have. In addition, there was some talk of my suspension from the class and although the idea of suspension doesn’t sound horrible, the lectures I will inevitably receive from both parents do not outweigh the extra hours of sleep that will accumulate over the course of my feasible suspension. 

            This week I entered class at 9:54 AM, just under an hour and a half after the official start time however merely 24 minutes after the unofficial start of class when people actually show up. As I entered the class, I said Salam (Arabic greeting which translates to “Peace be upon thou”), and the first thing Teacherji said to me was essentially an informal warning that if I kept showing up late to class and kept turning in “crappy essays”, I would be suspended from the GISLA program. The whole class was standing up on their chairs, therefore I proceeded to do the same. Standing on one’s chair is usually a punishment Teacherji gives when the class hasn’t been accomplishing their assigned tasks on time or to the expected level of quality.

            The first thing Teacherji did when I joined the class this morning was give a verbal quiz to the class on all of the Islamic concepts we learned that related to numbers (five pillars, five prayers, etc.). Although this verbal quiz was largely directed towards the level one students, he did ask the level two students the questions if the level one students were not able to answer. Throughout this portion of the class, he only asked me one question, which was exhorted out of me when one of the other level two students (F) was not able to answer the question. He asked me “What are the five pillars of Islam?” I answered them in the correct order and he asked (F) to repeat the answer as verbal repetition is a well-tested method which allows students to memorize information efficiently. 

            Our second topic was the idea of universal values. Teacherji explained to us that there are certain values that everyone shares. As he called on people to give examples, I heard the typical examples; don’t steal, don’t kill your parents, etc. Subsequently, I raised my hand and he called on me. I said that there really isn’t any such thing as a ‘universal value’ because everyone believes different things, and some people, for example, may not believe that killing your parents is wrong (this example was for argumentative purposes obviously). He replied back with “some people are Koo-Koo that’s why.” I tried to explain that yes it is true that there are people who are “Koo-Koo” as he so eloquently put it, and because of those people, the term “universal value” should carry no weight. Nevertheless, he simply disregarded my argument and moved on with the class.

            The next topic we discussed was the concept of obituaries. Teacherji explained to us that one of the level three assignments would be to write an obituary for both our parents along with one for him. We also talked about how in the Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) time, there was a man who the Prophet said was going to heaven. To give some context, this man was an ordinary man; he was not wealthy nor poor, and lived an ordinary life. When people asked the Prophet why he thought this man was going to heaven, he told them he felt this way because the man did something that not many people did. Every night before bed, he would internally relieve himself of all resentment he had towards others and would sleep soundly. He was aware that God could take his life whenever he willed to, and the man (whom we dubbed “Ahmed” during the class discussion) wanted to ensure if he were to die, he did not have any grudges against others.  Teacherji also told us that if we have any siblings or spouses we should do the same as anyone could die at any moment. Teacherji went on to say that the person he is currently holding a grudge against is me because I have not been completing my assignments in his class. I have always known that anyone around me could die at any moment, but never processed it until about six or so months ago. Since then, I have been trying my absolute best to spend more time with my family as they could all be gone at any moment.

            Teacherji then went on to give another example of someone who did the same as the man Ahmed from the previous anecdote. As he explained it, there was once a man who did not behave well to others, and one day he had an epiphany and realized that he did not want people to hate him so he decided to devote his life to making the world a better place. This man’s name was Alfred Nobel, and as you may have assumed, the Nobel Peace Prize was named after him. Warren Buffet did something similar as at one point he was worth 100 billion dollars, but donated 80 and stated that he is planning on donating the rest of it as well. Teacherji explained that the problem with the Muslim community is that we will spend $2,000,000 on a family birthday party but will not make the world a better place, which is a commandment of the Qur’an. Two classes ago, I said the same thing during class but I’m not sure if I was able to get my point across adequately as Teacherji basically disregarded everything I said, albeit in a polite manner. The final example of someone who gave away all of their wealth was the man who invented those Five Hour Energy Drinks that you see at most stores. After he hit a certain threshold of wealth where he would be able to support himself for the rest of his life, he decided that he would be donating the income from every bottle that he sold for the rest of his life.

            After the long discussion on philanthropy, we revisited the topic of formative years from the previous class as Teacherji said that some people didn’t mention it in their essays and he believed that he didn’t explain it thoroughly enough. He explained to us that the concept of formative years refers to any life event that one has not experienced before and requires some level of adjustment. Currently, his kids are getting to the age where they will be getting married soon and he is reaching retirement age. For me, I am currently getting to the point where I need to look at colleges and decide what I want to do with my life. 

            The next thing Teacherji explained to us was how when some people win the lottery or get too smart too soon without proper guidance end up messing up their lives. It was pretty obvious that he was indirectly referring to me as he probably believes that I am some smartass know-it-all that thinks he can conquer the world. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t blame him for believing that I think that way as this is often the persona I cover myself up with. Frankly, I have no idea what I am doing and have as much anxiety as everyone else as to what my future will turn out to be. I think I try to make people think I’m super confident in all of my abilities because I would rather them think of me as over-confident and cocky rather than anxious and perturbed. 

            He went on to explain that the reason that he has us speak in front of the class often is because public speaking is a skill we will all need throughout our lives and having that skill is good for our formative development. He told us that we need to be fearless, but not to the point where we make a fool out of ourselves. This is something that I have struggled with in the past as during my early childhood, I was an introvert who used to read books to escape social interaction and as of recent years, I have become more extroverted and there have definitely been times in my life when I thought I was saying or doing the right things, but most likely looked like a doofus in front of my peers. 

            At this point, we started eating the food (H) brought and Teacherji asked us to raise our hands if we said Bismillah (prayer that translates to “In the name of God”), and only about half the class raised their hands. He then went on to go over the topic from the last three classes which was the fact that when we go to the grave, we will be asked three questions by God. These questions will be “Who is your lord? Who is his final messenger? And What is your religion?” Since our brain will no longer be active once we are dead, only our souls will be able to answer the question. In order to train our souls, we must repeat it to our physical bodies until our souls memorize it. This stems back to the concept BR (Belief and Rituals).

            Teacherji then went on to express his frustrations with the class as he said that we should be absorbing what he says like sponges, but we were all being bricks and not taking any of it in. I went on to give a semi-sarcastic smartass comment and pointed that bricks also absorb some moisture (albeit not as efficiently as sponges) but I don’t think he heard.

            Teacherji then brought up the fact that not long ago, a man in Saudi Arabia said that he believes that although he isn’t Muslim,  Nelson Mandela has a shot at going to heaven because he made a positive change in the world, unlike the majority of Imams who say Shahadah (Islamic declaration of faith) but don’t make the world a better place, which is the primary reason God put humans on this earth. This man’s comments were met with a lot of backlash as many people accused him of Takfir (act of going against essential tenets of Islam). Teacherji then proceeded to bring up the Black Lives Matter movement and told us that it would be a real shame if none of us did anything to promote change as the typical South-East Asian tradition is to allow others to make change, but still enjoy the fruits of their labor. 

            The next thing we did was watch a short film about how Islam started and Teacherji gave another lecture on how level two students in particular need to step their game up. He gave an example of a baby feeding. When a baby is born, it is breastfed by its mother and as it grows up, it becomes more independent when receiving nutrition. He said that level one is currently being ‘breastfed’ information and level two needs to start ‘taking the spoon’ and feeding ourselves. 

            Although class was almost over, Teacherji told us to stand on our chairs again and stay standing until we tested out. As I had not done my assignment, I asked him if I could go to the bathroom and when I came back, Teacherji gestured towards me and compared me to a dog with rabies in that I was “avoiding the vaccine.” While we were all revising, my brothers walked into class because it was nearing the time when we all would begin to depart the classroom. Teacherji explained to my older brother that I was not finishing my assignments even though he knew that I could. He said that I was being too smart for the age group that I was in and it would be fine if I behaved that way later in life, but it would be detrimental if I behaved that way at this age. As we left, my older brother lectured me in the car. It is currently 3:39 PM and I am awaiting a lecture from my dad when he gets home. I think its safe to say that I won’t be screwing up on my homework for a long time. 

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