2020 September 20 – HH – female age 17 – Class Notes

This week, I was late to class and came in around 45 minutes later. To my defense though, we started class a whole 30 minutes too early, so I was only really 15 minutes late. I was supposed to have read chapter two of Ziauddin Sardar’s book, Reading the Quran: The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam. I didn’t read the chapter, nor did I do my essay from last week which was two parts. For us level two kids, our teacher is having us find certain ayas of the Quran that relate to some point we went over in class.

When we started, the level one kids began their testing out and us level two kids started our book group. The chapter was on the style and structure of the Quran. The Quran is different form most western literature, it does not tell a story of have a clear beginning and end point, like the Bible. This is a common reason that non-Muslims and people who are just unfamiliar with this text find it very confusing and hard to understand. Another reason is that the Quran changed from using ‘we’ to ‘you’ to ‘‘He’. But the way my teacher explained it was by equating it to a play. The script of a play is much like the Quran, while it is still a story, it is more a hodgepodge and all over the place so to speak. While on this topic the group talked about the words aya and surah, In the context of the Quran, aya means a certain line and surah is like a small chapter, I think. But the actual Arabic definition of aya means evidence, miracle, or sign and surah often refers to picture or portrait. But you see these definitions are very fitting. All the ayas in a surah really are just providing us with signs, evidence ad miracles that God had performed and things he is explaining to us. God also uses the word aya within the Quran to refer to miracles. Secondly, surah accurately describes a chapter of the Quran; it gives us a picture of the true message. My teacher often makes this point as well. At this time, we also talked about how several instances in the Quran, God is talking directly to Prophet Mohammed, but never calls him by name. This is because although the original ‘lessons’ were given to the Prophet for guidance, they apply to all of us. Like in surah Kawthar, God is talking to the Prophet about his son that dies. But this same topic, the fountain of abundance granted to the Prophet, it was given to all of us, which is why we must pray to God. The last kind of overarching topic of the book group was the actual consolidation of the Quran after the death of the Prophet. The way I remember it was that after the Prophet’s passing, there was a war of some sort and people were dying. That’s the reason behind Abu Bakr wanting to write down and consolidate the Quran. But for Omar, he wanted to write it all down because we are still in the dunya, and there are certain things that we must do for ourselves. Regardless of this, the caliphs went around and found a consensus on the pronunciation of the different ayas and had people who had memorized the Quran write them down. This became sort of the master version of the Quran from which all other copies originated. Then during the time of Uthman, it came to his attention that people in different parts of the Middle East were reading the Quran with different verses then the master one they complied. So, Uthman made maybe 100’s of copies and gave them to the leaders of these countries, who then made copies for all their people. The caliph then went and burned all the copies of the flawed Quran. This is the reason that there has only and will only be one version of the Quran. This is drastically different from the Christion faith who has countless book written by countless people and even different version of the Bible.

An important theme through this book is the notion that you don’t have to be an Arabic speaker to read and understand the Quran. While explaining this to us, our teacher brought up the good point that there used to be a kind of social hierarchy when it came to Islam. The sheiks and such scholar at the topo and then regular people on the bottom. Islam is a religion where we don’t need someone else to talk to God, like how Catholics use confession. (I’m not sure how it works but that’s the example that makes the most sense to me). That is the very thing that he aimed to get rid of in writing this book, among other things. During this, our teacher brought up the point of having other people pray for us. While this is good, we should not place more belief in their prayers over our own. How can we expect our prayers to be answered if we don’t believe in them? Placing more belief in other prayers gives a certain placebo effect, when we think that if it gets accepted, it was due to that prayer, not ours.

For the entire group lecture, we started by talking about the win of the Washington football team. This season they got a new coach who obviously, helped them win. My teacher explained this was possible through the discipline and accountability he gave them. Everyone was responsible for learning their plays and other things that they were expected to know. This also brought up the discussion of excellence and our ‘claim to fame’. All the rich and notable people in our society have some claim to fame. For Steve Jobs it’s Apple and the iPhone, for Dwayne Johnson it’s being the big muscly actor. In the medical community, we can look at the doctor who created organ donation. They all have one thing that they created or perfected that they will be immortalized in history for. Our teacher talked about how this related back to our one goal our one job on this Earth: to make the world a better place. All these people in one way or another do just that. For us to truly accomplish this we must become someone notable like that. An important distinction should be made that this does not mean to simply make the world better for Muslims, but for all people. As a whole community, we clearly have not been doing our jobs fully, there would be no more poverty in the world.

This led to the talk of devotion, procrastination, and paralysis of analysis. In anything we do, we must be devoted. If it’s wanting to better, ourselves physically or improve our school performance. Devotion is key to success because we will not stop until we complete that action. Many of us however are not devoted to anything. That’s where the procrastination comes in. I procrastinate on nearly every task I’m given and it’s a very bad habit. This also led into paralysis by analysis, a concept that says that we freeze when given a task because we think and think and think about it. If we just do the things were given when we’re given them, there’s no need to procrastinate or even stress about it. This flowed into our conversation on how people who are more knowledgeable tend not to take as many risks as those who are. They know the repercussions of their actions and are far more aware of them versus someone who doesn’t know as much about something.

In this part of the lecture we went over complacency. When people reach a certain age in life, they attain a level of complacency, where they no longer feel the need to pursue more or achieve more. I personally disagree with the notion that you shouldn’t become complacent. Being happy and content is not the worst thing in the world and although we should always strive to do and be more. I think everyone has a level at which they ‘cap out’. Not everyone is meant to become Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I think mor importantly than that people should have some sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in their career and life rather than being under the constant stress of doing more. At this point, our teacher asked us to write about what our highest visions of our careers are. For me, as of right now, I want to become a child psychiatrist. I don’t know if Ill ever want to pursue a job higher’ than that because I feel like kids and especially once that come from rougher childhoods and backgrounds are often overlooked in medicine. Everyone always good for the highest paying job and while I do still want to make money, this is a place where I’d feel like I was doing the most good. 

Our final topic was about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sadly, she passed away quite recently from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was a pioneer and trailblazer in her field. She is the reason that so many women today have the rights and equality they do now. She changed to culture of the environment she was a part of. She made it acceptable for women to hold such roles of power and even many of the rights we see as basic today. At her funeral service I believes, a rabbi said about her: “She was the voice for those who didn’t have one”. (This was not the exact quote but it’s what I remembered)

For next week, I must read chapter 3 in the book.

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