2020 September 20 – MA – male age 27 – Class Notes
Our class session started early this Sunday at 9 AM, I arrived late when the students were in the middle of testing out on our prayer recitation. Ever since we were in quarantine in March, the students were a bit rough on the edges when they were being tested on their class material. Testing out weekly should help them regain their memory back on their class assignments. I have been with this class long enough to see the progression of some students move to level 2 of the class, which involves learning concepts of Islam more in depth than the previous level of just reciting and memorizing.
After the testing session was done, our teacher separated the class into 2 groups of level 1 and level 2 students. I was participating with the level 2 students discussing about our reading of the book Reading The Qur’an by Ziauddin Sardar, where in we talked about the structure and style of the Qur’an. We explored how the author was presenting how non-muslims are not used to how the Qur’an is constructed i.e not conforming to the vast majority of literature that have a linear or chronological structure. I myself was brought up with the Qur’an, and it never came across my mind that the structure of the Qur’an was off putting. It was definitely different than other literature, but I thought that was because it was the book of God, obviously it will be different. Turned out that it wasn’t that obvious; my upbringing and nuances of the language made me appreciate the style of the Qur’an, but people that looked at the Qur’an with the expectation of having a linear book structure saw it as difficult to read and follow.
In our discussion of the book, we also talked how initially the Arabic language did not have vowel marks on the words, nor did it have dots on the letters. The initial mode of the Arabic language, made it difficult for non Arabs to read the Qur’an, which caused some textual variations of the Qur’an during the time of the third caliph Utham. The caliph gathered all the books that had the variations, burned them, and distributed the Qur’an that has the correct vowel marks. Which shows how robust the Qur’an is in its recitation requirements.
Finally we discussed about the nature of how the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet. The verses came in piecemeal over a duration of 23 years, tackling foundational concepts of God and the religion. But most fascinatingly, is that some verses came down engaging with real-time events that happened to the prophet; while not compromising the true message of the religion. With all these variables, it will be difficult to produce a book without already having a retrospective knowledge of how the book will end. An example of a verse that came in response to a certain event was the last verse of chapter of Al-Kawthar, where in the prophets son passed away, and one of the disbelievers said that the prophets lineage will be cut off, the verse addressed this by saying “Indeed it is your enemy or insulter who is cut off”. And to this day, the Prophet pbuh is in our thoughts and prayers, while his enemy’s are shunned and forgotten in history.
After our book discussion was over, the students went out and played badminton on the front yard of the mosque. Our teacher wants to promote an environment where we can be mentally and physically gratified. Over time we will introduce more activities to have more to look forward to on our Sunday classes. Soccer hopefully.
We went back to our class after our break and talked about some concepts that we should have in life to grow, and what are the things that will hold us back. Our teacher stated that we need to have dedication as a driving force to achieve our goals. He wants us to leave a positive mark on this world and to mankind. We also talked how procrastination are like chains holding you down from progressing in life. It can turn into a habit where time passes by while not growing and just being content with the present. Another behavior our teacher said that it can stop us from growing was paralysis and analysis. This is where someone is so focused on planning and discussing and never comes around to implementing. I’m trying to improve that in myself. I’m guilty of planning and analyzing too much that it hinders me from taking action. My father worked hard to remove that habit in me of over planning and analyzing, and rather be more action oriented. Saying that, as problems come along they will be fixed, but to sit around and make up mental problems before implementing is a wast of time. That is why the concept of paralysis and analysis resonated with me, and I hope that I can overcome it.
Another concept that I found to be important is the concept of ownership. Our teacher talked about how the Washington Football Team won a game, that they were losing by a wide margin, through the efforts of their couch. The couch trained the athletes and instilling them the idea that they have ownership of their performance. Meaning that their successes and failures are their own. When we are presented with a choice of what we want to own, we will be motivated to go for success and equally motivated to avoid failure. Furthermore it puts us in a fulfilling position to keep on pushing ourselves and maintain a level of performance and improve upon that.
Finally, our teacher gave us an example of the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a person that encompasses dedication and ownership. She worked hard to achieve her position and she gave voice to the voiceless. She is an inspiration showing that with hard work and a clear goal, you can leave a positive legacy in the world and we should aspire to leave our mark as well.
Today was another reminder not to be comfortable with where you stand in life. There will come a day where a life changing decision will confront us, and hopefully we will be in a place where we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared to take on the problems of this world and help our brothers and sisters in humanity. Our teacher said to end this essay answering the statement “ I think I want to become:”. There isn’t a particular position in life that I can box myself in. However, I think I want to be someone dependable, and whatever good that I do is spread to the people around; leaving this world better than how I found it.