2020 September 6 – HH – female age 16 – Class Notes
This week, we started off class by doing 2 raqa of prayer followed by zikr. Zikr is a type of meditation where we listen to mantras, such as La illah ila Allah, which translates to there is no God but God, and other phrases of the sort. They really help me relax and focus.
The first topic we went over today was about the book, “Reading the Quran, The Contemporary Relevance of the Sacred Text of Islam” by Ziauddin Sardar. He wanted us to figure out why he wrote the book from the preface and prologue. I personally thought it was because the Quran is a very complicated text for people to understand, Arabic and non-Arabic speakers alike, and that he wrote this big book of basically explaining the Quran. However, my teacher said that it was written because people too often take to word of the Quran literally sentence by sentence, rather than figuratively and looking at the bigger picture. Looking at it sentence by sentence also deprives you of the context of which the aya was given to the Prophet.
Next, we talked over a few concepts. The first being rope. Now when climbing a robe, you hold on very tight and climb upwards. Now think of the rope as our faith. The best way to explain this is by looking at the example my teacher gave in class. He said, take for instance that someone doesn’t pray or fast, they’re mean to their sibling, but they don’t eat any meat that’s not halal. Now if we think of the rope as faith, some people cling on to whatever part of their faith they can. As for the rest of us, it is wrong for us to look at someone like that and judge them for their choices. It’s not our place to judge; we have plenty of faults on out own, so who are we to judge someone else, the only one who can judge is God, and God has mercy and forgiveness. Everyone has different relationships with God, some people are deeper in their faith than others, but both relationships with God are rightful. And overall, it is better for someone to be a good person, and not pray, fast, or give zakat rather than someone who prays five times a day, fast Monday and Thursdays of every week, during Ramadan, and gives zakat, but is a bad person.
The next concept we went over was BS and CCA. I grouped these together because today we had a new student, and when we do, our teacher always goes over these two concepts first. I think it’s because these are the most relatable concepts and ones that are easy to understand. BS stands for belief in sincerity, which we all have as Muslims. The next was CCA, which stands for common sense, context, accountability. When approaching a problem, we must first employ our common sense. Say someone is telling you to jump in a pool with no water. That doesn’t really make sense does it? Next, we look at the context; well why do they want us to jump into the pool with no water? It can’t be a good reason, right? Finally, no matter what choice you make, you must be accountable for your actions. No one else is responsible for the choices you make.
The next topic we went over was ritual versus belief. When we say ritual, we mean an act. In Islam, it most rightfully refers to prayer. And well we all know what belief is. Now some scholars say that belief is more important than ritual and some the other way around. Now I think there is no right answer to this because the real answer differs from person to person. For some people, they start with a lot of belief in God and then prayer and other rituals. For other people, they start praying, and with that, their faith will strengthen as they continue.
Next, we talked about the scale. The scale is a concept that refers to the weighing of our good and our bad deeds. On the Day of Judgement, the good and the bad we have don’t get put on a scale and if we do more good than bad, then we’re set! We get to go to heaven. However, if our bad outweighs the good, womp womp womp. Now let’s say for example, Stan has his deeds weighted and the scale goes down, more bad than good. But Stan says that he prays 5 times a day, he gives money to charity, he fasts, and he went to Hajj. So why didn’t he get to go to heaven? Because Stan was always mean to his coworkers; he would say nasty and mean things to them for the 10 years he worked there. He didn’t apologize, and they certainly didn’t forgive him. This highlights an important theme in the concepts that I’ve noticed. Often, being a good person who doesn’t pray 5 times a day, will always be better off then a person who is very religious but a bad person. This also shows us God’s mercy, God will forgive us for not praying, but we can’t guarantee that someone will forgive us for something we have done to them.
After this, we spent some time talking about destiny and life paths. When I say life paths, I mean the choices we make and how they can bring us closer or further away from God. With every good decision we make, to pick up some trash on the floor, be nice to someone who may be having a bad day, praying once a day, God will make it easier to continue to make these good choices. However, if we make bad ones, specifically catastrophically bad like drinking, God will make it easier to continue to make that decision again in the future. It is either a hadith or an aya in the Quran where God says that if you take one step towards me, I’ll make 10 towards you. I’m not sure if that’s the exact right one. This also went along with our talk of destiny. Let’s say as an example, that you want to be a doctor when you grow up. Your whole life, you try and try and try and try, to become one. But it never seems to work out for you. No matter how much we may want something anything, if it’s not what we are meant to do, it won’t happen. Now that’s not to say just give up, but there are countless other things like being a doctor, helping people get rid of pain, that may be meant for you. This discussion brought up the topic of parent’s prayers. Our parents pray for us all the time, and often they say bring my children what is best for them. Now maybe being a doctor was not what was best for you, that power from you parent’s prayer may make it so you don’t become a doctor, because its not what would benefit you the most in your life. Now I get that this may sound cynical, so if my parents make a bad prayer for me, I’m done or what’s the point in trying? It goes back to this: If it is what is meant for you, it’ll happen. If it’s not, it won’t.
The next concept was socks. Let’s say you’re in a snowstorm, barefoot. You really should cover your feet. Someone offers you some socks form Walmart, but you say no, sorry I don’t wear off brand socks. Was this the right choice? No!! Now your feet are frozen. This concept explain how we must not keep ourselves so high and mighty all the time. Wearing a pair of socks from Walmart wouldn’t have done anything except save your feet. Also, instead of constantly wearing expensive socks, maybe you could donate some of that money. Now this is not to say that we can’t buy things that are expensive, it to make sure that one, we don’t trip over our egos, and two, that we try to keep charity in mind when we buy things.
The last two concepts I will group together because they have similar themes. One is the concept of S bucks. Think in terms of money; when we work, we deposit money into the bank so that when we want something, we can buy it. Now think of prayer as money, every time we pray, we are adding money to the ‘bank’ so that when we want something from God, say to do well on a test, he gives it to us. Now many things can count as S bucks, like charity, among other things. But prayer is the biggest and most consistent source of ‘income’. That’s what the concept of S bucks refers to. Now going back to that test, obviously before a test we study. So why would we pray as well? We pray because the only thing we have control over is the information we have in our heads about the test. By praying, God helps make sure that everything goes smoothly. Meaning, you won’t be late, your desk wont creek every time you erase, your pencil doesn’t run out of lead. But in this regard, that’s all God will do. If we don’t do the work on our part, how can we expect him to.
The final topic we went over was of the angels on our shoulders. We have two, one that writes all the good and one that writes all the bad. The angel that writes down the bad, only writes down the bad that we say out loud and. However, the angel on the good side writes down our good thoughts and good words. So, we see tat we are rewarded for even thinking good thoughts even if we don’t voice them. This again shows us the importance of being good people and spreading good that we see in Islam.