2020 September 6 – HL – male age 15 – Class Notes

This week in the Green Stairs Leadership Academy my homework was to revise the Salat in Arabic and English along with writing an essay on what I learned last class with a minimum of 1,000 words. I turned in my homework, albeit two days late. 

            This week I initially set a timer for 6:00 AM on Saturday night as my school would be starting the following Tuesday and I wanted to get back into my usual school-year routine. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to wake up at the first alarm so I prompted to set four more as backups. I believe I woke up around 7:30 AM that morning and got the strength to get out of bed about ten or so minutes after. The first thing I did that morning took a shower as I hadn’t taken one the previous night. After my shower, I went downstairs to make breakfast. After I ate, I still had about 40 or so minutes until I had to leave so I just sat in my room until 9:10 when I knocked on my dad’s door to ask him if he could drive me to the mosque for my class. I arrived at the mosque at around 9:23 AM which was several minutes before the class began. When I got out of the car, I noticed Teacherji was on the other side of the mosque parking lot calling me over to come help him with something. As I headed towards him, he pointed towards his car and told me to grab some boxes from his car. I collected them and as we were walking to class, I noticed that there was a new student. We dropped off the boxes in the classroom and Teacherji told me to go the prayer room to do our daily meditation and morning Fajr prayer. Before we started on our meditation however, he told me to introduce myself to the new student (I) and after my basic introduction, I asked him what brought him to the class. He told me he has found that in the past he has found that volunteering for the Mosque has helped him become closer to his faith and that he has two sons (I believe they were the ages of 9 and 11) and he also wants them to be involved with the mosque. I replied back informing him that although they might be too young for the Green Stairs Leadership Academy program, the mosque has a great Sunday School program for the younger kids that mainly focuses on Qur’an and Islamic Studies, whereas the Green Stairs Leadership Academy is independent from the Sunday School in that it doesn’t rely on Sunday School funding and the core focus of the class is to teach Islamic context in the Western World to teenagers and young-adults. Teacherji added that although the traditional guidelines require a student to be at least 12 years of age to join, he may make an exception for (I’s) sons if they are of the maturity level to join the class. Shortly after I introduced myself to the new member I explained the meditation we do every class to him and while we were meditating the rest of the class showed up one-by-one and did the same. At 10:03 we headed back to the classroom.

            At this point in the day the lecture/testing portion of the class had begun. Teacherji asked the level two students why we thought the author of the book “Reading the Qur’an” had written the book, while the level one students practiced whatever it was they were supposed to memorize as homework the previous week. Although I didn’t have the correct answer to his question, Teacherji eventually gave us the answer. He explained to us that Ziauddin Sardar (the author of the book) wrote the book because he found that people were taking the Qur’an to literally rather than figuratively and putting it into context which in fact makes the Qur’an much easier to understand. The problem is that unfortunately many Muslims aren’t fluent in Arabic (which isn’t a bad thing) so due to the fact that they can’t read the Qur’an in Arabic, they have to read English translations which often times make the Qur’an harder to contextualize as Arabic is a rather tough language to translate. Another problem in the Islamic community he added was the fact that there are some scholars who make it seem like the Qur’an is only meant for the few who are well educated in Arabic literature. This couldn’t be farther from the truth as the Qur’an was made to be read by all, no matter if they are rich or poor, or young or old. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself was illeterate but Subhanallah when Angel Gabriel came down to him he learned to read.

            Tying on to the previous topic, one of the concepts we went over in class this previous Sunday (albeit nearing the end of class so we didn’t have much time to elaborate) was CCA. CCA is a concept Teacherji came up with years ago and it stands for common sense, context, and accountability. When you read a line from the Qur’an and interpret it a certain way, you should first make sure to check if it passes CCA. For example, some people believe that the Qur’an says to kill all non-muslims. Logically this doesn’t pass the first C as why would God, the one who is all-loving, tell someone to kill without context, which brings up our next point. All verses in the Qur’an referring to war were revealed in a context of war. At the time the Muslims were in a war with non-Muslims and God said in the Qur’an in a war setting, to defend the ummah from attackers, not barbarically attack others, which is what some misinterpret it as. The A stands for accountability. Regardless of what decisions you make in this life, you will be accountable for your actions on the day of judgement.

            At this point in the class, a new student had joined the class (R) and Teacherji invited her to the front of the class to play a game in which he would draw sticks from a pile and she would have to tell him when he drew a stick. Although I didn’t completely understand the connection this game had to the next topic, I can elaborate on the next topic. Teacherji said to the class “Let’s assume there is someone who doesn’t pray, doesn’t read the Qur’an, and isn’t super religious but refuses to eat non-Zabiha burgers and goes to the mosque on Eid at least. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” He went on to explain that although this hypothetical person may not fulfill all of the commandments God gave us in the Qur’an, they are holding on to bits of their faith which means there is still hope for them to become closer to their deen.

            The next concept we discussed was gratitude to God. Even if you don’t have many material possessions, but you have all five fingers on each hand, you should say Allahumdullilah because God has blessed you with those ten fingers and ten toes. 

The final topic we discussed was why the Qur’an says not to drink and gamble. I raised my hand and said that those things are forbidden because they can both ruin lives. Teacher said that although it is true that intoxicants (such as alcohol) can cause people to make foolish decisions and gambling can lead to people potentially losing all their savings, there is another reason why they are forbidden. On top of those effects, those things can often lead to greater evil. He explained that most people who consume alcohol or marijuana (especially at a young age) don’t always stop there, they often move up to harder substances. When you start committing sins there is a certain threshold where after that point, you begin to lose the feeling of guilt you would previously feel when you commit the sin and it gets harder and harder to stop committing that sin.

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