2021 July 11 – HL – male age 15 – Week #5

This week at the Green Stairs Leadership Academy, my homework was to write a thousand-word essay on what I learned during the previous class. I completed my homework. The instructor was on a personal trip during the previous week, so he didn’t come to class that week. As a result of this, there was no real class direction and we took the session as an opportunity to have a laid-back class where we discussed miscellaneous topics such as pop culture, as well as organize the classroom library, which had needed work for quite some time.

This week, the instructor picked me up from my house at approximately 8:35 AM and had me test out almost immediately after I entered his car and greeted him. Although he didn’t state it outright, I believe the reason he had me test out prior to class is due to the fact that I am now considered to be a TA in training, meaning I will have to work with the other students in class, and won’t have time to do my own testing. I tested out the Salat in Arabic and English along with Ayat-ul Qursi in Arabic and English. I passed everything, barring the English portion of Ayat-ul Qursi on which I made a few mistakes. I will make sure to perfect it for the next class.

Once we arrived, the instructor sent another one of my fellow students and me to the mosque’s prayer room so we could meditate. Meditation is a key part of the Green Stairs program and I understand its value, despite not being a big fan of it. The point of meditation is to lose yourself and envision your presence in front of God. While meditating, we repeat mantras such as “La-illah-hah Il-lal-lah” (There is no God but God in Arabic).

Once we got back to class, most of the students had arrived, and there was even a new student. One of the adult students and I introduced ourselves to her (and vise versa) and we gave her a rundown of what exactly the class is and how it works. She was a recent revert to Islam so she also explained her story and what brought her to Islam. As someone who was born into the religion, it is fascinating to see the long journeys of life that eventually bring people to Islam. In addition, I come from a very religious family, so the deen was always meant to be bred into me. On the flip slide, there are many born Muslims whose families don’t practice the faith and seeing them reconnect with their deen always inspires me as if they can do it, I can too.

During our testing phase, my job was to memorize the first five ayahs (verses) of Surah Baqarah, which is the longest Surah (chapter) of the Holy Qur’an. I memorized the first three verses in class and will do the rest for homework. I am starting with Arabic but will do English as well once I master Arabic.

During the lecture portion of our class, our first topic was Eid Al-Adha, which is in about a week from the time I am writing this essay. Eid Al-Adha is known as the “big Eid” as there is another Eid called Al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. Eid Al-Adha, however, celebrates the Qur’anic story of Prophet Abraham (PBUH), and how he was sent to sacrifice his eldest son. If you aren’t Muslim but this story sounds familiar to you, it may be because this story appeared in the Bible as well, albeit with some minor differences. In the Qur’an, Ishmael was to be sacrificed, whereas, in the Bible, it was Isaac. Nevertheless, the key message behind the story is the same; Abraham was told by God to sacrifice one of his sons, and Abraham obliged. One of the points that one of the students pointed out that I found fascinating was the fact that Abraham’s son obliged as well. His faith in God was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice his own life for God. I’m not sure what happened at the end of the biblical version, but in the Qur’an, God replaced Ishamel’s body with an animal. For this reason, as Muslims we sacrifice a goat every year for Eid Al-Fitr, to commemorate the sacrifice that both Abraham and Ishmael were willing to make that night.

Before we started our major discussion, we went over the significance of certain numbers in Islam. We started off with the five pillars (declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and the pilgrimage. The next number we went over was six.

In Islam, we believe in:

One God
Who created angels
Who were given a message
Which was given to the Prophets
Who sent the message to the rest of the world
Divine laws

As for the number four, most of the salats consist of four cycles. Each step of wudu must be done at least three times, and there are two parts to the Shahadah (oneness of God, and the existence of Muhammad (PBUH) as his messenger). For number one it is rather obvious, in Islam we believe in one God.

Since I left the class early, there were several topics for which I wasn’t in attendance. If you are reading this on the Green Stairs website, please visit my fellow classmates’ essays for a more in-depth recap of what we discussed during the last class.

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