2021 July 18 – HL – male age 15 – Week #6
My homework for this week was to memorize the first five verses of Surah Baqarah and write a thousand-word essay on what I learned last class. I wrote the essay, but only memorized the first three verses of the Surah.
I was picked up by the class instructor at around 8:30 AM and tested out in the car with him on our way to the classroom as it is more time-efficient. Since I am now a teacher’s assistant trainee of the class, I will be spending most of the in-person testing time helping out other students. As a result of this, I won’t have time to test out my homework in class.
When we arrived at the mosque, I went straight to the praying area of the mosque to pray my Fajr (which I had not yet prayed) and do my meditation. Ever since school ended, I have noticed that I have not been as connected with my acts of worship as I should be. This can be summed up to the fact that since there are no assignments, I have nothing to ask for from God. Despite the fact that this may be how my brain is predisposed to think, I know this is wrong. We were not created to pray only when we need something, as prayer signifies our spiritual connection with God. We should also pray to thank God for what he has given us, and just as a reminder in general, to stay on the right path. Within the last few weeks, however, I have taken my steps to regain the feeling of spiritual enlightenment when I pray, and it feels great. I am mentioning all of this just to say that my prayer and meditation session yesterday, was the best I’ve had in the last month or so, at the bare minimum. Since class yesterday, I have felt connected to God in all of my prayers, barring Isha last night. My internal excuse was “I’m tired, I can just phone this one in,” and surely, this is the sort of attitude which holds people back in life, not just spiritual, but in other aspects as well. Another thing that praying five times a day teaches us is discipline, and I can definitely say that ever since I started praying regularly, I have noticed a definite improvement in my worldly habits as well as my spiritual habits.
One of the students had brought a friend with her to class this day, hoping to introduce her to the Green Stairs program. As most of the other students were busy or out of town this day, the attendees of the first half of class only consisted of the two other students, and me.
After introducing myself to the new student, I had mentioned that the reason that I feel this class benefited me was that it drew me closer to my religion. The term I used to express this, however, brought up an interesting point. I said, “most people who are close to me would say that I am pretty religious.” Someone brought up the point that they had a problem with people who wear their religion on their sleeve. I asked them to elaborate, and they went on to explain that your self-defined piety shouldn’t be based on how you identify your spiritual compass, but how you carry yourself in your day-to-day life. They gave us the example of their neighbor, who happens to be a Mormon. They went on to explain that although they have no idea if their neighbor prays or follows the commandments of Mormonism, one thing they knew for sure was the character of their neighbor, who never spoke ill on others, and was overall a good neighbor, participating in much service work for the local community. In Surah Maun, God tells mankind to “Be sorry for those worshippers amongst you who pray just to be seen by others but refuse to take care of the basic needs of their neighbor.”
I understand why this point was brought up, as simply praying fives times a day is just a physical act. Treating others with kindness, and just being a good human being overall, however, demonstrates awareness of the religion’s commandments.
The topic of materialism was then brought up by someone in the class. They used me as an example and asked me “what car are you going to drive when you grow up?” I responded back with “Benz.” He said that although driving a luxury car doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person, spending frivolous amounts of money on such items is inherently un-Islamic as this money could go towards helping those in need. This ties back with the Green Stairs concept of “socks,” which I’ll go over briefly since we haven’t discussed it in a while. The founder of Green Stairs uses this concept to explain why he doesn’t own luxury items, despite the fact that he is a working professional who has had an illustrious career in his respective field. ‘Socks’ is a blanket term for material items. He explained it as “I could afford to buy a pair of designer socks from some high-end company, or I could just buy regular socks from Walmart. They fill the same purpose, and I can utilize the money I save to ensure that the less fortunate also have access to socks.
I definitely agree with the point of the concept of the socks, however, to say that I plan on following it to a tee throughout my entire life would be hypocritical. As much as I hate to admit it, I do like things. God-willing, one day I will have that Benz, and maybe a Beemer parked right next to it. Do I wish I could buy every pair of Jordans in the world? Most definitely, I do. Despite my shortcomings, I will do my best to make sure that I am doing what I can to help others as well.
The next topic was the Islamic perspective on the afterlife. More specifically, will a Hindu go to heaven or hell? We weren’t focused too much on the religious identity of any given person, but the principle of the question itself. We came to the conclusion that such questions are beyond our paygrade, and there is really no reason to endlessly ponder upon such topics, as ultimately, we will have to answer for ourselves and only ourselves on the Day of Judgement.
Another point we brought up, was the fact the concept of the unity of God. Now this concept is relatively self-explanatory, but essentially, the basis of all religions stems from a common belief in a higher power. Anyone who says the Christian God is different from the Hindu God is very confused.
One of our fellow students had been assigned to do research on Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). During this portion of the class, she shared what she had learned. The major point made during this time was the story of Fatima and her wedding dress. Fatima only owned one dress, and it was tattered and worn out. When she was getting married, however, another dress was made for her so she would have nice clothes to wear on her wedding day. One night, not long before her wedding, a lady knocked on her door and asked if she could have her old dress, as she had heard that Fatima got a new dress. This lady was very poor and did not have anything to wear. Out of the kindness of her heart, Fatima gave the woman her new dress and wore the old one to the wedding.
This story embodies Fatima’s selflessness, which is a trait we should all strive to develop within ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the Dunya (world), but this was an excellent example of Fatima making sure others had clean ‘socks’ to wear.
Our next topic was Zam Zam, which is water that comes from a spring in Saudi Arabia known as Zam Zam. It is believed to hold spiritual properties in Islam. For more information on the origins of Zam Zam, you can visit my previous essay. The main point we made during this class, however, was the fact that Zam Zam in and of itself is just regular water, its spiritual properties can only take effect if you have faith in the existence of said properties.
We also spoke on Sbucks, which stands for spiritual bucks. Every time we do a good deed, we get sbucks. This spiritual form of currency can be cashed in for rewards in this life (when we make dua for something we want) or in the afterlife.
The last topic we went over before our testing time was the faith-ladder analogy. The way Green Stairs explains it is that faith is like a ladder. Everyone is on their own step and should be taken to the higher step at a pace that is achievable, relative to their current step. You can’t take someone who has never prayed before and expect them to lead the Salat, as this would simply be counterintuitive.
After we tested out the material we learned during the previous week, we were taught how to perform the funeral prayer. Since we had a sister who was a relatively recent revert in the class, we also taught her the typical customs of an Islamic funeral or Janazah. After the prayer, you are meant to go around on the behalf of the deceased person, and ask others if they had any unpaid debts. You then raise the money to pay off those debts.