2021 October 10 — HL — male age 16 — Week 5
This week in the Green Stairs Leadership Academy, my homework was to review the Islamic Salat page in Arabic and English and write a thousand word essay on what I learned last class. I completed my homework. I walked into class at around 7:30 AM and started my school homework as the official class didn’t begin until 9:30.
When the lecture started, the first topic we discussed was QHA, which stands for Qur’an, Hadith, accountability. Essentially, this means that the first source we should direct ourselves to when interpreting the legality of something in an Islamic context would be the Qur’an, and the second would be the Hadith (declarations/commandments of the Prophet PBUH). Thirdly, we should always remember that at the end of the day, we will be held accountable for our actions and the decisions we make.
At this point, I had left the class and had begun having a discussion w S, one of the co-teachers of the class regarding materialism. S is a very accomplished businessman who has achieved great feats throughout his life, especially considering the tough circumstances that he had dealt with as a youth in a third-world country. I was talking to him about how over the years, I have come to realize that the material things of this world will not make me happier, and will only lead to the desire for more. Worst of all, this pattern is exponential. He gave me anecdotes of his life when he was only a few years older than me, hustling on the streets of his home country making a killing, and being able to finally afford the comforts of this world, which allowed him luxuries that he had never experienced before. He told me of his former dream car; a Range Rover. When he had the means to afford the car, however, he had realized that it wasn’t even something that would improve the quality of his life, it was just a desire of this dunya (world). He also mentioned the guilt that he would feel driving such an expensive car, only to pass people on the street who didn’t even have $10 to their name.
His words definitely resonated with me; every time me or any of my brothers start gawking over some new phone, car, etcetera my mother always told us that these things didn’t matter. Did I listen? No. You see, although I am aware of the useless nature of such items, I still chase after them. If I have the money, I will go and buy those new sneakers, that jacket, or any other useless thing because it gives me that temporary satisfaction. I know it’s wrong, but I won’t stop. It sounds horrible to say this, but it’s the only real motivation I have to do anything. I’m a straight A student taking the hardest classes available to me, but I don’t care about school. Why do I do it then? Besides my parents being typically Desi parents who deem anything below overachievement to be disgraceful, it’s because my main goal at the moment (and for quite some time now) is to be very rich when I grow up. I’ve become a slave to consumerism. In Kanye West’s song “All Falls Down” he depicted the American struggle of addiction to retail. In one line, he said “We’ll buy a lot of clothes but we don’t really need ‘em, (these are) things we do to cover up what’s inside.” Only two lines later, he said that he wouldn’t even attempt to act “holier than thou” as he is guilty of doing the same thing’ he spoke of a time where he visited a high-end retail store and spent over $25,000 on merchandise, all before he had even bought a home for himself. A lot of the time when we do these things, it isn’t even for ourselves, we just want to prove to others that we have the means to be frivolous with our wealth. For now, however, I think it’s good for me to have some sort of attachment to material things because quite honestly, it motivates me to work harder than everyone else. I’ll eventually grow out of it.
When I got back to class, the first topic we discussed was slacker, cruiser, and hacker. Essentially, the three aforementioned groups are archetypes for people in this world. There are slackers, who do below the bare minimum, and end up with subpar results in life. Next are the cruisers, they do what is required, but don’t go above and beyond and for this reason, they will generally live a good life, but not a stupendous life. FInally, we have the hackers; these are the people who will learn the system, and exploit it to accomplish everything ten times better and faster than everyone else. These are the people who reach the top. This is who I want to be, I want to be financially free, I don’t want to be 40 years old mopping up Wendy’s. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s honest work and it’ll pay the bills, but I want more.
The next thing we discussed was the story of Prophet Noah (PBUH) and the story when he was swallowed by a whale. When inside the whale, he made dua to be freed, and he eventually made it out alive. This anecdote depicts the immense power of dua (prayer) and how we should always make dua.
The next thing Teacherji went over was the fact that no matter how good we are at something, we should never get too smart for our own age, as this will lead to an inevitable downfall. You see, when one gets to the point when they believe they are too good to acquire more knowledge, multiple things happen. The first of which would be the fact that it results in an ego, which God dislikes. Shaitan was once “top dawg” in Heaven, he was such a good guy that God had elevated him to the level of an Angel. Due to the fact that he became arrogant, however, he was banished from his former glory. The next thing that happens is that you become complacent. An excellent example of this would be the Blackberry phone company. At one point in time, the Blackberry was the staple cellular device for businessmen, it was a status symbol at that time in the same way that an iPhone is today. Although they were very successful, they stuck to their old-school methodology, and refused to innovate. As a result of this, Apple (followed by LG, Samsung, Google, and other competitors) came along and beat them in the race. Today, the company is struggling because they were too smart for their “age” and believed themselves to be hot stuff when they were as susceptible to being knocked off as anyone else.
Despite what I mentioned above, it is important, however, to have confidence in your ability to do something, you just need to be able to back it up.
The next topic we went over was the concept of sheep and goats. The way Teacherji explains it, there are two types of people in this world; sheep, and goats. Sheep follow the crowd, don’t stand out too much, and keep to themselves. Most of the world’s population consists of sheep. Goats, however, travel alone, and speak their mind (just like how a real goat would do).
An excellent example of this would be Jeff Bezos, one of the biggest goats in the world today. When he first had the idea of Amazon Prime (Amazon’s premium expedited shipping service) he faced a lot of backlash from people who said his idea would be too difficult to implement. Rather than backing off, he fought to accomplish what he believed in and now many of the world’s largest retailers are looking to Amazon for inspiration.
Our next topic was bullseye, which we also discussed last week. Essentially, rather than only going for the center “bullseye” when playing darts, it is better to go for the smaller points as you will have a greater chance of racking up more points by going for the easier to score targets. We shouldn’t get too technical when practicing Islam. An example would be Domino’s Pizza. When the workers cut the pizza, they use the same utensils they used on the pepperoni or sausage pizza, so doesn’t that make the pizza haram? Even if it doesn’t contain haram meat? Technically, yes, but focusing on something like that is above our paygrade. It would be more productive to focus on something we can actually control. Moral of the story: don’t aim for perfection, unless you’re the President, it’s not your job to do so.
The last topic we went over was the fact that we live in a world that is inherently flawed. We don’t live in a utopia where everything is perfect so trying to make it so will inevitably prove itself counterintuitive. Human nature isn’t moral, it’s opportunistic, we have to train ourselves to be moral. Many people fail to train themselves to do so, which is why our world is so messed up.