2021 October 10 — MA — male age 15 — Week 5

This week at GISLA, my homework was to correlate singular ayas with their meaning to prepare for the test. I did as much of it as I could but I didn’t feel prepared for the test due to the amount of work I had in school this previous week. I decided not to take the test this week because I felt unsure. 

I got to class around 9:30 and as always, we started with 2 cycles of prayer and our meditation. I felt much better about meditation this time because I was able to instantly zone myself out and cut off all external thoughts to just focus on the words I was saying “La ilaha illallah.” I meditated for about 10-15 minutes and then waited to be called into the class. Once in the class, we did the pledges. I was told to start the pledges for this class and I realized I still had to work on my skill of setting a good pace for everyone to follow. Then The class was “quizzed” on the pledges and teacher ji told everyone to have it memorized. 

Once we finished the pledges, teacher Ji had us all stand on our chairs and tested us on the 5 prayers, 6 beliefs, and 5 pillars. For every mistake, we had to get up and down on our chairs 5 times. Thankfully, we only had to go through that process twice. Teacher Ji explained the order in which the 5 beliefs are supposed to go in. He told us the order in a sort of chronological order that needed to be followed because without one you can’t have the other. For example, without belief in god you can’t have a belief in angels and if you don’t have belief in angels, you can’t have belief in the holy books because the angels brought them down from god and so on and so forth. We also did the 5 pillars and the 5 prayers which was mostly just a review which most people already knew of. We also talked about which book was given to which prophet while standing on the chairs and it became part of the “mini quiz” we had at the beginning of the Class. 

After we had all sat down, teacher ji talked about obituaries just as we had last class. He explained that they are something you say about someone after they have passed away and they are usually meant to be kind. This conversation segwayed over to another conversation about Alfred Noble. Alfred was reading an obituary one day and thought it was about him but that wasn’t possible since he was still alive. He learned that the obituary was his brother’s. His brother’s obituary wasn’t exactly kind and Alfred decided that he didn’t want people to speak about him that way when he died. Due to this, Alfred created the Nobel Peace prize where 6 people would be chosen as the best in their own category. He created something that future generations would look at and think “I wish it was my name.” (referring to Noble)  because people want to be correlated with good things. No one likes their name to be correlated with bad things like genocides or bombings. We also talked about endowment which is what Alfred gave to the Nobel Prize organization. Now the interest on that investment is what gets used to give money to the winners of the Nobel Prize. An endowment always stays the same. It can not be used by the organization that it is given to. The word “waqf” in Arabic is the equivalent of an endowment. 

While talking about Nobel Prize winners we also talked about Abdulrazak Gurnah, who won the 2021 Nobel prize for literature. Abdulrazak Gurnah wrote about people living in colonized societies. This led to a conversation about how many places around the world had been colonized by Europeans at some point and South Africa (where teacher Ji is from) being colonized. Teacher Ji shared his own experiences about being from a place that falls into the category of a colonized society. We also talked about people losing opportunities due to living in colonized societies. Teacher Ji told us about a man who was a highly skilled tennis player but he was denied access to professional teams and facilities due to his skin color. This topic is pretty vital, especially today on Indeginous people’s day which used to be Christopher Colombus day for so many years over the past. The people finally realized that Columbus was a colonizer who stole the land of indiginous people and took the lives of thousands of innocent people. I think that the fact we finally stopped celebrating him is a good sign of progress. 

Teacher Ji tested some more students on the Beliefs, pillars and prayers and we had a conversation about the man who got stuck in the stomach of a whale. The man getting stuck in that whale’s stomach is the reason we have the dua “la ilaha illa subhanaka inni kuntu minaz zalimin.” The man didn’t give up hope in the stomach of the whale and instead reflected on the type of person he was. The main point of the lesson was to not make the same mistake twice and reflect on actions. 

Teacher Ji said that there are three types of people in the class. Hackers, Slackers and cruisers. A hacker is someone who knows the phone inside and out and he can do anything with it. A cruiser is someone who just uses the phone and just goes by, and a slacker is someone who’s constantly behind and doesn’t know how to use the phone. In terms of GISLA, I think I fall into the cruiser category right now but I aim to be a hacker. A quality of a hacker is that he is always curious and looking to improve. Teacher ji said he bought a whole phone repair kit just to see if he could fix his phone on his own and that falls into the category of a hacker. 

We also spoke about time management and how the easiest way to deal with our weekly essays was to get them over with as quickly as possible. I usually try to do this and finish my essays as soon as I get home on Sundays but this Sunday I had to go to a family get together after class so I wasn’t able to finish the essay as soon as possible. 

Teacher Ji told us to be “goats not sheep.” What this means is that we shouldn’t be sheeps in a herd that aimlessly follow whoever is at the front but instead we should be goats who lead the pack. He said that in slaughterhouses, one goat is trained so that it leads all the sheep in line and once the goat goes through the gate it just moves to the side and all the sheep get slaughtered because they just aimlessly followed wherever the goat was taking them. Teacher Ji also said that he knows everyone cannot be a goat because for every 5000 sheep, there is only 1 goat. 

We talked about how Jeff Bezos’ biggest mistake was not respecting the vow he made to his wife and how she is the richest woman in the world now. Bezos’ ex-wife married a teacher now who wants to help people and die to that, she now donates and contributes to women’s initiatives because she wants to close the gap between men and women in the workplace. The main point of this conversation was that God runs the show and most things happen for a good reason. Teacher Ji gave another example of this from his own life. He was stuck in South Africa and was not able to come back to the US for months and this was very frustrating because he had a job and bills to pay. But due to being stuck, he got to spend a lot of time with his closest uncle who was a bilateral amputee because of diabetes. 6 months later, teacher ji was informed that his uncle had passed away. He had to face an inconvenience but he got to spend time with his uncle before his death. It demonstrated that everything happens for a good reason. This story hit really close to home for me because I had gone through almost the exact same situation. In 2018, I was in Pakistan and the uncle I was closest to had lost his job so over the few months I was there I spent almost all my time with this uncle. He was even the last person I saw before leaving the city. Around the end of October in 2019, I was woken up at 4 am and informed that this uncle had passed away in a train explosion while on an islamic pilgrimage. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Pakistan to attend his funeral. If he hadn’t lost his job during that time in 2018, I would never have gotten to make all those memories with him before his passing. It showed that everything happens for a good reason. 

We spoke a little about amanah again when teacher ji told us that we need to chase our potential while keeping amanah in mind. He gave the example of Kareem Abdul Jabbar who became the best he possibly could be and made as much money as he could. Jabbar lived a good life and bought himself luxuries but he also understood the concept of amanah and used his money to help lift up the city he was from. He also gave the example of teacher U who was in the class because he has the amanah of knowledge and he wants to share it with as many people as possible. 

Teacher Ji told us about Arthur Ash again and we went over the concept of gratefulness which was one of the words that teacher ji highlighted in one of the initial classes. Arthur Ash was the first black tennis player to become important in a time where segregation was prevalent, but he got cancer. People were amazed that Arthur was just moving on with his life as normal even though he had cancer. He made all that money but would die before he got to truly use any of it. People would ask him why he wasn’t mad at god. Arthur’s response would be that he regretted not being thankful enough to god for all the championships and tournaments he won. He said that he had a whole lifetime of blessings to be thankful for, and he can’t be upset with God over just one sickness. 

Universal Values are another subject we talked about. They’re a lot like common sense but just with some slight differences. Logically, all universal values are common sense. Not killing people is a universal value. Not kicking your teacher is another one. Everyone has universal values and they also tie in with the human instinct of survival. 

Towards the end of class we talked about the homework that teacher U gave us last class and it was to research the sons of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and how long they lived and their stories in relation to the prophet. Everybody said whatever they remembered from their research and we talked about the story of surah kauthar again like we had done last class. This time we also had the context of Ibrahim’s death (The son of prophet Muhammad). 

After this we played a name game where two teams were divided into two halves of the class and there was a divider in the middle that prevented the teams from seeing each other. One person from both teams would come near the divider and whoever said the other person’s name first when the divider was removed would win. It was basically an activity so the people in class actually knew each other’s names. 

My homework for next class is this essay which I am currently writing, a 300 word essay for a pledge of acceptance that I will write to a fictional friend, research on the story about the prophet cutting his chest and perfecting my memorization of singular ayas.

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