2021 October 17 — MA — male age 15 — Week 6

This week at GISLA my homework was to keep working on my correlation of the English and Arabic of the Aya’s and to prepare for my test. Today I had to uber to the masjid from my home because my dad had gotten home from work at around 5 am so I didn’t want to disturb him. Instead of being a hassle, this turned out to be a really cool experience because the uber driver who was taking me to the masjid was talking to me and he asked me where I am from and when I told him I was from Pakistan, I got to learn that he had spent a year in karachi because his father was stationed there several years ago. He was from Korea so it led to an interesting conversation about cultures before I even got to class. He shared some of his favorite things about Karachi and the first thing he said is that he loved the food, which I definitely agree with.

Once I got to the mosque, I saw that I was the only student who had gotten there yet. So, I put my stuff in the classroom and got started with our standard routine of 2 cycles of prayer and then meditation. Today I used “alhamdulillah” during my prayer and I noticed that it helped me focus more than “La ilaha illallah” for some reason. After I was done with my meditation I waited for class to begin, which felt like a really long time because I was in the prayer room for nearly 40 minutes.

We went into class and Teacher Ji started talking about how we are supposed to ask for an extension on our essay when we need it. He gave us examples of the extensions he wouldn’t accept. He said our extension request should address him first, then it should tell him why we need the extension and it should also tell him how much of an extension we need. Basically, we should be thorough in our extension request. Teacher Ji said that we learned how to do this in our very first class through Surah Fatiha. He explained how Surah Fatiha first addresses God and basically says “you are the greatest” in the first four lines to show that we are aware about who we are talking to. Then in Surah Fatiha we make a request to be shown the straight path. On top of that, It specifies what we want and don’t want when it says “The path of those who you favored, not the path of those who went astray.” Teacher Ji also explained it as “Sucking up to your parents when you want something.” There is a higher chance you’ll get something your asking for when you address your parents with respect and give them good reasons to get you that thing than if you act entitled and say that you “deserve it”

After this, we all stood by our chairs and were tested on 3 reasons why the number 4 is important in Islam. After some discussion amongst ourselves, we were able to come up with the 4 cycles of prayer and the 4 holy books (4 prophets). We couldn’t guess the last one so teacher ji told us that it was the 4 imams. Imam Hanafi, Imam Shafi, Imam Maliki and Imam Hambali. This led to a discussion about different schools of thought in Islam and this discussion is brought up several times during today’s class.

An idea that was brought up numerous times during today’s conversation was that, even though we may have different beliefs than someone else, it is extremely important to respect others’ beliefs as well. We shouldn’t reject another viewpoint even if we have adopted a different one. Another example of this was given by teacher ji when he told us about the birthday of the prophet, which according to some beliefs is tomorrow. He said that there are several disagreements with celebrating the prophet’s birthday between different schools of thought. Teacher Ji said, just take a sip of water because it doesn’t affect you in a major way if someone is celebrating the birth of the prophet. Live and let live. He also said that someone may have higher standards on a certain subject and that we need to respect their point of view because someone who does take the prophets birthday seriously may be sending durood to them, and if you try to invalidate their point of view it could be highly offensive because they hold it to a higher standard. The same disagreements happen about mothers day and Christmas in the muslim community. We should use occasions such as mothers day to remember the things and people we should be appreciating everyday.

Later on during the class, we planned on watching the movie “The Message.” We talked about how every Muslim country except for Morroco had a problem with the movie when it first came out. This led to a discussion about how the Azhar university and the leading organization said that it is ok to watch in recent years, even though Azhar also says that the Prophet and the 10 people who were given knowledge about heaven while on earth are not permissible to depict. We also talked about how muslims, Sunni’s especially, find the depiction of the prophet very offensive in both good and bad manners. Which also somewhat led back to the topic of respecting others’ beliefs due to shias being ok with the prophets depiction.

Another thing that led back to this topic is when teacher ji told us about how a student asked a pandit in a temple why they pray to Idols. This would be a sort of disrespect of their viewpoint because you are in their house of worship and questioning the legitimacy of their belief. It’s quite similar to the argument non-muslims make that 2 billion muslims circle around a black stone and pray to a building. Which is quite obviously a false narrative but it does publicly disrespect the mulsims belief and try to invalidate the legitimacy of their beliefs.

One of the biggest “Main idea” of today’s lesson was that Islam is a personal journey of accountability. How it is one of the only religions where you are responsible for your own actions and your journey throughout life is controlled completely by you. That is part of the reason why we should respect and let other schools of thought be, because we are accountable for our own school of thought. After the Shahadah, all disagreements are somewhat inconsequential because everyone will follow their own sheikh and do what they believe is correct once they have said “La ilaha illallah.” In the end our main point is to say the Shahadah and serve the Dunay to make it a better place for all the things and people that are on it.

Our next topic of conversation was how all of us students need to be aware of current events. Teacher Ji explained the importance of news literacy through an event that was recently in the news. He told us about the politician David Aimes who was recently killed by a Somali Muslim man because he felt that it was his duty to do so. This effects the entirety of the muslim community because that murder is seen as an act of terrorism since the murderer was muslim and that itself distorts the views of people towards Muslims and it demonizes us in a way.

Teacher Ji said that we should strive to be Bilal Hussaini, not the man who killed David Aimes. Bilal Hussaini, who represents his community in a positive way and the murderer who represents his community in a negative way. Bilal Hussaini is the captain of the Thomas Jefferson football team and he is also the president of the TJ math club. He has accomplished merging brawns and brains which is even more impressive since TJ is filled with extremely talented people, yet somehow he has gone above and beyond and proven himself to be extraordinary in a group of extraordinary individuals.

We also spoke about the difference in work environment between TJ and Lake Braddock like we had a few weeks ago. Teacher Ji re emphasized the difference in intellectual curiosity between the 2 schools and how important it is for all of us to be intellectually curious.

Next, we discussed “perspective” which was one of our words for today. It tied in with the whole idea of how different people have different schools of thought and how we need to be sensitive about another person’s morals and their sense of belonging to a certain religion or group. Our other word was ethics. Everyone has a standard of ethics;some things they don’t do based on their ethics/moralities. It falls in with common sense because the idea of “not harming your parents” falls into the category of ethics and common sense. Teacher Ji explained that each and every single prophet was teaching us how to be ethical. He also gave an example for ethics from an old movie where the colonizers killed herds of bison to sell their skin and they left all the meat on the plains for it to rot. In comparison to the native americans, whose ethics did not allow them to do that. They killed one bison every one to two months because it was all they needed and they respected nature.

After this teacher Ji asked us to give him the spelling for the word god. The twist was that it was a four letter word. I said “gawd” which was obviously not right but it did give everyone a good laugh. The spelling was Go(o)d. There was a silent O in good because everything about God is good. After this we went over a few of the metaphors and abbreviations that we learned over the past few weeks such as UV, Papa, oil, goats, hackers, cruisers etc. Teacher Ji also gave us a new metaphor called soap. A seagull poops on your hand and then you wash your hands without soap, they will smell if you shake someone else’s hand, but if you wash them with soap they won’t smell. In the context of Islam, it means praying all your prayers but you pray them incorrectly. The same way that your hands smell if you wash them without soap, the legitimacy of your prayer is questionable if you rush through it and do it incorrectly.

We also did an Eidetic memory capability (Photographic memory) exercise today in class. Teacher Ji held up a flyer and let us look at it for a few minutes and then he covered it up and asked us what was written on a specific line of the flyer. Teacher Ji said that around age 15, our Eidetic memory capabilities start to fade unless we sharpen them and understand their importance.

Teacher U had us watch a video about the Prophet (PBUH) and the Sahabah after this. In the video, a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) felt extremely happy after being able to touch the skin of the Prophet (PBUH). Teacher Ji explained that the love that companion had for the Prophet (PBUH) is very similar to the reason why we love our parents. That love was there because the Prophet (PBUH) explained the divine document (Quran) to us in a way that we could understand.

After this, we watched about 40 minutes of the movie, “The Message.” After we had watched those 40 minutes, teacher ji had a short discussion with the class about each person’s status as a Hacker, cruiser, or slacker. Teacher Ji asked me if I wanted to move to level 2 soon and he told me that I have to keep moving up and improving to stay in this class. Teacher S also said that I was moving at a very fast pace and I should slow down and process things a little more. I understand what he meant by that and I’ll be taking it into account as I further my experience in this class. Right now, I think I’m performing well in this class but I would like to gain more of an understanding about subjects as we move on and improve in any way I can.

For this week my homework is to write this 1000 word essay, prepare for the level 1 test, look into the story about the Prophet cutting his chest and as I was heading to my car, teacher S also assigned me the homework to figure out how I can fit an elephant in the fridge in 3 steps.

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