2021 October 3 — HL — male age 16 — Week 4

This week in the Green Stairs Leadership Academy, I was picked up by Teacherji at 7:30 and arrived to class at 7:45. After I set my things down, I went to the prayer room and prayed my morning prayer as well as meditated for 20 minutes. The point of our morning meditations is to focus on our presence in front of God for even a small amount of time, as it is hard to do so when we have the other challenges of the world facing us. Until ~9:15, I did my school homework as the actual class didn’t start until 9:30.

At this point, I joined the discussion some of the adults were having, which happened to be about polygamy in an Islamic context. Polygamy is one of the issues that is often misportrayed by Muslims and Non-Muslims alike which inevitably leads to Anti-Islamists raising questions (which is a reasonable thing to do when blatant misinformation is being spread, I must add). The way Teacherji explained it on Sunday was the most logical way I have ever heard anybody elaborate on the issue of polygamy in Islam. He explained to us that polygamy was a way for women to become liberated in the extreme patriarchy of the time. In the time of the Prophet (PBUH) women did not have many rights and if they wanted to be given a fair shot in the society and/or economy of the time, they would have to have a husband. This negatively impacted the window of opportunity for women who never married, divorcees, and widows alike. To combat this, some men (if financially capable) would marry multiple women, in hopes of assisting them and their respective families financially. The first wife would be your “Khadijah” (Khadijah was the first wife of the Prophet whom he loved very much) and the others you would marry to support them and their social/financial endeavours. Although it is true that men were permitted to engage in intimacy with their other wives in addition to their first spouse, these polygamous relationships were more advantageous to the women than they were to the men, as they allowed for more opportunities for the women. In today’s society, however, women have the rights and liberties to succeed in life (in the west, at least) and therefore, there is no legitimate reason for a man to have multiple wives, as the only real outcome of such relations would be to satisfy one’s physical urges.

At this point, most of the students had shown up and I got them started on their meditation routine. Once all of the students arrived, we did a public speaking activity; all of the students were to stand in front of the class and talk about themselves for three minutes straight. Before the presentation, each of the students were given a pep talk on their strengths and weaknesses. During the pep talk, the presenter addressed one of the students with the wrong name multiple times, and the student didn’t correct him. Once Teacherji pointed out the fact that the presenter misspoke, he asked the student why he didn’t correct him, which yielded no response from the student. He made the point that we should always speak out when something wrong occurs (regardless of the severity of the situation) as if we take the backseat in life, that’s where we’ll end up the rest of our lives. The issue of public speaking was also brought up; we are taught to public speak as all lucrative careers require one to do so. None of those jobs where you can just sit by yourself and work quietly all day allow for moving up in the world by any means.

He also pointed out that settling for mediocrity is an issue that many non-male and/or non-caucasian folks deal with throughout their lives. White boys grow up knowing that they can do anything, because they see people like them succeed. Brown kids of all kinds, however, (especially girls) don’t wholeheartedly believe in the opportunity of success for people like them which results in them settling for mediocrity. As minority groups, we should always remember that we are capable of accomplishing the same things that the white folks are capable of, we just have to put in the work. One of the presenters was a hijabi who worked for the government, and she gave her two cents on the matter; when she is in meetings with high-level government workers, she is often mistaken to be a secretary or someone who is just there to take notes, and she takes great pleasure in proving to others that yes, a South-Asian Muslim woman can do big things in the world.

The next topic we went over was bullseye. Teacherji drew a dartboard on the whiteboard and gave us a scenario of a game; if you were playing darts and had to choose between aiming for the easy points or trying to hit the tiny bullseye in the center, which would you pick? (Note: if you miss the bullseye you don’t get any of the smaller points; you get nothing). Most students said that they would still go for the bullseye, but Teacherji exploited the flaws in their logic; those small points would compound and add up to greater numbers, and when the statistically low chance of hitting the bullseye is considered, it makes more sense to just go for the easy points. He explained to us that trying to play the game of perfection is utter nonsense, as each person should practice their faith at the level for which they are ready, and should gradually progress in their strictness over time.

The next concept we discussed was trees; all major religions stem from a central belief in a higher power of sorts, which would be our trunk. Over time, the idea of God became misconstrued and interpreted in different ways which resulted in different branches of belief systems. After this we discussed the company 3M, and why their strange internal hiring process is so effective. What the CEO of 3M aims to do is make sure all of his employees are smarter than him. In addition, they are each given a couple million dollars a year to “screw around” which often results in brilliant new ideas, an example of which would be the sticky note, which was invented by accident.

Our next topic was Kota, one of the most prestigious universities in India. Many of the CEO’s of the top companies in the world graduated from Kota, and got to the point where they are because the rugged nature of the university made them a master of hard work. This is why we should work to get into Harvard and not settle for George Mason University (assuming we don’t have other factors prohibiting us from attending Harvard). It’s not just about Harvard; it’s about aiming for the best of the best. To give an example; Teacherji is a lawyer and at his law firm, they are aiming to hire people who went to the most prestigious law firms, as it is a well-known fact that those are the people who will deliver, rather than slack off. At the end of the day, our goal is to make the world the best place it can be, and we can’t do that without first developing ourselves to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

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