2021 September 26 – MA – male age 15 – week 3
This week at GISLA, my homework was to write a 1000 word essay and memorize Surah Falaq, Surah Asr, and Surah Nas in english. I completed both those tasks and headed to class today. Teacher Ji told us to start coming earlier starting this week and I got to class around 9:25 am and there were no other students there. Teacher Ji told me to pray 2 cycles as slowly as possible, in both English and arabic. I did that and then I was supposed to meditate for around 10 to 15 minutes. During the meditation I closed my eyes and recited “La ilaha illallah.” For the first few minutes, it was somewhat difficult because my mind was wandering and thinking about other things instead of the words I was saying. About 5 minutes in, I finally got a grasp on emptying my mind of all other thoughts and just paying attention to what I was doing and what I was thinking. I really liked meditation. It helped me feel more relaxed and focused by the time class started. It also reminded me of something that my AP world history teacher makes my class do. At the beginning of every class, he has us do a “2 minute meditation” where we take 3 deep breaths and then close our eyes and just focus on breathing for the first 2 minutes of class. I find that just as stress relieving. Before I started my 2 cycles of prayer, Teacher Ji said that we are doing this to “clock in” and make the angels aware of the fact that we are here. He also gave the comparison of how outsiders in India have to go to the local police station and let them know who they are before they can shop in the market.
Once class started, Teacher Ji talked about how some of us hadn’t turned in our essay and had not memorized what we were supposed to memorize. He said that’s why Teacher H is suspended from the class for that day, because he didn’t communicate well. Teacher Ji talked about the importance of being able to communicate what you are saying and being able to give instructions well and clearly. He gave the example of how a General has to communicate orders to the rest of the army and he has to do it well because the person on top tells it to 2 people and then those 2 tell it to 5 people and then those 5 tell it to 10 people and so on and so forth. So for the order to be received correctly everyone needs to be able to communicate well but especially the man on top. I found this extremely important because I know that I need to work on my communication skills because I can’t communicate or interact with people as well as I should be able to. We circled back to our conversation about homework and teacher ji said that it would be unfair if he posted one student’s essay before the others turned theirs in because it would give them the advantage of having information that they may not have remembered to write about before. Then he explained the format of how we should be writing our essay’s.
Teacher Ji asked us “Why do you think I bother with essay’s every week?” Then he asked if any of us liked writing essays and none of us said yes. Teacher Ji explained that he has us write essays because writing is a vital skill that we need to develop right now because it will have a large impact on our future. He said that we will have to write progress reports and reports on projects in our future and our writing skills really matter. He said that if we don’t have good writing skills then it would even affect the types of tasks and projects we would get because the person who is better at communicating and writing these reports would be assigned the better projects.
Right afterwards, we go back to the words we learned in our first 2 classes. Teacher Ji has student B explain the concept of “Common sense” But he accidentally gives an example of “Amanah” which is another one of our words. Then teacher Ji has Student Y explain it. Student Y correctly explained it and then Teacher Ji summarized the concept by saying “It’s intuitive and everyone has it.” Student H also pitched in and restated something that teacher ji said about common sense during my first class. He said “The Quran is the common sense of life.”
We moved on to talking about one of our other words from last class, context. Teacher Ji asked “how is context relevant?” We discussed the matter for a few minutes and everyone pitched in their thoughts about it. My mind directly went to thinking about some of the examples teacher Ji gave us about the importance of context last class. Then, teacher Ji gave a new example about the same topic to help the new students in class understand it. He gave us the example of “If I ask you for water right now, you’d obviously give it to me in a cup” but if I asked you for water and it was 1000 years ago, what would you use to serve it?” He explained to us how they stitched the stomach of a camel to make a fancy container to serve water in. Today, due to context we would give a water bottle not a container.
Teacher Ji said that everything we have to follow islamically has context. We don’t do things in 1000 year old methods just to say that we completed the sunnah. As soon as he said this, I was reminded of an argument I heard a while ago. The argument was about “if fade haircuts are halal or not?” The person who was arguing that they were halal, said “Fades were haram due to the context of the time period.” He explained by saying that fades were only haram because during that time period they were used to make a person look unappealing and make their hair uneven. He said that is why context matters, because the intention of the haircut has changed and people aren’t getting it anymore for the reason that it was made haram (to make someone look unappealing).
After this, we were having a conversation about why we say “Peace be upon him” after the Prophet (PBUH)’s name and Teacher Ji suddenly said “The prophet is the reason we will all go to hell right?” Obviously, all of us were confused and disagreed but none of us said anything about it. Teacher Ji said he did that on purpose and then he told us that “If something doesn’t make sense to us, we shouldn’t just accept it. It completely goes against common sense.” Those words felt really important to me because I Often end up not speaking up against something that doesn’t make sense to me due to my somewhat lack of communication skills. Teacher Ji said that “Common sense cannot be underemphasized.”
We briefly discussed the word “Grateful” from our last class. To explain the general idea of gratefulness to the new students, student Y restated the story about the king who lost his finger and in the end he was grateful for it because due to not having a finger, he wasn’t made a human sacrifice. Then we moved on to talking about accountability. Teacher Ji said “as muslims, we have the perfect understanding of the scale.” We know what we need to do to get into jannah. Teacher Ji also explained accountability in a somewhat different context. Teacher Ji asked us why someone with an 850/870 score would end up going to Jahanam and someone with a 500/870 score would end up in Jannah. He said that this would be because the person with an 850 score didn’t take accountability for the actions he committed in his life such as apologizing to someone for mistreating them. So, even though he could got forgiveness from God, he would not have gotten forgiveness from those he mistreated. His scale may have been really heavy on the good deeds side, but it was even heavier on the bad deeds side. The person with a 500 ended up in Jannah because someone didn’t apologize to him for mistreating him and when his good deeds were being measured, the deeds of the person who didn’t take accountability were added to his scale.
Furthering our conversation on accountability, we talked about the two Angels sitting on our shoulders writing down all of our good deeds and bad deeds. The angel on our left side writes down our bad deeds as soon as we ACT on them. They are not written down if we are just thinking about them. Our good deeds are also written in pen and can’t be erased but our bad deeds are written in pencil and can be erased. This is because our bad deeds can be forgiven and taken off our scale. We also talked about how they’re are two types of forgiveness that affect our destination on judgement day. Forgiveness from god (missing prayer, fasting etc) and forgiveness from the people (slander, theft, murder, etc.).
We went back to talking about Amanah or trust as it’s called in english. Teacher Ji expanded our understanding of it by saying that amanah includes our brains, bodies, etc. We are responsible for our mental and physical health/prowess because it is a trust given to us by God. Teacher Ji also said that no one can escape amanah. Even if you are a beggar on the street and you have nothing but you see that the street you are sitting on is dirty and filled with trash, It is your responsibility to clean up that street because it is a part of the amanah granted to you.
Teacher Ji talked about the purpose of the GISLA program and how it revolves around building the characteristic of excellence. He gave a metaphor about how farmers cultivate crops. He said that we are the seeds and he is cultivating us to have that characteristic of excellence and be able to acquire the fruit of our hard work, 10-15 years from now. He said that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort through a rigorous process. It is a lifelong pursuit for us. I really agreed with this statement because it is all I have experienced my whole life. My dad is a perfect example of it. He’s spent his entire life since he immigrated to the US, working on cultivating me and my siblings to be the best possible versions of ourselves, and although he knows that he won’t get the results overnight, he trusts that all his time and effort will make him proud someday. Teacher Ji said that he is making us work on our Written, verbal and verbal excellence. That is why he makes us write these essays and has us present in class. We also talked about excellence in the brain, body and soul. Our soul is all there will be on the day of judgement after our body has faded away. Our soul is also important for things such as this Sunday school class. Our brain is important to functioning in the real world and our body is important to get things done. As he was mentioning this I was trying to list ways in my head to improve our excellence in all these categories and it surprised me how apparent those methods were.
After we finished our conversation on excellence, he pointed out that there was a new teacher in the room, teacher M. Teacher M introduced himself and he told us that he had been teaching with the program for about 2 years and he was currently working full time.
After teacher M introduced himself, Teacher Ji had student Y, Student B and Student H introduce themselves at the front of the class. They made some of the apparent mistakes I had made when I did my first introduction to the class and we revised all the things we needed to do to introduce ourselves properly. We repeated this until everyone at the front of the classroom had correctly introduced themselves.
Soon afterwards, we started testing and memorizing. Teacher Ji called me up and I was able to correctly recite the english translations of the surahs that were assigned to me as homework. After I recited them, Teacher Ji told me to memorize surah Kawthar. So I went outside the class to start memorizing it since it was less noisy and easier to hear my own thoughts. After about 10 minutes I was confident in my memorization of the surah so I asked Teacher S if he could test me on it outside. After testing, Teacher S said that I could memorize Surah Maoon as well. I did that and went back to Teacher S to get tested. Once I was confident in my memorization of both surahs, I went back in and got tested by Teacher Ji and once I recited both surahs, he told me to go sit next to Student K who was also new to the class. I went and sat next to him to memorize the rest of the front page but we did get sidetracked a bit. Turns out, student K and I had very similar interests in things such as engineering and career paths. We talked for a few minutes about our interests and student K’s background in engineering. I am really glad I was able to have that conversation because I found it very insightful.
Before closing off, Teacher Ji told everyone that they needed to pick a topic to do a presentation on. He had assigned me a presentation on camera’s last class so I already knew what I would be presenting. Teacher Ji wants someone to do a presentation on critical race theory, which was a large topic of conversation during this past year during the George Floyd death and the increase in police brutality towards POC. Personally, I would love to see someone do a presentation on this topic because even though it is very complex, it is also very interesting.
For next week’s class I have to finish this essay, which I am currently doing, and I need to memorize the last two surahs left on my page (Darood e ibraheem and rabbi jalni).