2022 October 21 -Male MK 26

I entered the Shirley gate parking lot around 10:35 and almost immediately met the
teacher, Ismail Laher, when I walked up to the building itself. On our left, we ascended a
staircase that went to the second floor which held classrooms. We walked through the second
doorway on our right where we met another brother, Saamir, who worked very closely with the
program and had children of his own enrolled. Brother Ismail had us pull out chairs at this point
and take a seat. I was still under the impression that today was merely an open house or
informatory session for the parents, and that children would be having their interviews after
registration or at least in a different setting.
It was certainly an interesting meeting overall. Brother Ismail’s very first sentences to
me jumped from “you have very nice hair” to “you’re full of BS”, both of which left me
somewhat taken aback (although appreciative in the former’s case) as I wasn’t fully there just
yet after a restless night of little sleep. He began by asking us to introduce ourselves with a
strong, clear voice and then began questioning our motives for being here as well as future
goals. It was when he asked what we knew about him that it clicked in my head that he had
been interviewing us from the moment we first said our Salaams, and that he was weighing our
answers with consideration. Unfortunately, I was woefully underprepared for a question as
simple as “did you ask your dad where he knows me from?” I had done very little homework
and I found myself doubting the little background information on him I did know once I was
questioned why I hadn’t asked for more details.
It was at this time that he also had asked us what we came here to do. He began his
hunt by asking us directly, shifted it into asking for a specific word he had in mind, and then
outright telling us he was listening for one of us to say the 9-letter word that started with an I
and ended with a G. An investing endeavor from him that sadly did not pay off as the topic
moved forward and we left our game of hangman on the whiteboard. Following questions
about ourselves, where we saw ourselves in 20 years, what schools we wanted to go to, etc., he
began to explain what the program was designed to do, and what kind of results he expected to
see once the 6 weeks began (optimism regarding 50% of your students dropping out was
strange to me, but getting more time for your more dedicated students is no doubt a bonus).
There were a handful of word guessing games thrown in throughout the conversation, go(o)d, 4
letter word with Z, S bucks, etc. Most were guessed and only the longer word on the
whiteboard was left unsolved by the time we left.
The first clarifications given to us were that this school is not a typical Islamic school and
would teach in a completely different manner. Brother Ismail mentioned several general
concepts he referred to as nothing more than common sense, yet I recognized that all of them
were founded in the Quran and Sunnah on some level. Brother Saamir also chimed in and
encouraged us to challenge anything that was being said, and also echoed my thoughts on the
common sense items being backed by Islamic teachings. The fact that religious concepts are
taught as a common sense or logical life lesson as opposed to “do this task because God says
so” appealed very heavily to me despite my coinciding desire to learn/understand the Islamic
proof to it as well. The teaching of religion as something that you can question, and always find

a satisfactory answer to, is a perspective on Islam that is unfortunately missing from most
schools around the world. Even my own father praised this teaching method and shared how
he would’ve loved to experience learning like that firsthand. While I fortunately didn’t have to
stand for him chiming in this time, it brought awareness to the fact that my own limited
exposure to Islam from childhood as fundamental and philosophical concepts instead of a
rigorous set of motions was a privilege I had that not many in my own generation could even
relate to.
By this time, we had been explained the level of dedication expected to succeed, how
many students make it through the first level, what they had to do when a student completed
their curriculum and they weren’t able to feasibly continue to teach/mentor her without
cutting away from class time, and the attendance/payment policy. Brother Ismail then
distributed a few copies of the Quran and Salah books they used to teach, and encouraged us
to leverage the collection of knowledge in the library right there as well if we ever wanted to
quench our thirst for additional learning. The translation given to us seemed very solid at a
glance, and provides background context to many verses throughout so you can develop your
own understanding and absorb your own lessons from your reading of the Quran. Reiterated
once again, the goal of Green Stairs is not to make us read the whole Quran or become Hafiz,
but to truly understand the meaning of the most commonly repeated Arabic prayers and verses
we say each and every day without proper appreciation and ability to connect with God while
we recite them.
At this point the interview had wrapped up and he opened the floor for us to ask him
(20) questions. Some of the parents who joined us a little later had questions, but I found
myself unsure about what to ask. The entire concept of the program was different than my
initial assumptions (just for highschoolers), and I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard.
The only question I was about to ask was I was what tenure of their longest student was, but
that had already been answered by a question my dad asked and by the story he told us of a
past student and her brother being asked to move on from the program after a successful 4
years. I am excited for the prospect of being able to leverage the instructors as resources in the
community and to hopefully gain a clearer perspective on my future goals with their respective
mentorship and guidance.

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