2019 Class notes for 9/16, 10/13, 11/2/19 by 16 yr old female H

(actual note(s) from student(s)) submitted withing one week of class – Start date Sep 2019 – this student is one year on the program as of Nov 19

(These notes are mostly unedited and represent a GISLA students understanding of the previous class the attended.) Student attend class on Sunday and submit their essay of what they learnt before the next class. Interestingly, as can be seen below the same class yields different lessons for each student even though the content of the class they hear was the same.)
Students graduate level 1 IF and WHEN they pass the Level one exam (some do it in 6 weeks and some take 3 years and counting…) and students from anywhere in the world can test out to pass and earn the GISLA Level one trophy)

Week of 9/6/19 By: HH, age 16

This week, I didn’t come to class prepared, I was supposed to learn the English for surah Maun, and I didn’t. For next week, I need to have that done as well as read part of the speech by Imran Khan at the UN this year. At the beginning of class, we talked about a newspaper article on a Tera Bloomer’s first day of school outfit. She was wearing Jordan’s with leggings, a crop top, and a jacket over it. The article described that after she left her room, her mom proceeded to call her a whore and a prostitute and her father said that she needed to change, and upon getting into a friends car and leaving, her dad calls her and says that her outfit was not appropriate for school. She called him a misogynist and hung up. In my opinion, I think that her parents were being rash; I understand the need for wanting to protect their child, but the comments that were made will only make her more upset with them and she will more likely continue to wear clothing like the one described just to rebel more. This situation is common among many teens and their parents and often they aren’t handled right. It is of no fault of the parents or the teens, its due to the disconnect between teens of this modern age and their parents, weather they were born and raised here or immigrants. The best way to mend that disconnect is through better communication, without parents and teens in any situation can’t hope for a better outcome. This situation also brought up the discussion of moderation. Many people, especially Muslim parents who are fearful of more Western influences such as the outfit described would proceed to wear nikab (Islamic clothes that cover everything except their eyes). While there is nothing wrong with this, it demonstrates the two extremes, and in today’s modern America, a nikab is something that many people stop to stare at. This brings about one of my favorite point of Islam: the teaching of moderation. While I personally have nothing against girls who wear clothes to express themselves, like Tera, I personally try to wear clothes that are moderate, because it’s what I’m most comfortable in.

During the next part of class, we discussed the teaching that the way we interact with and treat out fellow human beings is a function of our understanding of God and his message. This means that the more we learn about and understand the layers of God’s message, much like the layers of a rose, which is also one of the concepts we are tasked with memorizing (metaphors of everyday things and Islamic topic that help us better understand them) we better learn how we should treat our fellow human beings, and that the purpose of rituals, like prayer, was to strengthen our relationship with God.

Week of 10/13/19 By: HH, 16-year-old girl

            This week, I did come to class prepared; with my surah Maun in Arabic and English, and my Imran Khan speech. I didn’t have to opportunity to present my speech, but I did present my surah and for next week I need to memorize the English for surah Naas and Falaq. At the start of class I did two raaqs (one cycle of prayer) and then did zikr (meditation). I found that the zikr we did this week really helped me refocus and calm myself after a stressful week. I want to try to do zikr more often to help me destress.

            After zikr, we had a guest speaker, one of our teacher’s daughter. She is a senior about to graduate from Emory. She was a business major with a concentration in film and media management. It was cool hearing about her college experiences; she started her own radio show that showcases brown women and their struggles and the challenges they face in the real world. She also interned on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. She said she hope to one day produce a TV show also directed towards and starring brown women. She really inspired me to work even harder in school so that I too can one day really make an impact on people’s lives.

            After she left, we had another guest speaker come in and talk to us about how the Kaaba was the naval of the Earth, in other words where the Kaaba is located was the center for which Earth formed around. The naval can be compared to the umbilical cord in a human. In the Quran, it says that everything was created in perfect proportion and we can prove that by using Fibonacci’s golden ratio. The golden ration is approximately the decimal 1.6; I can be found in the ratio A/B and B/C where A is the full distance, B is the distance from the bottom to the middle and C be the distance from the middle to the top.  If we think about a sphere, there is not top or bottom, but in terms of the Earth, this problem is solved by it’s natural tilt on an axis. This tilt creates the North and South poles. Now the Kaaba is a little North of the equator at 21.4 degrees latitude. Now we know there are 180 degrees in a line if we add 90 to 21.4 degrees, we get 111.4 degrees which is the distance from the Kaaba down to the South Pole. Now if we subtract 111.4 from 180 degrees, we get 68.6 degrees, which is the distance from the Kaaba to the North Pole. Now if we divide 111.4 by 68.6 degrees, we get the magic number, 1.6. Now I’ll admit it’s a little confusing to understand but as you can see there is mathematical evidence that the Kaaba is truly the naval of the Earth, and it is also why we face the Kaaba or the Qibla, for prayer. It is also stated in the Vedas and is said that it was established here so that our prayers could be heard from the heavens. I think this is an accurate translation, I’m not 100% sure. I thought that this was interesting, and it truly gave me an irrefutable justification as to why we partake in such rituals like facing the Kaaba for prayer. I hope we can learn more of the logic behind different rituals in Islam because it helps provide me with the why. I can use to further my understanding of Islam and how it can apply to my life as a teenager in America.

            After this lecture, we had another guest speaker who talked to us about mini life lesson. Things like why we should be using the internet and technology to our advantage, because in our modern day, it is the best tool we have for information. The last bit of information he gave us was to use our time wisely because there is never enough. Even at my young age, I see the effects of this, and I try every day to remind myself of this and so I can push myself to do the best I can, especially, for school.

Week of 11/2/19 By: HH, 16-year-old girl

This week, I came to class prepared. I had memorized the entire prayer in Arabic and English. I was proud of myself because I have been in this program for more than a year now and it’s such a relief to finally be done with memorizing this.

I’m excited for what comes with level 2 and the new information I’m going to learn. I started class with zikr like normal, but this week, I found it hard to concentrate. I must have been too stressed or not able to think clearly. Next week, I want to be able to really focus on the zikr because I found it really calming in the past.  

After zikr, we moved on to studying concepts. Our teacher wasn’t here this class so we couldn’t have a lecture like we normally do, so most of the class was spent re learning the concepts. I need to know all 70 or so of them to pass level 1. We reviewed many of them. These concepts are all metaphors for concepts in Islam that are important for us to learn. The ones that I found most interesting was the jug of oil, fast and furious, the bees and wheelbarrow, pen and pencil, tree trunk and branches, and universal values. I will try to explain them as best I can.

The jug of oil concept is that hypothetically, we are all born with an invisible jug of oil attached to us. As we go on through life and we do good deeds, a drop of oil come out. By the time we die, we want an empty jug of oil because, that oil can burn in Hell. This is supposed to represent the idea that we should always do good deeds. This week in class, we had a new student and he asked, “Why is the metaphor not that we are born with an empty jug of oil and every time we do a bad action, a drop of oil fills the jug?” Our teacher assistant replied with, “Because fear is more motivating then hope.” While I agree with this, that people are more likely to do something if they’re scared, I also don’t think it’s a very good mentality. I have multiple friends that have told me that as a kid they had been so scared of what God would do if they did something bad. I think this was caused partly from the way religion is taught and partly because we teach with fear instead of hope. I think that if religion was taught more as God is forgiving, which he is, than to never do bad thing, because it just unrealistic. We are only human; we are bound to do things that are not always good and to be reassured by the fact that if we are truly sincere in our apology that God will indeed forgive us, would in my opinion, help many people.

The next concept was fast and furious. In the Fast and Furious movies, they often rig their cars with a NO2 can. When they are neck and neck in a race, the NO2 can give them the extra boost they need to win. This is used as a metaphor to represent the power of prayer and duas. If you are ever in a situation like for example, you are going against someone else for a job and it’s a very close pick, those duas and prayers you’ve done can help boost you and edge out your competition.  The next two the wheelbarrow and bees and the pencil and pen go together. Imagine that you wake up on a normal day and on your way to work and as your passing by a building you look up, and suddenly a wheelbarrow full of bricks coming falling. What are the chances you could survive that? Now let’s say you made it to work and you enter the conference room and its filled with bees. What are the chances you could survive that? This relates to the concept of prayer and duas and how powerful they can be. It also relates to the other concept of the pen and pencil. When you write something in pencil, you can erase it and change it. But when something is written in pen, it can’t be changed. In Islam, this relates to the belief that there are some parts of your life that are written out in pencil, things that can be changed with your actions, intentions, etc. However, there are also things like your death which are definite, written in pen and cannot be changed.

The two concepts are related in that if, when passing by that building when the bricks were falling and it was indeed the way you were going to die, then no amount of previous prayer and dua could’ve saved you. But if it wasn’t your time, you would’ve been saved, which means that event was written in pencil. But something like the room full of bees is unavoidable, and it must’ve been written in pen. There is no logical way that you could enter a room full of bees and not be stung and almost every principle or concept I’ve learned about Islam so far has made logical sense.

The next set of concepts I like to group together is the tree trunk and branches and universal values. The tree trunk relates to a common and strong belief in a God. The branches represent all the other beliefs that come from it, like belief in one God and the different variation of that. This is meant to represent that although almost everyone beliefs in something different, we all can share on common belief. Universal values are the concept that there are certain beliefs that are shared by people international. Things like no stealing, no killing. Etc. This relates to the tree trunk and branches because they highlight what we all have in common. IN today’s world, I’ve noticed that people are quick to point out all their difference rather than embracing what makes them similar. I feel that by focusing on what brings us together we can solve problems more efficiently and just eliminate lots of overall, and in my opinion unnecessary, fighting.

Overall, I really liked today’s class. It was more laid back than what we are used to. We got to have a lunch break and I got to talk with some of my classmates and I liked it. The only thing lacking was the lecture. I may sound nerdy, but I like listening to our teacher’s lecture; I learn a lot of new information and it’s things that I genuinely find interesting.

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