2018/9 Class Notes by AB age 28 – – (actual note(s) from student(s)) updated weekly
(actual note(s) from student(s)) submitted within one week of class
(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)
Sunday October 28, 2018 Week 1 Week 7 On Sunday, I came to the class not knowing what to expect. I am a Caucasian female so in my head, I thought I would feel out of place. The teacher was very welcoming and made me feel like I truly belonged in the class. The first thing that I learned is that the class is aimed to teach people as young as teens, leadership skills that are beneficial in everyday life. Once the class started, this was apparent. The teacher taught everyone how to have conversations and keep the conversations going. I think this is a very important aspect of the class. In the digital world that we live in, face-to-face conversations seems to be a dying art.
The first thing I learned was how to correctly wear a hijab. I brought a scarf to the class not knowing if I should cover my hair or not. I was not required to cover my hair, but I happily learned the correct way to tie the scarf.
After the hijab was in place, I was given a paper with prayers that had been translated to English (thankfully). Coming from a Christian background, the teacher told me to memorize the Islamic equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer – “Al-Fatihah”. After memorizing that and saying back to the class, I was then instructed to learn what is said during prayer when the person touches his or her knees. On this part, I learned the Arabic pronunciation.
Once the class had learned the prayers that the teacher had given us, the class was then open for discussion. This was my favorite part. I have a lot of questions about Islam and religion as a whole. I grew up Lutheran, which is a sect of Christianity, but have felt myself straying further and further from the church and their teachings because of the strict rules. I started asking questions and the teacher was eager to answer them. I had not experienced this in the past. I had often been ridiculed for even asking for clarification and for questioning my religion. I did not feel this way in the class. I felt like I was free to ask as many questions as I wanted.
One thing that really stuck out to me was what the teacher said. He explained that if something makes common sense, then it is probably acceptable in Islam. He further explained that Islam is a religion that should not defy common sense, but help you act in accordance with it. The teacher then explained that good things are things from God. This is why “good” and “God” are so similar in spelling.
The topic that really stuck in my head is what is referred to in class as MBA, meaning “Moderation and Balance”. Everything in life should be done in moderation and with balance. This was a very refreshing perspective. I think most people practice religion out of fear. If you are doing something out of fear, the I think that is unbalanced. I also think moderation is key. I think many people feel as though religion is all-consuming and many people have a very unbalanced way of practicing religion. Missing out on what life has to offer because of fear, is not how God wants us to live. Everything should be balanced and we should live our lives in moderation.
Week 2, Week of 11/11
This week in class we talked about many different topics. Class first started off by welcoming a guest who had been through the program and had graduated. The teacher went around the room asking people what they would improve about the program. He did this in order to get suggestions, but he also did this to help the students who were shy. He wanted the shy students to be able to speak up and voice their opinions.
This is a very important lesson. This class is not just learning about Islam but learn how to be a leader in the community. You have to have confidence and be able to speak up and voice your concerns. I really enjoyed and appreciated this lesson in the beginning of the class.We also talked about politics and history.
We split the class up into two different groups for debate. The topic of debate dealt with the National Anthem and whether or not Colin Kaepernick had the right to kneel during the anthem and create a movement. Even though there were people in both groups who agreed with Kaepernick’s movement, they had to be able to argue the opposing side, a side they didn’t necessarily agree with. This was also a great learning lesson for the students. I think it’s very important for us, as Americans, to be able to have compassion and understanding for people who might be opposed to our beliefs. We don’t have to agree with them but we should be able to understand their argument, regardless of their position. This helps us humanize those who we don’t agree with and it helps us to be able to have a civilized conversation with those who have differing views and opinions.
As we continued talking about politics and history, we focused on politics from a few thousand years ago. We discussed the political climate during the time of the Prophets and shortly thereafter. I learned what a Khalifa is, which is essentially a religious leader of the community. They held a great deal of power. So much so, that people followed them out of fear. If the Khalifa was doing wrong according to Islam, no one would speak up because in many instances, they would be killed. They were forced to follow out off fear and not out of religious conviction. This same story has been told time and time again, through all religion. The Christians experienced this during the dark ages. People followed out of fear and out of desperation. This lesson was meant to teach the class that we can learn what the future holds by studying history. History will repeat itself time and time again and we will be better prepared for it the more we learn about the past.
We also learned that history repeats itself because of the 3 Ps: Power, Passion, and Poverty. People seek power and passion at the expense of an impoverished group. This is basis of every event in history. World events occur because of the 3 Ps. Someone, or some nation is seeking power, out of passion, and taking advantage of the poor. This has been happening for thousands of years and will continue occurring for the rest of humans’ time on Earth. Power is a drug that people crave. It makes us do unspeakable things and it makes us turn our heads to things that we should be speaking up and fighting against. We learned that ISIS isn’t a new concept. The concept is as old as time- brainwashing and using religion as an outlet for violence. This has been around for thousands of years but today, it just has a new name. The reason why things like this keep happening and why we don’t learn from it is because nations and groups of people are like children in a sense. They have to experience things for themselves, even though they were forewarned of the inevitable outcome.
The teacher then discussed how we can become better humans and try to stop history from repeating itself. The only way to do this is through learning. As a member of society, it is our duty to feed the hungry, physically, by donating food and money, and intellectually, by helping teach those who may not have the same access that we do. Intellect through education is the only way that we can start to change a nation. Because of this knowledge, the teacher explained that we should be doing everything in our power to feed our brains. We continually want to take the easy way out and just come home and watch TV and waste time, but this is detrimental to our health.
The example of this that readily comes to my mind is Stephen Hawking. Once he was clinically diagnosed with his disease, he was only given a few months to live. But because of his incredible thirst for knowledge, he was able to defy all odds and live a long life. He continually read and published and greatly contributed to the Physics community and is arguably one of the most influential scientists of the modern era.
The importance of seeking knowledge is not just beneficial for your health, it can also be beneficial to the human race. We discussed Bill Gates and his invention of the waterless toilet that turns human waste into a powder fertilizer. This is just a prototype at this point, but if it were ever able to be mass produced, it could change the world. The teacher explained that our time here on earth is precious and we will be judged not only by how we treated others but by what we contributed to the world.
We also discussed a fable where a woman seeks out a Sheik to help her with her son. Her son is addicted to candy. He eats it all the time and he can’t control himself. She pleads with the Sheik to help her get her son to stop eating so much candy. After a few days, the Sheik finally came up with an answer – put chili on his hands so we he goes to eat the candy, it will taste bad. The woman was very annoyed by this lack luster answer and asked the Sheik why he made her wait all this time and then travel all this way for such a simple answer. The Sheik replied and told the woman that he had struggled with a candy addiction himself and had to find a solution before he could suggest one to her. The lesson here is empathy. Sometime the best way we can help others is to see it from their point of view. Step into their shoes and try to find the best solution looking through their lens.
Another lesson that we learned dealt with the number of blessings that we ignore on a daily basis. We take advantage of all of the wonderful things God has blessed us with and we overlook how wonderful our lives are. The teacher told us about when he had surgery on his throat. He was unable to swallow for days and all he could thing about was being able to swallow. And in those moments, he realized how fortunate he was to have been able to swallow all those years prior. He then asked the class, “do you ever thank God for being able to swallow?” This really impacted me. I think we get caught up in all the bad things that happen to us on a daily basis without thinking about all of the blessing that we have, that many other people don’t have. We should be more thankful everyday for waking up and being able to spend time with our loved ones.
We then switched gears to talk about the biggest problem with Islam today – some people tend to put the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) above God. This is a major error of modern Islam because the Prophet was a man. We learned about the three instances that prove his human-ness.
1. The Prophet had told people that they could worship idols. Once he said this, he immediately took it back and it was not included in the Quran. The Prophet explained that this was the Devil’s influence.
2. The Prophet went to a dinner party and one of the guests cast a spell on him. The angels came down and told him what to do to break the spell and he was successful. If he was a god, the spell would not have worked against him.
3. The Prophet lost his son at a young age and greatly mourned the loss. He was inconsolable for a period of time.
The Prophet was a human but many Muslims today try to solely focus on him instead of reading the Quran and learning what God said. By putting the Prophet above or on the same level as God, we are committing a grave sin. We cannot put a human above God.
The last lesson that we learned was about what to do every night before going to bed. Before we go to sleep, we should ask for forgiveness. God knows we are not perfect but we should accept that and acknowledge that. When we ask for forgiveness, we should then try to be even better the next day. We should strive to improve on a daily basis. If we ask for forgiveness but keep making the same mistakes, then we don’t deserve the forgiveness that we seek.