2018/9 Class Notes by DJ age 17 – 11th grade in 2018 – (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)
Week 5 – Last Sunday (was my second week in the program) on October 14th when I visited the UHJT Diwale Mela in Chantilly Virginia, I got to experience Indian culture and learn and understand about the concepts of Hinduism and what are its origins. I travelled with my Islamic Sunday school and when we got there, we walked around to different stalls and talked to different people and asked questions about Hinduism and we got to see Indian culture such as music, dances, paintings, and clothes.
The first person that I talked to was a puja which is a Hindu priest that performs rituals. He got some paint and put it on my forehead and gave me some dried rice to eat. I ate the rice and it tasted kind of weird. He then told us about the philosophy of Hinduism and some of the things that he said are showing respect to your parents especially your mother and that you should always be thankful for her because without her you would be nothing. He also gave me some life advice such as the importance of education in order to become successful and not wasting time with friends. Lastly he showed me two little statues of two Hindu deities that were surrounded by candles, fruits, and candles.
The second person that I talked to was a pundit which is another name for a priest and he was from a sect in Hinduism known as Jainism. What I learned is that non-violence, truth and reality has multiple aspects, and non –attachment to worldly objects and pleasures are the main core principles and beliefs on Jainism. I also learned that Jains and Hindus are vegetarians and refrain from eating meat and that they also avoid eating to late at night because it has been scientifically proven that eating dinner earlier is healthier for the human body. Lastly I learned that Jains fast for around 36 hours and they are permitted only to drink water.
In conclusion I learned a lot when I visited this Hindu and Jain festival and I realized that Islam and Hinduism had some things in common such morals and the concepts of fasting. For ethics and morals, respect to your mother and your parents are both recognized by both religions and the concepts of charity, non violence, compassion, and ethics. I also learned that we must be tolerant of other religions and beliefs if we are to fully understand who we are as human beings and Muslims. Lastly for me personally before I went on this trip, I did not really know anything about Hinduism and I thought that they just put dots on their foreheads and worshipped animals and idols. But as I talked to these people and started to understand their religion, I stated to realize that my thinking was wrong and now my view of Hindus have changed and I regard them just like all other religions with respect and tolerance just as Islam teaches me to do so.
Yesterday on Sunday November 4th, I went to the Green Stairs academy leadership program at the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia. For the first 15 minutes of the class we helped set up the chairs and tables and got the class in order. Then for the next two hours we memorized and tested on our homework which was the Islamic basic prayer in both English and Arabic.
Everyone was at different stages and since I just started in this program, I was at a beginner’s stage and In order to pass this class I must take an exam and earn a trophy. We then had a 20 minute lunch break and I ate Pizza Boli’s and drank weird tasting water.
During that break Teech gave a little lecture. After that, we stopped studying and now we listened to Teechr’s lectures and he talked about many different things such as MBA which stands for moderation, balance, and accountment, the concept of broccoli and the concept of the sheep and the goat in which you must always strive to be the goat in life. Later towards the last hour of class, one of Teech’s former students visited and he talked about why you should join this class and he also explained his background. His name is B I think and he is 23 years old and he is from Pakistan and he is an IT consultant.
He also has a brother who is here currently attending this class and he is 13 years old. He explained that when he first came to this class he did not like it and he was confused when Teechr first asked if he was full of B.S.
Overtime however, he explained that slowly he became used to the class and started to respect the class and the teacher. He told us that we should stay in this class because we will learn knowledge and wisdom that will stick with us for years to come. Lastly he explained that all of this knowledge did not hit him until he was in college for some strange reason and even Teeachher was a little confused also.
That’s what I learned yesterday in class and it was a lot of information and knowledge that I am proud of learning because I know it will help me in the future.
MISSING Notes for week of 11/11
Notes for class of 11/20/18 submitted 11/23 On Sunday November 18th, 2018 I went to my leadership academy which is located in the mosque and I learned and did a lot of things there. When I first came we set up all the chairs and tables and first memorized and tested our homework which was the Islamic prayer. Each one of us were at different stages with some already completely memorizing the prayer in both English and Arabic while some Including me were just beginners who were memorizing a few surah’s and the basic beginning to the Islamic prayer. I tested out only one time and it was on Al-Fatihah in English, in which I passed. After practicing and memorizing our homework, we ate lunch which was pizza and water.
After that, Teech gave his lecture which was about 3 hours and we did that until our class ended which was around 1:30 PM. During the lecture we talked about a lot of subjects and I learned lots of things. Some of the topics we discussed about were the life of the Prophet, faith, news, and the Quran. For example in the news, we learned that the Kilogram was getting a new definition and that there are 7 types of atheism and each has a different viewpoint on the concept of creation.
Teeach also urged all of us to start reading the news more particularly the Washington Post because we need to be informed about what’s happening in the world and we must strive to be goats and not mindless sheep who don’t have any knowledge about what’s going on in this chaotic and busy world we live in.
Adding to that, he also urged us to read more books to increase our knowledge and he specifically recommend three authors who have a good understanding and analysis of Islam and the Quran. The things that I learned about the Quran was that there are scientific facts in the Quran but they could not be explained at the time it was written. A scientific fact that is mentioned in the Quran is the development of the embryo which I found to be interesting because the Quran explained how life is formed in the human body, even before Science explained it and I found that to be interesting Another thing that I learned about the Quran is that some hadiths are corruptible and there is a big debate within the Muslim community over the validity of some hadiths.
I also learned that the Quran is a book of guidance that is meant to help you and that the Quran is intentionally ambiguous so it can remain relevant and that connects to the idea that the Quran transcends time because the Quran will always be relevant no matter how far humanity progresses or gets worst. Another thing that I learned about the Quran was the sanctity and uniqueness of the Quran and how it is only in Arabic and that people are being trained for hundreds of years towards present day to learn the original Arabic and memorize it.
This is a pro because the message in the Quran is still the same in present day ever after the Quran was revealed 1400 years ago. Some more things that I learned was about a concept in Islamic law where if you kill someone, their family can kill you or accept money and I also learned that Images are ok In Islam as opposed to Salafists and Wahhabis’ condoning it and the only restriction is that you should not idolize the images like Hindu’s do because then that is Shirk. Lastly I also learned that if you kill someone, your sin will be so bad that even the earth will not accept you and this comes from a story of a guy who decided that another Muslim was not a Muslim.
One of the most interesting things that I learned in the course of this lecture was the two last lines from Surah Al-Fatihah which mentions not the path of those who deserve your anger and nor the path of those who went astray. A theory is that the anger part is applied to Christians because they made Jesus the son of god and they also worship Jesus and his supposed crucifixion as an idol. The astray part refers to the Jews because they went astray by making themselves exclusive like a club and not being open to all people. They were selfish and eventually went off the wrong path towards misguidance.
After our lecture was done, Teech made an announcement that in the spring we will take a bunch of field trips and that we should give him ideas so he could take us. Fields trips that we are definitely are going to go is a grave yard and a funeral home. Some places that we might go are the children’s hospital, a food pantry, and a soup kitchen. After we discussed that, the class was over and all of us left. My day in class was good because I learned a lot as a person and as a Muslim.
17 12/2/18 When I first entered class today we first had a discussion and debate about whether or not to stand up for the pledge of allegiance. I was on the side that was in support of it and the debate went on for about 15 minutes and their side I felt won because they had more evidence.
After the debate, we practiced and memorized our Islamic prayers and some people took tests. I did not take a test because I was not ready at the time. I have so far memorized the prayer in English up to surah Al-Fatihah and Surah Al-Asr and I still have to study a lot because I have only about 25 percent of the prayer done and I need to memorize the whole thing in order to pass the test and move onto the next level. During the practice/testing session, I also learned a few new Arabic words and there meanings and examples include Hamd which means praise, Rahman which means gracious, Malik which means master, Eya which means alone, Mustakim which means straight, and lastly Ghair which means not. Learning these words has helped me understand the prayer better and I hope in the future to learn more Arabic words and there meanings.
After the practice/testing session, we had lunch and I ate pizza and had a short break.
After that, for the rest of the class we had a lecture and discussion about Islam, philosophy, and life in general. Two new terms that I learned were CCC and SOH. The meaning of SOH stands for Slacker for h, operator for o, and hacker for h. The concept of this is that there are 3 types of people in life, the slacker who never works hard in life and has no ambition to succeed. They are considered sheep’s. The operator is the person who succeeds at life and has a desire to achieve more in life and holds lots of knowledge. They are considered to be goats. The hacker is the person who likes to bend and manipulate the rules and find loopholes in order to succeed. In order to hack the code, you must know the code and improve upon it. SOH is a very good concept and it can be understood in many different ways and I would advise people to study this concept and its terminology.
We also talked about history and I learned new things such as half of the slaves of the world were European and that the first slaves were not black people but they were white people. The reason why is because before the African slave trade began, the Ottoman empire were using small boys from Southern Europe as slaves in order to train them to become Janissaries which were Ottoman Elite troops. Also the Ancient Romans also enslaved the peoples of their conquered territory’s al throughout Europe and many of their slaves were barbarians which came from present day France and Germany. I also learned that a third of the African slaves that came to North America were Muslims and that was a very interesting and surprising fact for me.
I also learned about Islamic knowledge and some things that I learned were that there are 4,000 hadiths in the Quran and the Quran is a code and you must understand the code in order to understand the Quran. We also talked about wudu and how the point of wudu is to purify yourself spiritually in order to pray to god and that you should have a pure intention when you do wudu.
We also talked about life in general and some things that I learned was that everything in life has a design and you must study and know it in order to understand it. I also learned that your deeds are judged by your intentions so you should be careful and you should always keep your mind full of good and positive thoughts and intentions because negative and bad ones can make you depressed and unmotivated and also make you commit more sins.
After we were done with the lecture it was time to go and I had a good experience in class.
For me the two most important things that I’ve learned today are that you need to earn respect before you can open your mouth and say what you want and also belief and sincerity is what this class, Green Stairs Academy is all about. The goal of this class is to make you not only a better Muslim but also a better person. If you want to make the world a better place you should have belief and sincerity and apply that to people around you, you’re communities, and most importantly, to your life.
Notes for class of 12/16/18 Age 17 submitted 12/22
When I first entered class today, I was expecting everyone to be sitting on chairs and memorizing their prayer but I was surprised to see everyone was sitting on the ground with their shoes off and meditating to some spiritual music and listening to some type of mantra. The whole room was silent so I took off my shoes just like the rest have done and I sat on the ground cross legged and joined them. I with the rest of the group closed our eyes and engaged in deep meditation.
I was told to relax my body and clear by mind and just listen to the music. As we listened to the rhythm of the spiritual music and repetition of Allah Hu, I felt a sense of peace and calmness and I thought about Allah and my life and did a deep reflection. After about 15 minutes we all opened our eyes and stretched. For me, I felt a sense of peace and calmness and I felt weirdly slightly tired for some reason also.
After that, we got up and begun our homework and practice session for the Islamic prayer. For me, I learned and memorized two new Suah’s which were Al- Asr and Al- Ikhlaas both in Arabic and English and I memorized and studied the prayer all the way up to Subhana Rab-bi-yal Aala. The Tashahhud and the rest of the prayer I still need to memorize in both Arabic and English but I feel I am making progress.
After our session, we talked about what happened in the news and we discussed about it. Some of the things that we talked about were how a federal judge in Texas striked down Obama Care because it was unconstitutional. We also talked about the terrorist attack that happened in France. After our news recap, we then listened to our teacher who gave a lecture. The things that I learned were to remember who you are and be convinced in your conviction to Islam and Allah. I also learned that Islam teaches you to learn from history so we can avoid to repeat the horrible events that took place in history.
I also learned as the years and centuries pass by, mankind will eventually realize that there is one god and that belief is an important concept and must be studied well in order to understand it. I also learned that the Quran states that if you commit sins, you will commit more sins in the future because you will be tempted more so that is why you must try to at least avoid committing minor sins because it will lead to major sins in the future.
After our lecture, pizza came and we took a brief 15 minute break to eat and take a rest. I ate 4 slices which were 3 veggie and 1 cheese and I was quiet hungry because I did not eat breakfast at the time. I also drank a Deer Park small water bottle.
After we were done eating, we continued in our discussion, until the founder of our mosque visited us and opened up a discussion of his own. During his lecture I learned a lot of new things such as the first duty as a human is to save a life directly or by giving to charity and supporting human rights. Not only is it the duty of a human but it is a duty as a Muslim because as this program teaches me to make the world a better place. The founder also talked about to always seek knowledge and never stop learning. He talked about how reading is the most important thing in your life because that is how you acquire knowledge and that how he as a person has read at least a thousand books so far in his life.
I also learned that Allah comes to you more if you are happy because you are more motivated to do good things, thus making Allah give you more blessings. The last things that I learned is to always respect your parents and appreciate what they have done for you because without them, you are nothing. After his lecture, the last thing we did in class was as a group prayed Dhuhr together.
While we were praying, our teacher made sure we prayed correctly such as standing properly next to each other and bending down and sitting on our legs correctly. After that, our class ended and I went home.
Class note for 12/26/18 by D Age 17
When I first entered class on Sunday December 23rd, I thought I was going to stay in class but the teacher announced that all of us will be going to to watch a movie. Me just finding out, got his address and texted it to my dad so he could pick me up. After that we all left the mosque as a group. I and another kid went with our teacher while the rest of the students went with the parents.
During the car ride, I practiced and tested some Surah’s from my prayer sheet. I said Al- Fatihah, Al- Ikhlaas, and Al- Asr in both Arabic and English. My homework is to memorize surah- Kawthar and the Tashahhud in both Arabic and English.
During the car ride we also talked about what foods we eat and if we can cook. I also learned some good advice from my teacher such as you need to know how to cook by yourself because you will need it when you live by yourself and to expand on what you saying because it is important to give details, examples, and evidence when ever asked for an opinion.
After about 15 minutes, we made it to the house which was a small single family house and we went inside. Once inside, we went to the living room and watched a movie called Mooz-lum which was about 95 minutes long.
The plot of the movie is about an African American Muslim named Tariq who is raised in a very strict conservative religious family in Michigan but struggles to find his religious identity when he goes off to college. The movie shows two viewpoints of Tariq’s life, his life in college and flashbacks to when he was younger.
In his younger years, he witnesses his parents being divorced because his father was getting to extreme in his beliefs and him getting bullied in public school because he was a Muslim. Eventually he is send to a religious school known as a madrassa by his father where he study’s the Quran but he does not develop any social skills whatsoever and does not know how to interact and talk with people.
One day he and a friend sneak out of the madrasa to go trick o’ treating but they are caught and Tariq is beaten so bad that he gets scars on his back. This event will make a mark on his life and will affect the way how he will act in college.
Now flash forward to his college years where it is his first years in college and he is a quiet and socially awkward person. He has a Muslim roommate named Hamza who is from Pakistan.
Tariq starts to fade away from his religion and starts to go to parties, drinks alcohol, and starts having a girlfriend. His roommate Humza tries to tell him to join MSA and become a better Muslim but Tariq refuses and even starts to tell people to start calling him only T. His sister starts to take notice to what is happening and tries to tell him why is he not acting normal but he refuses to answer and that creates some tension between his sister.
After 9/11 happens, Tariq’s roommate Hamza is attacked and anti-Muslim hate crimes increase throughout the nation. Tariq does not seem to take any notice until one night his sister and her friend are harassed by a group of Islamophobes and he had to intervene in order to safe them. After this event Tariq parents come to find if they are ok and they are horrified to find the scars that Tariq have on his back from when he was a boy. His father asks for forgiveness because he was the one that was so hard on Tariq as a child and Tariq accepts the apology.
The movie ends with Tariq attending an MSA meeting and he seems to retain his religious identity and become a better Muslim in the face of the post 9/11 atmosphere where Islamophobia was most rampant.
The movie overall was a good message and I learned a lot such as be careful when you are in college and to not go to unqualified madrassa’s where they teach extremist and ignorant ideas to young children.
After the movie was done everyone left and my dad picked me up and I went home.
Notes of class of Jan 27 submitted 2/1/19 by DJ Male Age 17 (unedited)
Last Sunday on January 27th, I went to the Green stairs academy class for my weekly studying. When I first entered the class, everyone was sitting on the ground or either praying and some type of desi music was playing in the background very softly.
My teacher told me to pray two rakat’s of prayer and deeply focus on the prayer and ignore all worldly things while doing it. While I was praying, I tried to focus deeply in my prayer and I felt as if I was In front of god.
After we all finished our prayer, we all sat down and started our testing and practice session. We did this for around 30 minutes but I did not test and I practiced instead. I have already gotten half of the prayer memorized in both Arabic and English all the way up to the tashahhud. I just need to finish the prayer and next week hopefully I will be ready to test out the entire prayer in both Arabic and English.
After our testing session, we had our lecture given by our teacher. In the lecture we talked about what happened in the news and one of the news was that In India, a man raped a three year old girl. We talked about how disgusting and heinous this crime was and why is it so prevalent. We also talked about how in some parts of the world, rape and abuse crimes going unnoticed or the perpetrator is never brought to justice. The reason why this is, is because in some cultures if a women tells someone that she had been raped or abused, instead of helping here, they will shame her because she has damaged the honor of her family. This type of culture is very prevalent in the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. We also talked about the concept of revenge such as killing someone who has murdered a member of your family. This is common in the cultures of the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
After talking about the news we switched the conversation and we talked about Islam and philosophy. I learned a lot during this conversation and it was very helpful. I learned that all men are created equal is the premise of Islam and not one is considered below. I also learned power, passion, and poverty is a cancer upon mankind and one must not fall into it and must live a humble and respectful life.
I also learned the internet is a place where you can view anything and this is very dangerous because you can easily commit sins and become closer to the shaytan.
I also learned that society judges you by the way you dress and look instead of judging you as a person in terms of behavior and unfortunately this is very prevalent in our society. The Quran also says to stay away from bad things because it will lead you to do bad things.
Lastly I learned that the best books to read about the Prophet Muhammad, is by Karen Armstrong because she is one of the very few non-Muslims who writes a honest and good biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
After our lecture, the leader of our mosque came to visit us to give a lecture. I also learned a lot of things during that lecture and it was very useful. Some things that I learned were that Allah has created us to love him freely and that Allah has created humans to know him.
I also learned the most rewarded Sunnah is a smile and happiness and you should always be a positive person when you interact with other people. I also learned that Ibadah means to worship god and you should always strive to do Ibadah because it will strengthen your faith as a Muslim. I also learned that the Prophet Muhammad said you should value your life and be careful because life is short.
After the Masjid leader left, our class ended and I went home. In conclusion, I learned a lot today in class and it was very helpful in understanding Islam and humanity in general better and I hope I can learn more things next week.
by DJ – male – 1/12/19 – 17 years old – Essay for class of 1/6/19
Last Sunday on January 6th I went to class but I arrived late. When I first entered, I saw everyone was sitting on the ground in a circle and meditating. I also saw a guest who was a middle aged man who looked Turkish I presumed and I thought maybe he was interested in joining this class. Anyways, I took off my shoes and sat down crossed legged with the rest of the class and we listened to some spiritual music. The spiritual music was like a mantra and it kept repeating something like “Allah who” “Allah who”. The reason why we meditate before class is to clear of soul and mind.
I closed my eyes and concentrated deeply and I felt a sense of spiritual calmness fill my mind. After our meditation, we all prayed 2 rakat’s of prayer which was good because I did not pray Fajir prayer early morning on that day. After our prayer, we all sat on chairs and now we had our testing/study lesson which lasted about one hour. During that period, I worked on memorizing my prayer in both Arabic and English. I have far half so far memorized my prayer up to the Tashahhud and I am currently working on memorizing the Tashahhud in English and hopefully I’ll be able to memorize it soon, so I can move on and fully memorized the prayer. I also memorized Al-Asr, Al-Kawthar, and Al-Ikhlaas in English and I also worked on reviewing the prayer in English and working on improving any previous mistakes that I struggle on sometimes.
After that, we had a lecture and I ate some veggie pizza and drank some deer park water. Some of the things that I learned during the lecture was that there was a total of 4 caliphs in Islamic history and I also learned that the Prophet grandson was killed in a city called Karbala which is in Iraq. He was beheaded in the battle of Karbala which was against the Umayyad Caliphate.
I also learned about Zam Zam water and how it contains high PH levels. Zam Zam water is also spiritual water that can cure you if you are sick and an example of this is when our teacher told us one day he gave a Christian Zam Zam water because he was sick and the man drank it and after a few days he was cured. The science of this is that when you give someone something that will try to cure him, there is a 50% chance that he will cured because the perception of his mind thinks he will be cured, so his mind and nervous system increases the effort of his body fighting the disease. After a few days the Christian man became ok. All of this had to do with psychology of the human mind and I found this to be very interesting but I am not sure if this will work on everyone and also will the water work if someone has a very severe disease.
I also learned that the Kaaba was used for pagan purposes by the Arab tribes before Islam came and an interesting thing that I learned was that Shia’s will generally invite Sunni’s to their Mosque, while Sunni’s will generally not and I guess the reason behind this is the Sunni and Shia divide and the dislike of Shia’s which the Sunni’s have a history of. I also learned that the mentality of being a goat and not a sheep is very important because in the real world you must strive to a leader to make the world a better place according to what a true Muslim means. A sheep is someone who is ignorant and does no contribution to society whatsoever. They are the ones that must be told what to do and will not take it upon themselves to work hard in their life’s and strive to become a better human being and a Muslim.
I also learned that Islam teaches a person that they are accountable for their own actions and you must be wise when making decisions because it will affect you in the future. A good example of this is time, which is a very valuable thing that you cannot retain back. So you should not waste anyone’s time because that will noted on the day of judgement. Last thing that I learned was that a human being is not born with religion, they are taught it and your religiosity evolves over time. The more you study about your religion, the more you will understand it and become a more morally good and wiser person.
After the lecture, 3 guests came to visit us. Two of them were former students who came to talk about their experiences and one was someone who wanted to join the program. One of the guests was my teacher’s daughter and she talked about the experiences of being in this program and how good it is. She also talked about her experience as being the daughter of my teacher and his style of parenting. The other guest talked about her experiences in the program to and how it has helped her in college and as an adult. After our discussion, our class time was over and everyone started to leave. I asked my teacher if I can take a book home from his library and he said yes but it had to be a non-Islamic book because he needs them. I toke a book about U.S.M.C sniping which my teacher brought from one of his friends. I found the book to be interesting and decided to take it because I like reading and I have an interest in books about history and the military. After that, my parents came to pick me up and I went home. In conclusion, I learned a lot in class and I hope to use the knowledge that I learned in my own life as a Muslim American and as a human being.