What I learnt at Gisla at age 13 in my first 9 months – (actual notes from student)

(actual note from student) The Greenstairs Academy has taught me many things, both Islamic and Non-Islamic, like the life lessons. Also, the concepts that refer to Islamic lessons, like the oil-jug concept, the cell phone concept, the Samsung watch concept, and the soap concept. We’ve also learned other things, like the Universal values, 5 pillars of Islam, 6 pillars of faith, the acronym PAPA, a lesson about Valentine’s Day, the Hindu religion, and others.

The first concept is the oil-jug concept. Every baby was born with a jug of oil (theoretically). Throughout your life, whenever you do a bad deed, a drop of oil adds to the container. Whenever you do a good deed, a drop of oil leaves the container. The objective is to have no more oil in the jug when you die, meaning you did more good deeds than bad. If you do have oil left in your jug, you will be sent to hell where you will be used as cooking oil for the AC or heater that the people in Jannat need. The ACs and heater have to be powered somehow, and that will be by the oil in your jug.

The next concept is the cell-phone concept. Theoretically, whenever you pray, you are making a phone call to Allah (SWT). The more you pray, the stronger your connection is with Allah (SWT). When you start decreasing the amount of times you pray, you start losing connection. It gets worse & worse until you start up again, praying daily. Your objective is to have a strong connection with Allah (SWT) by the time you die. This concept is similar to the gift concept, where every time you pray, you get a gift from Allah (SWT) & if you miss a prayer, you miss a gift.

The Samsung watch concept is referring to the Day of Judgment, when you count up your good & bad deeds. You will have a small watch, in this concept called the Samsung watch, which will calculate all your good & bad deeds. It will also show you who you lost good deeds to and who or what earned you good deeds. For example, if you lied to your teacher about doing your project, and never told her the truth, you would have gained a bad deed. One bad deed is enough to be the difference between Heaven & Hell. You could be looking for your teacher on the Day of Judgment among all those people, but she could have walked right past you and you wouldn’t know. Lesson is, firstly try not to do bad deeds, but if it happens, try to make it right ASAP, because you never know where the person is going to be the next day.

The last concept is the soap concept. Personal hygiene is very important in our daily lives, and sometimes more important to some than others. You have to make sure that when you clean, you clean it all the way and take it all the way & you do this by using soap. Soap is basically a gift that’s there for you to use. You don’t just rinse your hands, you use soap on them. There are many benefits of soap, some may be unknown, but it’s defiantly there for your own good.

The Universal values, such as being trustworthy, not lying, and being kind, are values everyone needs to follow, and in every community around the world, universal values are smiled upon. Usually, they’re called manners, and other times, common sense. Also, it’s called being good-natured. But they all fall under one category; the universal values. What makes them significant and makes it essential that we follow them is that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did them himself, and he’s the example for Muslims. There are also the rituals, such as praying, fasting, and reading Quran, and they go hand-in-hand with the values. Both are needed for s spot in Jannat, and while you may be the best in one, but worst in the other, you will not get into Jannat. Sometimes, the universal values are more important than rituals and vise versa. Your objective is to have an A+ in both fields, or at least try to.

The 5 pillars of Islam are Shahadah, Salah, Zakat, fasting, and Hajj. These pillars are the basis of being a Muslim. Shahadah is when you recite “There is no god but Allah (SWT), and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is his slave and messenger”. This statement is the one which makes you Muslim, and expresses your Muslim beliefs. The second, Salah, is when you pray to the one and only god as a mean of worship. Muslims do this 5 times a day, known as Fajir, Duhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Ishaa. Next, Zakaat, is when you give charity to the less fortunate. Allah (SWT) has quoted in the Quran “Do not talk to me if you’re neighbor is poor and/or starving.” Next, there is fasting, which is when you don’t eat for 12 hours to actually feel the pain/hunger of the less fortunate and to appreciate what you have, if you are, for any reason unable to fast, you pay Zakaat, and/or fast after Ramadan to make up the days. Lastly, there is Hajj, which is the ritual you perform when you visit the house of Allah (SWT). These are the rituals that Muslims perform because Prophet Muhammad (SAW) performed them. It is also said in the Quran to perform these certain rituals, and they are the most important, mandatory for being a Muslim.

The rituals go hand-in-hand with the beliefs. The 6 pillars of faith are the 6 things that Muslims believe in, the base of our religion. The first one is belief in Allah (SWT), which means you believe that he is the one and only god, & belief in all his names. The next one is belief in Angels.  This is to believe that the angels exist. No one knows their exact number except Him (Allah SWT). He created them to worship Him. Next, belief in his books. This is to believe that Allah (SWT) gave his messengers books to convey mankind. The well-known books are the Quran, the Ingeel (The Bible), the Torah, & the Zaboor (Psalms). The fifth is the belief in the Day of Judgment. Lastly, the belief that you are going to be accountable for your sins on the Day of Judgment.

If you are ever in the position to make a tough decision, without the help of the people you usually ask for advice, Allah (SWT) has given us a solution. In class, I have learned it by the acronym PAPA, which stands for Prophet, Allah, Prophet, Allah. It means, before you have to make a risky decision, you first think “Would the prophet do it?” Then, you ask yourself “Would Allah approve?”After that, if you think it’s okay to do it, do the second PA, just to double check. After the second time, you base your decision on your results. For example, if you were in the position to make a decision on cheating on at test, you would first ask yourself “Would the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) do it?” The answer would be no, and you would stop there. If the answer was yes, then you go to the next question. Whenever the answer is no, you stop there, but if the answer is yes, you go on.

We also learned a lesson about Valentine’s Day. We first had a debate about whether Valentine’s Day was haram or not. We reached to the conclusion that Allah (SWT) doesn’t say anything about it in the Quran, so it can’t be haram, but the origins decree that it shouldn’t be taken that seriously by Muslims, but that you should treat Valentine’s Day like your family does. If they like Valentine’s Day, and give each other gifts, you can do it too. If your family is against it, you follow what your family does.

Recently, we got a visit from the Jewish students from their Sunday school to ours. The topic of discussion was the similarities and differences between Islam and Judism. It appears that Muslims & Jews have a lot in common, more than with the Christians. They’re religion is mostly kept the same since it first began, and so is ours. Also, a lot of their concepts are similar to ours. For example, they believe in charity, which we call Zakaat. They say “Don’t leave your neighbor hungry” whereas Allah told us a more detailed version of the same saying, “Don’t bother talking to me if you’re neighbor is hungry/poor and needs help.” They also fast, but their fasting is different than ours. Theirs is 24 hours and only 4 days a year. They also believe in the 6 articles of faith up until the 4th one. Then, the differences begin. They, of course, don’t believe in Isa/Jesus or Prophet Muhammad (SAW) because, if they did, they would be Muslim not Jew. Also, they do, in fact, believe in a Day of Judgment, but don’t believe there is a Hell. Overall, we have a lot of similarities between our religions, more than I even knew, but, like all religions, we have our differences in belief as well.

Lately, we’ve had a couple visitors from India join our class to learn about Islam. We’ve shared our questions concerning Hinduism with them, and they had kindly answered them, and vice versa. I’ve learned a lot more about the Hindu religion than I ever knew before, and also heard some facts on my previous theories, which proved them right or wrong. Most of the questions we asked them regarded their worship, for example, questions about their God, their rituals, and the way they pray. I know that a lot of our questions seemed like easy, obvious answers to them, but they still answered them to the best of their ability. In addition to having them in our class, we had a group discussion with their father in India through Face Time. He told us his story, how he came to America, his struggles, and finally, how he started his school that is now located in India. During the discussion, the topic of the way teenagers think came up. We realized that our brain is still maturing, and we sometimes make bad choices. We should be aware of that while making decisions, and also keep PAPA in mind.

We tried out a new exercise in class where we tried to visit Allah (SWT) and be in his presence when we pray, for that was his intention when he assigned us to 5 prayers a day. I’ve improved my connection with Allah (SWT), thanks to that exercise, but there is still some way to go before I can reach an almost effortless connection during prayer.

Nothing should be taken for granted. Allah (SWT) has the power to take anything away from you at any time, whether it’s your phone, or a loved one. On Mother’s Day, we had a lesson on how anything can be taken from you, nothing should be taken for granted. It came to our attention that a lot of people, mostly kids, take their parents for granted. They don’t realize how special they are, how much they work for them, or what they do. They don’t realize how different their lives would be without a mother or father. We did an exercise in class, where we wrote letters to our moms, thanking them for everything they’ve done, which was then to be given to them. While writing, I realized how much my mother did for me, and how much I wanted to thank her. My thoughts, feelings, and appreciation could not be said by just words, but I have now realized how much my mom means to me, and I shouldn’t take her for granted. I don’t know what I would do without her, and I wouldn’t have known that if it wasn’t for the letter. I wouldn’t have realized how much she did for me, or how much she loved. I also realized that she could be taken from me at any moment, by even a mere accident, which brings me to appreciate her more, and to try not to take anything for granted.