Life lessons from Islamic Studies

When I was in primary school I had a class called Islamic Studies in English. I think we had one in Arabic, too, but I probably flopped that one. I remember that as part of our homework we were supposed to have read chapters from the course textbook (stuff like when you walk you should not display haughtiness, or be rude by spitting on the ground, but be humble for being a creature of Allah).

We were supposed to get the chapter or something signed by our parents. I don’t recall my father ever testing my knowledge or understanding of the chapters, but he would often sign it anyway.

There was a hefty punishment for not getting it signed. I think, but can’t say for sure, that corporal punishment was involved. Certainly, from the one vignette I can remember, students who hadn’t gotten their books signed were being sent to the front of the class. Perhaps to have their hands slapped with two of those foot-long wooden rulers that had been rubber banded together, the rulers would be pulled back and then released on the palm of the hand — snap. I do remember having been punished with that ruler at other times, and I do remember that it stung.

The teacher walked down the rows of the class checking to see whether or not the book had been signed. And he kept sending students to the front of the class. I had forgotten to get mine signed. Knowing that I would face punishment — humiliation at least and the sting of the double-ruler at most — I quickly forged my father’s signature. Actually, to call that a forgery is a complete misnomer. I just wrote his name in my primary school print (not even handwriting, I just wasn’t good at it) on the page with my pencil.

The teacher examined my book and handed it back to me, and he kept walking on. But I couldn’t then and still can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have recognized it as a lie. All he had to do was to flip back to the other signatures of my father in the book and compare. He chose not to. I escaped punishment.

I left that Islamic Studies course with at least one long-lasting life lesson, that lying works. this!

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Nathaniel said,

    June 9, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

    Weird. It wasn’t for grading, but I remember that the way we took messages home to our parents in Vienna was to copy down dictation or something written down on the board in our “message book” (German was Mitteilungsheft) and then it had to be signed or we got in trouble. Portending my future university troubles, I had a lot of problems with that. I think the only forgery I did, I spent ages tracing and felt extremely worried afterwards. I wasn’t good at handwriting, either, so if confronted with a similar situation (albeit never one so dire) I think I would have frozen, probably paralyzed with the thought, “It’s just going to be worse for you”.

    These sort of childhood experiences always make you wonder what the hell the adults were thinking. My guess regarding your teacher is that either it was simply a very cursory glance or the teacher suspected it but you weren’t encouraging insubordination among the other pupils by having an obviously blank area for the signature and expecting to escape punishment or the teacher couldn’t remember your father’s signature and didn’t want to be insulting by checking.

    Recently I had to deliver a note for J (that would have possibly had some benefit for me if I forged it) and her handwriting isn’t stereotypically feminine, or perhaps the further stereotype of East Asian feminine, and the person at the office flat-out accused me of forging it, although the person knew me and was willing to accept my word that it wasn’t mine.

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