When we learn a new skill be it theoretical or practical, it always takes time to practise and takes even longer to allow it to become part of our DNA. This means that there will be a lot of mistakes, slips and falls along the way. In the Hazwa during our Akhlaq (Ethic) classes, I’ve gained a good amount of theoretical and practical knowledge. However applying these to real life can be a very challenging task. For example, a few months ago when I was travelling on the London Underground, a man was sitting opposite me. The train carriage wasn’t that busy and every time I looked in his direction, he was staring at me. The situation made me feel uncomfortable because I didn’t know why he was looking at me. My thought pattern drifted to the negative because I fitted a typical Muslim profile, he looked European, and in my mind I erected an instant wall between us. Maybe he was worried that I might do something. To look less intimidating, I opened a book and started reading. If only this man knew I posed no threat and not all Muslims are terrorists. Luckily my stop came and I got off trying not to look in his direction. As I went through the barrier in Euston Square station I saw a Muslim woman struggling to go up the stairs. I stopped and tried to figure a way to help her, thinking about the best way to approach and offer my assistance. A man walked passed me and like a true gentleman offered his arm to the lady. Lo and behold, it was the same man that had been staring at me on the train. She grabbed on to his arm as he assisted her up the stairs. I walked behind them just in case she needed extra help. Both of them turned out to be from the same city in Scotland, Glasgow. All those negative feelings towards this man vanished as I stood there defeated by inadequacy and in awe of his quick response to help the lady. This man’s actions made me realise that I cannot simply play the victim card and think negatively of others without evidence. I made a promise to myself never to judge anyone based on my own shortcomings. During the month of December in the Hawza, two Benedictine monks visited us. It was a pleasure listening to their speeches especially a parable used by one of the monks. Two friends, one Muslim and the other a Christian monk, met regularly to converse about God. They called these meetings “digging a well” as the plan was to dig these hypothetical wells side by side and see who reached water first. The monk posed a question: “when we reach the bottom of this well, will we find Muslim water or Christian water?” They both realised that it would be only God’s water. In our pursuit towards perfection, we are advised to avoid any actions which stop us or even slow us on this journey, whilst any actions which help us improve or even propel us forward, are encouraged. If we are in a race and we slow down or stop our chances of winning will be reduced. Sheikh Shomali used Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Muzafar’s example to explain the different levels of action. Some actions are completely good on their own and remain good regardless of the situation, which is the highest level. Justice, for example, is always good by itself and will always remain good regardless of time, place or situation. Below this is the second group. This can be a good or bad action on its own but an external factor could change it. An example would be a child who is drawing a picture. He has put in a lot of effort to impress his teacher or parents. They look at the picture and cannot figure out what the child has drawn. They are in a dilemma over telling the truth or saying it is terrible. If they speak their mind the child would be heartbroken and it could ruin his confidence. On the other hand with a little white lie the child’s hard work would be recognised and he/she will be encouraged to do a better job in the future. There are many other examples in real life where a white lie is beneficial such as to save a marriage or to reconcile between enemies. The third category is the action which is neutral; it does not have the tendency of good or bad attached to it. An example could be drinking water, which is not seen as good or bad. If we drink water to quench our thirst for the sake of God then this is a good action. Thus an action, which is a complete necessity, is always good. An action can be good or bad by nature, so the cause is good as long as there is no obstacle. There are other actions that are neither good nor bad and require a situation to make it either positive or negative. Sheikh Shomali noted that understanding these concepts is very important and that if we attended Hawza for a month just to understand them it would be worthwhile.