I long to remember the remembrance of my soul
at certain times at least.
In the beginning, the Called One says,
we were so fresh from the dust of our response to the Call.
We sat in wonderment for a time and a time of times.
And then, did we grow bored of wonder
and tired of such knowledge?
Now, there are fragments of a memory;
faint tendrils of a rose’s scent.
The whispers don’t even add up to a full echo.
They are more like a haunting, sometimes.
Still, the Caller bids us. Never does he tire of bidding us.
Like the birdsongs of his praise, how myriad is the call to remember.
Still, this mottled and mumbled forgetting is all I can muster.
And it is provisional. For what I will long for tomorrow,
this distant doubter’s heart doesn’t know;
but perhaps, a hope, that the call comes in clearer,
And the remembering surer.
The relationship between the Qur’an, Islam, and poetry is unique and beautiful and I knew from the beginning of this course that I would write my own poem. This free-verse short lyric addresses one of the central tenets of Qur’anic theology: that human beings were created with full knowledge of God but are forgetful, and thus, need reminders to remember who God is and who they are. As Michael Sells puts it:
The Qur’an does not propound a doctrine of the original or essential sinfulness of humanity. Human beings are not born sinful, but they are forgetful. This forgetfulness can be countered only by reminder (dhikr), which the Qur’an calls itself.
Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, 18.
As a Christian, I am nevertheless enchanted with this theological re-calibration of sin as forgetfulness and religion and religious texts not as means of punishment but of remembering, of recalling a very sweet memory of wholeness and holiness. The Qur’an also sees itself as a revelation and Muhammad as a prophet in a lineage of divine revelations to humanity, a lineage that from the Qur’anic perspective, began with the biblical story. Thus, God is always calling us to remember God.
In this poem, I seek to tie a broad overview of my spiritual journey, it’s high and low points, to this Qur’anic narrative of human forgetfulness and God’s constant, insistent call to remember.