“And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” Sura 7:172
The Day of Alast, or “Am I not?”, is a foundational tenet of Sufi spirituality. It has its origin as a concept in the above quoted verse of the Qur’an. In Sufi thought, God asks this question, “Am I not your Lord,” (“alast-u bi rabbikum?”) of the uncreated creation in the time before time. It is creation’s response, “Yes, we have testified,” that is a precondition to their existence. For Sufis, this was a time of wild happiness, when the new creation (including humans) had not yet forgotten God and were intoxicated with the love of and for God. It is this moment that the mystical path is intended to bring us back to, a path marked out with love, divine love, certainly, but also human love as a mirror of that divine love.
Sacred chant is an art form I learned as a Christian contemplative practice. There are four movements to sacred chant. The first is breathing, to remind us that the divine connection we seek and the tool we have to seek it with (our body) depends on breath and spirit. The second is tone or resonance, which can be a simple hum. Through the vibrations of the humming, we feel our bodies become sources of divine sound, from our nasal passage, through our throats, reverberating in our chests, and deep to our bellies. The third movement is intention, which we achieve by bringing words into the mix. In order to keep our intention as fixed on God as possible, the best chants have simple words and musical notes. The words I composed for this chant are inspired by the Day of Alast and the idea that our existence is ultimately dependent on loving God more than anything, even ourselves. Finally, the fourth component of sacred chant is community. Ideally, each voice listens and reacts to the voices around them, not in musical harmony necessarily, but rather, being balanced in volume and intention. I had to record this chant by myself, but I would love to join voices with you sometime. 🙂