“I didn’t ask to be here,” I used to declare to friends during light existential crises. Even then, I was unsure of the veracity of these words. I knew that I might very well have asked to be here, alive, on Earth, as a human being, and not remember. What I must have been thinking when I agreed to this is beyond me. There are times I fiercely anticipate the Return. The only thing I know for certain is that I’m human, and not an angel, because I ask irritating questions, and have this unrelenting need for a purpose.
Muslims (conventionally, anyway) don’t believe in reincarnation, which is a relief. The Qur’an, however, alludes to other forms a soul can assume besides those we recognize.
We have decreed Death among you,
and We are not to be outrun.
We will change your Forms
and create you (again) in (Forms)
that you do not know.
And you have already known
the first creation,
so you will not remember?
Apart from an allusion to a “first” creation, the Qur’an speaks not only of new, different Forms when we wake from Death, but of the Universe collapsing into itself, and a new emergent creation that substitutes us.
The Day that we fold up the heavens
like the folding of a scroll,
even as We produced the first Creation,
so shall We produce a new one:
a promise We have undertaken.
Truly, shall We fulfill it.
Do you not see that God created
the Heavens and the earth in Truth?
If She so will She can remove you
and (in your place) lay a new Creation?
For God, it is not any great matter.
Sentiments of change are dispersed throughout the Qur’an, and so is the mention of various forms—after death, and even before life. When I am intent on finding a purpose for my existence, I think of the promise the Qur’an recounts; the promise I must have made before my arrival.
When your God drew forth from
the children of humankind
—from their loins—their descendants,
and made them testify concerning themselves:
“Am I not your Lord?”
The souls said: “We do testify! [It is true].”
This. Lest you should say
on the Day of Judgment:
“We were unaware.”
In a life before birth, our souls testified recognition of God, a testimony we are asked to remember should we claim otherwise upon Resurrection. The Qur’an also refers to “covenant” and “oaths” (ex Q16: 91, Q13:19-20, etc.) and when I think of life before birth, the making of this is promise is what I attempt, in vain, to remember.
There is a different facet of loveliness to being Good if I promised so.
Indeed, we offered the Trust
to the heavens
and the earth and the mountains,
and they declined to bear it
and feared it;
but humankind undertook it.
Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.
The attribute of free will, which in fear of failure the heavens and the earth and the mountains refused to bear, is bestowed upon humankind with a great Trust. We are Trusted to decipher between right and wrong. We are Trusted to responsibly employ the faculty of reason. We are Trusted not to misuse our free will. We accepted the Trust that is offered to us, and Trust is the foundation of Love.
Some are so fearful, and they are the ones who will have you believe they only fear God. But they don’t. They fear social uprisings, they fear challenges to their power, they fear immigrants and languages that aren’t English. They fear cultural practices they can’t recognize and worst of all, they fear that others, from whom they have taken unjustly, will overthrow them. They fear Justice, and, in that way, they really do fear God—but only so much as they fear their own mortality. They know what they have done, and they fear the inevitable that will come from it.
I don’t fear my own mortality. It does not frighten me when suggested that heterosexuals might be a minority. It does not frighten me when suggested that the US government is an unlawful one built on the blood of the peoples of First Nations who should govern this land instead. It does not frighten me when suggested that gender is fluid and its fluidity be observed in natural phenomena outside of the constraints of human interpretation. I think, so what? So we will move. So we will expand to accommodate these truths. It is only in our making to evolve. Things weren’t meant to be this way forever. Transformation is enthralling, and falsehood, as the Quranic verse goes, by nature will perish. For those who truly fear God, will welcome God’s Judgment. I look forward to answering for all I’ve done wrong. I look forward to transforming.