Thursday, June 30, 2011


Today is the first day of my son's summer vacation, and so, for the first time in a long time, I didn't wake him up. I let him sleep in. I found myself with a bit of free time this morning, wondering what to do. I didn't feel like turning on the computer at such an early hour, so I opened my prayer book instead.

This is not unusual, of course, but what was unusual was that I turned to the section for morning prayers. Now normally I wake my son up by reciting the short morning prayer, the one the begins "I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God..." And I have been reciting this to him for many months. From memory.

I believe that committing the Writings to memory is a very important thing. After all, the Bab said "every breast which committeth His Words to memory, God shall cause, if it were that of a believer, to be filled with His love". If you track it, you will also find that this love, combined with different actions, actually has the effect of increasing many of our other virtues. Kind of cool, that.

It is for this reason, and others, of course, that I place a great emphasis on memorization. And I'm not the only one. You only need to look at the Ruhi Books to know that.

But memorization is also a concern for me.

Oh, not memorizing in and of itself, but my inability to memorize accurately. (What is it called if you think you've memorized something but haven't? There really should be a word for that.) (Besides "silly".)

You see, I remember many times when people thought they had something memorized, but didn't. Quite. One friend often got the first few paragraphs of the Kitab-i-Iqan wrong, but only by a few words. Other people would try to recite the Tablet of Ahmad, and make a bit of a jumble of it.

Of course, I wouldn't say anything to them, for I didn't want to embarrass them, and sometimes I would just read the passage at a later gathering, but really, I truly did and do commend their efforts.

But for myself, I tend to use the books, even if I think I have a passage memorized. Why? Why not? I have the book, so I might as well use it.

Then there was one time some criticized me for that. They said, in front of a group, that I should try to set the example of memorizing these passages. They didn't quite phrase it like that, of course. They said something like, "You should memorize the passages", making it seem like an accusation that I hadn't done any memorizing at all. Not too cool, that, but hey, that's their problem.

My reply was that I do have the passages memorized.

"So why", they asked, "are you not reciting them from memory?"

"How many reasons do you want? Maybe I don't want to seem like I'm showing off. Maybe I want to encourage others to read the Writings, without the pressure of feeling like they have to memorize everything. Maybe I'm learning a new passage. There are  many reasons." Really, it wasn't any of their business, but we are all allowed our questions.

This morning, though, I was powerfully reminded of the main one for me: I don't always trust my memory.

I had thought that I had memorized that short morning prayer, but as I read it in the book for the first time in a long time, I realized that I had been leaving out one word. I had mis-remembered the prayer. I had left out a single word in the passage, "Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Day-Spring of Thy Revelation..." I had forgotten the word "splendors". (Ok. Technically I left out three words.)

And so, while I highly value memorization, I will still use the book to make sure that I have it right. After all, this is a good reminder to me of the importance of humility, too.

I thought I had memorized the passage, but I was wrong.  And so I will still use the books, continually referring back to the Text, just to make sure that I get it right. Until such time as I am powerfully impacted by the particular passage so that it is fully ingrained in my mind, heart and spirit, I will always presume that I don't quite "get it". Of course, come to think of it, we can never really "get" the Writings. They really are just too vast. I mean, how can you "get" the ocean?

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