Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
There was once a King with a vast kingdom. - He was a very great King, good, fair, just, merciful, loved deeply by all his subjects, by all the creatures in His kingdom.
His was not an ordinary kingdom. He ruled over all of nature, the mountains, streams, skies, and the wide earth whose strength supported all of these.
The King was loved deeply by all His subjects who knew well his continuous kindness and mercy.
One day the King called all of His subjects to come before Him. They all came willingly and from among their numbers each group chose a representative to stand before the King. The mountains chose the firmest and mightiest among them to go forward as their representative. The skies chose the strongest wind and in like manner each group sent forward their chosen representative.
The King said He had a task, a test, “a trust”, a difficult undertaking, and He wanted to see who among His subjects would undertake this task.
The task was to journey through a faraway land known as the land of forgetfulness.
Anyone who entered this land forgot who they were, where they came from, even why they came to that land.
And even though that land was also part of the kingdom, the visible signs of the King were concealed and disguised in that land. Those who entered there became so forgetful and distracted that they forgot their beloved King and forgot that He had set them a task.
Only those who were able to look deep into their hearts would be able to remember their King and their task, because the forgetfulness was like a thick fog that clouded their minds.
And only those with a firm and deep love for the King would be able to journey safely through the midst of this land of forgetfulness.
The King asked the mighty mountains if they would accept but the mountains trembled and said they would accept any other task but this task was too difficult - how could they bear the separation.
The King asked the skies which enveloped the mountains and rose high above them, but the skies refused, sighing fearfully at the thought of such forgetfulness and what it might lead to.
The King asked the ground, the firm earth which supported the mountains and the sky, but the ground shook with a “mighty shaking” for it feared that if it was able to forget the King, then it may even forget its own self.
Amidst all the creatures who refused this task, only one came forward. The other creatures turned...and looked at the human being. It was insignificant compared to the mountains, the sky, and the earth but on its face was the look of one who was consumed with a burning love for the King. I will undertake this task, it said.
The King said this task is so difficult that it is not enough that you alone agree to it but that all human beings must agree to it. And he ordered all the humans brought before him. As far as could be discerned, there were rows upon rows of people, covering all the land in unimaginably vast numbers.
Then He made a covenant (a pledge) with them, asking them, “Am I not your Lord?” In one voice they answered, “Yes!”
As the King knew the difficulty they would face, He told them a secret before they began their journey....
And then he caused them to descend into the land of forgetfulness, a few at a time, for their numbers were vast. And as they entered the land it was as if they became newborn babies who did not remember where they came from, why they were there, or that they even had a King.
Now some have finished with this journey in the land of forgetfulness, and some are still on the journey, and others have not yet entered the land. Some few remember their King, many have forgotten, some have forgotten so completely that they do not believe there even is a King.
Those who are still on the journey are those who are alive today, and the story which you have heard is one which is true. It is our story - a story which begins with our birth and ends with our death.
The King is God. The land of forgetfulness is this world we live in. The journey is our life from birth to death.
The trust that was offered is the trust spoken of in the Qur'an:
“We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it....” (Qur'an 33:72)
The covenant is the covenant spoken of in the Qur'an, which God made with all the descendants of Adam - all of us.
“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam all their descendants, and asked them to bear witness concerning themselves (concerning their own souls): ‘Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?’ - They responded: ‘Yes! To this we bear witness!’ (This), lest you say on the Day of Return: ‘Of this we were ignorant’” (Qur'an 7:172)
The King's secret is “He (Allah) is with you wherever you are.” (Qur'an 57:4) He is not absent, He is not missing, rather our consciousness, our awareness of Him is absent, missing, lost in a fog of distraction, and concealed behind the veils thrown up by our minds. He is with us but we are blind to this fact. “Remember your Lord within Yourself humbly....” (Qur'an 7:205)
And for those who fulfill the trust and awaken within themselves the remembrance of the covenant, for them is the exalted station of “He loves them and they love Him...for this is Allah's Face, He gives of it to whom He pleases....” (Qur'an 5:54)
1 – This article (A Children's Story) is a quick little story I put together when I was asked to speak to a group of children about Islam. Rather than focus on the actions, duties, and rituals of the religion, I wanted to try and convey some more essential, existential truths about the religion and our existence and purpose, and only then lead into the more visible and better known aspects of the religion such as it's ritual dimensions. The problem was how to convey such “heavy” information to children. The end result was this attempt at recasting Qur'anic verses in the form of a parable - although the version presented to the children was even simpler than the one presented here (especially the explanation of the verses) The story was used as a lead-in to talking about other aspects of Islam.