We live in an age of breathless anxiety— that is, anxiety that cannot hold, or be held, in breath. The Prophet— may our breaths never cease to adore his name—  prophesied that the Ummah would return to being gharib, exiled, or strange. But what if that exilic nature was not with the world, but with our own selves, our own breaths? To live in exile, today, then is to live in metaphysical, breathless poverty.

Lalah begins here— it traces its meaning to the Persian flower: a tulip, with three petals, three sepals. Employed as a metaphor for renewal in spring, and for sprouting from the blood of a martyr, Lalah seeks to revitalize the modern human with dhikr, or memory. Often translated as remembering or mentioning, it is ultimately grounded in the notion to have memory of an event or an entity— indeed the word for memories in Arabic is dhikriyyāt, and its antonym is nisyan, or forget-ness. In the Quran, in Surah Taha, Allah tells us that our father and our Prophet, ‎Adam, “forgot” (fa-nasiya wa lam najid lahu ‘azma).

Lalah is an app, then, of memory, of seeking to anchor the modern human in their vertical relationship with Allah, in all of the realms that ground the Adamic human, whether the realm of souls (‘ālam al-arwāh) or the realm of witnessing (‘ālam al-shahādah). Dhikr is a frontier for the malaise that confronts us, in the form of loneliness, of separation, of anxiety, and of fragmentation. Elsewhere in the Quran, Allah says: “Taste what you have forgotten!” (dhūqū bimā nasītum)

The Prophet (may peace shroud his soul) said: “The analogy of a dhākir is that of the living amidst the dead.” Lalah seeks to ask us: How do we have life in today’s age? What is and should be the nature of life for us?

We at Lalah are painfully aware that other forms of meditation exist— secular, religious, and yes, even Muslim. What makes Lalah unique is our ability to dive into our collective Islamic tradition— our tūrāth, our hadhārah— to unspool the loftiest litanies and murāqabāt. Dhikr cannot simply be contained in uttering Allah’s names or thinking of His grandeur— although this is a core element of it-- but, as the transmitter of Sahih al-Bukhari in South Asia, Shah Waliullah, urged, it is also a radical form of concentration, breathwork, qalbwork, veinwork, neuralwork, and imagery of the asmā al-husnā.

While current apps focus on meditation, and are overwhelmingly du jour, we disagree with the emphasis. As meditation hails from the Latin word meditationem, “to think over and consider,” we at Lalah believe that Dhikr, from memory, precedes considering and reflection, that is, remembering our first covenant with God: “Yes, in truth, you are our Lord. And we offer witness.” Only by first remembering may we begin to reflect or contemplate the balance and the beauty of this cosmos.

Taking our cue from Shah Waliullah, and his heir, Shah ‘Abd al-Aziz, the keepers of the Sunnah and the prophetic breath, in Mughal Delhi, we at Lalah maintain that the various strategies of adhkār, Murāqabāt, suyūr, ‘uzūm, as transmitted through Junayd al-Baghdadi, Baha al-Din Naqshbandi, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jeelani, Mu’in al-Din al-Chishti, Khwājah Bāqī Billāh, and Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, are paramount, offering unmatched groundswells of this memory, and, truly, of healing. We have drawn from them, in our themes of “eyes-on-the-feet,” “ishraf al-khawātir” (observing self-thoughts) “khalwat dar anjuman” (solitude in public), “baz-gasht” (the self-return), and so much more.

Anxiety and distraction play a tremendous role in the human condition, and we at Lalah affirm, as the Ahl al-Sulūk before us, that we must be aware of our anxiety at its most meta and abstract level— of which dhikr serves as a bridge. That Dhikr does not necessarily replace modern forms of treatment, but simply enhances the care and interconnected wellbeing of humans.

Psychic conflict is the conflict of the hour, one that dhikr can serve as a powerful arbitrator.

We are with those who stood with the Prophet ‎ﷺ- and we would be guilty if we didn’t emphasize that the Prophet ‎is commanded by Allah: fa-dhakkir innamā anta mudhakkir, so give memory to people, as you are but one who reminds.

The Prophet ‎ﷺ, as the ultimate dhākir, as perhaps the only human whose sleep itself was dhikr, as his heart could never become ghāfil, serves as our supreme model, of helping people to remember God, his gorgeous names, and the cosmic effects that God leaves in our hearts, veiled to those who have forgotten.

Muhammad Iqbal, as the Persian literary masters before him, put the lalah, or the tulip, in the desert: “you are lost traveler/ I am a lost traveler/ where is the destination?/ is it the tulip of the desert?” A singular tulip, whatever the color and bulb and petal, can be a source of healing for the world, if only we could remember.