SAID’s 99 Psalms are poems of praise and lament, of questioning and wondering. In the tradition of the Hebrew psalmist, they find their voice in exile, in this case one that is both existential and geographical. His decision to include 99 in this collection recalls the ancient Muslim tradition that ascribes 99 names to Allah, though the “lord” whom this psalmist addresses is not bounded by this or any other religious tradition. As psalms that turn to the “lord” with a lover’s vulnerability, they avoid every trace of sentimentality. Rather, they seek to open us to the mystery of human life, warning us of the difficulties we face in our attempts to live peaceably together in the midst of our differences.
“These are prayers for passionate seekers and confounded believers alike, Muslim, Jewish or Christian. Taut-lined cries to God evoke the Hebrew psalms, yet their voice is from our world speaking fiercely to what our current world forces upon us: the pierced and anguished heart in exile, wrestling Jacob-like with God while taking human flesh seriously to call our religious clichés into account. I know of no other prayer collection that propels us to such intimacy with the absence and presence of God.”
Don E. Saliers, Wm. R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship, Emory University