This succinct and readable study offers unique contemporary insights into the spiritual, intellectual and moral interplay set in motion by the short Qur’anic chapters that are recited in their prayers by Muslims of all traditions, but which are particularly recommended within Shi’i Islam.
The Qur’an is the sacramental foundation of prayer in Islam. Its inspirational power is perpetually renewed through being recited and meditated upon by Muslims on a daily basis throughout their lives. This succinct and readable study offers unique contemporary insights into the spiritual, intellectual and moral interplay set in motion by the short Qur’anic chapters that are recited in their prayers by Muslims of all traditions, but which are particularly recommended within Shi’i Islam. Reza Shah-Kazemi engages closely and creatively with the Qur’anic chapters, basing his philosophical reflections on traditional exegetical principles, and focusing in particular on the relationship between the moral and the mystical aspects of the texts. The result is a stimulating meditation that probes the depths of meaning contained within the verses of a revelation by which the spiritual life of Muslims has for many centuries been nourished and fulfilled.
This monograph offers some reflections on certain chapters of the Qurʾān which are recited by Muslims in their daily prayers (al-ṣalāt; in Persian, namāz). I begin with a discussion of the opening chapter of the Qurʾān, al-Fātiḥa, which is the very foundation of the daily prayers, the closest equivalent in Islam to the Pater Noster (‘Our Father’) in Christianity. Then I reflect upon some of the chapters of the Qurʾān recommended for prayer within the broadly defined Shiʿi tradition—encompassing the Jaʿfari, Ismaili, Zaydi and Bohra branches of Shiʿi Islam. The attention given to these short chapters does not in any way imply a confessional prejudice on my part. These chapters are recited by all Muslims, Sunni and Shiʿi, but my remit here is to focus on the depth of meaning which can be discerned in those chapters specifically recommended for prayer within the Shiʿi traditions of Islam.
There is nothing exclusive about the list of chapters given here: Muslims of all schools of thought and praxis recite these chapters, either in the course of their canonical daily prayers, optional prayers, or as part of a litany or in their personal supplications. The sole difference between Sunni and Shiʿi practice in regard to recitation within the formal canonical prayer is that Sunni Muslims are free to recite any verse or set of verses or chapters, whereas Shiʿi Muslims are enjoined to recite only entire chapters in their prayers. The reflections offered here, therefore, are not intended to pertain only to Shiʿi Islam; rather they are intended to give some idea of the kind of spiritual, intellectual and ethical dynamics with which all Muslims engage, to one degree or another, when they recite and meditate upon the chapters of the Qurʾān presented here…..
Title: Spiritual Quest: Reflections on Quranic Prayer according to the Teachings of Imam Ali
Author(s): Reza Shah-Kazemi
Publisher: I.B. Tauris
Length: 128 pages
Pub. Date: March 15, 2011