Spiritual Quest: A Reflection on Quranic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam Ali provides a unique contemporary insight into the spiritual, intellectual and moral dynamics set in motion by the short Qur’anic chapters recited by Muslims of all traditions in their prayers, looking specifically at those recommended amongst Shi‘i communities. Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi engages creatively with these chapters, basing his own philosophical reflections on key interpretive principles expressed by Imam ‘Ali.
The book comprises an introduction, in which the central role of the Qur’an is defined in terms of key sayings of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Ali and other Shi‘i Imams. He includes a chapter on the cornerstone of prayer in Islam, al-Fatiha (‘The Opening’), which is interpreted in the light of the first part of a famous saying of Imam ‘Ali that the whole of the Qur’an is contained in the Fatiha, and the Fatiha is contained in the phrase Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim.
In a series of brief reflections on the 18 chapters which are most often recited by Shi‘is in the course of their daily prayers, he focuses in particular on the relationship between the moral and the mystical aspects of the texts. Among the themes explored in this book are: the all-embracing nature of divine compassion (rahma); the fundamental nature of the human being (fitra) and the unity of humanity; the conditions for salvation; the metaphysical meaning of the Prophetic soul; the nature of spiritual authority, guidance and realisation (walaya); the deeper dimensions of prayer and remembrance of God (dhikru’Llah).
Considerable attention is also given to the theme of universality; Dr Shah-Kazemi insists that the message of the Qur’an transcends religious boundaries, delivering a global message of wisdom which unites rather than divides: the basic message of tawhid—not just ‘oneness’ but ‘declaring one’, ‘affirming one’, and at the deepest level, ‘realising one’—cannot be restricted to the formal framework of Islam. It is not the preserve of such and such a religion; rather, it pertains to religion as such, and therefore it resonates with all those whose quest for meaning and fulfilment is rooted in faith.