The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of Spiritual Quest: Reflections on Qur'anic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam Ali
, the third in the Occasional Papers Series. In this book, Dr Shah-Kazemi
explores the role that the Qur’an
plays in the daily lives of Muslims in the contemporary world. He argues that the Qur’an is the fountainhead of a form of wisdom that is perennially and universally relevant, far from being merely a ‘silent text’, as argued by those who do in fact treat the Qur’an as a historical artefact, akin to a holy relic to be examined from without by archaeologists or archivists.
Engaging creatively with the short chapters of the Qur’an most often recited in daily prayers by Muslims of all schools of thought, but particularly recommended amongst Shi‘i
communities, Dr Shah-Kazemi offers a series of philosophical reflections on the texts viewed as perpetually renewed springs of wisdom and sources of enlightenment. The key theme of the reflections is given in the title of the book, Spiritual Quest; his main aim is to show how these key texts can form part of the quest for spiritual fulfilment. Such a quest cannot be restricted to any particular time or place: wherever there are human beings, there will be a thirst for intellectual meaning, a need for moral guidance, and an aspiration for spiritual enlightenment. Even if Muslims today are confronted by a very different set of circumstances from those in which the Qur’an was first revealed, such alterations in the outward environment change nothing as regards these perennial and unalterable dimensions of the human condition. Rather, the particular problems generated by the modern world set an intellectual challenge to the discerning Muslim who seeks to base his or her life on the teachings of the Qur’an.
Although the author is seeking to show how every Muslim can and should seek meaning in the Qur’an on the basis of their own intellectual effort, he also insists on the need to draw upon and creatively apply the commentaries of authorities in the different exegetical traditions. Dr Shah-Kazemi bases his reflections upon Imam
’s approach to the Qur’an and, in particular, the following principle: ‘The Book of God is that by means of which you see, speak and hear. Parts of it speak through other parts, and some parts of it bear witness to other parts.’ This means that the Qur’an must be taken as a whole, verses dealing with a particular theme in one chapter should be correlated with verses dealing with the same theme in other chapters, if one wishes to arrive at an integrated understanding, or holistic vision, of the Qur’an on that particular theme.
This work comprises a stimulating philosophical meditation probing the depths of meaning comprised within the verses of a Revelation by which the spiritual quest of Muslims has constantly been inspired, nourished and fulfilled.