The IIS launched one of its new publications, Spiritual Quest: Reflections on Qur’anic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam ‘Ali, at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai. The author Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi, introduced the book, which provides a unique contemporary insight into the spiritual, intellectual and moral dynamics of the Qur’anic chapters recited by Muslims of all traditions in their prayers, highlighting those that hold particular significance amongst Shi‘i communities.

Over the course of the event, Dr Shah-Kazemi discussed one of Imam Ali’s sayings: ‘The whole of the Qur’an is contained in the Fatiha, the Fatiha is contained in the basmala [the phrase of consecration: bismi’llah al-Rahman al-Rahim], the basmala is contained in the letter ba’, the ba’ is contained in the dot beneath the letter, and I am that dot’. Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi stated that the challenge of the first part of this saying is how to see the compassion expressed in the basmala as the principle pervading the entire Qur’an.

Spiritual Quest Cover

Talking of the Qur’an’s theurgic nature, Dr Shah-Kazemi referred to it as a mode of tajalli (the self-disclosure of God), as described by Imam Ali. With this in mind, he discussed engagement with the Qur’an as engaging with a sacred presence flowing from divine self-revelation, rather than abstract meanings conveyed by divine speech.

Dr Shah-Kazemi submitted that due to Imam Ali’s emphasis on the practice of the invocation of the Name of God (dhikru’llah), it is possible that the deeper meanings of the Qur’anic discourse, and the compassion that lies at the heart of the Qur’anic message, are revealed in proportion to the clarity of the vision enjoyed by the heart.

Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi and other participants at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Building Bridges Seminar, 2011

In addition to the launch event, Dr Shah-Kazemi participated in a seminar entitled Prayer: Christian and Muslim Perspectives, at the 10th annual Building Bridges seminar chaired by the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, held in Doha, Qatar. Dr Shah-Kazemi presented a Muslim perspective on the Theology of Prayer.