Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj: A Powerful Metaphor for Our Spiritual Journey

Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright. Click on image for article, I Have a Time with God

“While ascent (al-ma’arij) in its simple meaning gives a clue to the upward direction of the Prophet’s journey, it proclaims very emphatically that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. No wonder Allah calls Himself the Lord of the Ways of Ascent (Dhu ’l-ma‘arij).”Read more

This is an unusual example of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) pictured in an Islamic manuscript. It comes from a royal miniature made to illustrate a copy of the poems of the celebrated Persian Nizami, and depicts the Prophet’s ascension to heaven on the horse Buraq, guided by the archangel Gabriel, with an escort of angels. According to tradition, the face of the Prophet is blanked out in the miniature.

“In spiritual life, serial time no longer exists. The moment a soul breaks through created time and reaches the ‘Eternal Now in God’, everything created is annihilated in its experience. The serial time is torn. Finally, the Prophet says: ‘And He revealed to me secrets that I am not allowed to communicate to you’” — Read more

The identity of the artist who created the illustration is not known. The calligraphy in this piece was created by Shah Mahmud Nishapuri (d. 1564-5) for Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76) — the ruler of Iran who at one point owned the Koh-i-noor diamond, then the world’s largest, and now in the Tower of London.

“His yearning for the ‘exalted station’ becomes intense, and as often as he feels this longing he turns to Bilal and says: “O Bilal, comfort us by the call to prayer.” Thus to the Prophet every time of prayer is an ascension (mi’raj) and a new nearness to God.” — Read more

The story of Prophet Muhammad’s journey has had a profound influence on Islamic thought, and Sufism and other esoteric traditions in Islam particular see it as a powerful metaphor for man’s spiritual journey. Please read The Prophetic Tradition ‘I Have a Time with God’ (li ma’a Allah waqt).

Text for image compiled from the website of the British Museum. Please visit http://www.britishmuseum.org.

Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015

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Hazrat Ali, the First Imam: A Collection of Easy Readings for Young and Adult Readers

THE IMAMS

We are the tree of Prophethood,
the place of descent
of Divine revelation,
the place of frequenting
of the angels,
and the mainsprings of knowledge.
Those who help us and love us
await (God’s) mercy…..Hazrat Ali

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Introduction: The birthday anniversary of Hazrat Imam Ali (a.s.) is commemorated on the 13th Rajab (corresponding to May 2, in the year 2015). This festival is celebrated by the Shi’te communities and is observed as an occasion to reflect upon the life and teachings of their first Imam. According to the Shi’a doctrine and tradition, Hazrat Ali  was the foundation (asas) of the institution of Imamah. His designation (nass) by the Prophet upon the Command of Allah (al-amr), to guide the believers after the termination of the institution of Nabuwah is central to the Shi’a theology. The Imam’s function is to continue the teaching (ta’lim) and interpretation (ta’wil) of Allah’s Final Message after the demise of the Prophet.

Today, the Shi’a Ismaili Muslims are led by His Highness the Aga Khan, who is the direct lineal descendant of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Bibi Fatima (a.s.).

This post on Imam Ali will appeal to all readers, young and adults alike.

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THE ANT

By God,
were I given all the seven heavens
with all they contain
in order that
I may disobey God
by depriving an ant
from the husk of a grain of barley,
I would not do it…..Hazrat Ali

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THE PROPHET’S HOUSEHOLD

To them (the Household of the Prophet)
pertain the noblest of human virtues described in the Qur’an,
and they are the treasures of the Beneficent Allah.
When they speak, they speak the truth,
but when they keep quiet, no one can out strip them…..Hazrat Ali

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His Highness the Aga Khan seen giving his commencement lecture at the American University in Cairo on June 15, 2006. The excerpt on Hazrat Ali, from whom the 49th Ismaili Imam is directly descended, is from the address. Photo Credit: American University in Cairo.

His Highness the Aga Khan seen giving his commencement lecture at the American University in Cairo on June 15, 2006. The excerpts on Hazrat Ali are from the lecture. Photo Credit: American University in Cairo.

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Great Selections from Nahj al-Balaghah for Young People (II)

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ON BEING PATIENT

One who perseveres patiently
will not be without success,
even if it takes a long time – Hazrat Ali

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Great Selections from Nahj al-Balaghah for Young People (I)

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THE HEADSTRONG

One who is headstrong and opinionated perishes,
while one who seeks the advice of others
becomes a partner in their understanding — Hazrat Ali

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KALAM-I MAWLA

Ethics in the Kalam-i Mawla of Hazrat Ali by Farouk M. Topan

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A MESSAGE BY HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN
ON THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE AGA KHAN FOUNDATION

“The closer you come, the more you will know him” by Akber Kanji, Toronto, Canada

“This is a time of new freedoms, but it is also one in which new choices must be made wisely. In exercising freedom and making choices, our institutions must be guided, as they have been in the past, by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace of Allah be upon him), and the tradition of our tariqah, which is the tradition of Hazrat Ali: A thinking Islam and a spiritual Islam – an Islam that teaches compassion, tolerance and the dignity of man – Allah’s noblest creation.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, May 14, 1992.

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THE BLESSED

Blessed is one
who is humble regarding himself,

whose livelihood is good,
whose inner thoughts are virtuous,
whose character is good,
who spends the surplus from his wealth
and removes superfluity from his speech,
who keeps his evil away from people — Hazrat Ali

Date Posted: May 1, 2015.

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Exclusive Photo Essay: Exceptional Work of Ismaili Volunteers by Muslim Harji

Volunteers are the backbone of the Ismaili community. From the very young to some of the oldest members of the jamat, volunteers are always present to support whatever work they are called upon to do. Montreal’s Muslim Harji offers a photo insight into the exceptional work of Ismaili volunteers at a jamati feast…. More

PLEASE CLICK: Working Behind the Scenes – The Exceptional Work of Ismaili Volunteers

Junior Ismaili Volunteers serving juice at a jamati jaman (feast). Please click on photo for photo essay. Photo: Muslim Harji.

Junior Ismaili Volunteers serving juice at a jaman (feast). Please click on image for photo essay. Photo: Muslim Harji.

Exclusive Photo Essay: Montreal’s Beautiful 2015 Navroz Celebrations by Muslim Harji

Photographer Muslim Harji captures the spirit of the Navroz celebrations in Canada’s 2nd largest city, Montreal, with  a series of photographs portraying the beauty, diversity and happiness of the Ismaili jamat. The city is host to the largest contingency of Ismailis from Afghanistan in the Western world, and has been home to hundreds of Ismailis of South Asian origin, mainly from Africa, since the early 1970’s…..More

PLEASE CLICK: Exclusive Photo Essay: 2015 Navroz Celebrations in Montreal

Please click on photo for Montreal Navroz Celebrations.

Please click on photo for Montreal Navroz Celebrations.

Nowruz Messages from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama

STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen walking past the water pond of the Park located between the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum during the opening ceremony in September 2014 of the two cultural landmarks built by the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada, www.pm.gc.ca.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen walking past the water pond of the Park located between the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum during the opening ceremony in September 2014 of the two cultural gems built by the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada. See photo and video links below.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on March 21, 2015 issued the following statement on the celebration of Nowruz:

“Laureen and I would like to offer our best wishes to everyone celebrating Nowruz both here in Canada and around the world.

“Nowruz, or ‘new day,’ is a festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years by Persian, Kurdish, Central Asian and Ismaili communities. It marks the beginning of spring and a New Year, and is an opportunity to reflect upon the past year, recognize good fortune, and look to the year ahead with hope. Our Government shares your optimism for the future and will continue to work to help create a year of peace and prosperity for all Canadians.

“Nowruz traditions include a spring cleaning of the home, preparation of the haft-seen table, the gathering of families and friends to share meals and gifts, as well as musical and dance performances. In addition, shortly before Nowruz bonfires are lit and individuals recite a special phrase that helps to symbolically carry away the hardships of the past year with the flames.

“Nowruz is an opportunity for all Canadians to learn about the ancient Persian festival and recognize the important contributions of Iranian-Canadian, Central Asian and Ismaili communities to building a peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous Canada.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I wish everyone celebrating Nowruz a happy and healthy New Year.

“Nowruzetan Pirouz!”

For more photos and a comprehensive 10 minute video of the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, please click on the following links:

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MESSAGES BY FIRST LADY, MRS MICHELLE OBAMA, AND PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

President Barack Obama hugs First Lady Michelle Obama in the Red Room of the White House prior to the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) reception on March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hugs First Lady Michelle Obama in the Red Room of the White House prior to the National Newspaper Publishers Association reception on March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Excerpts from remarks by the First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama, at the White House on March 11, 2015:

“I think it’s so fitting that we’re holding this celebration here today because one of my favorite things about the White House is how it is truly the People’s House — a house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country. And Nowruz is one of those traditions.

“For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia, and all around the world, including here in the United States, have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the earth in springtime — and we’re finally feeling spring! To reflect on the year before, and to make new commitments for good health, prosperity in the year ahead.

“And just like in many of your homes, we have created our own White House Haft-Seen. As you all know, Haft-Seen [see Simerg’s piece The Beautiful Nowruz (Navroz) Tradition of Haft Sin – ed.] essentially means “Seven S’s,” and each “S” represents a different hope for the New Year — a hope for blessings like patience and love and sweetness. For example, we’ve got grass sprouts that represent rebirth and renewal of nature. We’ve got an apple for health and beauty. We have crushed berry spice that represents the sunrise and the spice of life.”

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MESSAGE BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Date posted: March 22, 2015

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Navroz Mubarak: The Beautiful Navroz Tradition of Haft Sin + Links to Great Navroz Readings

To celebrate Navroz, families in Iran gather around a specially prepared holiday table to make wishes for the coming months. Items on the table refer to new life and renewal, and they are based around the number seven….Read more

Please click: The Beautiful Nowruz (Navroz) Tradition of Haft Sin

Conceived and created by Nurin Merchant of Ottawa, this Navroz greeting incorporates the rose and jasmine flowers which are extremely popular in Iran during the celebration of Navroz. The base of the picture shows shoots of wheat grass signifying robust evergreen health throughout the year. Image: Nurin Merchant. Copyright. Please click on image for Haft Sin.

Conceived and created by Nurin Merchant of Ottawa, this Navroz greeting incorporates the rose and jasmine flowers which are extremely popular in Iran during the celebration of Navroz. The base of the picture shows shoots of wheat grass signifying robust evergreen health throughout the year. Image: Nurin Merchant. Copyright. Please click on image for Haft Sin.

Date posted: Friday, March 20, 2015.

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Please also click Simerg’s New Downloadable Publication: Nawruz Literary Readings, Poetry and Ginan

Imam Hussein (a.s.): “The Chief of the Youth of Paradise”

Please click: Muslim and non-Muslim Expressions on Imam Hussein (a.s.)

Processional standards (‘alams) are used in Shia processions, particularly on the day of ‘Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram, to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, al-Hosayn, the son of ‘Ali, in the seventh century in Karbala’, Iraq. In this openwork ‘alam, the form, decorative elements, and function are closely intertwined. The bifurcated blades on the top of the pear-shaped body of this beautifully carved ‘alam are a symbolic reference to the first Shia imam, ‘Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, who is known by the epithet dhu’l-fiqar in reference to his bifurcated sword. ‘Ali is also referred to by name in the mirror-image inscription on the central field of this ‘alam: ya Allah ya Muhammad ya ‘Ali, calling upon God, Muhammad, and ‘Ali for support. The symmetrical formation of the invocation ya ‘Ali in the inscription is usually seen as depicting the stylized face of a lion, another symbolic reference to the first imam. Photo and caption: Aga Khan Museum. Accession Number: AKM679, 82cm x 32.5 sm, Iran or India,16th Century, Pierced Steel.

Processional standards (‘alams) are used in Shia processions, particularly on the day of ‘Ashura, the tenth day of the month of Muharram, to commemorate the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, al-Hosayn, the son of ‘Ali, in the seventh century in Karbala’, Iraq. In this openwork ‘alam, the form, decorative elements, and function are closely intertwined. The bifurcated blades on the top of the pear-shaped body of this beautifully carved ‘alam are a symbolic reference to the first Shia imam, ‘Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, who is known by the epithet dhu’l-fiqar in reference to his bifurcated sword. ‘Ali is also referred to by name in the mirror-image inscription on the central field of this ‘alam: ya Allah ya Muhammad ya ‘Ali, calling upon God, Muhammad, and ‘Ali for support. The symmetrical formation of the invocation ya ‘Ali in the inscription is usually seen as depicting the stylized face of a lion, another symbolic reference to the first imam. Photo and caption: Aga Khan Museum. Accession Number: AKM679, 82cm x 32.5 sm, Iran or India,16th Century, Pierced Steel.

The emigration (Hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 AC was a significant event and later adopted to mark the beginning of the Muslim Era. The Muslim New Year begins with the month of Muharram (In 2014, October 24). Amongst the Shi’a Muslims, the first part of the month of Muharram is an occasion which is marked with a sense of sorrow and solemnity. The 10th of Muharram was the day when Hazrat Imam Hussein (a.s.) together with most of the members of his family and close companions were martyred on the fields of Karbala….Read more

The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

A Description of the Hajj by Naser-e Khosraw – from “One Thousand Roads to Mecca” by Michael Wolfe

AN INSTALLMENT FROM SIMERG’S MUST READ SERIES ABOUT NASER-E KHOSRAW’S MEMORABLE JOURNEY TO FATIMID EGYPT

A statue of the famous Ismaili dai Nasir Khusraw in Badakhshan.

“….The tallest mountain near Mecca is Abu Qubays, which is round like a dome, so that if you shoot an arrow from the foot of the mountain it reaches its top.…Having come into the city, you enter the Haram Mosque, approach the Ka’ba, and circumambulate….. always keeping the Ka‘ba to your left [shoulder]. Then you go to the corner containing the Black Stone, kiss it, and pass on….”

Please click: Naser-e Khosraw’s Pilgrimages to Mecca
(Links to all series articles provided below)

A bird’s-eye view of the Ka’ba crowded with pilgrims. The photo is from the archives of the US Library of Congress and was created by American Colony (Jerusalem), Photo Dept., in 1910. Please click for article by Naser-e Khosraw.

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Complete series by Michael Wolfe:

Part I – Introduction and Naser-e Khosraw Commences the Journey
Part II – Naser-e Khosraw in Fatimid Cairo
Part III – Naser-e Khosraw’s Pilgrimages to Mecca
Part IV – Naser-e Khosraw’s Dangerous Homeward Journey

Eid Mubarak: Send a Greeting Card

Simerg rejoices with its readers all over the world on the auspicious occasion of Eid al-Fitr and invites you to send a festive card to your family members and friends through the official website of the Ismaili community by clicking on http://ecard.theismaili.org/Eid-ul-Fitr-2014 or the image below.

The Ismaili website contains varying themes for its eCards including a wonderful selection of images of Ismaili Jamatkhanas, including those of the high profile Ismaili centres.

The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe was opened on 12 October 2009 by His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam. It is the first such Centre in Central Asia — a region that has been home to Ismaili Muslims for more than a thousand years. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, senior government officials, diplomats, scholars and leaders of faith communities. Representatives of the Ismaili community from around the world were also present.

The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe was opened on 12 October 2009 by His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam. It is the first such Centre in Central Asia — a region that has been home to Ismaili Muslims for more than a thousand years. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, senior government officials, diplomats, scholars and leaders of faith communities. Representatives of the Ismaili community from around the world were also present.

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EID AL-FITR

The fast of Ramadan ends with the Festival of Breaking Fast, Eid al-Fir, on the first day of the following month of Shawwal. The festival is also known as Bairam or Eid Ramadan. It is an occasion for celebration and rejoicing for Allah’s Bounty upon mankind for His revelation of the Qur’an. It is also a time for individuals to express their gratitude to Allah for having given them the strength, courage and resilience to complete the fast, and thus fulfilling the duty enjoined upon them by Allah.

The Festival begins with a festive prayer (Salatul-Fitr) with all the believers congregating at their respective places of worship. It is also an occasion for socialising and meeting with other Muslims and for fostering a sense of brotherhood and unity amongst the community (ummah). After the communal prayer, families gather together at home with relatives and friends and participate in exchanging gifts and partaking a meal.

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Please also visit Letter from China: Eid al-Fitr at the Huasheing Mosque in Guangzhou by Zulfikar Mulji.

Date posted: Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Reading for the Holy Night of Lailat al-Qadr with Links to Material on the Holy Qur’an

BY KARIMA MAGHRABY
(Additional material compiled by Simerg)

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night when the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, thereby conferring upon him the mantle of prophethood at the age of forty.

The Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his wife Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah.

When Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, he received his first divine revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel. When Angel Jibreel appeared to him, he said:

“Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,
created, Man of a blood-clot.

Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous,
who taught by the Pen,
taught Man that he knew not” — Holy Qur’an, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5

The first revelation

Part of Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an – the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad

The night of this first revelation is celebrated as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The following verses from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night and articulate the importance of the final revealed scripture to mankind:

“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.” — 94:5

Cave of Hira

A photo of Cave of Hira in the Mount of Light, near Mecca, where the Prophet would come for his devotions and meditations, and the sacred spot where the Holy Quran began to be revealed. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) had just stepped into the forty-first year of his life, when during the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The small cave is about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Hira was the Prophet Muhammad’s most adorable place for meditation.

“(This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto you (Muhammad) that thereby you may bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise” — 14:01

“And celebrate the name of thy Lord morning and evening. And part of the night, prostrate thyself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through. As to these, they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” — 76:25-27

Mountain of LightProphet Muhammad (s.a.s) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Hira cave which is on Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light) shown in this photo. The peak is visible from a great distance. The Prophet used to climb this mountain often even before receiving his fist revelation from Allah.

“We sent it down during a Blessed Night” — 44:3

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” — 2:185

Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) the successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) to the throne of Imamat is quoted as having said:

“Do not remember God absent-mindedly, nor forget Him in distraction; rather, remember Him with perfect remembrance (dhikran kamilan), a remembrance in which your heart and tongue are in harmony, and what you conceal conforms with what you reveal.” — quoted in Justice and Remembrance, Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali, by Reza Shah Kazemi, p. 162.

Date posted: Friday, July 18, 2014.

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Credits:
1. Wikipedia.org

2. Mecca.net
3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.

LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN

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