Photo: Diego Delso

Photo: Diego Delso

Photo: David Holt

Photo: David Holt

Shah Cheragh

 

From the outside, the mosque of Shah Cheragh sits like any other in Shiraz. On the inside, however, this temple lives up to its Persian name as the “King of Light.”

Shah Cheragh began as a funerary monument in the 1st Century, when a traveler was led by a lighted beacon to the grave of the sons of Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shiite Imam. One of his famous sayings was that “Allah has two proofs over men: Outward proof and inward proof. As for the outward proof, it is the messengers, the prophets, and the Imams. As for the inward proof, it is reason.”

So, too, did this architectural wonder contain both an outward and inward luminescence: When the grave of al-Kadhim’s sons was discovered, it became a domed pilgrimage site. Come the 14th Century, Queen Tash Khatun took charge of building a mosque and divinity school around the site. Her work included the mirrored interior that, per Atlas Obscura, was intended to “intensify any light a thousand times over.”

This isn't a meditation on Islam (if, for no other reason, I don't know as much as I would like to about Islam). What this is, however, is a metaphor on the architecture. Staring at the photos of Shah Cheragh, I get the sense of outward proof and inward proof: The building itself, and the illumination that occurs within it. It’s an invitation to delve deeper, to approach what’s on the surface with curiosity and reason, until we can move deeper towards illumination.  

Today’s Contemplation: What are you currently accepting at face value? Can you find a door to allow you to examine things a little deeper? Can you find another door beyond that? And beyond that? Where can your reason lead you?