Mindfulness Across Traditions


In recent years, many therapists have started using mindfulness in their practices.   

After his Baptism, Jesus spent 40 days and nights of solitude, prayer, and fasting in the Judean wilderness

Romans 8:26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighstoo deep for words.

The Christian Contemplative Tradition

Though it has acquired other meanings and connotations in recent centuries, the word contemplation had a specific meaning for the first 16 centuries of the Christian era. St. Gregory the Great summed up this meaning at the end of the 6th century as the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love. For Gregory, contemplation was both the fruit of reflecting on the Word of God in scripture and a precious gift of God. He referred to contemplation as "resting in God." In this "resting," the mind and heart are not so much seeking God, as beginning to experience what they have been seeking. This state is not the suspension of all activity, but the reduction of many acts and reflections to a single act or thought in order to sustain one's consent to God's presence and action.

In this traditional understanding, contemplation, or contemplative prayer, is not something that can be achieved through will, but rather is God's gift. It is the opening of mind and heart - one's whole being - to God. Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation. It is a relationship initiated by God and leading, if one consents, to divine union.

Christian Contemplatives and Contemplative Practices Throughout History

Contemplative prayer is by no means a modern addition to Christianity. Contemplative Christian prayer has representatives in every age. A form of contemplative prayer was first practiced and taught by the Desert Fathers of Egypt, Palestine and Syria including Evagrius, St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great in the West, and Pseudo-Dionysius and the Hesychasts in the East.

In the Middle Ages, St. Bernard of Clarivaux, William of St. Thierry and Guigo the Carthusian represent the Christian contemplative tradition, as well as the Rhineland mystics, including St. Hildegard, St. Mechtilde, Meister Eckhart, Ruysbroek and Tauler. Later, the author of The Imitation of Christ and the English mystics of the 14th century such as the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, and Julian of Norwich became part of the Christian contemplative heritage.

After the Reformation, the Carmelites of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux; the French school of spiritual writers, including St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal and Cardinal Berulle; the Jesuits, including fathers De Caussade, Lallemont and Surin; the Benedictines, like Dom Augustine Baker and Dom John Chapman, and modern Cistercians such as Dom Vital Lehodey and Thomas Merton, all cultivated practices in their lives that they believed led to the spiritual gift of contemplation.

Modern Contemplative Practices

In the 20th and 21st centuries, initiatives have been taken by various religious orders, notably by the Jesuits and Discalced Carmelites, to renew the contemplative orientation of their founders and to share their spirituality with laypeople. In addition, several monks, such as Fathers Thomas Keating and John Main, have pioneered efforts to answer the call of Vatican II to return to the Gospels and to biblical theology as the primary sources of Catholic spirituality. The product of these initiatives is a myriad of modern prayer practices based on historical contemplative teachings.

Prayer of Faith, Prayer of the Heart, Pure Prayer, Prayer of Simplicity, Prayer of Simple Regard, Active Recollection, Active Quiet, and Acquired Contemplation are all names of modern practices based on historical practices and meant to prepare their practitioners for contemplation. The practices around which Contemplative Outreachwas built, Centering Prayerand Lectio Divina, are two such practices. Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina are closely derived from ancient contemplative Christian practices and are attempts to present these practices in updated formats that appeal to the lay community.

In many cases, modern Christian contemplative practices serve as a bridge in East/West dialogue as well as a way home for many Christians who have gone to the East in search of spiritual wisdom.


Bible search results

Genesis 24:63

He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching.

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Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditateon it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

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Psalm 1:2

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

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Psalm 19:14

May these words of my mouth and this meditationof my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

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Psalm 39:3

my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:

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Psalm 48:9

Within your temple, O God, we meditateon your unfailing love.

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Psalm 49:3

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditationof my heart will give you understanding.

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Psalm 77:3

I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

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Psalm 77:6

I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

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Psalm 77:12

I will consider all your works and meditateon all your mighty deeds.”

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Psalm 104:34

May my meditationbe pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.

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Psalm 119:15

meditateon your precepts and consider your ways.

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Psalm 119:23

Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant willmeditateon your decrees.

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Psalm 119:27

Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditateon your wonderful deeds.

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Psalm 119:48

I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditateon your decrees.

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Psalm 119:78

May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditateon your precepts.

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Psalm 119:97

מMem] Oh, how I love your law! I meditateon it all day long.

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Psalm 119:99

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditateon your statutes.

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Psalm 119:148

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditateon your promises.

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Psalm 143:5

I remember the days of long ago; I meditateon all your works and consider what your hands have done.

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Psalm 145:5

They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditateon your wonderful works.

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Jewish Meditation

Jewish meditation offers a way to infuse each of facet of Judaism with deeper meaning. Jewish meditation is not an end in itself, rather a partner process for healthy Jewish living. Reports of meditation experiences are widely found in Jewish sacred texts. For example:

-Torahteaches that Jacob went out into a field to meditate and discovered his future life-partner upon looking up in that state of consciousness. 

-Regarding the prophets Maimonides' grandson, Abraham Maimonides (1186-1237) wrote: "The biblical prophets did not prophesy at will. Rather they focused their minds and sat joyfully and contentedly in a state of meditation." [Mishneh Torah, Yesodai ha-Torah 7:4]

-In the Talmudour sages are described as meditating for an hour before and after services.
-Contemplative movement are also depicted in the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva is described in the Talmud, Berachot 31a, as bowing and prostrating himself to the point he moved from one corner of the room to the other while praying at home.  And there is also the Talmudic recommendation that when bowing in prayer "like a snake" one should "hyper-extend the spine until one can read the words on a coin set in front of your feet on the ground."

Much of the research undertaken by the original Kabbalists involves meditation-based practices which are then shared, reviewed and fine-tuned with colleagues and students.

What is the purpose of Jewish meditation?

Just as healthy foods nourish us through the blood stream, so Jewish meditation nourishes our "soul stream." Meditation can transform Judaism from the purely intellectual process most of us grew up with into a spiritual practice that links us to Judaism in the most profound way. Meditation helps us go under our intellectual defenses making it possible to experience the healing and ethical alignment that arises out of feeling at one with creation. Each mitzvah, holy day and cycle of life has its own rhythm, nuance, taste and character. Jewish meditation can also help us shift into these facets of Judaism, deepening our connection to them.

Should meditation be done in a group or alone?

Both. Recent bio-medical studies indicate that group meditation enhances the benefits of solitary meditation. When a minyan (10) of Jews meditates together, there is a reciprocity of awareness, caring, and support that emerges so long as there is careful attention to the dynamics of interpersonal power. Innovators in the field of Jewish mysticism have had a tendency to think of themselves as the messiah, a distortion distinctly unhelpful to the formation of healthy communities. Meditating alone has its advantages too. Solitary meditators can experience a wonderful closeness to God, the flow of what Kabbalists call "The River of Light" can add energy and delight to your day.

Are there different kinds of Jewish meditation?

Yes! An exciting variety of approaches exist. Depending upon your emotional make-up, the circumstances and the effect you desire to create, one might suit you better than another. But whatever technique you choose, the benefits of a regular program of Jewish meditation will intensify with daily practice and delicious nuances of experience and awareness will emerge over time.

How Do I Learn Jewish meditation?

Most types of Jewish meditation are simple to learn under the auspices of a good teacher. Some are more complex and require careful preparation and guidance. It is important to experiment and find the technique and teacher(s) that works best for you. When I teach groups and guide individuals, I try to artistically combine mussar, mitzvah & meditation as most of us benefit from multiple-modalities in our Jewish spiritual development.

Major methods of Jewish meditation include:

·       Chantingof verses from psalms, Torah and prayers. How to.
Recommendation:Seeking & Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction, see the chapter by Rabbi Shefa Gold and many others by contemporary Jewish spiritual masters. Here is a video of Rabbi Gold leading a meditation.

·       Stillness and silence: Psalm 65:2: l'cha dumia tehillh, "to You silence is praise" is among many texts on silence And in the Talmud we learn the sages would "be still one hour prior to each of the three prayer services, then pray for one hour and afterwards be still again for one hour more."BT Berachot 32b. This was interpreted by the Rambam as silent motionlessness in order "to settle their minds and quiet their thoughts." [Maimonides' Commentary on Mishnah Berachot 5:1] Recommendation: The Awakened Heart Project

·       Focusing upon a Shiviti- a special Jewish graphic which helps induct a mystical state of consciousness. Recommendation:The artwork of David Friedman, Jackie Olenick, Betsy Teutsch and many others, including this guideto the use of a shiviti by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi found along with the shiviti art of Morty Breier of Hawaii.

·       Meditation on the names of God or on the letters of God's name, or permutations thereof, also doing this with words and letters. The Ari suggests imaginally taking the vowels of Yirah and placing them under the Tetragrammaton. Recommendation:Books titled: Jewish Meditationby Aryeh Kaplan and also Meditation and Kabbalah.

·       Guided visualizationsare more spiritual journeying and guidance tools.
Recommendation:Many examples in Seeking & Soaring, especially the chapter by Dr. Elliot Ginsburg; also those by Carol Rose and Rabbi Joyce Reinitz on the visualization methods of Mme Colette plus a brief audio examplewith written documentation. Also the books and teachings of Melinda Ribner. Another approach is to contemplate the levels of an external or internal flame. Here is a Passover visualizationthat I created with Dr. Laura Vidmar. 

·       "Tree of Life, Eitz Chayyim" meditations via Sephirot which are qualities that advance us as a healthy vessel for awareness and mitzvah-centered living.
Here is an examplefrom here on our site, and (scroll past the story) to another. From Jewish Renewal of Brisbane, Australia come additional helpful examplesRecommendation:Rabbi David Cooper's Kabbalah Meditation, available also as an iTunes app chapter by chapter. 

·       Walking, dancing & movement meditations.  Recommendation: Retreats and materials by Latifa B. Kropf & Sima Aranow in sacred dance, and Rabbi Myriam KlotzDiane Bloomfield, and Rabbi Heather Altmanin the burgeoning field of those trained in Torah Yoga.

·       Attaining a state of Ayin consciousness, the "no-state" which creates connection to the One; sometimes attained by 70 consecutive exhalations, among many practices. Again, see the works of Aryeh Kaplan, z'l.

·       Hitbodedut - hitbodedus, a process of "emptifying" in order to refill with vision and spirit, is sometimes considered to be a form of Ayin meditation and certainly of authentic prayer. The author of the devotional Shabbat poem Yedid Nefesh, Eleazar Azikri [1533-1600], described study as the practice for the intellect and quoted his teacher the Ari, as considering a Jewish meditation practice known as hitbodedut-hitbodedus to be seven fold more helpful to the soul.

·       While the entire profound method known as Focusing is more a form of spiritual direction akin to Hashmal, the "Speaking Silence" where layers need to be released before core revelations can emerge: "And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came from the north, a great cloud, and a fire flaring up, and a brightness was around it, out of its midst, the speaking silence, out of the midst of the fire." -Ezekiel 1:4 [also see Kings I, 19:11-12] The entry steps of Focusing,known as "clearing a space" are perfect for entry into hisbodedus as well as other forms of Ayin consciousness and prayer. Here is an example.Information on Focusing and Judaism.

·       Jewish texts designed for repetitive chant, those specially designed to induce mystical encounter is yet another approach. The Thirteen Attributes of God as articulated by Moses are a good example, found in Exodus 32:10.
Wearing a tallit - tallis is customary while engaging in Thirteen Attributes meditations. [Talmud Rosh Hashannah 17b]

·       Becoming attuned to the power of blessings. Example.Recommendation:The Path of Blessingby Rabbi Marcia Prager.

Is Jewish meditation for everyone?

No. For those with borderline personality and/or schizophrenia, meditation of any kind can be unsettling, even dangerous. Meditation may also be problematic for those with addictive and narcissistic tendencies.

Further, some forms of meditation will not work for everyone. Research shows that perhaps as many as 10% of humans do not have the "hard wiring" to benefit from guided visualizations.

Can Jewish meditation be practiced as a substitute for the rest of Judaism?

Meditation without the natural balances inherent in Judaism misses the point of mitzvah-centered rather than self-centered living and becomes both unholy and unhealthy.

How do I find a good teacher?

Look for courses taught by the following master teachers of Jewish meditation: Rabbis David Cooper, Shefa Gold, Jeff Roth, Sheila Weinberg, Jonathan Omer-man, Shohama Harris Wiener, Sylvia Boorstein and also, Mashpi'ah Melinda Ribner to name a very few of those who have midwifed this renaisssance. There are certainly many more teachers who are also profound and skillful. 

CAUTION: Not all of those who call themselves teachers of meditation, movement and Kabbalah are legitimate or safe. I have attended sessions offered at major centers by so-called Jewish meditation teachers whose physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual boundaries were unhealthy, making them dangerous to their students. IMHO, if you feel concerned when experiencing instruction from a teacher, trust your instincts and remove yourself. Each rabbinic association maintains an ethics committee with which you can check regarding your concerns.

All of the books listed to date at ReclaimingJudaism.orggive specific, implementable examples of a variety of forms of Jewish meditation.


Islamic Meditation

authentic path of the Prophet (S) through honoring the spirit and purpose of his prophetic mission, namely, to experientially draw nearer to the Creator, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Allah Almighty.


Meditation in Islam — What is Meditation?

In seeking to understand the place of meditation in Islam, it is first necessary to define meditation.

Meditation in Islam, in terms of a spiritual practice, can be defined simply as the art and science of presence, of simply be-ing, here, now.

In other words, meditation, particularly within the Islamic context, is withdrawing attention and focus from the outer external world, from dunya, and from the ego-mind which is based in time, in past and future, and awakening to the essence and divine spirit otherwise veiled by the superficial world of forms and appearances.

Meditation in Islam is turning inward, and thus away from the world created by the human ego, seeking to discover rather the Divine Presence of God, subtle and superior to the illusion of dunya.

“God has said, ‘Neither the heavens nor the earth can contain Me, save the heart of a believer.'” — Prophet Muhammad (S), Hadith Qudsi

Given that this awakening to Truth, to Reality, to Haq, is the very goal of Islam, and that it is only possible through turning inward, the place of meditation in Islam is thus of pre-eminent importance.

Meditation in Islam — It’s Value

“One hour of meditation is more valuable than seventy years of obligatory worship.” — Prophet Muhammad (S)

A Muslim may spend an entire lifetime in formal obligatory worship yet never draw fundamentally nearer to his or her Lord and Creator. Worse, in certain cases, the time and energy spent in worship leads not to humility and reverence, but to arrogance and pride. Yet why is this?

In ignoring meditation in Islam and so failing to honor the inner dimension of Islam by exclusively focusing on the outer, in equating piety with form, we run the very real risk of utterly missing the very point and purpose of Islam — to awaken, to discover the Divine Presence of God while still alive on this plane.

And so, when meditation in Islam and Islamic Spirituality is absent, the practice and understanding of Islam degenerates into another means to augment and preserve the self, the ego-mind and its assertion of an artificial temporal illusory identity, rather than the original Way of subduing and surrendering the self so that it dissolves and diminishes, resulting in a clear and perfect awakening to true consciousness in the Divine Presence of God, truly realizing the meaning of tawheed, the Oneness of God, and that all else is vanity and illusion.

It was thus that Imam Malik (R), the great scholar of Islam, stressed the importance of carrying both the inner and the outer dimensions of Islam.

“If one engages in formal Islamic practice (fiqh) yet fails to honor inner Islamic practice (tasawwuf), he or she will become a hypocrite. And if one engages in the inner but neglects the outer, he or she will become a sinner. Only by carrying both the inner and outer dimensions of Islam can one reach the goal, Truth.” — Imam Malik (R)

By practicing meditation in Islam, we become capable of making real progress and truly benefitting from formal practice. For in a single hour of meditation in Islam, a human being may attain a realization that will forevermore augment the power and presence of his or her practices and prayers, transforming otherwise rote ritual into divine experiences of love, joy, gratitude, presence and gnosis, ma’rifah.

Because meditation in Islam diminishes the ego-self and its superficial aspirations based on the illusory world of form, dunya, the Muslim honoring this sacred practice progresses on the path to human perfection and excellence, culminating in enlightenment and divine gnosis, ma’rifah, through Maqam al-Ihsan, the Station of Human Excellence, the very goal of the Islamic path.

Meditation in Islam — The Way of the Prophet (S)

It is well known that the Holy Prophet (S) would consistently spend several days each month in quiet contemplation, meditation and khalwa, or spiritual seclusion, in Ghar Hira, a cave on Jabal Nur, the Mountain of Light, just outside the city of Mecca.

In fact, it was during one of these extended periods of seclusion and meditation, at the age of forty, that the Prophet Muhammad (S) received the very first revelation of the Holy Qur’an from the spiritual realm of the Unseen, al-Ghayb, brought to him by none other than the Archangel Gabriel (A).

“Read! In the name of thy Lord Who created, Who created mankind from but a single drop. Read! And thy Lord is Most Gracious, He Who teaches by the Pen, teaches humanity that which they know not.” — Surah al-‘Alaq(Holy Qur’an, 96:1–5)

During many years of such quiet introspection and meditation in Islam, the Holy Prophet (S) cultivated a spiritually tuned nature, impeccable character, and awareness and consciousness of the imminent Presence of God.

He later described the goal and purpose of Islam as attaining this state of Presence known as Maqam al-Ihsan, the Station of Spiritual Excellence.

And above any other practice, for spiritual growth and evolution he recommended dhikr, quiet contemplation and meditation, remembrance, of the Presence of God.

“There is no doubt that the heart becomes covered with rust, just as metal dishes, silver, and their like, become rusty. The rust of the heart is polished with dhikr, for dhikrpolishes the heart until it becomes like a clean mirror. However, when dhikris abandoned, the rust returns, and when it commences the heart again becomes cleansed. The heart becoming rusty is due to two matters: sins and neglecting remembrance of God, dhikr. Likewise, it is cleansed and polished by two things: seeking forgiveness and dhikr.” — Prophet Muhammad (S)

In another statement, the Holy Prophet (S) emphasized the importance of God-consciousness as the difference between those who are truly living and they who are not.

“The difference between one who engages in dhikr, remembrance and awareness of the Divine Presence, and one who does not, is as the difference between the living and the dead.” — Prophet Muhammad (S)

Meditation in Islam — Dhikr

The Arabic word dhikr means “to remember” or “to mention.” Also, in Arabic, the root word for human being, insan, is derived from the same root word which means “forgetful”, nasiyaan, implying that the human being is easily distracted by dunya, the world of forms and appearances, because he is largely limited by the tendency of his mind, which gravitates towards the external material world.

Thus, through meditation in Islam, to turn away from the external world of form that is a covering, a veil, upon the Divine Presence of God, and to turn inward towards the Divine Presence is of paramount importance.

It is for this reason that through dhikr, through meditation in Islam and remembering God by turning inward and away fromdunya, one strengthens faith and progresses upon the spiritual path, cultivating one’s connection to Truth and Reality.

“God guideth unto Himself all who turn unto Him, they who believe and whose hearts seek rest in the remembrance of God. Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest! For those who believe and do good, joy is for them and bliss their journey’s end.” — Surah ar-Rad (Holy Qur’an Quotes, 13:27–29)

Rest. Relax. Surrender. Awaken.

Islam literally means “surrender”, and attaining a state of internal surrender and submission to Divine Will as it manifests nowis the goal of Islam and they key to the state of ihsan.

Lack of such internal surrender results in chronic tension, and the body accumulates toxins from persistent stress and anxiety, ultimately leading to degeneration and disease.

Yet this can be averted through the holy practice of meditation in Islam, the mindful, conscious and intentional practice of dhikr, leading to presence, clarity, awareness and focus.

Rediscover the Power of Islamic Spirituality


Meditation in Islam — Spiritual Purification

Through dhikr and meditation in Islam, the constant cultivation of a state of presence and awareness, also known as taqwa, God-consciousness, a human being attains the state of Islam known as Maqam al-Ihsan. This represents the perfection of human character and such an individual is characterized by a deep, profound and constant connection to the Creator, to Source, a state of perpetual presence, in which resistance is relinquished and surrender is truly realized.

Meditation in Islam thus facilitates in ultimately leading to wilayah, reception of the Divine Trust and destiny, al-amanah, which God willed for humanity. Such an individual becomes a living doorway to the Divine Presence of God, for he or she has one foot in the Divine Presence and one foot in dunya.

Such pious and spiritually purified individuals truly exemplify peace, the goal of Islam, and because they are by nature friendly and in harmony with Divine Will, with what-is, they are free and liberated from fear and insecurity. They are known as awliyaullah, the Friends of God.

“Behold! Verily upon the friends of God there is no fear, nor shall they grieve.” — Surah Yunus (Holy Qur’an Quotes, 10:62)

Meditation in Islam — The Spiritual Path

The very goal of Islam is attainment of Divine proximity, nearness to God. This is only possible through transcendence of self, ego, referred to by the Holy Prophet (S) as Jihad an-Nafs, the “Struggle Within.”

Meditation in Islam, also known as dhikr, originally practiced by the Prophet (S) and recommended as essential to spiritual purification, Tazkiyyat an-Nafs, provides the most effective means and method of attaining the state of surrender, true Islam, and the station of spiritual excellence known as Maqam al-Ihsan.

“O you who believe! Remember God perpetually, and glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who blesses you, as do His angels, that He may bring you forth from darkness into light, for His mercy flows to they who believe. Their greeting on the Day when they shall meet Him shall be “Peace!”, and for them is prepared a most gracious reward.” — Surah al-Ahzab (Holy Qur’an Quotes, 33:41–44)