Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 10, No 1-2 (2019)

Embodying the Qur’an

Katharina Wilkens
Issued Date: 2 Aug 2019


Mohammed was said by his wife Aisha to be a “walking Qur’an”. This saying is taken both as a statement of his exemplary character as well as an image for the fact that he embodied the words of the Qur’an. Memorization and recitation from memory is conceived of as embodying the holy text and it is also the primary aim of Qur’anic education. In West Africa, drinking the ink of the writing boards is the closing ritual of a lesson at Qur’anic school, the text being thus embodied both mentally and physically. Drinking the Qur’an, literally incorporating its words infused in water, is also widely considered to be an effective medicine, in which materiality and sonality of the sacred words contribute to its efficacy. In my paper, I will take up the notion of embodying and sounding the Qur’an as an aesthetic ideology governing its ritual uses.

Download Media

PDF Subscribers Only

DOI: 10.1558/post.38329


als, directed by Muttaqi Ismail. 27 October.

Berglund, Jenny. 2010. Teaching Islam. Islamic Religious Education in Sweden. Münster: Waxmann.

Boyle, Helen N. 2006. “Memorization and Learning in Islamic Schools.” Comparative Education Review 50(3), 478–495.

Cancik, Hubert and Mohr, Hubert. 1988. “Religionsästhetik.” In Handbuch der religionswissenschaftlichen Grundbegriffe, ed. Hubert Cancik, Burkhard Gladigow and Matthias Laubscher, 121–156. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Eickelman, Dale F. 1978. “The Art of Memory: Islamic Education and its Social Reproduction.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 20: 485–516.

Graham, William A. 1987. Beyond the Written Word. Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gril, Denis. 2006. “Le corps du Prophète.” Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [online] 113–114.

Gross, Steffen W. 2011. Cognitio sensitiva. Ein Versuch über die Ästhetik als Lehre von der Erkenntnis des Menschen. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

Hardaker, Glenn and Sabki, Aishah Ahmad. 2014. “Islamic Pedagogy and Embodiment. An Anthropological Study of a British Madrasah.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 28(8): 873–886.

Hefner, Robert W. and Zaman, Muhammad Qasim, ed. 2007. Schooling Islam. The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Hornbacher, Annette. 2016. “Introduction. Balinese Practices of Script and Western Paradigms of Texts. An Anthropological Approach to a Philological Topic.” In The Materiality and Efficacy of Balinese Letters, ed. Richard Fox and Annette Hornbacher, 1–22. Leiden: Brill.

Keane, Webb. 2003. “Semiotics and the social analysis of material things.” Language & Communication 23(3–4): 409–425.

Kermani, Navid. 2014 [1999]. God is Beautiful: The Aesthetic Experience of the Quran. Translated by Tony Crawford. Cambridge: Polity.

Launay, Robert, ed. 2016a. Islamic Education in Africa. Writing Boards and Blackboards. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Launay, Robert. 2016b. “Introduction: Writing Boards and Blackboards.” In Islamic Education in Africa. Writing Boards and Blackboards, ed. Robert Launay, 1–26. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Launay, Robert and Ware III., Rudolph T. 2016. “How (Not) to Read the Qur’an? Logics of Islamic Education in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.” In Islamic Education in Africa. Writing Boards and Blackboards, edited by Robert Launay, 255–267. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Nieber, Hanna. 2017. “‘They all just want to get healthy!’ Drinking the Qur’an between forming religious and medical subjectivities in Zanzibar.” Journal of Material Culture 22(4), 453–475.

Perho, Irmeli. 2006. “Medicine and the Qur’an.” In Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an, volume 3, edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe, 349–367. Leiden: Brill.

Promey, Sally M. 2014. “Introduction.” In Sensational Religion. Sensory Cultures in Material Practice, edited by Sally M. Promey, 1–21. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Scheer, Monique. 2012. “Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (And Is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion.” History and Theory 51(2): 193–220.

Suit, Natalia K. 2010 [2012]. “Muṣḥaf and the Material Boundaries of the Qur’an.” Postscripts 6(1–3): 143–163.

Svensson, Jonas. 2006. “Have you all got your copy of the Qur’an? Rationalisation, Ritual and the Role of God’s Word in a Kenyan Islamic Educational Setting.” Tidsskrift for Islamforskning 1: 1–27.

———. 2014. The Double Scripture: Explaining Diversity and Conflict in Muslim Perceptions and Practices in Relation to the Qur’an (conference abstract).

Ware III, Rudolph T. 2014. The Walking Qur’an. Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Wilke, Annette and Moebus, Oliver. 2011. Sound and Communication. An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Wilkens, Katharina. 2012 [2017]. “Infusions and Fumigations: Literacy Ideology and Therapeutic Aspects of the Qur’an.” Postscripts 8(1–2): 115–136.

Yelle, Robert. 2013. The Language of Disenchantment: Protestant Literalism and Colonial Discourse in British India. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zadeh, Travis. 2009. “Touching and Ingesting: Early Debates over the Material Qur’an.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 129(3): 443–466.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: [email protected]

Privacy Policy