The Walking Qur'an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa

The Walking Qur'an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa

by Rudolph T. Ware


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Spanning a thousand years of history—and bringing the story to the present through ethnographic fieldwork in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania—Rudolph Ware documents the profound significance of Qur'an schools for West African Muslim communities. Such schools peacefully brought Islam to much of the region, becoming striking symbols of Muslim identity. Ware shows how in Senegambia the schools became powerful channels for African resistance during the eras of the slave trade and colonization. While illuminating the past, Ware also makes signal contributions to understanding contemporary Islam by demonstrating how the schools' epistemology of embodiment gives expression to classical Islamic frameworks of learning and knowledge.

Today, many Muslims and non-Muslims find West African methods of Qur'an schooling puzzling and controversial. In fascinating detail, Ware introduces these practices from the viewpoint of the practitioners, explicating their emphasis on educating the whole human being as if to remake it as a living replica of the Qur'an. From this perspective, the transference of knowledge in core texts and rituals is literally embodied in people, helping shape them—like the Prophet of Islam—into vital bearers of the word of God.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469614311
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 06/16/2014
Series: Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks
Edition description: 1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 402,623
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rudolph T. Ware III is assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Orthographic Notes xv

Introduction: Islam, the Quran School, and the Africans 1

Chapter 1 Education, Embodiment, and Epistemology 39

Chapter 2 Embodying Islam in West Africa: The Making of a Clerisy, ca. 1000-1770 77

Chapter 3 The Book in Chains: Slavery and Revolution in Senegambia, 1770-1890 110

Chapter 4 Bodies of Knowledge: Schooling, Sufism, and Social Change in Colonial Senegal, 1890-1945 163

Chapter 5 Disembodied Knowledge?: "Reform" and Epistemology in Senegal, 1945-Present 203

Conclusion: The Quran School, the Body, and the Health of the Umma 237

Glossary 259

Notes 261

Bibliography 295

Index 319

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Ware's treatment of the body and bodily encounters in the transmission of knowledge and construction of authority in Islam is truly path-breaking. This book is a major contribution to African history and Islamic epistemology.—Ousmane Kane, Harvard Divinity School

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