• This work aims to open up new discourses about Islam in sub-Saharan Africa through the examination of how Muslims in this geographical and socio- cultural context have engaged with the Qur’aninfo-icon. Covering a period from the twelfth/eighteenth century to the early twenty- first century, this multidisciplinary volume examines a variety of geographical locations in sub-Saharan Africa including Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania.

    The book’s twelve case studies use different frameworks and methodological approaches from the academic disciplines of anthropology, art history, historiography and philology. They explore a variety of media and modalities that Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, as elsewhere, use in their engagements with the Qur’an. This volume moves well beyond the materiality of the Qur’an as a physical book to explore the ways in which it is understood, felt and imagined, and to examine the contestations and debates that arise from these diverse engagements. The volume covers textual culture (manuscripts, commentaries and translations); aural and oral culture (recitations and invocations, music and poetry); the lived experience (magic squares and symbolic repertoire, medicinal and curative acts, healing and prayer, dreams and spirit worlds); material culture (textiles, ink, paper, and wooden boards); and education.

    In seeking to understand the plurality of engagements that Muslims from diverse communities of interpretation and from different parts of sub-Saharan Africa have had with Qur’an, this volume adds to the scholarship on the Qur’an as well as the scholarship on Islam and Muslims in Africa.

  • List of Illustrations                                                                        

    Notes on Contributors                                                                  

    Notes of Transliteration, Convention and Abbreviations              


    1: Introduction: Approaching the Qur'an in sub-Saharan Africa, Zulfikar Hirji

    2: Tafsīr Sources in Four Annotated Qur'anic Manuscripts from Ancient Borno, Dmitry Bondarev

    3: Qur'anic Exegesis in Manding: The Example of a Bamana Oral Commentary on Sūrat al-Raḥman (Q. 55), Tal Tamari

    4: Polemics and Language in Swahili Translations of the Qur'an: Mubarak Ahmad (d. 2001), Abdullah Saleh al-Farsy (d. 1982) and Ali Muhsin al-Barwani (d. 2006), Farouk Topan

    5: 'A confirmation of what went before it': Historicising a Swahili Qur'an Translation, Gerard C. van de Bruinhorst

    6: A Pious Poetics of Place: Islam and the Interpellation of (im)moral Subjects in Malian Popular Culture, Ryan Thomas Skinner

    7: 'And God will protect thee from mankind' (Q. 5:67): A Talismanic Shirt from West Africa, Ruba Kana'an

    8: Prayer, Piety, and Pleasure: Contested Models of Islamic Worship in Niger, Adeline Masquelier

    9: By way of the Qur'an: Appeasing Spirits, Easing Emotions and Everyday Matters in Zanzibar, Kjersti Larson

    10: The Woman who Did Not Become Possessed: Tuareg Islam and the Problem of Gendered Knowledge and Power in a Visitational Dream, Susan J. Rasmussen

    11: Women Who are Men: Daughters of Shaykhinfo-icon Ibrahim Ñas and the Paradoxes of Women's Religious Leadership in Senegal, Joseph Hill

    12: From the Tablet to Paper Leaves: Islamic Metaphysics and the Symbolism of Traditional Qur'anic Education in Hausaland (Nigeria), Andrea Brigaglia

    13: 'The Siyu Qur'ans: Three Illuminated Qur'an Manuscripts from Coastal East Africa', Zulfikar Hirji

  • Read a free excerpt 


    "This volume brings together anthropologists... as well as linguists, social historians, and art historians. Their respective articles illustrate different disciplinary approaches to the study of the Qur’aninfo-icon in Africa... It is a major contribution in the field of Islam in Africa and Qur’anic studies." (The Journal of African History, Vol 61: 2, 2020)

    Ousmane Kane, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society, Harvard University

  • Professor Zulfikar Hirji

    Dr Zulfikar Hirji
    Zulfikar Hirji is an Anthropologist and Social Historian of Muslim Societies and Cultures. He is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at York University, Toronto. He was formerly a Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, and Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. Professor Hirji received his DPhil from the University of Oxford, MPhil from University of Cambridge, and B.A. (Joint Honours) from McGill University. He also studied at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in the Graduate Programme of Islamic Studies and Humanities. Professor Hirji...Read more