The Walking Qur'an
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication
Maps and Illustrations
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Gratitude wells within me as I write these lines that are both a beginning and an end. Though they are the first words for the reader, they are the last for the writer, and thus they are filled with emotion. This book has been an odyssey, a journey to fulfill a mission that has occupied me for much of the past twelve years. In my bodily, spiritual, and intellectual travels, I have...
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In this work, all translations from Arabic, Wolof, French, Fula, and any other language are mine unless otherwise noted. The three main languages transcribed here form plurals in radically different ways, so I will generally form plurals by adding a terminal “s,” though occasionally I will use plural forms from these languages for expository reasons or because the...
Introduction: Islam, the Qur'an School, and the Africans
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Believing Muslims hold that more than fourteen hundred years ago, a chain of recitation was initiated in a cave on Mt. Ḥirāʾ, just outside of Mecca. The Angel Gabriel (Jibrīl) began reciting the Word of God to a man who had been chosen to bear the burden of prophethood. Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullah heard the command to recite and obeyed. He listened intently to the words...
1. Education, Embodiment, and Epistemology
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A recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, Off the Backs of the Children: Forced Begging and Other Abuses against Talibés in Senegal, opens with these lines:
At least 50,000 children attending hundreds of residential Quranic schools, or daaras, in Senegal are subjected to conditions akin to slavery and forced to endure oft en extreme forms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation...
2. Embodying Islam in West Africa: The Making of a Clerisy, ca. 1000–1770
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At the end of the eighteenth century, near the end of the period examined in this chapter, Mungo Park, a Scotsman, was traveling through Senegambia. Most Europeans who came to know West Africa well during this period were slavers, but Park was not. He was indeed there in service of commerce, however, working in conjunction with British groups interested in discovering...
3. The Book in Chains: Slavery and Revolution in Senegambia, 1770–1890
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In 1770, Sulaymaan Baal, a Fulɓe teacher, was making his way back to Fuuta Tooro. Homeward bound after years of travel in pursuit of knowledge, he had visited the homes and schools of scholars all over West Africa, including the bayḍān clerics of the southwestern Sahara. Along with his disciples, he was now leaving the Saharan fringes and heading for the Senegal River...
4. Bodies of Knowledge: Schooling, Sufism, and Social Change in Colonial Senegal, 1890–1945
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Even as some fought a desperate battle to prevent the enslavement of Muslims by Muslims, precolonial Senegambia had been transforming itself into a slave society. Part of what made the rhetoric and reality of the revolutionary movements so powerful was that they had called on Muslim identity to cut across what everyone knew to be deeply rooted hierarchical distinctions...
5. Disembodied Knowledge?: “Reform” and Epistemology in Senegal, 1945–Present
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In 1940, a Fulɓe man, Maḥmūd Ba, began teaching the Qurʾan in an unusual way in his hometown of Jowol, along the Senegal River, where the freedmen of the Almaami (see chapter 3) had once taken refuge from a cynical attempt to rob them of their liberty. Ba was descended from humble origins as well; he was not from the Tooroɓɓe clerical elite but rather was from a family of...
Conclusion: The Qur'an School, the Body, and the Health of the Umma
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I have spent nearly three years living in Senegal’s urbane and cosmopolitan capital city of Dakar. As I write, it is a sprawling modern metropolis with a population of at least three million souls. I have lived for extended periods in four different neighborhoods, and in each there was a traditional Qurʾan school within roughly two hundred meters of my home. Everywhere you...
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Other Works in the Series
Publication Year: 2014