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Studies of Islam in Southeast Asia have sought to better understand its multifaceted
and complex dimensions, although one may make a generalized
categorization of Muslim beliefs and practices based on a fundamental difference
in ideologies and strategies, such as cultural and political Islam.
Anna M. Gade’s Perfection Makes Practice stresses the cultural aspect of
Indonesian Muslim practices by analyzing the practices of reciting and
memorizing the Qur’an, as well as the annual competition.
Muslim engagement with the Qur’an has tended to emphasize the cognitive
over the psychological dimension. Perfection Makes Practice analyzes
the role of emotion in these undertakings through a combination of
approaches, particularly the history of religions, ethnography, psychology,
and anthropology. By investigating Qur’anic practitioners in Makassar,
South Sulawesi, during the 1990s, Gade argues that the perfection of the
Qur’an as a perceived, learned, and performed text has made and remade the
practitioners, as well as other members of the Muslim community, to renew
or increase their engagement with the holy text. In this process, she suggests,
moods and motivation are crucial to preserving the recited Qur’an and revitalizing
the Muslim community.
In chapter 1, Gade begins with a theoretical consideration for her case
study. Drawing from concepts that emphasize the importance of feeling and
emotion in ritual and religious experience, she develops a conceptualization
of this engagement. In chapter 2, Gade explains memorization within the
context of the self and social relations. She argues that Qur’anic memorizers
have a special relationship with its style and structure, as well as with the
social milieu. Although Qur’anic memorization is a normal practice for most
Muslims, its practitioners have learned how to memorize and recite beautifully
some or all of the Qur’an’s verses, a process that requires emotion ...