The Walking Qur’an Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa By Rudolph Ware III (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. 330 pages.)

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Emad Hamdeh

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Abstract

With the introduction of new educational systems in the Muslim world during
the late-eighteenth through the early-twentieth century, many Muslims and
non-Muslims became critical of traditional pedagogical methods. In particular,
the image of Qur’an schools in West Africa are often criticized for their
“backward” forms of education and commonly perceived as places where
children simply parrot Qur’anic verses without much understanding. These
institutions have largely been abandoned and replaced by modern and secular
schooling systems. In his The Walking Qur’an, Rudolph Ware argues that
Qur’an schools have survived in places like West Africa. By studying them,
he seeks to historicize this once-paradigmatic approach to knowledge. Along
with shedding light on Islamic knowledge, Ware attempts to move beyond
race by placing Africans at the center of Islamic studies. Such an attempt is welcome, given the rarity of in-depth studies on Islamic history in West
Africa. In so doing he makes a welcome contribution to both Islamic and
African studies, while simultaneously examining the boundaries between the
two ...

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