Workshop Description

Workshop: Approaches to the Qur’aninfo-icon in sub-Saharan Africa
Toronto, 20–21 May 2011




Venue: The workshop will be hosted by the Textile Museum of Canada on the occasion of the exhibition on, ‘Magic Squares: The Patterned Imagination of Muslim Africa in Contemporary Culture’ (May 18 – November 20, 2011).


Organised by Professor Zulfikar Hirji, York University, Toronto.


Co-sponsored by The Institute of Ismaili Studies and York University, Toronto (Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies and the Department of Anthropology).


Workshop Description


This workshop will bring together scholars from various academic disciplines, with an audience of artists, students and community members, to examine a range of issues concerning Islam and Muslim societies in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on the Qur’an.


The workshop examines the diverse ways in which the Qur’an has been used and interpreted throughout sub-Saharan Africa, particularly over the last two hundred years. A focussed exploration of the way in which Muslims in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa have drawn upon or have been inspired by the Qur’an to articulate their existential and spiritual concerns also aims to generate discussion about the formation, development and future of Islam and Muslim societies in the region. The workshop will explore a range of interrelated themes including:


  • Transmission and reception of the Qur’an and Islamic culture in local contexts and local languages with a focus on tafsir, translation traditions and cultures of learning;
  • Esoteric interpretations of the Qur’an in ritual practices, religious discourse and transmission of religious knowledge including interfaces, contestations, and rapprochements with exoteric interpretations, and the construction of ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy’;
  • Conservation and preservation of Islamic cultural heritage in sub-Saharan Africa with particular focus on manuscript libraries of West Africa;
  • Religious learning and scholarly authority and networks with a focus on women’s roles and gendered interpretations of Islamic religious texts;
  • Expressions and circulation of the Qur’an through material culture, art, popular culture, music and media.

    Map showing all the countries referred to in the workshop papers


    An edited volume including selected papers from the workshop will be submitted for inclusion in the Qur’anic Studies Series of publications.