“THEIR PRAYER AT THE HOUSE IS NOTHING BUT WHISTLING AND CLAPPING OF HANDS” (Q AL-ANFAL 8:35): NEGOTIATING PROCESSIONS IN THE QUR'AN

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Johanne Louise Christiansen

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Abstract

In this article, I argue that the Qur'an as a post-axial text contains traces of an anti-processional ideal in its position on circumambulation (tawaf), the Ka'bah, and the pilgrimage (hajj). This argument is based on the observation that the Qur'an both presents processional circumambulation as a legitimate ritual of reverence (e.g., Q al-Baqarah 2:125) but also seems to hint at an ideological uneasiness regarding this particular ritual (Q al-Baqarah 2:158, al-Anfal 8:34–35). Taking a theoretical perspective from the study of religions, particularly the work of Robert Bellah, the article proposes that the Qur'an negotiates a compromise between an initial anti-processional ideal and the feasibility and long-term durability of its ritual practices. A circumambulation with particular gravitas and without “clapping” and “whistling,” as demanded in Q 8:35, is the pragmatic result of such a negotiation. From this perspective, the most important thing, according to the Qur'an, is to pray and address one’s devotions to God, but if members of the community feel a need to perform circumambulation, then that is acceptable provided certain conditions are met.


doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.31441/jiqsa.4.2019.a004

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