Written in Wax Quranic Recitational Phonography

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Jan Just Witkam



Islamic law employs a classification of acts that divides each into one of five categories (al-aḥkām al-khamsa), ranging from forbidden to obligatory. When the phonograph became a popular instrument at the end of the nineteenth century, the use of this new machine, which reproduced both the Quran being recited and the song of an unknown woman, had to be categorized. The present article presents the edition for the first time, with translation and analysis, of a fatwa on the permissibility of the phonograph, issued in 1908 by the Meccan scholar ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ al-Zawāwī (d. 1924). Fatwas on phonography by the Indonesian scholar Sayyid ʿUthmān (d. 1914) and the later shaykh al-Azhar Muḥammad Bakhīt al-Muṭīʿī (d. 1935) are also analyzed. Two European scholars who recorded Quranic phonography are paid attention as well: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (d. 1936) and Gotthelf Bergsträsser (d. 1933). Their involvement with Quranic sound recording is placed within its historical context. Finally, a short impression is given of what survives of these early recordings.

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