God’s Word Appropriated – Recitation of the Qur’an and Knowledge Formation in Early Islamic Theology

Subproject by Nora K. Schmid

The project examines the actualization of God’s word in speech and cult as well as the role this process played in knowledge formation in early Arabic Islamic culture, particularly in ascetic contexts.

Already in the Qur’an, recitation in front of the emerging community, memorization and interiorization of the revelation as well as different modes of pious devotion are negotiated. But the nexus of recitation and striving for knowledge also has its place in early Islamic theological literature. “Renunciant” literature (zuhd) seems particularly promising for exploring the importance and functions of recitation. Theological texts reflecting the excellence of a group of pious (ahl al-qurʾān), who overlap with the renunciants and learn the sacred text by heart, teach it and keep God’s word alive through recitation, hint at a particular kind of knowledge generated and brought to bear in speech and through performance. Cultic knowledge cannot be grasped in terms of propositional logic. It is constituted through truth claims which are frequently complementary to scholarly strategies of reasoning and intertwined with the latter.

In the framework of the subproject, the transfer of hermeneutic practices in late antique ascetic contexts as evidenced by the practice of recitation is explored. Dealing with knowledge “set free” through contemplative and ritual performance will help to come to grips with processes of transfer constitutive for Late Antiquity that are strongly marked by a new perspective on the self.