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Accepted Paper:

Tracing the Shift: Oral Quran to Written Mushaf - Exploring Sacred Transformations in Islam  
Sayed Hassan Akhlaq (The George Washington University)

Abstract:

This study explores the dynamic interplay between the secular and sacred realms within Islam, with a particular focus on the evolution of a book into a revered object and the intricate relationship between sacredness and materiality. It investigates the underlying expectations, memories, and theological concepts that facilitated the transition of a sacred oral tradition into a fixed, holy text.

Initially, the divine revelation received by Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, manifested as oral recitation, known as the "Quran," before transforming into a written and tangible form referred to as the "mushaf." This transition is closely linked to significant historical episodes, including the "mihna," which emerged amid fervent debates surrounding the Quran's nature, and discussions among textualist Shias and orthodox Sunnis regarding the concept of alteration ("tahrif") in the Quran. Despite differing viewpoints, both Sunni textualists and Shia rationalists (usulis) ultimately affirmed the sanctity of the written Quran.

This paper specifically examines Quranic verses 56:77-80 through the perspectives of classical exegetes from both Sunni and Shia traditions. It aims to comprehend how the original revelation oscillates between the physical book held in hand, the oral recitation, and the contemplation of its transcendental nature by the mind. The resulting discourse, embraced by Sharia scholars and Sufis, played a crucial role in establishing regulations for physical interaction with the Quran and crafting etiquettes for its recitation to preserve its inherent sanctity.

Thus, the intersections between the sacred and secular realms within Islam have given rise to multifaceted layers and non-linear dimensions, offering new avenues for examining Islam specifically and religion in general. By analyzing primary sources within Islamic theology, Sufism, and jurisprudence, this paper aims to illuminate the narrative of this transformative process and its evolution over time.

Panel REL01
Identity and Belief in the Late Russian Empire and Soviet Union
  Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -