The Walking Qur'an

Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa

By Rudolph T. Ware III

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 4 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1431-1
    Published: June 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1432-8
    Published: June 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4560-3
    Published: June 2014

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
Spanning a thousand years of history--and bringing the story to the present through ethnographic fieldwork in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania--Rudolph Ware documents the profound significance of Qur'an schools for West African Muslim communities. Such schools peacefully brought Islam to much of the region, becoming striking symbols of Muslim identity. Ware shows how in Senegambia the schools became powerful channels for African resistance during the eras of the slave trade and colonization. While illuminating the past, Ware also makes signal contributions to understanding contemporary Islam by demonstrating how the schools' epistemology of embodiment gives expression to classical Islamic frameworks of learning and knowledge.

Today, many Muslims and non-Muslims find West African methods of Qur'an schooling puzzling and controversial. In fascinating detail, Ware introduces these practices from the viewpoint of the practitioners, explicating their emphasis on educating the whole human being as if to remake it as a living replica of the Qur'an. From this perspective, the transference of knowledge in core texts and rituals is literally embodied in people, helping shape them--like the Prophet of Islam--into vital bearers of the word of God.

About the Author

Rudolph T. Ware III is assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan.
For more information about Rudolph T. Ware III, visit the Author Page.


"An excellent and needed contribution to understanding classical Islamic learning methods." —American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

"Full of bold moves….An important book whose provocative and controversial exploration of the phenomenology and epistemologies of West African Islam…succeeds in reopening the scholarship and public debate about Islam, not only in West Africa but also in the Muslim world."—Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

"A fascinating new account of the history of taalibes."—Book and Ideas

"Outstanding…With [this] publication, Ware has established his reputation as an authority on West African history and Islamic epistemology."—Harvard Divinity Bulletin

“A compelling account of Muslim epistemology and a strong contribution to African history.”—Journal of Africana Religions

"Full of original ideas and interpretations, Ware's model of embodied Qur'anic learning is an important contribution to our understanding of Islam in Africa." —Nile Green, University of California, Los Angeles