Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Hausa Koranic Writing Tablet

Catalog Number: G003/J042


24.25" x 12.50" x 0.54"

615.95 mm x 317.50 mm x 13.65 mm

Materials: pigment
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

The long history of Islam in West Africa has brought with it a longstanding practice of Muslim scholars and clerics copying religious writings. While the Koran is the most common source of such writings, scholars have also copied other religious and philosophical texts and treatises. Among the Hausa people and their neighbors, such as the Fulani, Islamic schooling has long emphasized the ability to read classic Arabic. Yet, until relatively recent times, the ability to read and write was relatively rare outside of scholarly circles. Indeed, with its strong ties to religion and mysticism, writing often took on an air of the supernatural, especially in the nineteenth century. The only writing many Hausa and Fulani were likely to encounter was on tablets such as this, which holy men infused with sacred power to create amulets and charms. For instance, the mallum’en┬áholy men of the Fulani of Northern Cameroon led prayers (do’a) over Koranic amulets and oversaw the “drinking of the Koran,” a practice whereby a cleric wrote verses onto a writing tablet such as this and then washed off the ink so that a supplicant could drink it and receive Allah’s blessing. Tablets written by marabouts and other holy men are often written unclearly so as to protect the secret knowledge of the person inscribing it.