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280 Journal of Qur’anic Studies

authenticity of the work, see Richard Gramlich, ‘Fakhr al-Dīn ar-Rāzī’s Kommentar zu Sure 18,
9–12’, Asiatische Studien 22 (1979), pp. 99–152.
6 Al-Rāzī’s major works are listed in C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur,
1:507: Supplement 1:923. This is not a complete inventory. For a description of some of these
works, see G.C. Anawati, art. ‘Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’ in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edn; Ayman
Shihadeh, The Teleological Ethics of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, pp. 7–11.
7 A brief exposition of the place of science in al-Rāzī’s tafsīr can be found in Ahmad Dallal,
Islam, Science, and the Challenge of History (New Haven & London: Yale University Press,
2010), pp. 119–22, pp. 126–9. Further expositions can be found in Robert G. Morrison, Islam
and Science: The Intellectual Career of Niẓām al-Dīn al-Nīsābūrī (London and New York:
Routledge, 2007), passim.
8 Al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, ed. Muḥammad Muḥyī al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd (32 vols. Cairo:
al-Māṭbāʿa al-Bahiyya al-Miṣriyya, 1933), vol. 1, pp. 3–4.
9 The author (p. 157) notes that these terms are synonymous in al-Rāzī’s lexicon.
10 It should be noted that Richard Gramlich pointed to al-Rāzī’s absorption of elements from
classical Ṣūfism (miracles and wonders) in 1979, but his article does not address the theme of
unveiling in al-Rāzī’s thought (Richard Gramlich’s, ‘Faḫr ad-dīn ar-Rāzīs Kommentar zu sure
18, 9–12’, Asiatische Studien 33:2 (1979), pp. 99–152). It should also be noted that Nasrollah
Pourjavady has argued that in Mafātīḥ al-ghayb al-Rāzī inherits key aspects from al-Ghazālī’s
commenatary on the Light Verse, and that these aspects bespeak his inclination towards
11 All Qur’an translations in this article have been taken from A.J. Arberry.
12 On the science of unveiling in classical Ṣūfism, see Alexander Treiger, Inspired Knowledge
in Islamic Thought: Al-Ghazālī’s Theory of Mystical Cognition and its Avicennian Foundation
(London and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 39–47. See also Gerhard Bowering, The
Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qurʾānic Hermeneutics of the Ṣūfī Sahl At-
Tustarī (d. 283/896) (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1980), pp. 211ff.
13 p. 157
14 Al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 2, p. 214.
15 Lagarde (p. 252) notes that the great majority of these terms are of the fāʿala form in Arabic,
connoting relation.
16 Al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 1, p. 4.
17 On the debates that al-Rāzī held as an itinerant theologian in Central Asia, see Fathalla
Kholeif, A Study on Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and His Controversies in Transoxiana (Beirut: Dār
al-Mashriq, 1966).

Coran et talismans. Textes et pratiques magiques en milieu musulman. Edited by

Constant Hamès. Paris: Karthala, 2007. Pp. 416. e32,00

There has for long been a discreet brotherhood of researchers that, against the tide,
has consecrated itself to the study of Islamic magic and talismans. Against the tide
of the social sciences, whose vision of rationalism has long kept scholars away from
such superstitions. Against the tide of orientalism also, attached as it is to the study of
the great normative texts. Against the tide, furthermore, of the gatekeepers of dogma,
Book Reviews 281

who regard these practices as deviant and blameworthy. The very term ‘magic’ is so
strongly marked that it appears alien to scholarly categories. From the first page of the
introduction, by Louis Brenner, it is placed in quotation marks, as if to deter criticism.
One may keep in mind the apt definition given of this minefield: ‘a set of ideas and
actions that modifies the natural course of events’ (p. 7, 17).

Constant Hamès, the author of this definition and editor of the volume, has for long
been a member of this brotherhood of scholars, working in sub-Saharan Africa and
Madagascar. Hasty observers readily view these practices as a mere contamination of
the Islamic message by traditional, ‘animistic’ African elements. Nothing could be
further from the truth. Islamic magic is permeated by writing, mainly from the Qur’an,
which sharply distinguishes it from the various forms of sub-Saharan sorcery.
The social demand for protection and healing is the same everywhere, but the means
are not. Writing is central to the composition of magical formulae; but it is the energy
that is attributed to it that counts, not mere reading. This energy can only be transmitted
through a ritual in which oral performance is fundamental, to the point that one cannot
separate the text which conveys the forces from the speech that insufflates them.

In Arabic, the root s-ḥ-r and its various derived forms denote magical operations. The
Qur’an and the Sunna condemn them, and exegetes have turned all their skill to
establishing a distinction between licit and illicit magic. Hamès inaugurates the
volume by a chapter about the notion of magic in the Qur’an. Francesco Zappa
illustrates it through his examination of a Qur’an commentary by al-Qurṭubī. In view
of the categorical condemnation expressed in a ḥadīth transmitted by al-Tirmidhī
(‘The magician suffers the death sentence’), one can only admire how al-Qurṭubī
gets around this obstacle. Earlier, the Mālikī jurist Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī
stated: ‘There is no harm in using charms to protect oneself from the evil eye and
other things of that nature’ – in his view, the Qur’anic formulae they contained were a
sufficient guarantee of orthodoxy.

Another ḥadīth affirms that ‘the dream is a part of prophecy’. This indicates its
great importance in Muslim tradition, as shown by Pierre Lory in his study of ‘The
Interpretation of Dreams in Muslim Culture’, as he reminds us of the place held by this
discipline in the Islamic corpus. There is also a special relationship to Ṣūfism. ‘The
Point of View of Ibn Khaldūn’ (by Aderrahmane Lakhsassi) introduces an additional
key to understanding. For Ibn Khaldūn, who experiences difficulty in establishing clear
criteria for defining licit magic, it is ultimately moral intention that determines the
nature of the action. Thus, Ibn Khaldūn engages in a close examination of the evil eye,
talismans, karāmāt and mucjizāt. Generally, only the magic that is acted by the Divine
power is acceptable; keen discernment is therefore necessary.

Following upon the study of these authoritative texts, comes that of the ‘astonishing
array of magical practices’ (to employ Louis Brenner’s expression, p. 8), which
282 Journal of Qur’anic Studies

largely resist attempts to subject them to norms. Ahmed Rahal’s contribution about
‘The Talismanic Tradition in Tunisia’, based on a nineteenth-century manual, is on
the cusp of theory and practice. The article analyses the preparation of therapeutic
and propitiatory amulets; diagnoses, numerology and magical squares are amply
discussed. Then follows a study of the remarkable talismanic tunics of Senegal (by
Alain Epelboin, Constant Hamès and Anne Raggi). These tunics are said to provide
very powerful protection; one of them, entirely covered with writing, magnificently
illustrates the book’s cover. (The book also includes numerous black-and-white
photographs and drawings.) These objects, and many similar ones, come from the
rubbish heaps on the outskirts of Dakar and are kept in the ALEP collection (created
by Alain Epelboin; at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, Paris), a veritable
treasure trove of abandoned protective objects. Yahya Ould El-Bara analyses ‘snake
bites among the Bidân [Moors] of Mauritania’. He shows how in this culture area,
alongside a highly developed learned tradition, there is a whole sector of maraboutic
healers, ranging from the charismatic to the impecunious, that has sprung up to meet
the demand with respect to the serpent, ‘the creature that sums up evil’ (p. 179), and is
also the constant dread of the nomadic pastoralist who walks barefoot. These persons’
arsenals include preventive and curative treatments, formulae, incantations, and magic
squares. Benjamin Soares analyses the activities of a Malian maker and vendor
of amulets – the disciple of a Tijānī shaykh. He also cites many consultative and
prophylactic practices: nasi (water with which a written formula has been washed),
ṣadaqa (‘alms/sacrifice’), ḥijāb (a generic term for amulets and talismans), khalwa
(‘spiritual retreat’), istikhāra (a technique for seeking divine inspiration). There is thus
a flourishing market for the occult, in response to omnipresent demand. Philippe
Beaujard analyses the Arabic-Malagasy (Sorabe) manuscripts of southeast
Madagascar. He shows how these manuscripts ‘remain largely hermetic’, as they are
‘inseparable from orally transmitted knowledge’ (p. 229). Astrology has a major role.
The study of an Antemoro healing charm completes this study. Sophie Blanchy
analyses ‘Islamic Protective Texts in the Comoro Islands: Transmission and Uses’. She
reviews the reference works in circulation, including the famous Shams al-maʿārif by
the Algerian al-Būnī (al-Mālikī al-Amazighī), then portrays the specialists and
comments on some examples of their practices, which combine ‘recitation’ and
‘remedies’. Anne Regourd studies ‘two magical-therapeutic chalices’ from northern
Yemen – waqf goods that are conserved in a mosque and may be temporarily entrusted
to the faithful for therapeutic purposes. She then proceeds to an erudite analysis of
the engraved texts and discusses just how the chalices are used. Liliane Kuczynski
analyses the trajectory of a young Parisian woman, desperate at the loss of her
beloved, in her relationships with marabouts of several descriptions that she has been
led to consult. It’s the story of an adventure in which cultural differences lead to
persistent misunderstandings. The author then comments on several amulets in the
possession of this young woman. Finally, in spite of the usual speculations about
Book Reviews 283

this number, the last chapter is also the thirteenth. In it, Moussa Khedimellah studies
the recourse to ruqiya, a technique for the treatment of illness through the recitation of
Qur’an verses which is used by an imām who is also a healer, in Lorraine, and raises
some theoretical questions about this figure. There is nothing occult in such a practice,
inasmuch as it claims to be in line with prophetic medicine, al-ṭibb al-nabawī, and it
takes place in a mosque.

The present writer concludes with a question about the relationships between Islamic
magic and Ṣūfism. Both disciplines have a strong component of secrecy and require,
for authorised exercise, a chain of transmission from master to disciple. Numerous
shaykhs of the ṭuruq and their disciples, north as well as south of the Sahara, provide
consultations, interpret dreams, and furnish protections. Thus, guidance of the believer
in the path of God cannot be separated from these ingenious practices, which
constitute the arsenal of Islamic magic. Ṣūfism and Islamic magic share the same
imaginative universe and respond to a demand for the supernatural, the marvellous,
and the healing of the soul.

DOI: 10.3366/jqs.2013.0122
* This review has been translated from the French by Tal Tamari.

Jawâhir al-Maʿânî. Perles des sens et réalisation des vœ ux dans le flux

d’Abû-l-‘Abbâs at-Tijânî. By Sidi Ali Harâzim Ibn al-‘Arabî Barrâda. Ravane
Mbaye (tr). Beirut: Dar Albouraq, 2011. Pp. 1613. e69.35.

In 1782, Aḥmad al-Tijānī (1737–1815) declared having received the authorisation

to found a new ṭarīqa, the Tijāniyya. He claimed that this authorisation was given to
him in the waking state, directly by the Prophet Muḥammad, in the village of
Boussemghoum (south-western Algeria). From then on, Aḥmad al-Tijānī would fully
dedicate himself to making a place for the Tijāniyya in the midst of numerous other,
well-implanted ṭuruq, to which he himself had been initiated earlier (the Shādhiliyya,
Khalwatiyya, Nāṣiriyya, Malāmatiyya, Qādiriyya, …). Aḥmad al-Tijānī’s endeavour
was fruitful, for after his death in Fez (Morocco), the Tijāniyya became one of the
most important ṭuruq in the Maghreb and subsequently in Africa, south of the Sahara,
and remains so to this day.1

One of the instruments contributing to this spread of the Tijāniyya was the
book Jawāhir al-maʿānī. After having left Algeria for Morocco, Aḥmad al-Tijānī
settled in Fez in 1798. A few months later, he again entrusted his disciple and
companion, ʿAlī Ḥarāzim Barrāda, with the composition of a reference work for