“Channeling” the powers of God’s Word

Audio-Recordings as Scriptures in Mali


  • Dorothea E. Schulz Dept. of Cultural & Social Anthropology University of Cologne, Germany




Islam, Muslim piety, media technologies, religion as mediation


Starting with the controversial esoteric employment of audio recordings by followers of the charismatic Muslim preacher Sharif Haidara in Mali, the article explores the dynamics emerging at the interface of different technologies and techniques employed by those engaging the realm of the Divine. I focus attention on the “border zone” between, on the one hand, techniques for appropriating scriptures based on long-standing religious conventions, and, on the other, audio recording technologies, whose adoption not yet established authoritative and standardized forms of practice, thereby generating insecurities and becoming the subject of heated debate. I argue that “recyclage” aptly describes the dynamics of this “border zone” because it captures the ways conventional techniques of accessing the Divine are reassessed and reemployed, by integrating new materials and rituals. Historically, appropriations of the Qur’an for esoteric purposes have been widespread in Muslim West Africa. These esoteric appropriations are at the basis of the considerable continuities, overlaps and crossovers, between scripture-related esoteric practices on one side, and the treatment by Sharif Haidara’s followers of audio taped sermons as vessels of his spiritual power, on the other.

Author Biography

Dorothea E. Schulz, Dept. of Cultural & Social Anthropology University of Cologne, Germany

Professor of Anthropology, University of Cologne


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How to Cite

Schulz, D. E. (2010). “Channeling” the powers of God’s Word: Audio-Recordings as Scriptures in Mali. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 4(2), 135–156. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v4i2.135