Infusions and Fumigations

Literacy Ideologies and Therapeutic Aspects of the Qur?an


  • Katharina Wilkens Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich



Qur’an, medicine, materiality, text, ideology


Written texts, especially sacred texts, can be handled in different ways. They can be read for semantic content; or they can be materially experienced, touched, or even be inhaled or drunk. I argue that literacy ideologies regulate social acceptability of specific semantic and somatic text practices. Drinking or fumigating the Qur?an as a medical procedure is a highly contested literacy event in which two different ideologies are drawn upon simultaneously. I employ the linguistic model of codeswitching to highlight central aspects of this event: a more somatic ideology of literacy enables the link to medicine, while a more semantic ideology connects the practice to theological discourses on the sacredness of the Qur?an as well as to the tradition of Prophetic medicine. Opposition to and ridicule of the practice, however, comes from representatives of an ideology of semantic purity, including some Islamic theologians and most Western scholars of Islam. Qur?anic potions thus constitute an ideal point of entry for analyzing different types of literacy ideologies being followed in religious traditions.

Author Biography

Katharina Wilkens, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich

Research fellow Interfaculty Programme Study of Religion Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich


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How to Cite

Wilkens, K. (2017). Infusions and Fumigations: Literacy Ideologies and Therapeutic Aspects of the Qur?an. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 8(1-2), 115–136.



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