A Bamana Commentary on S rat al-W qiʿa (Q. 56): A Linguistic and Stylistic Analysis

Among the Manding and other long-Islamised peoples of West Africa, advanced religious instruction is based on the oral translation of Arabic books into a local language; the Qur'an may, furthermore, be interpreted in a ceremonial setting in Ramaḍ n. This article discusses some of the most impor...

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Published in: Journal of qur'anic studies Vol. 15; no. 3; pp. 123 - 183
Main Author: Tamari, Tal
Format: Journal Article
Language: English
Published: UK Edinburgh University Press 10-01-2013
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Summary: Among the Manding and other long-Islamised peoples of West Africa, advanced religious instruction is based on the oral translation of Arabic books into a local language; the Qur'an may, furthermore, be interpreted in a ceremonial setting in Ramaḍ n. This article discusses some of the most important linguistic, stylistic and content features of West African oral tafs r as exemplified by a Bamana commentary collected near Segu, Mali, in 1998 (Bamana being one of the several closely related Manding languages). The Qur'anic text is parsed into meaningful segments as it is read aloud, each segment being immediately followed by its rendering in Bamana, and in some instances, also by ampler explanations in this language. Manding scholarly language is characterised both by specific syntactic structures and a specialised, technical vocabulary - constituted in part by Arabic loanwords and a set of key technical terms drawn from and shared by several African languages, but primarily of words created from Manding roots through compounding and/or derivation, or through attribution of specialised meanings to existing terms. The Bamana discourse transcribed and translated here is remarkable for its style, which draws on several of the rhetorical resources of this language, including culturally meaningful images, onomatopoeia and a high incidence of derived terms. Its substantive content is largely based on the Tafs r al-Jal layn and its meta-commentary by Aḥmad al-Ṣ w (d. 1825).
ISSN: 1465-3591
1755-1730
DOI: 10.3366/jqs.2013.0116