Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Married to the Qur'an

Mohammed Al Shafey reports in Asharq Alawsat about a custom in Sindh province of Pakistan called being "married to the Qur'an."
... In this type of marriage, young girls are asked to dedicate themselves to memorizing the Holy Quran. Their families then hold a ceremony to marry the girl to the holy book. A girl places her hand on the Quran and takes an oath that she is married to it until death. ...

Women who are married to the Holy Quran are not allowed to have a relationship with a man or to marry anybody. Moreover, men fear being cursed if they have a relationship with a woman who is married to the Quran.

The trend is more notable amongst the rich and feudal families in Sindh. It was first devised to deny women their rights of inheritance and out of fear of property being passed on to outsiders through the daughters or sisters [i.e. their spouses or children]. According to independent sources in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, approximately 10,000 girls are married to the Quran in the Sindh province. ...

Shafey notes that the government along with community activities have tried to suppress the practice, which he and they judge to be un-Islamic.

From the perspective of the comparative study of iconic books, this is a fascinating example because it combines a traditional iconic use of the physical Qur'an for taking oaths with its traditional performative use for memorized recitation. The oath becomes a wedding vow of fidelity to the recitation of the book itself. The combination thus becomes a marriage ritual with the power to constrain the young woman's future behavior. The social and religious power deployed through such ritual uses of scripture is very clear.

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