Unbraiding the Qu’ran: Wolofal and the Tafsīr tradition of Senegambia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Thanks to the work of scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, the orthographic practice known as “ʿajami,” or the writing of non-Arabic languages in Arabic script, is better known today than ever before, expanding alongside scholarly efforts to understand it. This article contributes to this renewed interest by examining the first known commentary on the Qur’an written entirely in Wolofal, or Wolof in modified Arabic script. Contra the prevailing populist spirit of contemporary ʿajami scholarship, it argues that ʿajami texts were not always intended for an audience of non-Arabophones. In the case of Mawridu al-ẓamān fī tafsīr al-qurān, a Wolofal commentary written by the Murid scholar Muhammadu Dem (d. 1965), ʿajami techniques were employed to produce a text explicitly intended for a specialized audience already literate in Arabic. Dem’s commentary therefore qualifies the argument that ʿajami texts necessarily reached non-Arabophone audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55–76
JournalIslamic Africa
Issue number1
Early online date7 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Ajami
  • ʿajami
  • tafsīr;
  • Senegal
  • Qur’an
  • Muridiyya
  • Cheikh Anta Diop
  • reading practices


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