November 12, 2020
Koran manuscripts that fit comfortably within the palm of one’s hand are known as early as the 10th century CE. For the sake of convenience, all dates will be given in the common era (CE) without further mention, and not in the Islamic or Hijra calendar. Their minute and sometimes barely legible script is clearly not intended for comfortable reading. Instead, recent scholarship suggests that the manuscripts were designed to be worn on the body like pendants or fastened to military flag poles. This is corroborated by some preserved cases for these books which feature lugs to attach a cord or chain, but also their rare occurrence in contemporary textual sources. While pendant Korans in rectangular codex form exist, the majority were produced as codices in the shape of an octagonal prism, and others as scrolls that could be rolled up into a cylindrical form. Both resemble the shapes of similarly dated and pre-Islamic amulets or amulet cases. Building on recent scholarship, I will argue in this article that miniature or pendant Koran manuscripts were produced in similar forms and sizes because of comparable modes of usage, but not necessarily by a deliberate imitation of their amuletic ‘predecessors’. The manuscripts’ main functions did not require them to be read or even opened; some of their cases were in fact riveted shut. Accordingly, the haptic feedback they gave to their owners when they carried or touched them was not one of regular books but one of solid objects (like amulets) or even jewellery, which then reinforced this practice.