Inventory no.: 473

473. Koranic Writing Boards


Two Koran Writing Boards (lawh)

West Africa

19th-20th century

heights: 45cm, 36cm, 59.7cm

Koran boards such as the examples shown here were (and in some cases still are) used across Sub-Saharan Africa by pupils in Koranic schools as they learned both Arabic and Koranic text – the learning of Arabic being essential to being able to learn and recite the Koran. Students would start with the short surahs and graduate to the longer ones. Once a verse was memorised, water was used to wash the text off and the student could start again. The water used to wash the boards was treated with appropriate reverence given that it was believed to contain the words of God. It was believed to be useful in helping ward off various afflictions.left:

This board, from Western Sudan, has a carved handle, and an arched foot that fits over the writer’s knee or leg as they use the board whilst seated cross-legged. It has Western Sudanese Arabic script in black ink to both sides. Also apparent are traces of previous text that has been wiped off.right:

This slender board, from Somali, has a handle at either end, each drilled with a hole through which is tied a natural fibre string. It is marked to both sides with lines of Arabic text.

Inventory no.: 473


Students in a madrassa (Koranic school) with a lawh.

A contemporary lawh maker, the souks, Marrakech, Morocco.