Anna M. Gade’s portal raises questions about forms of instrumentality and the nature and role of intention in framing various Muslim prayer practices. The five daily prayers called salat have generally been understood as minimally instrumental and considered by many jurists to be opaque to rational analysis; salat is about worship, not petition. Around salat, we might envision concentric circles of prayer types with increasing degrees of instrumentality, along with increasing local variation and, at times, levels of controversy, beginning with istiska, du`a, and qunut, moving through salawat and dhikr, and so forth. As we see in Gade’s work, practices viewed today as further from normative types may be classified as “culture” to protect “religion” from suspicions of heterodoxy.
Paul R. Powers (Ph.D. University of Chicago) is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His areas of interest include Islamic law; Islamic intellectual and social history, especially in the Arab world; global movements of religious reform and “fundamentalism”; social theories of modernization; and the history, theories, and methods of the academic study of religion. His publications include Intent in Islamic Law: Motive and Meaning in Medieval Sunni Fiqh. Studies in Islamic Law and Society, vol. 25 (Leiden: Brill, 2006); and “Finding God and Humanity in Language: Islamic Legal Assessments as the Meeting Point of the Divine and Human,” in Islamic Law in Theory: Studies in Jurisprudence in Honor of Bernard Weiss, ed. A. Kevin Reinhart and Robert Gleave (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014).