Archer (George), The Prophet’s Whistle: Late Antique Orality, Literacy, and the Quran, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2024, 218 p. ISBN 978-1609389451
George Archer is assistant professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. He is author of A Place Between Two Places: The Quranic Barzakh, which was awarded Iran’s World Book of the Year Award in 2018. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Quran is certainly one of the most important texts in human history. But it wasn’t originally a text at all. When the Quran appeared in the seventh century, it was a vocal recital performed by an unlettered man named Muhammad. It remains an oral performance for Muslims all over the world to this day.
The Prophet’s Whistle is a study of the ancient, nonliterary features of the Quran, many of which are often overlooked by historians and the public. George Archer corrects this striking absence by using observations from the anthropologies of living oral cultures, the cognitive sciences of literacy, and the study of other dead oral cultures. The Prophet’s Whistle shows that the thought systems of the Quran are oral, through and through, but by the end of the life of its Prophet, the Quran likewise hints at a personal and cultural embrace of writing and the mindsets of literate people.