This essay analyzes the performance of dhikr (the invocation of God through prayer, sons, and movement) in Aleppo, Syria, as an embodied practice mediated by specific repertoires of aesthetic and kinesthetic practices. In dhikr, aesthetic stimuli produce an experience of temporal transformation that participants narrate as "ecstasy." Performing dhikr also conditions a musical self, which in turn allows for the habituation of spiritual states. This suggests the importance of investigating the interface of embodied practices, temporality, and the aesthetics of spiritual practice. (Aesthetics, temporality, music, Islam, Syria).
Abstract This article is an ethnography of the private performance of the five daily prayers of Islam among a group of middle class, educated women in Tehran. It goes beyond the public and formal spheres to explore religious experience in everyday life. What happens in a ritual when performed alone, without a public? I argue against the prevalent notion that repetition renders the formulas of rituals meaningless. Instead, over time, there is a proliferation of meanings emerging as a result of the undermining of the formality of the text by repetition. The ways in which creativity is exercised are analyzed in answer to the question of what makes one prayer session more satisfying than another—what is an efficacious salat? I argue that the length of time the prayers have been performed, the age of the reciter, and the literate practices of reading and debate are crucial in understanding how this ritual is brought to life by its practitioners.