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Thread: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

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    Default Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    The Quran says it was revealed in clear Arabic speech, and clear Arabic speech included the use of idioms, did it not?
    al-Salamu 'Alaikum,

    Here we go, this Ramadan.. Since a lot is said, and the other thread is devoted to another subject more, it would be good to continue the discussion here. Let us first consider the existence and understanding of 'figurative speech', as the Arabs did and the debate concerning it. Then we might deal with the Islamic heritage, i.e. the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and its relation to it. We can ask then ourselves whether the Qur'an contains any figurative speech, how it is recognized (according to rules) etc. Then, only then I believe, we can head to specific Ayat wherein the supposed figurative speech is active, i.e. where some might point towards an idiom.

    What do you think?

    First thing: Does the Arabic speech include figurative language?
    Second problem: If indeed, does the Qur'an contain figurative speech?

    You tell me, dear brother ihsan, what you think and why. Please, provide substantive evidence if you claim something.

    My view:

    No, the Arabic speech does not contain figurative language; and by implication, neither the Qur'an contains figurative speech.

    [Please: don't call me an idiot, unless you have no clue of what I'm talking about]

    wa-Salamu 'Alaikum and still have a nice blessed Ramadan!

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibn_Abi_Yala View Post
    What do you think?

    First thing: Does the Arabic speech include figurative language?
    Second problem: If indeed, does the Qur'an contain figurative speech?

    You tell me, dear brother ihsan, what you think and why. Please, provide substantive evidence if you claim something.
    Susbtantiv evidence?

    When the eyes are likened to ostrich eggs in Arabic poetry, is this not figurative language?

    Behold! Two eyes set in a hideous head,
    like the head of a cat, split-tongued,
    Legs like a deformed fetus, the back of a dog,
    clothes of haircloth or worn-out skins!
    And your claiming that Arabic doesn't rely heavily on imagery? Imagery in Arabic language is more pronounced than every language I have come across.

    Does the earth literally have shoulders, because the Quran tells man to walk it's shoulders in Surah Mulk. You tell me what picture is being painted in the Quran when speaking about 'shoulders', especially in the context of man running around for sustenance, and than suddenly the earth shaking, and it 'darting' off.

    God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of his light is as if there is a niche, in which there is a lamp, the lamp in a glass; the glass looks as if it is a bright star. It [the lamp] is kindled from a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west, one whose oil all but lights up, even though no fire has touched it. Light upon light! God guides to His light whomever He likes. God strikes similitudes for people, and God has knowledge of all things.
    Is this anything but figurative language?
    Last edited by ihsan; 14th September 2007 at 15:34.
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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    This is kind of strange. I always thought it was well understood that Arabic, being a higher language and a well-known language of poetry, included within its elements various linguistic techniques including those elements that are typical of "figurative speech."

    Ibn Qutayba, in explaining why the Quran cannot successfully be translated into other languages, provides in his explanation that this is because of the richness of various literary techniques in Arabic.

    In 18:11, you might say this is one example that if translated in the most literal sense, hitting the ears, the meaning of the verse would be lost. In other parts of the Quran, the controversial word "yad" is used, for example, in 38:35 not to mean literally hand, rather power or resources.

    Simile is often used throughout the Quran, for example 7:179 they are like animals. And in a language renowned for poetry and one that makes obvious use of simile, it is very difficult to make the claim that Arabic in general and the Quran in particular do not use figurative speech.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    With a little bit of contemplation, it will become clear that the position of those who deny Majaaz in the Arabic language, Quran and Sunnah is the correct opinion.

    Here is what I know about this issue. I ask Allah SWT to make it beneficial.

    We need to differentiate between two things:

    1) Metaphoric words (Majaaz).
    2) Metaphoric sentences (not majaaz).

    Metaphoric Sentences:
    For example, when we say: “Zaid is a fox”, we do not mean: Zaid is an actual fox, the animal. From the context we understand that we are only giving a metaphor of how cunning Zaid is.

    This is a metaphoric sentence. This exists in the Quran in abundance. For example:

    “And, out of kindness, lower to them (your parents) the wing of humility …”.

    Obviously, humility does not have a wing to lower. But from the context we understand: be kind to your parents … etc.

    This is not Majaaz. It is not the point of dispute between people of Sunnah and people of Bid’ah.

    Metaphoric words (Majaaz):
    Again, when we say: “Zaid is a fox”, notice that the word fox does not mean anything other than: fox; the animal. The word fox does not mean cunning in itself. The entire sentence means: Zaid is cunning. But the word fox still means: fox; the animal.

    In the example of: “lower the wing of humility”, we see that the word “wing” does not mean anything other than the well known wing, (as in a bird’s wing).

    What people of Bid’ah say is that the words themselves have an apparent meaning, and a different hidden meaning (Majazy meaning). This is to help them in saying things such as “Yad” means: ability, self … etc.

    Ahlusunnah disagree, words can only have one meaning dictated by the context.

    Wallhu A'lam.
    asalamu alaikum
    Islamic Thought In the Modern Era of the Islamic Awakening: Dissemination of Islamic research and studies
    al-Mustaqeem Publications
    “The bonds of Islam will be broken one by one. Every time a bond is undone, the people will cling to the bond that follows. The first of these bonds is rulership (khilaafa) and the last is the prayer (salah).” Reported by Ahmad and Tabarani. Al-Hakim stated that the chain is authentic.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    al-Salamu 'Alaikum,

    Like I said: mind limited.

    You know.. if people are unaware of the academic debate that runs for hundreds years about the existence of figurative speech in Arabic, between proponents and negators, then why would I start things all over..

    At least, I had hopes that you - dear brother ihsan - was aware of it. Where must I start when, obviously, you have no clue what I'm talking about?

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibn_Abi_Yala View Post
    al-Salamu 'Alaikum,

    Like I said: mind limited.

    You know.. if people are unaware of the academic debate that runs for hundreds years about the existence of figurative speech in Arabic, between proponents and negators, then why would I start things all over..

    At least, I had hopes that you - dear brother ihsan - was aware of it. Where must I start when, obviously, you have no clue what I'm talking about?
    don't bother, trust me, it would only end in failure.

    but for my sak, explain to me as I know there exists this reality but Im not to knowledgeable in this arena of arabic literature.

    asalamu alaikum
    Islamic Thought In the Modern Era of the Islamic Awakening: Dissemination of Islamic research and studies
    al-Mustaqeem Publications
    “The bonds of Islam will be broken one by one. Every time a bond is undone, the people will cling to the bond that follows. The first of these bonds is rulership (khilaafa) and the last is the prayer (salah).” Reported by Ahmad and Tabarani. Al-Hakim stated that the chain is authentic.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by ihsan View Post
    Susbtantiv evidence?

    When the eyes are likened to ostrich eggs in Arabic poetry, is this not figurative language?



    And your claiming that Arabic doesn't rely heavily on imagery? Imagery in Arabic language is more pronounced than every language I have come across.

    Does the earth literally have shoulders, because the Quran tells man to walk it's shoulders in Surah Mulk. You tell me what picture is being painted in the Quran when speaking about 'shoulders', especially in the context of man running around for sustenance, and than suddenly the earth shaking, and it 'darting' off.



    Is this anything but figurative language?
    As usual, you ignored must of what I said.

    don't bother, trust me, it would only end in failure.

    but for my sak, explain to me as I know there exists this reality but Im not to knowledgeable in this arena of arabic literature.
    Looks as if this may be true. So for your sake, brother Izaaree:

    The Meaning of Majāz - are the Attributes of Allah Metaphorical?

    Introduction

    The Establishment of Language: the concept of Wad', the set-up of Wad', how Lugha functions, the Process of Interpretation.

    The Earliest Majāz: the Majāz as Linguistic and Technical word, the Majāz type of speech, the Transferance of Majāz from an Original Meaning to a Innovative Meaning.

    The Relation between Majāzi Speech and 'Figurative Speech': the Meaning and Types of Figurative Speech, the Metaphor as a form of figurative speech.

    The Existence versus Non-existence of 'Majāzi Speech': on the Majāz in Languages, on the Majāz in Arabic language, on the Majāz in the Qur'an [and Sunnah].

    The Names and Attributes of Allāh: are they a matter of Figurative Speech?

    Conclusion
    Introduction

    Majāz is generally understood te mean 'figurative', being the counterpart of Haqīqa (variously translated as: real, literal). It has been asserted - for a long time - that the Arabic speech can be seperated into: literal and figurative speech, called haqīqa and majāz. They meant by this that some Arabic words have a dual meaning, for example: lion means 'a ravenous animal' in a haqīqi sense, while its majāzi meaning indicates in a certain context 'a brave man'. Before discussing the subject of majāz itself, and embarking on a clarification of its existence versus non-existence, let us mention something about the Arabic language in general and the views of some thinkers in particular.
    The Establishment of Language

    The Arabic language is said to have been 'established' by way of what is called wad'. Wad' means the assignment of meanings to expressions. There are different views how this wad' set up itself: is it by way of revelation, i.e. coming from Allāh, or is it something what the Arabs themselves 'established'? All kinds of reports and discussions can be reviewed concerning this, i.e. the origin of the Arabic speech and what's related to it in Tafsir-, Usul al-Fiqh- and many secundary literature. Many of these views have been forwarded in a misinterpreted way. The Mutakallimun - especially from the Usuliyyun - have understood the notion of wad' more in an abstract sense, thereby mishandled language in one way or another. The Muhaqqiqun's view - which is the correct one - which accepts the notion of wad' (establishment), but understands it not so much in an abstract, isolated form; rather it takes it always as a matter of use (isti'māl). I will not digress too much on this (i.e. the controversy how the Arabic language 'established' itself and how it is viewed), for the purpose of this subject is to highlight how majāz, as a meaningful word, is seen according to the notion of wad'. What's important is to remember that wad' is an important concept which stands at the front in perceiving how speech function. It is of crucial importance in understanding how the proponents of majāz and its deniars adressed this issuel.
    The Earliest Majāz

    Majāz is a term which was not widely known in early Islam, not to speak about the division of haqīqa versus majāz. The earliest references to majāz in the Arabic speech are by the philologist Abu 'Ubaydah Ma'mar b. al-Muthanna (d.209/824), in his language-based commentary of the Qur'an, entitled as: Majāz al-Qur'an. Other early scholars who wrote a Majāz al-Qur'an are Abu 'Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallām and Muhammad b. Mustanīr al-Qutrub, two contemporaries of Abu 'Ubaydah.

    How did Abu 'Ubaydah understand majāz? According to Ibn Taymiyyah, who investigated this matter before, majāz means according to this early authority:

    mā yu'abbaru bihi 'ani'l-āya (=that which it, i.e. the Quranic verse, could be expressed or designated by),

    nothing more or less [refer to K. al-Iman p.52].

    It can also be formulated simply as:

    mā jazūz fi'l-lugha (=what is permitted in the language or Arabic speech).

    This can be supported by what Abu 'Ubaydah enumerated of the types of majāz in the Qur'an, concluding after this:

    "All this is current and commonly used in everyday discourse" (wa-kull hādhā jā'iz ma'rūf, qad yatakallamūn bihi). [Majaz al-Qur'an p.19]

    This can also be seen in the examples of majāz speech in the Qur'an, after which he sometimes say:

    "And from the majāz is what has come.." (wa-min al-majāz mā jā'a)

    meaning: what is permitted in the Arabic language.

    Ibn Qutaybah, who made use of Abu 'Ubaydah's book, the meaning of the term majāz is: the way of speech and the modes of use among the Arabs. He says about majāzāt that can be found:

    "The way of speech and the modes to handle it" (turuq al-qawl wa-ma'ākhidhuh)

    Ibn Qutaybah mentions these majāzāt (pl. of majāz), examples are: analogies, inversions, elisions, repetitions etc. His predecessor Abu 'Ubaydah mentioned them too in his examples, such as: periphrases, abbrevations, pleonasms etc.

    There is however no metaphor (isti'āra) mentioned as a form of majāz in his Majāz al-Qur'an, except by Ibn Qutaybah who mention so in his Ta'wil Mushkil al-Qur'an (see p.15ff).

    In fact, Ibn Qutaybah says that most majāzāt fall in this category! This is something unknown to Abu 'Ubaydah, as far his book Majāz al-Qur'an indicates. We shall come back on that later - Insha'Allah.

    So according to what we've seen above from Abu 'Ubadayh's Majāz al-Qur'an, the term majāz means not by definition 'figurative' as many have said. Rather, according to the earliest references in Majāz al-Qur'an and others, it means simply:

    - That which something could be expressed or designated by, meaning: what is permitted in the language of the Arabs.

    Ahmad b. Hanbal, for example, confirmed this meaning of majāz in his book al-Radd 'ala'l-Jahmiyyah wa'l-Zanādiqah. He said in that book - commenting on Allah's Words {We are with you} - that:

    "This is from the majāz of the language.." (fa hadhda fi majāzi al-lughati),

    meaning: Allah's Word 'We' is a form of majāz, for the Arabic language can employ a plural to indicate a singular understanding. This type of eloquence (balāgha) is common in the Arabic speech, such as pointed out elsewhere concerning the Words of the Almighty: {Floating under Our Eyes}.

    Here the majāz is in both the word 'Our' as 'Eyes' (combined in: a'yunina). For the word 'We', 'Our' and its likes, when mentioned in the Qur'an, are many times formal plural expressions which indicate a singular designation. 'We' means 'I', for it is Allah, the One, who is With them or With us, by His Knowledge, Seeing, Hearing and its likes. And 'Our' means the same, i.e. 'floating under My Eyes', for it is Allah, the One, the Unique. As for the majāz in the word 'Eyes', or a'yun, then as it is common and permitted in the Arabic speech to employ a plural expression to indicate a singular, likewise it is common and permitted to employ a plural expression to indicate a dual. The meaning of the Aya is thus 'floating under My Two Eyes' according to the understanding of the Arabs. To avoid digression we shall continue this elsewhere - Insha'Allah.

    Ibn Hanbal intented with the word majāz thus something as: what is permissible in the language (mimma yajūzu fi'l-lugha), as explained by Abu Abdallah b. Hāmid al-Hanbali and others.

    This is therefor the original meaning of majāz. As for the newly invented meaning of majāz, which is commonly in use nowadays, being 'figurative', then it has no evidence in the speech of the earliest scholars, let alone of the authoritative Arabs of the Jahiliyyah and that of the Pious Predecessors.
    Next (no time):

    The Relation between Majāzi Speech and 'Figurative Speech'

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by shuaib View Post
    This is kind of strange. I always thought it was well understood that Arabic, being a higher language and a well-known language of poetry, included within its elements various linguistic techniques including those elements that are typical of "figurative speech."

    Ibn Qutayba, in explaining why the Quran cannot successfully be translated into other languages, provides in his explanation that this is because of the richness of various literary techniques in Arabic.

    In 18:11, you might say this is one example that if translated in the most literal sense, hitting the ears, the meaning of the verse would be lost. In other parts of the Quran, the controversial word "yad" is used, for example, in 38:35 not to mean literally hand, rather power or resources.

    Simile is often used throughout the Quran, for example 7:179 they are like animals. And in a language renowned for poetry and one that makes obvious use of simile, it is very difficult to make the claim that Arabic in general and the Quran in particular do not use figurative speech.
    al-Salamu 'Alaikum dear brother,

    Here you have some secundary literature on this debate:

    1 Nuʿmān, Ṭāriq al- Mafāhīm al-maǧāz bayn al-balāġa wa-al-tafkīk

    2 Abū Zayd, Naṣr Ḥāmid al-Ittiǧāh al-ʿaqlī fī al-tafsīr : dirāsa fī qaḍiyyat al-maǧāz fī al-Qurʾān ʿind al-Muʿtazila

    3 Ḥimyarī, ʿĪsā b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad b. Māniʿ al- al-Iǧhāz ʿalā munkirī al-maǧāz

    4 Šinqīṭī, Muḥammad al-Amīn b. Muḥammad al-Muḵtār al- Manʿ ǧawāz al-maǧāz fī al-munazzal li-al-taʿabbud wa-al-iʿǧāz

    5 A book on Majâz by a late Azhari in refutation of Ibn Taymiyyah's language theory in general and majaz in particular: don't have the title in front of me.

    6 Sulamī, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. ʿAbd al-Salām al- Maǧāz al-Qurʾān wa-yusammā al-Išāra ilā al-īǧāz fī baʿḍ anwāʿ al-maǧāz (this is a classic from 'Izz b. Abd al-Salam)

    7 ʿAbd al-Ǧalīl, Muḥammad Badrī al-Maǧāz wa-aṯaruhu fī al-dars al-luġawī

    8 Sāmarrāʾī, Mahdī Ṣāliḥ al- al-Maǧāz fī al-balāġa al-ʿArabiyya
    Last edited by Ibn_Abi_Yala; 15th September 2007 at 09:43. Reason: The bold are the most relevant.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    brother ibn abi yala

    could you tell me which one of the books you consider to be best in the field or more easily available for purchase on the web.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ibn_Abi_Yala View Post
    al-Salamu 'Alaikum,

    Like I said: mind limited.

    You know.. if people are unaware of the academic debate that runs for hundreds years about the existence of figurative speech in Arabic, between proponents and negators, then why would I start things all over..

    At least, I had hopes that you - dear brother ihsan - was aware of it. Where must I start when, obviously, you have no clue what I'm talking about?
    Sometimes the 'lack of awareness' of an academic debate that runs for over hundreds of years, allows a person to see clearly, and not be lost in a bunch of hair-splitting. Really, this is just a matter of semantics. So you give me a quote that argues simply that majaz means what is in usage of the Arabs, and cannot be translated as figurative?

    Maybe you should start by trying to understand what I say. When did I say majaz means figurative? Did I not say:

    Figurative language was a common feature in the USAGE OF THE ARABS...

    Because of your involvement in an a academic debate that runs for hundreds of years, you think that I define majaz as figurative language.

    You asked me to provide you examples of figurative language in the Quran, and I gave you examples. Maybe, this is not what is figurative to you, but it is surely figurative language according to how I understand it. Even Shuaib understood the point I was making. When words like 'YAD' are used for POWER in the Quran, this is how I DEFINE figurative language. Knowing this definition now:

    If there is no evidence for figurative speech, than really, did God hit the ears of the dwellers of the cave?

    And please don't provide me with quotes from some 'academic debate' which revolve around semantics and tent tol only complicate the matter, for us ignorant forum dwellers...
    Last edited by ihsan; 15th September 2007 at 16:40.
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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    All I have asked for is a simple answer to a question:

    Which rule in Arabic states that God Almighty cannot use figurative expressions with respect to himself?

    Which rule in Arabic states that even if a figurative meaning is recognized in usage, than one must take the 'physical' meaning of the speech?

    I have heard all sorts of reasons, including:

    The Quran is for all times, and it speaks to all levels of people. Because of this, figurative speech cannot be used, and the simple, common meaning must be accepted. After saying that what is simple and common is subjective, I am than criticized because I am not aware of an academic debate that spans for hundreds of years. Than I told about USAGE, as if this wasn't my point when saying that simple and common is subjective, i.e. simple and common is dictated by the CULTURE of a people.

    So it is either simple in one case, or it requires a knowledge of an academic debate that requires knowledge of thousands of texts in another.

    Really, this debate is getting off track. Now it has gone off into a purely semanticc debate, about majaz verus figurative speech, which is totally irrelevant. All I am asking for is proof for this alleged rule stated above.
    Last edited by ihsan; 15th September 2007 at 16:41.
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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    EVEN Shuaib? gee thanks

    Actually, I do have some questions I was hoping Ibn Abi Yala could answer regarding this, since you are more familiar with this long-running debate.

    Is there a language that uses figurative speech according to your definition of figurative speech?

    Metaphoric Sentences:
    For example, when we say: “Zaid is a fox”, we do not mean: Zaid is an actual fox, the animal. From the context we understand that we are only giving a metaphor of how cunning Zaid is.

    Metaphoric words (Majaaz):
    Again, when we say: “Zaid is a fox”, notice that the word fox does not mean anything other than: fox; the animal. The word fox does not mean cunning in itself. The entire sentence means: Zaid is cunning. But the word fox still means: fox; the animal.
    To use the above example, obviously the word fox means fox, and a fox is a certain animal with certain traits... but no communication consists of singular words, the words are put into sentences which allow the expression of the meaning. If we go find Zaid, nowhere will we find a fox. And he most certainly is not a were-fox. Because Zaid is a man, and a man is distinct from a fox, we can understand that therefore, what is being alluded to are the traits of a fox, not he fox itself.

    When there is a reference the hand of Allah, does not the same logic apply? Hand is well-defined as well all know, a physical appendage with digits that is used to manipulate our surroundings, and in particular it refers to a human hand. Since we know of Allah (and all Muslims regardless of their philosophy admit LAISA KAMITHLIHI SHAI'), can we not understand hand in the same way as fox was understood for Zaid?

    Speech is used to convey meaningful points. Someone could take exception to interpreting Zaid is a fox figuratively, and INSIST Zaid is a were-fox. If Zaid was not able to be examined, how could one disagree?

    When asked for proof that Zaid is not a were-fox, the proponent could say merely he is and I don't know how. The proponent could also say, fox means fox, so Zaid is a fox. The opponent would have no way to disprove the proponent except my appealing to reason, that it certainly seems using the word fox to imply only the traits is a much more meaningful and relevant statement than to believe he is a were-fox.

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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Asaalam Alaykum brothers, I trust your Ramadan has been fruitful thus far?

    As Ibn Abi Ya'la has noted this debate has been going on for quite a few centuries, the liklihood of coming to a definitive resolution on an internet discussion forum is highly unlikely. Not trying to be a stick in the mud or anything but I think we should all temper our expectations accordingly.


    It would be disingenious in the extreme to dismiss the metophorical and figurative qualities of the Arabic language. No scholar has ever affirmed this point of view and all scholars have affirmed it's opposite. Luckily, no one is arguing that metaphors are not part of the Arabic language but those who claim to follow the Salaaf are very much interested in circumscribing the extent to which figurative language is used with respect to Allah as they feel doing so protects one (in terms of Aqidah) from nullyfting his Attributes.

    We've all acknowledged that this is a theological debate so we should be clear about what the stakes, and underlying motives are.

    Now I'm going to play fast and loose with the groups that are involved because the truth is it's not so simple as Asharites vs Ahl al Hadith, but as the Asharites have articulated the opposing point of view most articulately let's ascribe the second argument to them.

    Remember, the context in which all this theological argumentaion took place is very important and serious students of Islam would do well to study the circumstances very closely and with a sense of historical critiscm.

    Asharites argued forcefully that verses relating to Allah's Hand, Eyes, and his Ascenscion to th Throne etc were all to be understood metaphorically as they strove to protect the muslim ummah from the dangers of anthropomorphism in their Aqidah. They felt that literal understanding of these verses would lead to calamities in terms of religous belief.

    Of course the Hanbalites (with whom this debate was raging at the time) were careful to distance themselves from the "howness" and were adamant that there was no similarity at all between the Attriibutes of Allah and that of his creation. Literal understanding, they argued was the only way to safeguard correct belief.

    Sorry for the history but some poor casual observer was probably utterly confused by the discussion you guys were having.....gotta keep people in the loop!

    All this to say that it is clear that while the conclusions both camps came to might have been different their aim (intention) was the same and it should be appreciated that both groups were agreed that Allah is utterly and completely without equal or like.

    So...it leaves me wondering... is this argument truly necessary? Hmmmm

    Interstingly enough one of the more sane voices Ive heard with regards to this particular line of theological argumentation was Hassan Al Banna. Yea, believe it or not (say what you will about the guy) he dropped some real gems in his lifetime.

    The difference between the first generations and the latter generations regarding the attributes of Allah.

    Now you know that the position of the first generations with regard to the verses and Ahaadeeth pertaining to the attributes of Allah (SWT), is that they take them for what they are, and refrain from interpreting them or giving them a metaphorical meaning while the latter generations gave them metaphorical meanings which rule out anthropomorphism and avoid any suspicion of comparing Allah to His creatures. You also know that the dispute between the two parties was so strong that they resorted to extremist biased accusations.

    Their positions can be summed up as follows.

    1) Both parties agreed on the doctrine of tanzeeh (the "elimination [of blemishes of anthropomorphic traits]"; and hence mukhalafah (the "assertion of [Allah’s] incomparability, and of the essential difference of His qualities and similarly named qualities of human beings").

    2) Each party categorically stated that what these words denote when they are used with reference to Allah (SWT), are not the literal meanings which are used in reference to human beings. This follows from their agreement on the incomparability of Allah.

    3) Each of the two parties realised that words are coined to express feelings in the heart or to refer to material things relevant to users of each language, and that no language, however rich it may be, can include expressions about objects unknown to its speakers. Since the facts regarding the essence of Allah (SWT), fall outside human knowledge, then language cannot possibly express them. Therefore trying to define the meanings of these words (denoting attributes of Allah) is a waste of time.

    It has thus been demonstrated that the Salaf (first generations) and the Khalaf (latter generations) did agree on the principle of metaphorical explanation and the difference between them was confined to the fact that the latter generations were more definitive in explaining the intended meaning. They were forced to do so in order to stress the deanthropomorphism of Allah. Their aim was to protect ordinary Muslims from such a misconception. Thus the difference between the two parties does not warrant arguments or recrimination.

    We believe that the position of the Salaf (first generations), which was to refrain from enquiring into the meanings of Allah’s attributes and leave the explanation of their meanings to Allah (SWT), is safer and should be followed in order to avoid problems resulting from metaphorical interpretation on the one hand, and the nullification of Allah’s attributes on the other. If you are one of those whom Allah has endowed with the tranquillity of faith and whose hearts have been blessed with the serenity of certitude, you need not seek other positions.

    On the other hand, we believe that the metaphorical interpretations of the Khalaf (latter generations) do not sanction any judgement on them as having gone outside Islam or to have strayed from the right path, nor do they justify that long dispute between them and others past and present, because Islam is vast and comprehensive enough to accommodate all of them. Even the most hard-line adherents of the position of the first generations, may Allah be pleased with them, were forced to resort to metaphorical interpretation in numerous instances. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, for example, may Allah be pleased with him, gave a metaphorical explanation for the Hadeeth of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in which he said:

    ‘The Black Stone (in the Ka’ba) is the right hand of Allah on earth’

    and the Prophet’s saying:

    ‘The heart of a believer is between the two fingers of the All Merciful’

    and the Prophet’s saying:

    ‘I feel the breath of the All Merciful coming from the direction of Yemen.’

    I have come across a statement by Imam Al Nawawi, may Allah be pleased with him, which narrowed down the difference between the two positions to such a degree that there should be no room left for dispute or argument, especially since the latter generations qualified their metaphorical explanations with the condition that those explanations have to be acceptable rationally, and to be in line with the Sharee’ah and do not go against any of the fundamentals of Islam.

    Ar-Raazi in his ‘Asas ul Taqdis’ says: ‘If we sanction metaphorical interpretation, we do not go into too much detail, and in the instances where we do not sanction metaphorical interpretation we leave the explanations to Allah (SWT). This is the general binding rule with regard to all the ambiguous statements (mutashabihaat) (in the Qur’an and in the Hadeeth), and success comes only from Allah.’

    The conclusion is that the first generations and the latter generations did agree on the fact that what is meant by those ‘mutashabihaat’ is not their literal meaning as commonly understood among people. This in effect amounts to ta’weel (metaphorical interpretation) generally speaking. They also agreed that any metaphorical interpretation which goes against the fundamentals of Sharee’ah is inadmissible. In this way, the dispute was limited to interpreting words in accordance with what is acceptable in the Sharee’ah, and this is not a significant matter as you can see. Metaphorical interpretation was an approach which was resorted to by some from the first generation Muslims themselves. The most important aim which all the efforts of Muslims should be directed to at present should instead be to unify our ranks and speak with one voice at every possible opportunity.

    On Allah we depend and in Him we trust.
    I don't necessarily agree with his assesment that the early generations held the "Salaaf" view exclusively...there just isn't enough evidence to support this historically at this point, we've assigned this belief to them from without. But he sums up the points of contention between the two groups accurately and offers a way of moving forward.

    PS. Ihsan I know you're not an Asharite in terms of theology but your view falls in line (mostly) with theirs on this matter so I used these references.

    Peace

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    EVEN Shuaib? gee thanks
    Apologies, it came off in the wrong way. I actually was using it in relation to what I MEANT when I referred to figurative language, which even you recognized immediately as valid. I was saying that even Shuaib understood what I meant.
    "Those who deny the strength of truth,
    God does not give them courage." - Bulleh Shah

  15. #15

    Default Re: Metaphors, idioms in Arabic.. Figurative Language and Islam.

    Quote Originally Posted by shuaib View Post
    brother ibn abi yala

    could you tell me which one of the books you consider to be best in the field or more easily available for purchase on the web.
    The book of al-Shanqiti, rahimahullah. It is avaliable on several cites. Ibn Taymiyyah's Risalah fi'l-Haqiqa wa'l-Majaz is also available everywhere, but al-Shanqiti's booklet is shorter version of it. Also Ibn Taymiyyah's K. al-Iman contains a little bit discussion on it, and of course his Risalah al-Madaniyyah.

    Check: www.saaid.net or almeshkat.com.

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