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Lesson2 – Usul Al-Fiqh – The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence

Lesson 2 – Transcript – English (Based on the book of “Allama Muzaffar Alam”)

Audio and Transcript: Sheikh Dr Hossein Javaheri

This is the second session regarding the science of Usul Al-Fiqh (Principals of Islamic Jurisprudence) based on the book of “Alam Al-Muzaffar”.

In this session, inshaAllah we are trying to go through the introduction of the first chapter which is related to the usage of different terminologies and starts with the application of meanings on words.

There is no doubt that the meaning of words that we see around us are just based on an agreement between us and the one that made the word or in the literature and the meaning that’s applied is not something that would come automatically and we need to make this application or standardize that based on our own agreement.

Terminology

So it is important to understand the terminology and knowing that this particular word that we use, what is the intended meaning, that can vary from one language to another and sometimes from one science to another.

The second question is that who is the person that applied these meanings to the words. Some may say is it God who made them or is that based on a particular person. The third ideology is that this comes based on the fact that human being by nature has certain powers and one of them is to apply these meanings on the words and make words, overall in the long term the human society changes the meanings and applies different words to the particular meanings that are used in the society.

This determination of meaning itself can happen actively or passively that we call it (appointive status) and (specific status). (Appointive status) is an active determination of a meaning for a particular word or applying a word to a meaning that is intended, that is for example when the type of prayers that we do nowadays is called “Salaah” or “Alsalaah” (Prayer) in a religious text in Arabic originally “Salaah” meant just any type of supplication or praying, but now it means a particular type so this was based on (appointive status) by the prophet – peace be upon him – determined as this particular type of praying, during the time this changed and nowadays muslims know Al-Salaah as this particular type of praying.

Types of Meaning

Also there are differences in the type of (status) that is (appointive) and (specific) – the active and the passive one – in a way that the passive one does not have a known person behind it so people do not know exactly who called “a stone, stone” in the long term gradually that happened.

However, as we can see people can argue that (appointive and specific status) both are the same because originally somebody must have put the name on things. This is the argument that some other scholars do, but in this book we believe in both because there are other places that the (specific status) – the passive way of applying a meaning to any word or applying a word to any meaning happens during the time without knowing the person who was in charge.

Applying Words to any Meaning

Logically when we would like to apply anything or any word to a meaning, we have to be able to imagine that; so in this case the meaning is first and we imagine it and then we apply the word to that or the name to that meaning. This imagination of that meaning could be something as a whole or totally imagine when we can imagine something because of our recognition so that is what we call it imagining on its own or (self-imagination). So in that meaning we would be able to see all the different aspects of that, but sometimes we can just describe or imagine a particular aspect of anything like when we cannot see an object when it’s too far from us or the weather is foggy then we say for example it looks like an animal; the animal that we see we cannot say if that’s a horse or a dog at the same time, it is a type of imagining and we are calling that thing a name; this is (Giving a ruling on a matter is simply a branch of understanding its reality) rather than (self-imagination) – this is (giving a ruling on a matter is simply a branch of understating its reality) – so with one particular aspect of it. So, this is the two different types of applying the words to any meaning, based on how this imagination is specific or general we can have a possibility of four different combinations.

In Arabic we have the actual action of applying these – we call it (status) and the word is (subject) and the meaning is (main subject); (main subject) is the meaning which could be either of these components; it could be specific or general. The four possibilities is when the first one when both applying itself; (Status) is specific and when the (subject matter), which is the meaning, is specific as well. This is when somebody is born and the father calls his son a name for example “Ali”, so the application is specific for this particular boy and the name is specific for him as well which is “Ali” and applies to this person only.

The second type is when the application is general and the meaning is general as well: (status) is general and (subject matter) is general, so the application that’s general is when we call a group or generally anybody with particular characteristics a name like we say the human is a general word, that applies to anybody that is a live speaking existence so both are general.

The third possibility is when the application is general, but is used for a specific meaning and that is in literature when we use this or that for referring or pointing at a particular subject; so, “this” is a general word and applies to many things, but when we are referring to “this” particular book that book is a specific thing so this is possible too.

The fourth possibility just in theory is when the (status) or application is specific, but we intend to get a general meaning of that and the author argues logically that “this” type of application is impossible because it’s impossible to have a specific name, but expect that to have more than one meaning and be a general meaning behind it, which is as if we are applying to an unknown subject, a specific name and that is logically impossible.

Meaning of prepositions

There is a section in the book that speaks about the meaning of prepositions in Arabic and if they are part of the third type, here we could have three possibilities based on the scholars’ opinion which means that (a letter) in Arabic, which is when we say (a letter) we are referring to a word that do not have any independent meaning, but some believe that they can have independent meaning because when we say “from” we actually say that we start “from” and that we start is not mentioned, some believe that (a letter) is exactly like a noun with an independent meaning and some believe no it does not have any independent meaning itself, it is just showing something that would come in a noun and some believe that (a letter) in fact comes just as an extra thing and has no meaning at all.

The meaning for anything can be on its own and that’s what we call (by itself) (self-existent) like the actual name of a person when we say the name of “Zayd” as a name of a person that itself it does show the person himself, but “Zayd” is standing, that standing is not independent and just exist if “Zayd” exists and on its own does not have any meaning, so when we say standing itself it means something when a person is doing this. So “Zayd” is standing it’s something that applies to “Zayd” as long as “Zayd” exists, so in Arabic we call that “Zayd” is what we call (essence) and the standing of that person – the standing of “Zayd” – is (form) so this is the difference between (essence) and (form) so one is on his own has meaning (self-existent) and the other own (none self-existent) like in here standing represents “qiyam” to “Zayd”.

The same connection between words has been mentioned in the book and it’s the believe of the author that (prepositions) like in Arabic (to/from) these are the proposition that do not have any independent meaning and they just have some rules when they are in a sentence attached to other words. Another reason to prove that the suggestion regarding the meaning of prepositions (letters) they do have a meaning but they are not independent is the fact that we cannot say anything that is a meaning for them instead.

For example, in Arabic if we say (Zayd is at home) which means that “Zayd” is inside the house that (in) that is a (preposition) that the meaning of it is a place so we cannot say (“Zayd is at home”) so it’s not like a place for it so it’s the meaning that a noun has so it does have a meaning but it’s not independent. In fact, all the existence can be divided in four different types:

  • the first one is what we call (the one that exists on its own for its own and without the help of anything else with the help of itself and that’s what we call (of necessary existence) which is Allah (Blessed and Exalted be He).
  • The second one is what we call (the one that exists on its own for its own with the help of something else) that’s what we call (essence) like the body and (the essence of human being) so they exist on their own for their own but with the power or help of something else which would be (of necessary existence).
  • The third type is what we call (the one that exists on its own for something else by the help of something else) that’s what we call (form) if you remember when we have talked about (form) like the act of standing that just exists as long as that person who is standing like “Zayd” (is standing) that “Zayd” exists so itself has no existence as long as that original (essence) is not there.
  • The fourth one is what we call (the one that exists for something else) that is the weakest type of existence and that’s what it is (a letter) it’s like a connection – they call (a letter) as a connection between two or three things and if we give an example we can refer to the word of Emir of the believers “Ali” peace be upon him when he explained that (a name is what something is called), (a verb is what refers to the form of a name), (a letter is what gives a word its meaning) which means that name, (a noun) is an independent word that is given information about what has been called that name, that noun applies to something and this noun is giving information about that (verb), verb is given information about the movement or something that’s happening to what has been given that name or that verb applies to it and (a letter) is what on its own does not have any meaning but it does create a meaning in something else

Salaam Alakum, Peace be upon you.

 

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Updated on February 5, 2018

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