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Lesson3 – Usul Al-Fiqh – The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence

Lesson 3 – Transcript – English (Based on the book of “Allama Muzaffar Alam”)

Audio and Transcript: Sheikh Dr Hossein Javaheri

The next topic in the science of Usul Al-Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence) is about the usage of words. There are two ways that we can use a word: one in the actual meaning that the word was made for and the other one is the meaning that is metaphorical; (original and metaphorical meaning).

There are two ways: one is (original) and the one that is (original) which means that it is the real meaning – what actually was made for – for example when we use the word “lion” we are referring to the animal that this word was made for. However, in some texts you may use the word “lion” for a brave person. This is metaphorical and what in Arabic is called (in a metaphoric way).

How we can use a word in a metaphorical meaning that is dependent on few factors, the opinion of the author is that the word is based on what the speaker intended, if the speaker is intending to use a word in a metaphorical meaning, that is what matters. However, they need to have a correct link between them, for example using the word “lion” for somebody that has a bad smell of mouth in a way that is similar to animal, then we use the word “lion” for that person. It is not the right link because “lion” is being used in a metaphorical way for the brave person. Usually to understand that this word has been used in a metaphorical way, we can bring the evidence inside this sentence, for example if you say “the lion was throwing the arrows” which mean that the person who was throwing the arrows was like a lion and brave, that throwing arrows is the evidence that this is a metaphorical meaning not the original meaning. Also the context of what we are talking about can show that here is the original meaning or a metaphorical meaning for that word.

The next topic is (signification is related to willing). “Delalah” in English has been translated to signification which means that when something signifies something else by knowing something we can get knowledge about something else, this action is called “Delalah” (signification), this book is dividing (signification) to two types of (theoretical signification) and the one that is (confirmative signification), this is actually a classification that is a continuation to what we have learned in (the science of logic). So in (the science of logic) we have learned that (signification) when the (signification is verbal) which is related to things that we see and from that we signify something else or we get knowledge about something else, there are three types:

  1. the one that is (logical) which is something that is based on what we can logically understand, for example we see the smoke and we realize that there is fire, also the other
  2. one is called (natural) – that is when you see something against…. It is like (logical signification), but is based on the nature of that, for example you see somebody is looking red and you understand that they must have fever.
  3. The third type is called (objective signification): (objective signification) is actually what they are referring here to (theoretical and confirmative signification) so (objective signification) is when there is some sort of standard or a range to meaning for something to apply to something else, so exactly what we have been talking about. So when we say this is a table because we decided to call that object table and this type is the one that has been divided to two types of (theoretical and confirmative signification).

However, further down in the book explains that the actual real (signification) is the one that is called (confirmative) and (theoretical signification) is just a type of it and is not another type of (signification), so it’s like as if you’re classifying two things you’re saying this is itself and something else, so it’s like (theoretical signification) being a type of (confirmative signification). The fact is that when you say (theoretical signification), you’re talking about what comes out of the mouth of the speaker that causes a type of imagination in our mind – that we think about that particular meaning whatever has been used – so this is when we are using it in the real meaning – the (original meaning) – that it has to be the real one not the metaphorical one. So when somebody says “lion”,  the first thing is just the animal, but then if there is any evidence, then there would be the second type that is based on some evidence next to it, that is the one that depends on the intension of the speaker which is (confirmative signification), when we actually say that (signification) is essentially just (confirmative) because the intension of the speaker matters in both the real or metaphorical meaning, so it’s obvious that in this case we need to have a speaker that is speaking with intension, that’s why the topic of this session was (signification is related to willing) which means that it just follows the intension of what that person wanted to tell us, it’s not something that he said due to making a mistake or he was not aware of what he was saying or let’s say that somebody that is delirious or while sleeping talking or let’s say if he is joking, all of that would be part of the question, so we’re talking about the speaker that is intending to tell us something and that is the one that matters, this is the opinion of the author that as far as we are concerned whatever the intension of the speaker is that’s the one that is the real meaning of (signification) here.

The example to show the real (signification) here is when for example somebody hears the noise that shows somebody is knocking at the door he would imagine there is a person there knocking at the door and that person has something to say to whoever is in that room or the house, all of that is based on imagining that everything that happened was intentionally, for example if the noise was due to a bird just flying by randomly hitting the door, that means there is nobody there, the door was not actually knocked for a reason to for example speak to a person inside the house, all of the reasoning that we have used there would become useless because the intension is the one that signifies what the actual meaning was.

There is another classification for (status) which is the applying of a word for a particular meaning that we discussed earlier: is the (status) that is (individual) and the other one that is for a type of thing which is (qualitative). The (individual) one is for example the same applying the name of loin to the animal, but sometimes there is a particular type that has been named, for example in Arabic when we say (to hit) and we use (verb to do) to show the (past tense), so anything in that shape – even though itself – is past tense, but we use that for applying to all different types of verbs and that itself is called (shape) of something, so that’s the different types of (status).

Also there is something called (status for vocabulary) which means literally the singulars, that’s when the same thing that we have just said that’s for examples using (very to do) for (past tense) and sometimes it’s actually for (structures) which is the shape of something – the way it has been put together – for example when we look at the sentence of (It is You we worship and You we ask for help) and we say here there is the (object) which is the letter with the sound equivalent “ka” so it was originally iyyaka (You) and we brought the “ka” in the start of it and made it iyyaka to emphasize this change of shape itself is something that we understand from the way of the sentence and for example we say in this particular type is (rewording of the phrase) it was supposed to be here (na’buduka), but we brought it forward to show something.

What we need to discuss next is how do we know something has been used in the real meaning of it – the meaning that is (original) or the meaning that is (metaphorical). For that there are a few signs that’s in the book has been mentioned. Because it’s not always possible by hearing the word and imagining what exactly the real meaning for that word was, if a person is the expert in the language – it’s like what we call (linguists) – the (linguists) would know what that word means in many cases, but not always, if there is a doubt, then we need to look for other signs of showing which one is (original) or not.

The first thing that we can use in distinguishing between (original and metaphorical meaning) is what we call (intuition) which means that the first thing that comes to our mind after hearing any word – the first meaning that comes to our mind – that would be (intuition), as we said before the connection between the word and its meaning is not something that is based on the actual meaning of that word because we made that word for it and that could have been anything, it’s not something that comes due to other words in the sentence which would be a reason for the what we call (metaphorical meaning) not for the actual (original meaning) which is the real meaning that was made for it, that is based on the standard that we made for it. Some people have made this argument saying that this (intuition) is not always correct because when you say that it’s the first thing that comes to your mind it means that you do have knowledge about how this was made and the word applied to this particular meaning in the first place. In explaining that we have to say that there are two different people who hear the word and understand (intuition): there are the ones that actually know that word for example in a language – they speak the same language – so when they hear the word then as the knowledge that they have about what that would mean so let’s say if they hear “lion” in English and that means the animal, so when the English speakers hear it they understand that meaning, but other people they look around and they see the English speakers are saying the same thing and they would refer to – when they say the same word – they would refer to the animal, so for them (intuition) it dosen’t matter in the first place, but after using the (intuition) that applies to other people who spoke that language and had knowledge of the actual made meaning for that word they judge based on that and they get the same idea of what that word means. Now if you wanted to know if a meaning that we have applied to a word is metaphorical or the real thing, there are other ways to use apart from (intuition) and one of them is to ask this question: is it possible to take this meaning away from the word? And if you do take it still has a meaning? Then that means that the other meanings or at least one of them was (metaphorical) for example when we say “lion” and we are referring to the brave person if we say the person is lion and we would say the person can be not lion, so it can be imagined without being called lion, that means that this meaning was metaphorical and this person is separate from that secondary meaning – the metaphorical meaning  we gave him – so “Ali” is lion or fights like a lion or throws arrows like a lion all of that means that Ali is not lion himself he can exist without being a lion, but in this sentence we called him lion we say Ali the lion throw the arrow and that means that it’s a metaphorical meaning  and it’s just implying the bravery and vice versa.

Peace be upon you

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Updated on February 5, 2018

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