« on: March 28, 2013, 01:40:44 PM »
As humans, we are unique amongst earthly creatures in our capacity to speak. The formulation of statements from a number of independent sounds proceeding from our mouths to express an idea conceived in the mind can only be described as miraculous.
These sounds are expressed by humans in reference to objects, or ideas, or events. These sounds only acquire meaning by the repetitive appellation of those sounds to the same objects, or ideas, or events.
We call these sounds “words.”
A listener will have to hear these words in use by people enough times, and in as many different situations, from which he can derive a firm idea of their meaning. I say “listener,” because language proceeds primarily from speech, secondarily from writing.
In human history, dictionaries are a relatively modern invention, which list the entire set of words that constitute any given language. They are particularly useful to foreign students of a given language if they haven’t had any first-hand experience with the people of that language. Indeed, their use, along with the rules of grammar, is a prerequisite for the correct understanding of that language.
In the science of linguistics, “words” are usually referred to as “signifiers,” and “meanings” are usually referred to as “significations.”
Now comes my question, upon being presented with a text whose signifiers are, for the most part, unknown to the reader, would it behove that reader, in the objective pursuit of truth, to employ significations in the understanding of that text as were employed by those people who authored that text?
Or, would it behove that reader to forge significations of those signifiers as accords with his own personal fancies in order to acquire the intended significations of those people who authored that text?
I would argue the prior to be behoving.
The very fact that you, the reader, are reading this post and understanding it, is proof enough of my argument. The fact that you, the reader, are not seeking to invent new meanings for these words that I am using to write this post, proves that we must understand language as it exists at the time of its currency.
Brothers and sisters, we are not at liberty to invent meanings for words.
I have heard the arguments that zinā does not mean fornication, and that nisā’ does not mean women, and that salāh does not mean prayer. These arguments, in my view, are invalid. I will say the following about these arguments:
1. I accept that the meanings of words are liable to mutate. That is a most natural phenomenon of human speech, undoubtedly. However, we must use the Quran’s Arabic, from the Quran's time, to understand the Quran, not any other dialect or language. Example: at one point in history, the signifier “man” referred to any human being, male, or female. Later, around 1000 years ago, it became exclusive to males.
2. I also accept that the Quran uses old words in new ways to introduce new concepts, or perhaps to modify existing concepts; but this can only occur to such an extent that the new concept can still relate to its original signification. Example: “shirk” originally meant “apportionment.” However, the Quran uses it in such a way that it can lead us to understand the signification as “polytheism/idolisation.”
Naturally, all the above is just as applicable to syntax.
I truly apologise and seek pardon for the blatant rudimentary nature of my statements about language and its use, but the arguments that are in circulation in this forum, and, sadly, among other Quranists, with regard to the forgery of significations, are also invalid on such a rudimentary level.
For stress, we are not at liberty to invent meanings for Classical Arabic words to understand the Quran.