Author Topic: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran  (Read 5676 times)

Wakas

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Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« on: November 18, 2007, 05:53:07 PM »
peace all,


AQ = Al Quran

I didn't want to post this till I finished the book but I may as well as it will probably take me a while to finish it. I have been reading the following book and it brought up some very simple but important points that I wanted to share:

God and Man in the Koran
by Toshihiko Izutsu (click on his name to see more of his interesting works)

The book basically studies words/concepts in AQ, their background context, how they are used in it, how they develop. It looks at what he calls the Quranic Weltanschauung (which is German for "world view"), i.e. how AQ sees things and calls things.
His method of study is fairly unique and uses techniques frequently used on this forum (e.g. cross-reference and comparison with other words/concepts) and some aspects of it I have not seen before. For example, he sometimes uses visual diagrams to show relations between words/concepts. Nothing amazing, but interesting.

I am only a 1/3 through but I wanted to mention the interesting/important points brought up by the book:

1) He discusses the use of the word "Allah" in a period that we could refer to as pre-Quran, and also its use in AQ itself. What he discusses here is fairly obvious to some of us, but may be hard to swallow for a more Traditional Muslim. You can read what he says about it here: http://www.bible.ca/islam/library/islam-quotes-izutsu.htm

2) Development of words - this aspect of his study blew me away because it was so obvious but really quite important to appreciate. He basically shows that certain words used in AQ acquired more specific meanings once used compared to others and since AQ was a dominant book it kind of changed these words/concepts and their usage by the people (or at least to some degre). For example, the one word he discusses a lot is "kufr / kafir" (commonly known to mean "disbeliever"): picture the scene, this word did not originally have this meaning, it primarily meant ungrateful / to conceal or cover over (e.g. how a farmer covers the seeds he plants with soil), and it is even used in AQ in these ways, and he says it never had a contrasting relationship with words such as "islam/muslimeen" or "iman/mumineen" BUT when AQ introduced these contrasts a significant shift in the word's meaning took place.
We can even see this today with many examples, e.g. with words such as "queer" (a common usage descriptive word) because I'm not sure how "queer" came to mean homosexual but lets say a best-selling book contrasted it to hetreosexual and from then on "queer" came to refer to a homosexual. Of course, "queer" can still be used in its original manner and be understood but I dont think anyone would disagree a significant shift in its meaning has taken place. Similarly with another descriptive word "straight" (a common descriptive word, like islam was) and which never had a contrast with "gay" before can have its meaning shifted by contrasting it or introducing a usage that becomes dominant, like AQ was.
If we go back to "kafir" we can also appreciate as soon as this contrast was made, which never existed before, it would be common to refer to a non-muslim as "kafir", i.e. one who is ungrateful or one who covers the truth...... and the more it was used like this, the more it became mainstream and eventually accepted to simply mean ""rejecter/disbeliever". Interestingly, this is one possible method of working out a timeline in AQ itself by its own word/concept development/usage, i.e. the later revealed ayatin/signs most likely used the 'came to be accepted' meaning of "kafir", i.e. "disbeliever". I often wondered why AQ clearly used it like this in some cases and now I can appreciate why.

I think any thorough study of AQ should take the development of words/concepts (i.e. point 2 above) into account when determining the message.


Let me know your thoughts.

Lastly, I hope if others read books they too post what they feel to be the interesting/important parts so we can all learn together. This is very important.
All information in my posts is correct to the best of my knowledge only and thus should not be taken as a fact. One should seek knowledge and verify: 17:36, 20:114, 35:28, 49:6, 58:11. My articles

www.studyQuran.org

ImamQuranonly

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2007, 06:40:12 PM »
As Salaamu Alaika Waka,

Thanks for the tip about the book.  This study method of words from Al Quran is something that I have been trying to use for years now.  I actually learned this from a sunni Imam that is on the fringe edges of what is accepted by sunnism.  He actually taught and preached to me repeatedly that Al Quran is best understood when studying it from itself, letting it define itself, studying its own usage of words; instead of following hadeeth blindly.  Kind of strange for a man that follows many hadeeth blindly.

I hope that we all can study more of this type of research and gain a better understanding of Al Quran with it, Allah willing.

As Salaamu Alaikum,  :peace:
As Salaamu Alaikum wa RaHmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu,

ImamQuranonly

Wakas

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2007, 07:29:47 PM »
I'm on the last chapter, so here is a summary of the interesting info since my last post above...

(Please note, I am not saying what is correct/incorrect, just what it says for education/research purposes.)

He discusses God's communication to man, in its various forms, verbal and non-verbal (60 pages on it). He focuses on signs/ayatin, and he points out that the signs/ayatin not in AQ are still part of God's communication with man, they are still written, but in nature. I think this is alluding to the concept of al kitab, but he doesn't mention it specifically (see 10:38).

He admits that pre-Islamic/Quranic usage of the term "salat" is similar to AQ's usage but not the same. He says the verb "salla" primarily meant "to invoke blessings upon". He also gives one example of "homage".

He discusses the origins of the term "islam" and verb "aslama". He says it primarily meant "to give over", and usually used in a context where one gives/surrenders something that is very precious to another, and the most precious thing is oneself, hence the term "islam" commonly meaning self-surrender, self-submission etc. He always stresses the original meanings of the words not the "religious" meanings they have now.

Similarly with "ibadah" (commonly translated as worship, but is more akin to servitude). When one serves their master, their sayings and actions are done in accordance to their master's will, but in doing so, the actions/sayings eventually come to take precedence from an outside-looking-in perspective, hence not the mindset but the acts become "ibadah", hence a more ritualistic approach. Hence a subtle shift to translations using "worship".

Cites an interesting usage of "whisper" in 50:16, in which our soul "whispers/tuwaswisu" to us, the same word used for when shaytan "whispers" to us. A case for shaytan being a part of us. He discusses this point because the Arabs thought the messenger was possessed by jinn/shaytan, being taught by another etc to give context.

Clearly shows that AQ repeatedly tries to show Arabic is not special, and it was simply chosen because the revelation was to Arabs, hence it being in their language. Obvious I know, but perhaps not to some.

Interestingly, he even mentions there was a significant struggle for supremacy in terms of language/influence amongst the Arabs and Persians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries (same time the hadith books were canonised with Persian authors, coincidence?). With the Persians actively trying to undermine the Arabic language, and quite hostile. He even says the Arabs lost this struggle around this time but doesn't go into details. It is noteworthy because Izutsu is a professor and regarded as a scholar even amongst traditionals.


Overall, the book is a good read. Very good at painting a picture of the context AQ was revealed in and the framework of words/concepts it built.
All information in my posts is correct to the best of my knowledge only and thus should not be taken as a fact. One should seek knowledge and verify: 17:36, 20:114, 35:28, 49:6, 58:11. My articles

www.studyQuran.org

Jack

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2008, 06:19:48 AM »
Peace,

Thanks for sharing Wakas.

An excellent read, I highly recommend it to others.


You gotta follow the truth even it brings the whole thing crumbling down around you - Sam Tyler, Life on Mars (UK)

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense

progod

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2008, 10:44:00 AM »
Peace,

Yes. Wakas. I have been endorsing this (although in different words) for the past 2-4 years on this forum and on my site. This development of the words happened through people interpreting the context where these words are found in the Quran and then adding the context to the meaning. Hence kaafir becomes unbeliever i.e. non-Muslim (not believing in the Quran and Muhammad's messengership God bless him) instead of ingrateful, unfaithful and used in context like it is in the Quran. Even the word Islam takes a development after it is used by the Quran. It is used only in the sense of submissive and in different contexts in the Quran it is submissive to God or Submissive to Solomon(the one context of Bilqis and Solomon God bless him).

So again, that is why I always stressed reading the Quran through a Pre-Islamic context and focusing on CA grammar and style. That does not mean a pre-religion context (as there were Arabs who were Christians, Jews and Animists), rather a context that eliminates the Islamic interpretation of the words used in the Quran and only deals with them in the way Arabs before the Quran (our last prophet before he recieved the Quran, and his relatives and parents) used such words. Alot of people had issues with this and started to conjecture on the pre-islamic meanings of Arabic words assuming that all the meanings we find in the dictionary are automatically post-Islamic. But this is not true and I have found that in all the detailed lexicons the islamic interpretations are often tied to some early islamic scholar with a quotes, and that is crucial. Everyone can go to lanes lexicon and look up the word Islam and see that the way we use it (as submissive to God) comes from Al-shaafee''s interpetation. In defining the word he even implies that the word muslim only mean submissive and not submissive to God.

Again, Wakas i'm glad you brought this up and I am glad that this author has realized this. I hope his book serves to help people (especially here) understand what i have been trying to say for the past 4 years (give or take).

Godbless,
Anwar
 
The Quranists Must Rise!

http://www.quranists.com

/*JM*/

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2008, 10:49:05 AM »
Hello,

Has someone read other books from this author ?

Anyway, I think I will buy it, since br Wakas readings are always interesting.

Peace

Wakas

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2008, 02:00:33 PM »
peace all,

mquran was the one who recommend me this book, and he has read other books by the same author. I also believe Arnold has read this one, maybe others by Izutsu too.

I finished the book yesterday. In the final chapters he discusses:

the groundwork behind the term islam/aslama, and cites "pre-Islamic" evidence discussing hilm (Ha-Lam-Miim) was the concept built upon to form islam/aslama.

the term jahil (Jiim-ha-Lam) and its relation to the ability to reason calmly/properly. Interestingly, makes a strong case that emotional involvement in reasoning is against what al quran says. An obvious but important point.

makes an interesting distinction with the term din (Dal-Ya-Nun) saying it is more 'personal obedience' rather than established/reified obedience/practices which is more correctly millah/religion (Miim-Lam-Lam). Discusses its "pre-Islamic" connotation of "requital".

makes a very cool observation about "taqwa" (Ta-Qaf-Ya), in that the verb "ittaqa" primarily meant and essentially means to place between yourself and something you are afraid of something which might protect you by preventing from it reaching you. This, he says, in the Quranic context is ibadah (Ayn-Ba-Dal). He says its meaning of "pious fear" is a developed meaning from the earlier meaning.


All roots shown above can be thoroughly researched via http://www.studyquran.co.uk/PRLonline.htm

All information in my posts is correct to the best of my knowledge only and thus should not be taken as a fact. One should seek knowledge and verify: 17:36, 20:114, 35:28, 49:6, 58:11. My articles

www.studyQuran.org

Jack

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2008, 10:19:04 AM »
Peace,

Thanks once again. Mind-blowing!

You gotta follow the truth even it brings the whole thing crumbling down around you - Sam Tyler, Life on Mars (UK)

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense

Hanif987

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2008, 07:12:35 PM »
Peace my friends,
Let me recommend another book in this subject. The name of the book is "The Quran's Self Image" by Daniel Madigan. I read this book 3-4 years ago and it help me to see the quran in new light.

progod

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Re: Development of words/concepts in Al Quran
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2008, 09:24:39 AM »
Toshihiko Izutsu's book is interesting. I have been reading some of it. I'm glad it gives insight in the Pre-Islamic (Christian, Jewish and Pagan) world of the Arabs and their culture and the dominating forces of Rome and Persia.

Godbless,
Anwar
The Quranists Must Rise!

http://www.quranists.com