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General Issues / Questions => Questions/Comments on the Quran => Topic started by: Iyyaka on April 20, 2020, 02:26:02 AM

Title: What does the root ḥā nūn fā (ح ن ف) and the word "Hanifan" means as per Quran?
Post by: Iyyaka on April 20, 2020, 02:26:02 AM

Let me share a good reasoning by a brother (sorry sometimes for the translation but it comes directly from google) :
AND THEY say, "Be Jews" - or, "Christians" - "and you shall be on the right path." Say: "Nay, but [ours is] the creed of Abraham, HANIFAN/who turned away from all that is false, and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God." (Muhammad Asad)
Say: "We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and, their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves." (Muhammad Asad)

Commentary :
The term "ifanifan" is taken in relation to two contradictory religious determinations. The term qualifies Abraham in his attitude relative to his religion, his belief. It is the opposite of "Jews and Christians" from the first member, an opposition marked by the strong term "bala": "No, on the contrary ...". The third member specifies on Abraham that he was not one of the "associators", a term which specifies the monotheistic aspect of the religion of Abraham. "Ḥanifan" is here an appellation of religious order opposed to "Jewish and Christian", but which is not associative, therefore a fortiori not polytheistic. However, the only known pre-Koranic meaning of the term "ḥanifan" is the Syriac "hnp", which means pagan. Many studies have been written to try to reconcile the two irreducible meanings, the "perfect monotheist" of tradition with the term "pagan". Is this an inversion of value of the pagan term? We have noted that the context concerns the refusal of belonging as a condition for salvation, here as a condition for being well guided. If one considers Abraham from the point of view of mere family membership, he is indeed a pagan. And yet he was not an associate: it is therefore a proof by the absurd that belonging does not determine the individual. A first approximation of the meaning would therefore be: "They said:" Be Jews or Christians, you will be guided ". Say, "No! rather the belief of Abraham the pagan, and he was not an associate. Who would take up politically "pagan" only the meaning "neither Jewish nor Christian" that Jews and Christians give him - and to which they stop after the Koran - and not the polytheistic dimension. So you have to see this as an implicit criticism of the use of the term by these people: "by your claim to monopoly, you are calling everyone pagan, including Abraham. In return for this use, "Ḥanifan" implicitly takes on the positive meaning of a precise attitude: not to belong in a sectarian way to a religion, be it that of his fathers (who wanted to burn him and whose they distance), and by extension, not to historically determined monotheisms which confuse leadership towards God and hereditary or institutional exclusivity of "good guidance".
In parallel with the prophet who must give Abraham's counterexample ("Say!"), The believers in the second piece ("Say!") Are asked to formulate that they take up all the revelations ("come down … ”) And books (“ given… ”), including the Torah and the Gospel (given to Moses and Jesus), as well as the Koran (“ descended on us ”). The resumption of the initial verse of sura (verse 3: "we believe in what came down on you and what came down before you"), now opposes the claims of both parties to the monopoly of revelation (verses 100, 105). With the selection of a book among the others which accompanies the divisions, the Koran opposes to gather by taking again the whole, in which it is included. What matters is the direction towards God, direction which founds the term "Muslim", and which we find via the set of texts from which God is at the origin. The parallel between the two pieces reveals that of "Muslim" with the religious designations of the first piece: "Muslim" is placed in opposition to "Jews and Christians" and "associators" and in the extension of "ḥanifan". The parallel is established here between the two terms, which we will observe next juxtaposed: "ḥanifan mousliman". In the logic of Semitic rhetoric, such a juxtaposition forms a whole: here the original impulse of Abraham "ḥanifan" which is extracted from the religion of his fathers is associated with the formulation of a common destination towards God through the term "Muslim". Both terms are part of a critique of existing, established religions. Criticism which is at the same time the negation of claims to sectarian exclusivity, the formulation of a consensus which transcends divides by regrouping the textual corpus and the proposal of an adequate attitude which extracts itself from cultural contingencies to find a direction towards God.
Beyond the resumption of the negative meaning "neither Jewish nor Christians" of the Syriac term "pagan", we can already with this first occurrence begin to identify the positive meaning of its resumption "ḥanifan" in the Arabic of the Koran. We arrive at a new approximation which is a little closer to that of traditional exegesis: "ḥanifan" is the attitude released from the notion of cultural or religious belonging, "without folklore", not sectarian, which allows then to turn to God. The "pure" religion of traditional exegesis therefore partly translates the idea. However, it masks its critical foundation, the negation of the notion of belonging and monopoly, which may have faded with the historical, contingent need to install Islam as a real community. We will stop for the moment at this approximation: "No! rather Abraham’s belief in independence. ” Abraham's choice of an original belief, different from the social consensus of his time, just like the Qur'an's proposal for a new consensus, in fact require autonomy, literally, in relation to culture, standards and the contingent beliefs of the moment.

mā kāna ib'rāhīmu yahūdiyyan walā naṣrāniyyan
   walākin kāna ḥanīfan mus'liman
wamā kāna mina l-mush'rikīna
Not was Ibrahim a Jew and not a Christian
   [and] But he was ḥanīfan mus'liman
and not he was from the associators
The rhetorical analysis identifies three propositions, highlighted by their reciprocal parallels. Their oppositions form a precise descriptive system, which questions the religious categories of the peoples of the book. What do the categories "Jewish", "Christian" and "pagan" mean for Abraham? This system of successive oppositions here takes a dialectical turn. The first member is built on the juxtaposition of the opposite Jewish and Christian terms which form a whole, to which Abraham does not belong, which historically would obviously be impossible. This gives a contingent connotation to these religions: they are only circumstantial if they cannot include Abraham. The second member on the contradictory opposition of "pagan" and "Muslim", who together qualify Abraham. The two external members, seem to oppose {the Jews and the Christians} and {the polytheists}, two contradictory groups which share all humanity according to the Judeo-Christian religious criteria. However, they both qualify what Abraham is not, and in fact put {Jews and Christians} and {associators} in parallel.
The central member creates a break with a paradoxical expression, "Muslim hanifan", with the pagan term against use (a non-polytheistic pagan). As in the formula "la ilah ila Allah", there is a double negation here: Abraham is not polytheist (Muslim, opposed to the last member), but also not of the people of the book (hanifan, opposed to the first). Added to the replacement of "polytheist" by "associators", the expression breaks the dialectic between {people of the Book} and {pagans} that made up the period. We had seen that the first occurrence prepared this association of the two terms, we observed at the level of a party the same opposition to "Jews and Christians" and "associators". In this second occurrence, the two terms are juxtaposed to form the expression "Muslim hanifan", directly confronted with the other religious categorizations. His opposition to “Jewish and Christian” shows a new possibility: belonging to a “pagan” people and being a monotheist. His opposition to "associator" transformed the usual opposition {monotheist} / {pagan} into {monotheist} / {associators}.
While pagan is a status at the same time as a practice, associator concerns only a relationship with God. The Koran, always according to its monotheistic process, brings back the formalism of the statutes to God and to their practical reality. We have three religious statutes (Jewish, Christian; pagan) which are related to two relationships with God (Muslim; associators). The central break highlights this difference in nature between the terms.

      He was not Abraham Jewish or Christian // but he was pagan, Muslim // and he was not from the associators.

The criticism of the confusion between belief and people is made by the introduction of two opposite terms, relating only to belief (Muslim; associators). We find the link between criticism of previous religions, redefinition of vocabulary and implementation of a new model. The meaning of "Muslim" cannot be a third ethnico-religious definition here, it redefines religion in its relation to God only. "Associator" unlike "pagan", allows us to question this relationship to God, including in the context of the religions of the Book.
The change of term allows a critique of interior monotheism which was prohibited by the confusion {stranger, idolatrous} now abolished by the position {stranger, monotheist} of Abraham. If the foreigner is no longer necessarily an associate, then belonging is no longer necessarily synonymous with monotheism. The Quranic criticism of the position {belonging, associator} of the Jewish and Christian systems opens. Abraham is both an example of what does not work in their system and a model of what should be done, the words that describe it carry both criticism and model. This position external to the previous religious systems used as critical support de facto recalls the movement of Abraham out of the system of his fathers by the criticism of the statues, hence the term "hanifan", Abraham is indeed a pagan, but who came out paganism, arrived by contemplation of the universe to a new God, hence the term "Muslim". There is equivalence between: 1. the change of religious nature effected by the Koran since the previous systems (for the moment the transition from ethnicity to a relationship with God), 2. the conflict of Abraham with the cultural system of its people (idols as language and religion), 3. the whole coined the expression "Muslim hanifan", and was expressed by it. This critical capacity, developed by Abraham, which allows him to overcome the determinations of his community of origin (criticism, confrontation and departure), is put forward through the term "hanifan". "Muslim" carries both the destination (God) and the means (reporting to God).

Title: Re: What does the root ḥā nūn fā (ح ن ف) and the word "Hanifan" means as per Quran?
Post by: Anoushirvan on May 18, 2020, 12:17:40 AM

I have an alternative and simpler theory about "hanif".

As indicated in this page:
it can happen that between for some cognate words in Arabic and Hebrew, the nun is dropped from Arabic to Hebrew.

E.g. for spider: ankabut in Arabic, akkavis in Hebrew. Or for pig: khanzir in Arabic, chazir in Hebrew.

This suggests that the correct cognate word of Arabic hanif (حَنِيف) is not Syriac hnp which indeed means pagan, but Hebrew chaf (חַף), which means clean, pure, innocent.

This theory also suggests that the original pronunciation of حَنِيف was not "hanif", but "hanfa", so that the nun can be easily assimiled to the f in Hebrew.