Koranic Studies and Modern Semantic Philosophies – I

Koranic Studies and Modern Semantic Philosophies - I

Published in June 17, 2022 | Author PROF. HAMID NASEEM RAFIABADI

According to Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973), a French philosopher, questions regarding the nature of God, the destiny of the human soul and life in the afterlife are not ‘Problems’, they are ‘mysteries’ that can be solved through inductive or deductive reasoning techniques. The mysteries defy scientific or rational explanation and can be explained by an individual only through the force of his imagination backward into the remote past and forward into the unfathomable future. One has to fly on the wings of imagination to lift the veil and witness the reality, embedded in the ‘mystery’ in all its nakedness and pristine glory. Furthermore, religious language is not cognitive, and the meaning of religious language can be determined by means other than cognition.

In this article, first of all, we will discuss the problem of language in the general and Qur’anic context. Semantic philosophy with its various branches will catch our attention and we will try to show how semantic philosophy is just a set of theories of meaning rather than a complete philosophy. We will then discuss Koranic semantics with particular reference to the views of a great Japanese semantic philosopher, Toshihiko Izutsu. Toshihiko Izutsu relates the semantics of the Qur’an to the Qur’anic Weltanschauung or world view and shows that the main constituents of this “world view” are key words like Islam Allah Nabi and Iman etc.

We will also try to explain the process of adaptation of pre-Islamic Arabic linguistic categories by Islam with various changes here and there, for example categories like Allah (in the metaphysical context) and Taqwa (in the ethical context) fit into the scheme of the new world view of Islam, by uprooting these terms of its pagan origins. A comparative study of Qur’anic Science with various semantic theories has been made after this general review of the subject. In this regard, two key terms, Allah and Taqwa, have been analyzed in their historical context and it has been shown that these two terms were highly prevalent among the Arabs. Islam adopted these concepts and terms with the necessary modifications and alterations and accommodated them in its own worldview scheme.

After this detailed discussion, an attempt has been made to meet the challenge of logical positivism and emotivism and the problem is investigated in the context of religious and Koranic studies and it has been shown that Islam provides its own criteria to justify its claims. . . A brief description of Ta’wil and the mystical interpretation on this particular subject has also been given. the sights of Izutsu, Marcel, Hossein Nasr, CA Quadir and Osman Bakr have come forward to elaborate our position to show that religious language contains “Wisdom” and not just ideas, that it has a paradigm other than merely linguistic to justify its teachings.

After this discussion, a brief description of the sciences that have traditionally been adopted by scholars to promote and popularize Qur’anic studies is presented. Linguistic tools, methods and paradigms have been discussed to show the importance of linguistic analysis in the context of Islamic studies in general and Quranic studies in particular. Before concluding the whole discussion, special reference has been made to two famous Indian philologists i.e. Shah Wali-ullah Dehalavi and Nawwab Siddiq Hassan Khan.

To begin with, the term Language has been derived from the Latin lingua and, in Middle English, from the Old French Idioma, from langue, tongue. Language is defined as the communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols. It is a system that includes its rules to combine its components, such as words. It is also a system as used by a distinct nation, people, or other community; often contrasted with dialect. It is also a system of signs, symbols, gestures or rules used in communication: the language of algebra.

Language is a means of communication and is based on common signs that human beings adopt to convey different meanings to each other. It is a system of verbal signs recognized by common sense as the means of communication between all individuals belonging to a community. It is in this sense a social fact, a social fact as defined by Durkheim in his Sociology. It is a symbolic system for a community, to which each member of the community must resort when speaking with others if they wish to make themselves understood.

There can be no linguistic communication unless the two people involved in the speech (Kalam) resort to the same system of signs. The Qur’an shows the clearest awareness of this fact, and most obviously possesses the concept of language understood in the sense of this modern technical term ‘language’. The Qur’an mentions that the Revelation and the prophetic mission used to always be accompanied by the language of the recipient. Thus in Surah Ibrahim we read: “We never send an apostle except with the language of his people, so that he can make the message intelligible.” What the peoples of the world differ in color, according to the Qur’an, so they differ in languages ​​and for that reason the Qur’an counts the ‘color and language’ of the people among the ‘signs’ (Ayat) of Allah.

According to the Koran, the language assumed a very deep importance. The other important dimension highlighted by this semantic and linguistic philosophy was the Doctrine of the elimination of Metaphysical propositions and the use of the vocabulary of common sense and scientific precision was given the highest priority. In this regard, the writings of GE Moore, (1873-1958; Philosopher Eng.) especially his theory of the ‘Indefinability’ of the Good and logical positivism can be presented as representative tendencies of this school of thought. According to G. E. Moore the concepts must be clarified before claiming a specific meaning for them.

According to logical positivism (what it means to know a language and what seems to happen when we are learning the first language), it seems that if we want to understand how language is based on experience, we must occupy our lowest level, where is the meaning. based on direct confrontation with experience, with sentence-sized units, not word-sized units.

Logical positivism was the empiricist philosophy of an extreme nature that had developed a rigorous principle known as the “Verifiability Theory of Meaning” indicating that the only meaningful sentences are the factual, positive, verifiable and testable sentences of the empirical sciences. This view was initially put forward by members of the “Vienna Circle”, a group of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists who gathered around Moritz Schlick in Vienna in the 1920s.

These men were interested in the logic of mathematics and science and in giving philosophy a scientific orientation. They felt that philosophy in the past had largely indulged in useless controversies over metaphysical and normative problems that were, in principle, insoluble. Like Hume, they felt that such controversies were fruitless because the participants were meaningless. It was to make this conclusion concrete that they first introduced the principle that for one to speak meaningfully, he must be able to specify the way in which what he says can be verified empirically; in other words, it must be possible to specify which observations would count for or against its truth.

All other sentences are emotive and therefore meaningless and meaningless. Among the latter are included the sentences of Metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics and religion -in fact all of them value the sciences-. The school originated from the Vienna Circle, founded by M. Schlick in 1924, whose members included Bergmann, Carnap, Feigl, Allahel, Hahn, Newrath and Weissman, AJ Ayer’s The language of the book, Truth and Logic (1921), is a forceful exposition of logical positivism,10/ but Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) can be considered: the Bible of this school of thought.

In the same way Wittgenstein considers the topics and subjects of traditional philosophy as morality devoid of scientific meaning and confined to philosophy only to the criticism of language and bordering on solipsism. Emotivism holds that ethical statements are not meaningful. They express the attitude of a speaker and therefore move. To support an ethical statement with a ‘reason’ is to mention a fact that will influence the corresponding attitude. Emotivism leads to and is also the result of relativism. Its main representatives are David Hume, AJ Ayer, CL Steven Son and Bertrand Russell.

Subsequently, Gilbert Ryle in his two books, The Concept of Mind and Taking Sides in Philosophy, greatly elaborated on linguistic philosophy and enriched its theories as editor of the renowned philosophical journal Mind.


(The author is Director, International Center for Spiritual Studies, Awantipora Pulwama Islamic University of Science and Technology. Former Director, Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir Srinagar University. He can be contacted at [email protected])