Monday, 23 July 2012

Meta-metaphoricity in Islam- if the Dutch cap fits.

    Metaphor (majaz) in Islam can be a controversial topic. Whether Semantically or Ontologically, the distinction between majazi (phenomenal/ figurative/ illusory) and haqiqi (noumenal/literal/real) permits the appropriation by Islamic Savants and Mystics, of the Bacchic, Erotic and Thymotic genre poetry of the pre-Islamic Arabs for a pious, albeit ecstatic, purpose and it is this appropriation which endows the ghazal with philosophical interest. On the other hand, theologians rule out a metaphoric rather than literal understanding of Scriptural teaching relating to the Unseen- for example the notion that God is like maybe how u feel when u dun bin real nice to people and like maybe Hell is how it feels when you don't got a date for the Prom coz u shot everybody at Columbine
   I am not a Muslim- nor, to be frank, even a virtuous man- and anything I say about Islam is bound to be either foolish or offensive or both. In particular, a man like me completely cuts himself off from God, utterly negates the possibility of ever overcoming his own swinishness, by saying cherry-picking things like- 'such and such is the real Islam whereas such and such is hypocritical Priestcraft, or fanatical Ignorance and Superstition, or part of some sinister conspiracy orchestrated by the I.S.I and/or the C.I.A, not to mention the P.T.A- the Parents Teachers Association at a meeting of which my saintly Mum and Dad were confronted by the ugly rumor that I couldn't read, write or (worst of all, for a Tam Bram male) do 'rithmetic. Thankfully I was able to argue that the 'Black Propaganda' they had heard was simply a product of 'Institutionalized Racism'- my melanin challenged West Indian class teacher clearly having it in for us yet darker skinned South Indians.
   Still, Dad smelt a rat and demanded to inspect my homework notebooks which were all full of line drawings of cats. Mum got very angry with him- 'What's wrong if he is drawing picture of cat? He is an artistic genius. I myself enabled him to master drawing picture of cat by the time he was just 14 years old. You just see, my boy will be acclaimed as a Picasso while all your so-brilliant nephews will be stuck behind desks earning the pittance which is your Government Officer salary!'
 I said nothing. Mum was so ignorant, she didn't understand that my almost geometrically idealized cats could well be diagrams in Economics or Graph theory or Quantum Physics or something similarly intense. Anyway, what was I saying? Urm... I've lost the thread- so just read through the following while I go refresh my drink-

Existence of metaphor (majâz) in the Qur’ân

I have heard people expressing the idea that there is no metaphor in the Qur’ân, or indeed in the Arabic language. They are adamant in their denial of this aspect of language. What is the truth about this? 
Answered by
Sheikh Nâsir al-Mâjid, professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh
The issue of distinguishing between literal and metaphorical expressions in Arabic has been a topic of much disagreement since early times. The vast majority of scholars, including commentators of the Qur’ân, language specialists, and legal theorists, acknowledge the existence of metaphor. They do not distinguish between the language of the Qur’ân in this matter. Among them are some of the most eminent and erudite scholars who adhere to the creed of the Pious Predecessors and defend it.

Those who denied the existence of metaphor were motivated in doing so because of how certain innovators abused the concept to give misinterpretations that negate the meanings of the texts of the Qur’ân and Sunnah relating to the Unseen and to the attributes of Allah.

In actual fact, the recognition of metaphor in the Arabic language presents no danger. This is because the default assumption for any instance of language is that it must be understood literally unless there is a contextual indicator to show otherwise. This is a matter of unanimous scholarly agreement.

When it comes to texts relating to maters of the Unseen, there cannot conceivably be any contextual indicator to show the need for a metaphorical meaning. Therefore, a person cannot correctly resort to a metaphorical interpretation in order to negate the text’s literal meaning.

Those who make such interpretations and negate the attributes actually do so on the basis of their pre-suppositions as to what those texts imply. They come up with these interpretations to dispel the negative implications that they mistakenly discern from the tests.

The texts relating to Allah’s attributes do not lend themselves to being understood metaphorically – neither linguistically nor from their context.

This is, in brief, the general position of Ahl al-Sunnah on the matter.

There is no problem with acknowledging metaphor as being a part of the language. The Qur’ân was revealed in the language of the Arabs. It employed their idioms and modes of speech.

It remains to say that metaphor is a necessity of language – any language – indispensable for its vitality and continued survival. No matter how vast a language might be, its words and expressions are limited in number and can never encompass all the meanings and nuances of meaning that people need to have in order to express the thoughts circumstances of their lives.

If we consider these points, they should dispel our reservations about this topic.

And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
  In this blog post, I'm going to look at a special sort of metaphor- a meta-metaphor- a figure of speech for figures of speech which, by its very existence paints language as something which is imperative
and strategic rather than alethic and substantive- and the special sort of speculative virtual Ontology- majazi majaz- which it gives rise to. My purpose is to show that in so far as the Created (Khalq) participates in the Uncreated (Quran) it does so under the rubric of Predestination (Qadr) in a very specific and paradoxical manner such that haqiqi, that is literal, Revelation about the Unseen is the the Providential terminus of a trajectory of metaphorical (majazi) reasoning such that metaphors are treated as literal truths and further metaphors are derived from them which themselves are treated as having even more literal truth. In other words, meta-metaphoricity is both the isthmus, or barzakh, between the two seas, one salt, one sweet, and the means of its own erosion, or vanishing, enfolded in the immeasurable Graciousness of God.
  I'm just kidding. What I'm actually going to do is gas on in my usual vein about how everybody dun bin Racist to me and like my fucking Doctor is now saying to me I've got to lose twenty pounds- which is more than I currently spend at McDonald's for lunch- and I've just fucking looked this up on the internet and basically, so long as I redefine my ethnicity as Dutch (Hollanders, the tallest people in the world, are about four or five inches taller than us Indians) then I'm only 10% overweight according to the height-weight chart. Anyway, I just phoned the Dutch Consulate- well, it wasn't the Dutch Consulate exactly, just some random dude- and he responded to my umpteenth call demanding immediate action by calling me a Paki cunt! Which is not just Racist but Sexist. Still, if the Dutch cap fits...

No comments: