44. The sciences concerned with the Arabic language.



The pillars of the Arabic language are four: lexicography, grammar, syntax and style (bayan), and literature. Knowledge of them all is necessary for religious scholars, since the source of all religious laws is the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which are in Arabic. Their transmitters, the men around Muhammad and the men of the second generation, were Arabs. Their difficulties are to be explained from the language they used. Thus, those who want to be religious scholars must know the sciences connected with the Arabic language.

These sciences differ in emphasis (as to their importance) according to the different degrees (of usefulness) they possess for conveying the intended meaning of speech, as will become clear when they are discussed one by one. The conclusion will be that the first and most important of them is grammar, since it gives a clear. indication of the basic principles (used in expressing) the various intended meanings. Thus, one can distinguish between subject and object, as wells as between the subject of a nominal sentence and its predicate. Without grammar, one would not know on what to base giving information (about anything)

Lexicography would deserve to be first, were not most of its data constant (and restricted) to their (conventional) meanings, incapable of changing, in contrast to the case endings (in grammar) which indicate dependence, the (person or thing) that is dependent, and the (person or thing) on which (something else) depends. 1235 They always change completely and leave no trace. Thus, grammar is more important than lexicography, since ignorance of (grammar) is very harmful to mutual understanding. This is not the case with lexicog­raphy.

And God knows better.




It should be known that language, as the term is custom­arily used, is the expression by a speaker of his intention. Such expression is an act of the tongue which originates in an intention to convey the meaning of speech.1236 Therefore, (language) must become an established habit (located) in the part of the body that produces it, namely, the tongue.1237

In every nation, the (formation of language takes place) according to their own terminology. The linguistic habit that the Arabs obtained in that way is the best there is. It is the one most clearly expressing the intended meaning, since many ideas are indicated in it by something else than words. There are, for instance, vowels to distinguish the subject from object and i-case - that is, the genitive - and (there are) letters to transform actions (verbs) - that is, motions -into essences,1238 without need of other words. These (features) are found in no other language but Arabic. All other languages need special words to indicate a particular idea or situation. Therefore; we find non-Arabs lengthier in their speech than we would consider necessary in Arabic. This is what was meant in the following remark by Muhammad: "I was given the most comprehensive words, and speech was made short for me." 1239

The consonants, vowels, and positions (of letters [sounds]), that is, the forms of the Arabic language, came to indicate the intended meaning in a definite manner. The (Arabs) did not need a craft to teach them their meaning. It was a habit in their tongues that one generation learned from the other, as our children nowadays learn our languages.

Then Islam came. The Arabs left the Hijaz to seek the royal authority that was in the hands of (foreign) nations and dynasties. They came into contact with non-Arabs. As a result, their linguistic habit changed under the influence of the solecisms they heard non-Arab speakers of Arabic make, and it is hearing that begets the linguistic habit. Thus, the (Arab linguistic habit began to) incline toward adopting forms of speech at variance with it, because (the Arabs) became used to hearing them spoken, and (their linguistic habit) became corrupted. 1240

Cultured people feared that the (Arab linguistic) habit would become entirely corrupted and that, if the (process of corruption) went on for a long time, the Qur'an and the traditions would no longer be understood. Therefore, they derived certain norms for the (Arab linguistic) habit from their way of speaking. (These norms are) of general applicability, like universals and basic principles. They checked all the other parts of speech with them and combined like with like. (Among such norms,) for instance, are these:

The agent has the u-ending.

The object has the a-ending.

The subject of a nominal sentence has the u-ending.

Then, they considered (the fact) that the meaning changes with the change of vowel (endings). For this (phenomenon), they used the technical term of i'rab. For the thing that necessitates the change (in meaning), they used the technical term "agent," ('amil), and so on. All these things came to be technical terms peculiar to the (grammarians) who set them down in writing and made a particular 1241 craft of them. The technical term they used for that (craft) is "grammar" (nahw).

The first to write on (grammar) was Abul-Aswad ad­Du'ali, of the Banu Kinanah. 1242 It is said that he did so upon the advice of 'Ali, who noticed that the (linguistic) habit was changing. Therefore he advised (ad-Du'ali) to protect it, and (ad-Du'ali) anxiously went about the task of fixing it accurately by means of comprehensive, inductively evolved rules.

Later on, scholars wrote books on (grammar). Eventually, in the time of al-Khalil b. Ahmad al-Farahidi,1243 in the days of ar-Rashid, people were more in need of (grammatical rules than ever before), because the (linguistic) habit was disappearing from among the Arabs. (Al-Khalil) improved the craft (of grammar) and perfected its various chapters. Sibawayh 1244 learned (grammar) from him. He perfected its details and increased the number of proofs and examples used in connection with it. He wrote on it his famous Book which became the model for everything subsequently written on (grammar). 1245 Short books for students were later written by Abu-Ali al-Farisi 1246 and Abul-Qasim az-Zajjaji. 1247 In them, they followed the model of (Sibawayh's) Book.

Then, there was much grammatical discussion. Divergent opinions originated among the grammarians of al-Kufah and al-Basrah, the two old cities of the Arabs. They used an increasing number of proofs and arguments. The methods of (grammatical) instruction also became different. There was much difference of opinion with regard to vowel endings in many verses of the Qur'an, since the grammarians held different opinions as to the basic rules of (grammar). This became a lengthy subject for students (to study). Then recent scholars came, with their method of being brief. They cut short a good deal of the long discussion, though they included everything that had been transmitted. That, for instance, was what Ibn Malik 1248 did in the Kitab at-Tashil, and others. Or, they restricted themselves to elementary rules for (beginning) students. That, for instance, was what az­Zamakhshari did in the Mufassal and Ibn al-Hajib in the Muqaddimah. 1249 They also frequently versified the subject. That was done, for instance, by Ibn Malik in two rajaz poems, the large and the small one, and by Ibn Mu'ti 1250 in a rajaz poem of a thousand verses (ay'zyah).

In general, the works on this subject are innumerable and cannot all be known, and the methods of (grammatical) instruction are varied. The method of the ancients is different from that of recent (grammarians). The methods of the Kufians, the Basrians, the Baghdadis, and the Spaniards also, are all different.

Grammar has come to the point of being allowed to disappear, along with the decrease in the other sciences and crafts which we have noted and which is the result of a decrease in civilization. At the present time, there has reached us in the Maghrib a systematic work (diwan) from Egypt attributed to the Egyptian scholar, Jamal-ad-din b. Hisham.1251 He treats in it all the rules governing vowel endings, both in general and in detail. He discusses the letters (sounds) and the individual words and sentences. He omits the repetitions found in most chapters of grammar. He called his work al-Mughni fi l-i'rab.1252 He indicates all the fine points of the vowel endings in the Qur'an and sets them down accurately in chapters and sections and according to basic norms all of which are very orderly. We have found in (the work) much information at­testing to (the author's) great ability and abundant knowledge of grammar. In a way, his approach follows the method of the Mosul grammarians who followed in the footsteps of Ibn Jinni and adopted his technical terminology for (grammatical) instruction. In this way, he has produced a remark­able work that shows his powerful (linguistic) habit and his acquaintance with the subject.

God "gives in addition to the creatures whatever He wishes to give to them." 1253


The science of lexicography


This science is concerned with explaining the (conventional) meanings of the (words of the) language. This comes about as follows. The habit of the Arabic language, as far as the vowels called i'rab by the grammarians are concerned, became corrupted.1254 Rules for protecting the (vowel endings) were developed, as we have stated. However, the (process of) corruption continued on account of the close contact (of the Muslims) with non-Arabs. Eventually, it affected the (conventional) meanings of words. Many Arabic words were no (longer) used in their proper meaning. This was the result of indulgence shown to the incorrect language used by non-Arab speakers of Arabic in their terminologies, in contradiction to the pure Arabic language. It was, therefore, necessary to protect the (conventional) meanings of the (words of the) language with the help of writing and systematic works, because it was to be feared that (otherwise) they might be wiped out and that ignorance of the Qur'an and the traditions would result.1255

Many leading philologists set out eagerly on this task and dictated systematic works on the subject. The champion in this respect was al-Khalil b. Ahmad al-Farahidi.1256 He wrote the Kitab al-'Ayn on lexicography. In it, he dealt with all (possible) combinations of the letters of the alphabet, that is, with words of two, three, four, and five consonants. (Five­consonant words) are the longest letter combinations found in Arabic.

It was possible for al-Khalil to calculate arithmetically the total number of such combinations. This goes as follows. The total number of two-consonant words is the sum of the arithmetical progression from one to twenty-seven. Twenty­seven is one letter less than the number of letters in the alphabet. For the first consonant (of the alphabet) is combined with the remaining twenty-seven letters. This results in twenty-seven two-consonant words. Then, the second letter is combined with the remaining twenty-six consonants, then the third and the fourth, and so on, to the twenty­seventh consonant, which is combined (only) with the twenty­eighth consonant. This results in one two-consonant word. Thus, the number of two-consonant words is the arithmetical progression from one to twenty-seven. The total can be figured out with the help of a well-known arithmetical operation - that is,1257 one adds up the first and last (numbers of the progression) and multiplies the total by one-half of the number (of numbers in the progression). The resulting number is then doubled, because the position of the consonants can be inverted. The position of consonants must be taken into consideration in combining them. The result is the total number of two-consonant words.1258

The number of three-consonant words is the result of multiplying the number of two-consonant words by the sum of the arithmetical progression from one to twenty-six. For every two-consonant word becomes a three-consonant word through the addition of one consonant. Thus, the two­consonant words may take the place of one consonant to be combined with each of the remaining consonants of the alphabet, which number twenty-six. Thus, the sum of the arithmetical progression from one to twenty-six is calculated and multiplied by the number of two-consonant words. The result, then, is multiplied by six, which is the possible number of combinations of three consonants. The result is the total number (of words of three consonants that can be made) from the consonants of the alphabet. 1259 The same is done with four-consonant and five-consonant words. In this way, the total number of (possible) letter combinations was calculated (by al-Khalil).1260

Al-Khalil did <not?> arrange the chapters of the book according to the customary sequence of the letters of the alphabet. (Instead,) he used the sequence of the positions (in throat and mouth) in which the various sounds are produced. Thus, he started with the laryngeals. They were followed, successively, by velars, dentals, and labials. Al-Khalil put the weak consonants, which are the (so-called) airy consonants (alif, w, y), in the last place. Among the laryngeals, he started with 'ayn, because it is the (sound produced) farthest (back in the throat). Therefore, his book was called Kitab al-'Ayn. The ancient (scholars) did such things when they selected titles for their works. They called them after the first words or phrases that occurred in them.

(Al-Khalil) then made a distinction between (letter combinations) that are not used and those that are. The largest number of (letter combinations) that are not used are among words of four or five consonants. The Arabs rarely use them because of their heaviness. Next come the two-consonant words. They have little circulation. The three-consonant words are the ones used most. Thus, they possess the greatest number of (conventional) meanings, because they are (so much) in circulation.

All this was included by (al-Khalil) in the Kitab al-'Ayn and treated very well and exhaustively.

Abu Bakr az-Zubaydi, 1261 the writing teacher of Hisham al-Mu'ayyad in Spain in the fourth [tenth] century, abridged the (Kitab al-'Ayn) but preserved its complete character. He omitted all the words that are not used. He also omitted many of the examples clarifying words in use. Thus, he produced a very good abridgment for memorizing.

Among eastern scholars, al-Jawhari 1262 composed the Kitab as-Sihah, which follows the ordinary alphabetical sequence. He started with hamzah (alif). He arranged the words according to their last letter, since people have mostly to do with the last consonants of words. He made a special chapter (of each last letter), and within each chapter he also proceeded alphabetically by the first (letters) of the words and listed all of them as separate entries to the end.1263 He gave a comprehensive presentation of the (lexicographical facts of the Arabic) language in imitation of the work of al­Khalil.

Among Spanish scholars, Ibn Sidah, of Denia,1264 wrote the Kitab al-Muhkam, a similarly comprehensive work following the arrangement of the Kitab al-'Ayn. He wrote dur­ing the reign of 'Ali b. Mujahid. Ibn Sidah's own contribution was an attempt to give the etymologies and grammatical forms of the words. Thus, his work turned out to be one of the best systematic works (on lexicography). An abridgment of it was written by Muhammad b. Abil-Husayn, 1265 a com­panion of the Hafsid ruler al-Mustansir in Tunis. He changed the (alphabetical) sequence to that of the Kitab as-Sihah, in that he considered the last consonants of the words and ar­ranged the entries according to them. The two (works) 1266 are thus like real twins. Kura',1267 a leading philologist, wrote the Kitab al-Munajjad, Ibn Durayd 1268 the Kitab al-Jamharah, and Ibn al-Anbari 1269 the Kitab az-Zahir.

These are the principal works on lexicography, as far as we know. There are other brief works restricted to particular kinds of words. They contain some chapters, or they may contain all of them, but, still, they are obviously not comprehensive, while comprehensiveness is an obvious feature in the works (mentioned), dealing with all (the possible letter) combinations, as one has seen. Another work on lexicography is the one by az-Zamakhshari on metaphoric usage, entitled Asas al-balaghah.1270 Az-Zamakhshari explains in it all the words used metaphorically by the Arabs, (and he explains) what meanings are used metaphorically by them. It is a highly useful work.

Furthermore, the Arabs may use a general term for one (particular) meaning, but (for the expression of the same idea) in connection with particular objects, they may employ other words that can be used (in this particular meaning) only with those particular objects. Thus, we have a distinction between (conventional) meaning and usage. This (situation) requires a lexicographical "jurisprudence." It is something difficult to develop. For instance, "white" 1271 is used for anything that contains whiteness. However, the whiteness of horses is indicated by the special word ashhab, that of men by the word azhar, and that of sheep by the word amlah. Eventually, the use of the ordinary word for "white" in all these cases came to be (considered) a solecism and deviation from the Arabic language. Ath-Tha'alibi, 1272 in particular, wrote in this sense. He composed a monograph on the subject entitled Fiqh al-lughah "Jurisprudence of Lexicography." It is the best control a philologist has, in order to keep himself from deviating from (proper) Arabic usage. A knowledge of the primary (conventional) meaning is not enough for (the use of proper) word combinations. It must be attested by (actual) Arabic usage. This (knowledge) is needed most by poets and prose writers, in order to avoid committing frequent solecisms in connection with the (conventional) mean­ings of words, whether they are used in individual words or in combinations. (Improper use in this respect) is worse than solecisms in (use of the) vowel endings. Likewise, a recent scholar wrote on homonyms and undertook to give a comprehensive presentation of them. However, he did not fully succeed, though his work contains most of the (material).

There are many brief works on the subject. They are particularly concerned with widespread and much used lexicographical materials. Their purpose is to make it easy for the student to memorize them. For instance, there are the Alfaz of Ibn as-Sikkit, 1273 the Fasih of Tha'lab, 1274 and others. Some contain less lexicographical material than others, de­pending on the different views of their authors as to what is most important for the student to know.

God is "the Creator, the Knowing One." 1275

It 1276 should be known that the tradition through which (any particular) lexicographical (usage) is confirmed is a tradition indicating that the Arabs used certain words in certain meanings. It does not indicate that they invented their (conventional meanings). This is impossible and improbable. It is not known (for certain) that any one of them ever did that.

Likewise, the meanings of words cannot be established by analogy,1277 if their usage is not known, although,1277a for jurists, their usage may be. known by virtue of (the existence of) an inclusive (concept) that attests to the applicability of (a wider meaning) to the first (word). 1278 (The use of the word) khamr "grape wine" for nabidh "date wine" is established by its use for "juice of grapes" and by application of the inclusive (concept) of "causing intoxication." (This is so) only because the use of analogy (in this case) is attested by the religious law, which deduces the soundness of (the application of) analogy (in this case) from the (general norms) on which it is based. We do not have anything like it in lexicography. There, only the intellect can be used, which means (relying on) judgment. This is the opinion of most authorities, even though the Judge (al-Baqillani)1279 and Ibn Surayj 1280 and others are inclined to (use) analogy in connection with (the meaning of words). However, it is preferable to deny its (applicability). It should not be thought that the establishment of word meanings falls under the category of word definitions. A definition indicates (the meaning of) a given idea by showing that the meaning of an unknown and obscure word is identical with the meaning of a clear and well-known word. Lexicography, on the other hand, affirms that such­and-such a word is used to express such-and-such an idea. The difference here is very clear.


The science of syntax and style and literary criticism 1281


This is a 'science which originated in Islam after Arabic philology and lexicography. It belongs among the philological sciences, because it is concerned with words and the ideas they convey and are intended to indicate. This is as follows:

The thing that the speaker intends to convey to the listener through speech may be a perception (tasawwur) regarding individual words which are dependent and on which (something else) depends 1282 and of which one leads to the other. These (concepts) are indicated by individual nouns, verbs, and particles. Or, (what the speaker intends to convey) may be the distinction between the things that are dependent and those that depend on them and (the distinction between) tenses. These (concepts) are indicated by the change of vowel endings and the forms of the words. All this belongs to grammar.

Among the things that are part of the facts and need to be indicated, there still remain the conditions of speakers and agents and the requirements of the situation under which the action takes place.1283 This needs to be indicated, because it completes (the information) to be conveyed. If the speaker is able to bring out these (facts), his speech conveys everything that it can possibly convey. If his speech does not have anything of that, it is not real Arabic speech. The Arabic language is vast. The Arabs have a particular expression for each situation, in addition to a perfect use of vowel endings and clarity.

It is known that "Zayd came to me" does not mean the same as "There came to me Zayd." Something mentioned in the first place (such as "Zayd" in the first example) has greater importance in the mind of the speaker. The person who says: "There came to me Zayd," indicates that 1284 he is more concerned with the coming than with the person who comes. (On the other hand,) the person who says: "Zayd came to me," indicates that he is more concerned with the person than with his coming, which (grammatically) depends on (the person who comes).

The same applies to the indication of the parts of a sentence by relative pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, or determinations appropriate to the situation. It also applies to "emphatic" 1285 connection in general. For instance, (the three sentences): "Zayd is standing," "Behold, Zayd is standing," and "Behold, Zayd is indeed standing," all mean something different, even if they are alike as far as vowel endings are concerned. The first (sentence), without the emphatic particle, informs a person who has no previous knowledge as to (whether Zayd is standing or not). The second (sentence), with the emphatic particle "behold," informs a person who hesitates (whether he should acknowledge the fact of Zayd's standing or not). And the third (sentence) informs a person who (persists in) denying (the fact of Zayd's standing). Thus, they are all different.1286

The same applies to a statement such as: "There came to me the man," which is then replaced by the statement: "There came to me a man." The use of the form without the article may be intended as an honor (for the man in question) and as an indication that he is a man who has no equal.

Furthermore, a sentence may have the structure of a statement and thus be a sentence that conforms, originally (at least), to something in the outside world. Or, it may have the structure of a command 1287 and thus be a sentence that has no correspondence in the outside world, as, for example, requests and the different ways they (can be expressed).

Furthermore, the copula between two (parts of a) sentence must be omitted, if the second (part) has an integral place in the sentence structure.1288 In this way, the (second part) takes the place of an individual apposition and is either attribute, or emphasis,1289 or substitute 1290 (attached to the part of the sentence to which it belongs), without copula. Or, if the second (part of the) sentence has no such integral place in the sentence structure, the copula must be used.

Also, the given situation may require either lengthiness or brevity. (The speaker) will express himself accordingly.

Then, an expression may be used other than in its literal meaning. It may be intended to indicate some implication of it. This may apply to an individual word. For instance, in the statement: "Zayd is a lion," no actual lion, but the bravery implicit in lions, is meant and referred to Zayd. This is called metaphorical usage. It also may be a combination of words intended to express some implication that results from it. The statement: "Zayd has a great deal of ash on his pots," 1291 is intended to indicate the implied (qualities) of generosity and hospitality, because a great deal of ash is the result (of generosity and hospitality). Thus, it indicates those (qualities). All these things are meanings in addition to the (original) meaning of the individual word or combination of words. They are forms and conditions that the facts may take and that can be expressed by conditions and forms of speech that have been invented for that purpose, as required by the particular situation in each case.

The discipline called syntax and style (bayan) expresses the meaning that the forms and conditions of speech have in various situations. It has been divided into three subdivisions.

The first subdivision has as its subject the investigation of forms and conditions of speech, in order to achieve conformity with all the requirements of a given situation. This is called "the science of rhetoric" (balaghah).1292

The second subdivision has as its subject the investigation of what a word implies or is implied by it-that is, metaphor and metonymy,1293 as we have just stated. This is called "the science of style" (bayan).

(Scholars) have added a (third) subdivision, the study of the artistic embellishment of speech. 1294 Such embellishment may be achieved through the ornamental use of rhymed prose (saj'), which divides (speech) into sections; or through the use of paronomasia (tajnis), 1295 which establishes a similarity among the words used; or through the use of internal rhyme (tarsi'), which cuts down the units of rhythmic speech (into smaller units); or through the use of allusion (tawriyah) to the intended meaning by suggesting an even more cryptic idea which is expressed by the same words; 1296 or through the use of antithesis (tibaq);1297 and similar things. They called this "the science of rhetorical figures" ('ilm al-badi').

Recent scholars have used the name of the second subdivision, bayan (syntax and style), for all three subdivisions 1298 because the ancient scholars had discussed it first.

The problems of the discipline, then, made their appearance one after the other. Insufficient works on the subject were dictated by Ja'far b. Yahya,1299 al-Jahiz,1300 Qudamah,1301 and others. The problems continued to be perfected one by one. Eventually, as-Sakkaki 1302 sifted out the best part of the discipline, refined its problems, and arranged its chapters in the manner mentioned by us at the start. He composed the book entitled al-Miftah fi n-nahw wa-t-tasrif wa-l-bayan "On Grammar, Inflection, and Syntax and Style." He made the discipline of bayan one of the parts (of the book). Later scholars took the subject over from (as-Sakkaki's) work. They abridged it in authoritative works which are in circula­tion at this time. That was done, for instance, by as-Sakkaki (himself) in the Kitab at-Tibyan, by Ibn Malik 1303 in the Kitab al-Misbah, and by Jalal-ad-din al-Qazwini 1304 in the Kitab al-Idah and the Kitab at-Talkhis, which is shorter than the Idah. Contemporary Easterners are more concerned with commenting on and teaching (the Miftah) than any other (work).

In general, the people of the East cultivate this discipline more than the Maghribis. The reason is perhaps that it is a luxury,1305 as far as the linguistic sciences are concerned, and luxury crafts exist (only) where civilization is abundant, and civilization is (today) more abundant in the East than in the West, as we have mentioned.1306 Or, we might say (the reason is that) the non-Arabs (Persians) who constitute the majority of the population of the East occupy themselves with the Qur'an commentary of az-Zamakhshari, which is wholly based upon this discipline.1307

The people of the West chose as their own field the (third) subdivision of this discipline, the science of rhetorical figures ('ilm al-badi'). They made it a part of poetical literature. They invented a detailed (nomenclature of rhetorical) figures 1308 for it and divided it into many chapters and subdivisions. They thought that they could consider all that part of the Arabic language. However, the reason (why they cultivated the subject) was that they liked to express themselves artistically. (Furthermore,) the science of rhetorical figures is easy to learn, while it was difficult for them to learn rhetoric and style, 1309 because the theories and ideas of (rhetoric and style) are subtle and intricate. Therefore, they kept away from those two subjects. One of the authors in Ifrigiyah who wrote on rhetorical figures was Ibn Rashiq. 1310 His Kitab al-'Umdah is famous. Many of the people of Ifriqiyah and Spain wrote along the lines of (the 'Umdah).

It should be known that the fruit of this discipline is understanding of the inimitability of the Qur'an. 1311 The inimitability of (the Qur'an) consists in the fact that the (language of the Qur'an) indicates all the requirements of the situations (referred to), whether they are stated or understood. This is the highest stage of speech. In addition, (the Qur'an) is perfect 1312 in choice of words and excellence of arrangement and combination. This is (its) inimitability, (a quality) that surpasses comprehension. Something of it may be understood by those who have a taste 1313 for it as the result of their contact with the (Arabic) language and their possession of the habit of it. They may thus understand as much of the inimitability of the Qur'an as their taste permits. Therefore, the Arabs who heard the Qur'an directly from (the Prophet) who brought it (to them) had a better understand­ing of its (inimitability than later Muslims). They were the champions and arbiters of speech, and they possessed the greatest and best taste (for the language) that anyone could possibly have.

This discipline is needed most by Qur'an commentators. Most ancient commentators disregarded it, until Jar-Allah az-Zamakhshari appeared. 1314 When he wrote his Qur'an commentary, he investigated each verse of the Qur'an according to the rules of this discipline. This brings out, in part, its inimitability. It gives his commentary greater distinction than is possessed by any other commentary. However, he tried to confirm the articles of faith of the (Mu'tazilah) innovators by deriving them from the Qur'an by means of different aspects of rhetoric (balaghah). Therefore, many orthodox Muslims have been on their guard against his (commentary), despite his abundant knowledge of rhetoric (balaghah). However, there are people who have a good knowledge of the orthodox articles of faith and who have some experience in this discipline. They are able to refute him with his own weapons, or (at least) they know that (his work) contains innovations. They can avoid them, so that no harm is done to their religious beliefs. Such persons do not risk being affected by the innovations and sectarian beliefs. They should study (as-Zamakhshari's commentary), in order to find out about certain (aspects of) the inimitability of the Qur'an.

God guides whomever He wants to guide to "an even road." 1315


The science of literature


This science has no object the accidents of which may be studied and thus be affirmed or denied. Philologists consider its purpose identical with its fruit, which is (the acquisition of) a good ability to handle prose and poetry according to the methods and ways of the Arabs. Therefore, they collect and memorize (documents) of Arabic speech that are likely to aid in acquiring the (proper linguistic) habit. (Such documents include) high-class poetry, rhymed prose of an even quality, and (certain) problems of lexicography and grammar, found scattered among (documents of Arabic poetry and prose) and from which the student is, as a rule, able to derive inductively most of the rules of Arabic. In addition, they mention certain of the battle-day narratives of the Arabs, which serve to explain the references to (battle days) occurring in the poems. Likewise, they mention famous pedigrees and general historical information of importance. The purpose of all this is not to leave the students investigating such things in the dark about any (of the documents of) Arabic speech, about any of the (literary) methods used, or about any of the methods of Arab eloquence. Merely memorizing them does not give (a student the proper linguistic) habit, unless he first understands them. Therefore, he must give preference to everything upon which understanding of (Arabic literature) depends.

(Philologists) who wanted to define this discipline said: "Literature is expert knowledge of the poetry and history of the Arabs as well as the possession of some knowledge regarding every science." They meant (knowledge) of the linguistic sciences and the religious sciences, but only the contents (of the latter) that is, the Qur'an and the traditions. No other science has anything to do with Arab speech, save in as much as recent scholars who have occupied themselves with the craft of rhetorical figures ('ilm al-badi') have come to use allusion (tawriyah) 1316 by means of (references to terms of) scientific terminologies, in their poetry and their straight prose (tarsil). 1317 Therefore, litterateurs need to know scientific terminologies, in order to be able to understand (such allusions).

We heard our shaykhs say in class that the basic principles and pillars of this discipline are four works: the Adab al-katib by Ibn Qutaybah,1318 the Kitab al-Kamil by al-Mubarrad, 1319 the Kitab al-Bayan wa-t-tabyin by al-Jahiz 1320 and the Kitab an-Nawadir by Abu 'Ali al-Qali al-Baghdadi.1321 All other books depend on these four and are derived from them. The works of recent writers on the subject are numerous.

At the beginning of (Islam) singing (music) belonged to this discipline. (Singing) depends on poetry, because it is the setting of poetry to music.1322 Secretaries and outstanding persons in the 'Abbasid dynasty occupied themselves with it, because they were desirous of becoming acquainted with the methods and (literary) disciplines of the Arabs. 1323 Its cultivation was no blemish on probity or manliness. The early Hijazi Muslims in Medina and elsewhere, who are models for everybody else to follow, cultivated it.1324 Such a great (scholar) as Judge Abul-Faraj al-Isfahani 1325 wrote a book on songs, the Kitab al-Aghani. In it, he dealt with the whole of the history, poetry, genealogy, battle days, and ruling dynasties of the Arabs. The basis for the work were one hundred songs which the singers had selected for ar-Rashid. His work is the most complete and comprehensive one there is. Indeed, it constitutes an archive of the Arabs.1326 It is a collection of the disjecta membra of all the good things in Arab poetry, history, song, and all the other conditions (of the Arabs). There exists no book comparable to it, as far as we know. It is the ultimate goal to which a litterateur can aspire and where he must stop - as though he could ever get so far! 1327

Let us now return to the verification of our remarks about the linguistic sciences in general (terms).

God is the guide to that which is correct.