On the Logic of Islamic Jurisprudence: A Semiotic Study on Its Principle

The ACRPS has published On the Logic of Islamic Jurisprudence: A Semiotic Study on Its Principles (520 pages) by Saud bin Abdullah al-Zadjali. The book includes a bibliography and general index.

The principles of Islamic jurisprudence (ʾuṣūl al-fiqh) classify ‘signs’ based on the level and modality of their meanings. Thus, ‘auditory proofs’ (al-dalāʾil al-samʿiyya: legal discourse in this context), in all their levels and transformations, have been the subject of this science and its stockpile of signs. Usūlī semiotics considers an ‘auditory proof’ to be a sign that denotes a ‘legal ruling’ (al-ḥukm al-sharʿī) on one hand and the concept of the ‘Essential Word’ (al-kalām al-nafsī) of God on the other. In this way, the concept of the ‘Ancient Word’ (al-kalām al-qadīm) in relation to discourse takes up a critical twofold space – not to demonstrate the speaker’s intention and will as much as to limit matters to civil and ethical ‘human action’ (al-fiʿl al-ʾinsānī). The recipient, in his interaction with the linguistic reality of the Qur’anic discourse, performs a critical function by which uṣūlī semiotics takes on an empirical reality.

The author first addresses the levels that a singular verbal sign can occupy for uṣūlīs, relating verbal signs to the concept of the ‘General’ and its position within the entire uṣūlī paradigm as a ‘semiotic system’. Reality denotes ‘the external world’, whereas intellect represents the Essential Word and its concomitant ‘legislative will’ (or, in uṣūlī terms, the Interpreted Essence or ‘state of the discoverer’). All this opens the door to the chapter’s approaches to the relationship between both general and particular aspects of verbal signs and their link to the external. As such, the question emerges of why the Essential Word is considered a central, fundamental concept in uṣūlī semiotics, especially the General and the Particular (al-‘umūm and al-khuṣūṣ)—not only because it invokes the lawmaker, but because it also situates the act of human interpretation at the centre of semiotic processes in the uṣūlī paradigm. The chapter then considers how the Essential Word relates to the General and the Particular.

But man does not characterise entities or the natural environment with his vocabulary; rather, he possesses the effective capacity to formulate the environment via what he has in common with the ‘Eternal Speaking Essence’ (al-dhāt al-mutakallima al-ʾazaliyya), or the Essence of Articulation within the Essential Word. Therefore, by means of language—the product of an intellectual arrangement belonging to human beings that interprets man’s nature—man has arranged divine space according to the symmetry between the Eternal Speaking Essence and ‘human essence’ (al-dhāt al-ʾinsāniyya): by legal discourse’s invocation of the Essential Word, the essence of man transforms into a true lawgiver.

The book then discusses the usage of verbal signs in uṣūlī semiotics. By taking account of the importance of the General and the Particular and how they relate to the discourse of religious obligation (al-taklīf) and rhetorical degrees (darajāt al-bayān), the author considers the constituent elements of the verbal sign on one hand and its connection to reality and intellect on the other to understand the uṣūlī model for legal issues production. Uṣūlīs have disagreed on whether to view ‘General structures’ (ṣiyagh al-‘umūm) as verbal signs denoting the General according to their schools of jurisprudence. The field of uṣūlī semiotics specialises in its use of this term (i.e., formulation, ṣīgha) in categorising verbal signs in various structures such as exceptive phrases, the ‘question form’, conditions, the General, the discourse of obligation, and so on.

Finally, the author considers how the semiotic subject relates to denotative processes: a problematic issue for uṣūlī semiotics, stirring controversy as to how intellection, expression, and subject relate. The perception of reality in uṣūlī semiotics occurs via the senses or stems from rational evidence, and language is an internal representation of the external reality. In this way the role of the imagination takes prominence for al-Ghazali, in that perceptual structures derive from our sensory experience. Intellectual imagery, or mental processes, are considered a point of articulation in the birth of language. The subject of verbal signs related to the General is described as a ‘universality’ or as ‘universal’, an intangible entity cannot be grasped: this, for the author, is a dogma which holds that these intellectual entities are conceptual. Perhaps the term ‘restitution’ (al-ʾirjāʿ) is an alternative that can formulate processes of connection between sign and Signified in the context of the General.

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