November 30, 2013

Deliberative measures

Between judgment by analogy [al-qiyās] and independent reasoning [al-ijtihād], the difference is as follows. Analogy is the act of holding one thing against another in view of some likeness adjudged between them. Others say that it is the imposition of one's judgment of the former thing upon the latter by virtue of a perceived likeness. Abū Hāshim [‘Abd al-Salām al-Jubbā’ī], may God have mercy on him, defined it as "holding one thing against another and imposing one's judgment of the latter upon the former," explaining that a standardized measurement is for this reason called an "analogical implement" [miqyās]: whatever one wants measured must be held against it. In this way, the shoemaker's template used for matching soles to one another is called a miqyās.
       Al-qiyās therefore refers exclusively to the use of one thing in order to make a judgment about another thing, and its root verb qāsa yaqīsu is used in this same sense. Mere likeness between two things is not analogy; qiyās is not said unless the two are correlated such that a judgment incumbent upon one is applied to the other. In this sense, God (be He exalted) might well be called al-Qāyis ["The Analogist"], for the likeness He enforces between the unbelieving and the dead (35:22), the believer and the living (36:70), unbelief and darkness (6:122) and belief and light (61:8).
       Whoever defines analogy as "the abstraction of what is true from what is invalid" is way off. This may define something, but it can't be called analogy. Here is an example of analogy: "If a good person is susceptible to committing an offense that a wise man is not, then the good person is liable to a penalty that the wise man is not." In the parlance of legal scholars, it is to hold a "branch" [i.e. the case under consideration] against a "root" [a precedent case whose judgment is secure] in order that the rationale of the latter ruling be applied to the former.
       The original meaning of ijtihād is "utmost exertion." One can be said to "exert one's utmost" in carrying a stone, but in carrying a date pit there is no exertion. Theologians define it as the process that determines the preponderance of one opinion [above all others] in matters that call for judgment, such that all who practice it will reach the same conclusion. And their reference to statements by "the people of qiyās" and "the people of ijtihād" proves that these methods are not the same. Analogy is more specialized than ijtihād, which includes analogy and other methods besides. [Even so,] al-Shāfi‘ī says that ijtihād and analogy are the same thing; according to his definition, al-ijtihād means applying the rationale of legal precedent to the exclusion of all else. Legal scholars define it as exerting one's utmost in figuring out how the law applies to a given situation, in a way that is neither obvious nor coeval with the law's original intent.
      This is what Mu‘ādh [ibn Jabal] meant by saying: "I will exert my utmost to reach an opinion [ajtahidu ra’yī] in those cases wherein I find no answer in the Qur'ān nor sunna." "Opinion" [al-ra’ī] here is the outcome of deduction and analogy applied toward legal judgment. ‘Umar [ibn al-Khaṭṭāb once reprimanded a scribe who concluded a legal brief with the words: "This is the opinion of God and ‘Umar." Seizing the document, he crossed them out and] wrote: "This is the opinion of 'Umar." And ‘Alī, peace be upon him, once said: "My opinion and the opinion of 'Umar is that [slave women who have borne children to their masters] must not be sold." Those who denigrate opinion are refuted by these statements, which uphold the validity of rulings based on rationale and report, when these have been tested against an opposing view.
      Ijtihād is said only for reasoning applied to legal matters. [...] The study of physics cannot be spoken of as a form of ijtihād in the way that ijtihād is applied to inheritance law. Nor is ijtihād applicable to calculations like how many five-dirham shares are in a hundred dirhams, where there is no difference of opinion. Qiyās, on the other hand, is applicable to a variety of intellectual pursuits. The difference between them is therefore clear.

Abū Hilāl al-‘Askarī, The Book of Lexical Distinctions

November 22, 2013

Some Palmette


From an Apulian pelike in the style of the Underworld Painter
(ca. 330-310 BCE), Metropolitan Museum of Art (06.1021.228).

November 2, 2013

Night and Day

A young man from the alpine community between Dīnawar and Nahāwand asked me to compose something reliable on the subject of Night and Day, and whether one might justly be preferred to the other. So I improvised this short text in order to gratify his wishes, and it begins with the speech of

THE PARTISAN OF NIGHT: When God, be He magnified and exalted, says: "We made the night and day to be two signs" (17:12), and opens Sūrat al-Layl with the words: "By the night when it covers up / And the day when it comes to light" (92:1-2), it is night that He mentions first, making day subsequent to it. And in any case [of their being mentioned together] the night takes precedence.
        ("Give precedence to Quraysh," said the Prophet, God's blessings and peace be upon him, "and do not seek precedence over them.")
        "Night He made for you to be at rest within it, and day to enable sight," says God (10:67), magnified be His adoration. And, blessed be His name, [He instructs His Prophet to] "Say: 'Do you see? Were God to give your night no end until the Day of Resurrection, what divinity could bring you brightness, other than God?' " (28:71). And this [sequence] is attested in abundance throughout the Qur'ān.

THE PARTISAN OF DAY: Mentioning something first dictates neither preference nor virtue. Do you not see that He also says, magnified be His adoration, that He "created death and life" (67:2), when the preferability of life is so well known? And, be He magnified and exalted, He also says that He "created jinn and humankind for no reason other than to serve Him" (51:56). And humankind is without doubt the preferred category.
        Along with this we find that day is in fact given precedence over night in Sūrat al-Shams, be He magnified and exalted: "By the day when it brings [the sun] to light / And the night when it covers up" (91:3-4).
        He also says, magnified be His adoration: "The likeness of the two parties [disbelievers and believers] is like the blind and the deaf and the sighted and the hearing" (11:24), on which interpretive consensus holds that the blind are contrasted to those with sight, and the deaf to those with hearing. What is preferable about coming first in this case? Nothing whatsoever.


THE PARTISAN OF NIGHT: But it is night's innate merit that gives it precedence. God, be He exalted, says: "Do disbelievers not see that the heavens and earth were [formerly] conjoined, and that We separated them?" (21:30). Now there is no disputing that this conjoined pair was in darkness. When He effected their separation, He brought about a new state of affairs. Darkness therefore precedes light, by nature and in order of creation; this being so, night comes before day.

THE PARTISAN OF DAY recited [line 8 of poem 16 by Ḥassān ibn Thābit]:
    "When [the caravan of Quraysh] makes for Ḥawrān
       across the sandy bottoms, tell them: The way lies not thither!"
By my life, the matter's not the way you think it is. Light came before darkness. "God is the Light of the heavens and earth" (24:35), says God, exalted be His every mention. This means that He illuminated both, with a light He Himself kindled, magnified be His adoration. So you've goofed in this. You base your judgments on the world that we inhabit. But He says, be He magnified and exalted: "It is He who made the sun to be a brightener and the moon to be a light" (10:5). And by these lights He shed brightness on what was conjoined. Only then did He divide brightness from darkness. And day is what is bright, as you must know.

THE PARTISAN OF NIGHT: It is well known that time consists in movements of the sphere in its rotation, and [is measured in] years and months and weeks. When does the new month come into being? Between the beginning of the night and the beginning of the day is when it is proclaimed. The month would begin at daybreak, if day were preferred. But no - its beginning is on the first night of the month.

THE PARTISAN OF DAY: This point is not in your favor but against you. Etc., etc., etc.

From Night and Day by Abu 'l-Ḥusayn Aḥmad ibn Fāris