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Unformatted text preview: interpretation. A ruling which is communicated in clear words constitutes the basis of obligation, without any recourse to ta'wil. A word is unclear, on the other hand, when it lacks the foregoing qualities: the meaning which it conveys is ambiguous/incomplete, and requires clarification. An ambiguous text which is in need of clarification cannot constitute the basis of action. The clarification so required can only be supplied through extraneous evidence, for the text itself is deficient and fails to convey a complete meaning without recourse to evidence outside its contents. A clear text, on the other hand, is self-contained, and needs no recourse to extraneous evidence. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence ~ Kamali 88 From the viewpoint of the degree of clarity and conceptual strength, clear words are divided into four types in a ranking which starts with the least clear, namely the manifest (Zahir) and then the explicit (Nass), which commands greater clarity than the Zahir. This is followed by the unequivocal (Mufassar) and finally the perspicuous (Muhkam), which ranks highest in respect of clarity. And then from the viewpoint of the degree of ambiguity in their meaning, words are classified, once again, into four types which start with the least ambiguous and end by the most ambiguous in the range. We shall begin with an exposition of the clear words. I. 1 & 2 The Zahir and the Nass The manifest (Zahir) is a word which has a clear meaning and yet is open to ta'wil, primarily because the meaning that it conveys is not in harmony with the context in which it occurs. It is a word which has a literal original meaning of its own but which leaves open the possibility of an alternative interpretation. For example, the word 'lion' in the sentence 'I saw a lion' is clear enough, but it is possible, although less likely, that the speaker might have meant a brave man. Zahir has been defined as a word or words which convey a clear meaning, while this meaning is not the principal theme of the text in which they appear. [10. Khallaf, 'Ilm, p.161; Badran, Usul, p. 403; Abu Zahrah, Usul, p. 93.] When a word conveys a clear meaning that is also in harmony with the context in which it appears, and yet is still open to ta'wil, it is classified as Nass. The distinction between the Zahir and Nass mainly depends on their relationship with the context in which they occur. Zahir and Nass both denote clear words, but the two differ in that the former does not constitute the dominant theme of the text whereas the Nass does. These may be illustrated in the Qur,anic text concerning polygamy, as follows: And if you fear that you cannot treat the orphans justly, then marry the women who seem good to you, two, three or four (al-Nisa, 4:3) Two points constitute the principal theme of this ayah, one of which is that polygamy is permissible, and the other that it must be limited to the maximum of four. We may therefore say that these are the explicit rulings (Nass) of this text. But this text also establishes the legality of marriage between men and women, especially in the part where it reads 'marry of the women who seem good to you'. However, legalis...
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- Spring '13