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Unformatted text preview: age of the law, but also needs a methodology and guidelines with which to resolve instance of conflict in its conclusions. We shall be taking up each of these topics in the following pages, but it will be useful to start this section with a discussion of ta'wil. Ta'wil (Allegorical Interpretation) It should be noted at the outset that in Arabic there are two common words for 'interpretation', namely tafsir and ta'wil. The latter is perhaps closer to 'interpretation', whereas tafsir literally means 'explanation'. The English equivalents of these terms do not convey the same difference between them which is indicated in their Arabic usage. 'Allegorical interpretation' is an acceptable equivalent of ta'wil, but I prefer the original Arabic to its English equivalent. I propose therefore to explain the difference between tafsir and ta'wil and then to use 'ta'wil' as it is. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence ~ Kamali 85 Tafsir basically aims at explaining the meaning of a given text and deducing a hukm from it within the confines of its words and sentences. [2. Badran, Bayan, p. 124 ff.] The explanation so provided is, in other words, borne out by the content and linguistic composition of the text. Ta'wil, on the other hand, goes beyond the literal meaning of words and sentences and reads into them a hidden meaning which is often based on speculative reasoning and Ijtihad. The norm in regard to words is that they impart their obvious meaning. Ta'wil is a departure from this norm, and is presumed to be absent unless there is reason to justify its application. [3. Khallaf, 'Ilm, pp. 167-68.] Ta'wil may operate in various capacities, such as specifying the general, or qualifying the absolute terms of a given text. All words are presumed to convey their absolute, general, and unqualified meanings unless there is reason to warrant a departure to an alternative meaning. From a juridical perspective, ta'wil and tafsir share the same basic purpose, which is to clarify the law and to discover the intention of the Lawgiver in the light of the indications, some of which may be definite and others more remote. Both are primarily concerned with speech that is not self-evident and requires clarification. Sometimes the Lawgiver or the proper legislative authority provides the necessary explanation to a legal text. This variety of explanation, known as tafsir tashri'i, is an integral part of the law. To this may be added tafsir which is based on definitive indications in the text and constitutes a necessary and logical part of it. Beyond this, all other explanations, whether in the form of tafsir or of ta'wil, partake in the nature of opinion and ijtihad and as such do not constitute an integral part of the law. The distinction between tafsir and ta'wil is not always clear-cut and obvious. An explanation or commentary on a legal text may partake in both, and the two may converge at certain points. It is nevertheless useful to be aware of the basic distinction between tafsir and ta'wil. We should also bear in mind that in the context of us...
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This note was uploaded on 04/13/2013 for the course ISLAM 101 taught by Professor Islam during the Spring '13 term at Harvey Mudd College.
- Spring '13