Chapter 5 Hermeneutical Engagement
Def. Hermeneutical: theories of how to interpret esp. scripture
Quran is perceived through fiction (ex. Rumi’s “Mathnawi” = ‘tafsir’ in a different form)
Fiction is perceived through Quran (ex. Jami’s “Yusef and Zulaykha” – re-imagines Yusef story.
Modalities of Fiction (p 311)
Majnun (of “Layla and Majnun”): the imam of the madhab of love. Ghazal themes, Layla/God
Jihad pp 318-320, “greater jihad’ joke p 319
Ahmed’s definition p 323 “Islam is a shared language by and in which people express themselves so as to communicate meaningfully in all their variety…Islam is both means and meaning…it is located in the relationship, the field and the process of engagement with and between the source of meaning, the mode of production of meaning from the source, and the end product of meaning, howsoever this may be formulated and expressed in discourse and practice.”
Meaning as advantage (Devin DeWeese) pp 323-325
Meaning as a consequential truth i.e. consequences of accepting this as true.
“Constituting their own self in terms of the construction of Islam itself” p 327 Commitment of the self to a meaning/value that is ultimately construed by the Self as Islam.
The Perfect Man p 333: comprises in his self the Truth and Meaning in the universe such that this is act of self knowledge reflects truth and meaning of the Universe. “Whoso knows his self knows his lord” = existentialist idea. Examples of the Perfect man in popular poetry and ethics manuals:
- Ibn Sina pp 330-1
- Al-Suhrawardi p 332
- Khwushhal Khan Khatak p 334
- Muhammad Al-Burhanpuri p 334
- Rumi p 335
- Bullhe Shah pp 336-7
- *”But these are Sufis…” argument = compartmentalizing a discourse that has not been historically thought of that way ; p 338
Tahqiq: discovering the haqq within the seeker’s own intelligence p 339.
Receiving revelation while asleep! P 339
Iqbal and khudi p 340
Islam = Meaningful exploration IN CONTRAST TO Islam as discourses of prescriptions!
Islam of an individual = shahada (pp 344-5) “affiliating his or her self with the historical act of God’s revelation to His messenger, Muhammad”
Historical phenomenon of Islam = varied product of that engagement of human with the Divine. Seminal question: “What is Revelation?”
Engagement: role of human in meaning/Truth making, attach and commit Self to something the Self determines to be important i.e. INVESTED
Hermeneutical engagement: Source, method, truth, meaning, agency, self + process. Definition of hermeneutics in footnote 103 p 345, also def. engage in footnote 104 p 345
Islam is NOT just the scripture (Quran and hadith = too limiting) but is also Revelation : Unseen reality or truth beyond and behind Text of Reveleation + Revelation of Seen
Pre-Text of Revelation: pp 346-7 Unseen Reality is prior to and larger than textual product of Revelation.
1.?Whether and in what degree can one access the Pre-Text of Revelation? With text, without text, only via text?
Ex1. Reason: p 348 also see footnote 111 on wisdom, philosophy pp 348-350
- Reason courses through cosmos
- Because reason is infrastructure of cosmos, it is possible to access truth of cosmos through reason
- Therefore, Reason is part of the Pre-Text (Revelation)
- Medieval philosophers thought creation of Quran from same source. Lawyers constrain their Reason to text only (not interested in Pre-Text)
Ex2. Existence p 350, Sufis
- Existence courses through the cosmos
- Because existence is infrastructure of the cosmos, it is possible to access truth by existence (spiritual ritual, discipline, and practice)
Kalam theology: seek truth about Pre-Text via the Text. Their problem: what statements in Quran should be read literally versus which ones metaphorically?
Con-Text (definition) pp 356-357: “That whole field or complex or vocabulary of meanings of Revelation that have been produced in the course of the human and historical hermeneutical engagement with Revelation, and which are thus already present as Islam.” Anything made by Muslims acting as Muslims and to which Muslims acting as Muslims have attached themselves as engaging with Revelation. OR human and historical baggage of Revelation/Islam = terms of engagement + vocabulary of Islam ( = recognition)
Con-Text is the sholw thing, but not all Con-Text is distributed to every local context. The portion of Con-Text which is active at the local level he calls Con-Text-in-context of Con-Text in loco. Complete definition of Ahmed’s terms p 363 “Islam is a hermeneutical engagement with Pre-Text, Text, and Con-Text of Revelation to Muhammad.” Islam guarantees a Self that can live with contradiction p 366
Islamic Truth and Meaning p 367
- Hierarchy: not all people have the capacity to know truth p 370-372
- Domains of truth & meaning
- Sources of truth
- Modes of production of truth, methodologies, epistemologies
- Meanings and values of truth
- Social location or social theaters for the operation of truth, meaning, value
- Expressive registers of truth/meaning/value discourse
- Language to communication truth/meaning/value discourse
- Law = fit for everybody. Commoners = awamm ; Elect = khawass
- Sufi & Philosopher knowledge = only for an elite, people capable of grasping truth
- This hierarchy goes against modern idea of equality, “speak to people according to the capacity of their intelligence.”
- Since hierarchy is based on knowledge, which is able to be acquired by all people if given the texts and education, there is an egalitarian possibility to it
- NOTE NMR: Although historically speaking, women have been barred from access to texts and education. Power elites retain their power by restricting access to knowledge.
Exterior = Seen = shahadah versus Interior = Unseen = ghayb
Ex. Text batin = unseen vs. seen = zahir
Ex. Physical and social space: sirr (private) or raz = individual’s most secret self = where Revelation/contact with Divine is made. P 379. Al-Ghazalis quote, only talk about secret self stuff with peers in an ‘invite only’ setting. Not everyone can handle the truth.
Adab: shows you have enough polish to consort with the post ‘gentlemen scholars’.
Law= prescribes for domain of Seen- public
Philosophy & Sufis: exploration projects into Unseen- private
Theology: prescribes in public, explores in private
Art: simpler and less meaningful forms are for public display, more subtle and complex in meaning in the case of objects in private sphere.
Language of Muslims: Metaphor and paradox
- Complexity pp 390-391 poetry: sabk-I hindi (India)
- Truth= multi-valent and multi-dimensional
- Maintains tension between meanings but does not collapse structure
- Ahmed’s definition of metaphor p 394
- Unseen World of Real-Truth identified by Seen World of Metaphor
Lower/Seen/Metaphor vs. Higher/Unseen/Truth
- Sufi poetry metaphors ex. poem pp 396-397
- Beautiful person’s beauty is a bridge to witness to pure Divine Truth
- Earthly wine is a metaphor for the consciousness altering experience of Real Truth
- Ambiguity AND meaning
- Ambivalence AND value
- Paradox: metaphor itself is paradox (see Footnote 197)
- Ibn Arabi; coincidentia oppositorium= only by a simultaneous affirmation of contradictions can we understand the natre of the Real World. Also “God cannot be known except as a synthesis of opposites” ex. He-Not-He; the One-the Many
??NMR: What about cognitive dissonance?