Creative Hermeneutics: A Comparative Analysis of Three Islamic Approaches Author(s): Peter Heath Source: Arabica, T. 36, Fasc. 2 (Jul.

, 1989), pp. 173-210 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/04/2011 03:02
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

BRILL is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Arabica.


PETER HEATH No one knows its interpretation except God (3.7)

modern study of Islamic hermeneutics is in its infancy. One reason for this is the field's vastness. It involves dimensions of almost all the traditional Islamic sciences: Qur'anic commentary, prophetic tradition, jurisprudence, dialectical theology, historiography, the study of Islamic sectarianism, grammar, rhetoric, mysticism, and philosophy. Each of these areas created particular each had its own conceptions of textual interpretation, methodologies, developed over centuries. Each arose and evolved through the efforts of individual participants, within the context of compkx webs of interstitial relationships maintained with other fields of study, in response to the needs of particular intellectual environments, the demands of different historical conditions'.

* An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Washington University Spring, 1987, Humanities seminar. Quotes from the Qur'dn are in italics; numbers in parentheses following them refer to chapter and verse(s). Unless otherwise noted, translations of quotes are mine. I There are a large number of studies in each of the various fields that touch upon aspects of the methods of textual interpretation, but to my knowledge few studies address the subject directly. Leo Strauss's writings, such as his discussions of al-FHrabi and Maimonides in Persecution and theArt of Writing (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1952) 7-94, and ((Farabi's Plato,)) Essays in MedievalJewish and Islamic Philosophy, ed. A. Hyman (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1977, reprinted from the Louis GinzbergJubilee Volume, 1945) 391-427 are important. L. Massignon and P. Nywia's studies on the development of Sz-fi terminology: Essai sur les originesdu lexique techniquede la mystiquesmusulmane, 2nd ed. (Paris: Vrin, 1954); and Exe'gese coranique et langage mystique. Nouvel essai sur le lexique techniquedes mystiquesmusulmans (Beirut: Dar el-Machreq, 1970), respectively, provide important source material and analysis. Also important are Mohammad Arkoun's essays, such as those collected in Lecturesdu Coran, Islam d'hier et d'aujourd'hui (Paris: G. -P. Maissonneuve et Larose, 1982) and Essais sur la penseieislamique (Paris: G.-P. Maisonneuve et Larose, 1973). H. Corbin's works, his section on ta'wil in Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (New York: Pantheon Books, 1960) 28-34, for example, or his ))IntroducArabica, tome XXXVI, 1989



Obviously, adumbrating the fourteen century history of individual Islamic hermeneutic traditions is a task which will require decades of sustained scholarly inquiry. But while engaging in such long-term investigation, it is useful to pursue simultaneously analytic approaches which attempt trans-disciplinary comparison. Such approaches are beneficial for two reasons. First, they allow scholars working in different fields to obtain wider perspectives of the particular methodology they are investigating and thus perceive more clearly how the hermeneutic methods and techniques that concern them are either unique or shared by other traditions. Second, comparative approaches foster the development of analytic scholarly methodologies which both participate in and transcend the internal scrutiny of individual traditions. They invoke the particular diachronic experiences of individual areas to provide material for the broader study of the history of Islamic interpretational methods as a whole. This provides a critical basis for inter-cultural comparison which, in turn, opens the possibility of ultimately establishing a transcultural metahistory of hermeneutics. The present essay is an attempt to embark upon such comparison. I examine aspects of the hermeneutic methods of three major Islamic thinkers: the historian and Qur'anic commentator, AbufJacfar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (224/838-310/922); the philosopher, Abui (All Husain ibn Sina (Avicenna, 370/980428/1037); and the mystic Abii Bakr Muhammad ibn al-'Arabi (560/1165-638/1240). My concern is less the results of their individual interpretations, however intrinsically or historically
tion)) in CreativeImagination in the Siufismof Ibn 'ArabF (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 3-101, can be illuminating, if handled with care. Much the same may be said, although for different reasons, in regard to John Wansbrough's recent books, QuranicStudies: Sourcesand Methods of ScripturalInterpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) and The SectarianMilieu: Contentand Compositionof Islamic Salvation History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978). Useful reviews of Corbin and Wansbrough's approaches are Charles J. Adams and Andrew Rippin's contributions to R. C. Martin, ed., Approachesto Islam in Religious Studies (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1985) 125-63, also 5-1 1. Providing a full bibliography for this topic, however, is, for reasons of space, impractical. Besides the references cited in their relevant places below, the reader may consult standard modern works on these various fields, many of which touch-albeit indirectly-on questions of hermeneutics. Bibliographical references may also be found in respective articles in the old and new editions of the Encyclopediaof Islam [abbr. EI(1) and EI(2)], (1st ed.: Leiden-Leipzig: E. J. Brill-Otto Harrassowitz, 1913-1934; 2nd ed.: Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960-) and articles listed in Index Islamicus, ed. J. D. Pearson et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958-).

breathed My spirit in him. Upon thee shall rest the curse. I have chosen as an initial point of focus the Qur'anic story of Adam's creation.' (15. from <<Surat al-Hijr>>: Surely We created man of a clay of mud molded. fall you down.' Said He. 'What ails thee. And when thy Lord said to the angels. my analysis perforce extends beyond their interpretation of this single story.' Said he. save Iblis.26-35)2 And. till the Day of Doom. Said He. than the nature of the hermeneutic processes or techniques each employs.' They said. In order to contextualize the discussion. Iblis.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 175 significant they may be.' 2 Translation by A. he refused to be among those bowing. Arberry. from ((Suratal-Baqara>>: And when thy Lord said to the angels. bowing before him!' Then the angels bowed themselves all together. 'See. 'I am setting in the earth a viceroy. 'Assuredly I know that you know not. J. while We proclaim Thy praise and call Thee Holy?' He said. 'I would never bow myself before a mortal whom Thou has created of a clay of mud molded. thou art accursed. 'What. Then go thou forth hence. I There are numerous references to God's creation of Adam in the Qur'an. 1955) 1:282-83. When I have shaped him. First. that thou art not among those bowing. But two quotes serve to provide the story's essential features. . and shed blood. and the jinn created We before of fire flaming. wilt Thou set therein one who will do corruption there. The Koran Interpreted(New York: The Macmillan Company. I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud molded. Since I investigate these thinkers' methodologies rather than results.

96. he refused. and what you were hiding. instructing him rather than the angels the names of things.72-86.' They said. 1909-38) 1:ix (for the index which cites page numbers 3 4 where each suirais discussed). He Arberry. ((froma single soul. 95. 40. and Peter J. vols. The Qur'dn: Translatedwith a Critical Re-Arrangement the Surahs (Edinburgh: T.62-66. but its understanding of the event remains consistent throughout4. 30. In the second. & T. so they bowed themselves. Satan's Tragedyand Redemption:Iblfs in Sufi Psychology(Leiden: E.5. Brill.30-34)3 These passages present three themes basic to the Qur'anic conception of God's creation of Adam. and He gives him dominion. 17-19. or present all three. ed. the Qur'an may emphasize one or two of these themes. 35. Clark.3. vols.22. and waxed proud. In its various renditions of the story.2. See EI(2) 3:668-9. 'Did I not tell you I know the unseen things of the heavens and earth? And I know what things you reveal. (Cairo: Maktabat 2 Mustafa I-Babi l-Halabi.6. In the first Genesis story.7.' And when We said to the angels.)) for example.' He said.This last act precipitates a moment of cosmic crisis: the angels dispute God's decree. 1937).al-'Itqdn culum ft al-Qur'dn. 22. J. Scholars date this version of the story as late Meccan or early Medinese. Richard Bell. and Jalal ad-Din of CAbdar-Rahman as-Suyu-ti.6-8. all of them. He endows him with knowledge. HEATH And He taught Adam the names.115-18. It is instructive to note the similarities between the Qur'an's portrayals of Adam's creation with those found in Genesis. . Geschichte Qorans. 'Now tell me the names of these. See Th.176 P. Koran Interpreted. Major Themes of theQur'dn (Minneapolis: Bibliotheca Islamica. 2nd. God creates him physically molding him from clay and breathing His spirit into him.1:33. 23. 38. (2. 39. 'Bow yourselves to Adam'. 'Adam. Awn.60. 1978) 11-53. save Iblis. 86. 1980) 121-131.' And when he had told them their names He said. if you speak truly. Schwally et al. then He presented them unto the angels and said..68. Other renditions of Adam's creation are: Qur'dn3. tell them their names. the All-wise. Fazlur Rahman. Iblis (Satan) rejects it outright. Iblfs was ajinn. 17. 20. and so he became one of the unbelievers. Surely Thou are the All-knowing. 7. According to the Qur'dn. Noeldeke. or ((clayto sperm to clot.12-19. For other QurPanictreatments of the theme of man's creation. appointing him His earthly viceroy (Lalpfa). (Leipzig.13-15. 1983) 18-40.12. God forms him in His image and bestows on him dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-27). by des 3 F.)) see Qur'dn 4. 'Glory be unto Thee! We know not save what thou hast taught us.

and it relegated the Torah and the Gospels to positions of marginal importance. but for their respective faiths they do not have the same contextual significance. MA: Harvard University Press. Each religious tradition assigns a privileged position to one text. in spite of the brevity of the description provided here. their investigation lies outside the present discussion's purview.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 177 shapes him from clay. and pre-Islamic poetry and prose became instead resources. 100. And radical changes in privileging provoke comprehensive hierarchical restructurings. set off a literary as well as religious revolution. 1976) 20-31. the appearance of the Qur'an upset established relationships between religious and literary texts. but it has no religious relevance. A Study of the Structureof Romance (Cambridge. nevertheless. blows in him the breath of life. 6 For a pertinent discussion of the Bible's place in the Western literary tradition. the Judeao-Christian or Islamic. See also Wansbrough. Here is an excellent example of the hermeneutic ((Principle of Privilege))5. see Northrup Frye. the general contours of this principle should be clear. but it never again competed directly with religion for general cultural primacy. each religious tradition. The revelation of the Qur'an. Once one begins to scrutinize them closely. obvious ideas are rarely simple. . It is society that determines textual hierarchies6. The reasons for thematic congruences between Genesis and the Qur'an are doubtlessly of interest to the historian of religion. the reverse is true for the believing Muslim. however. The Secular Scripture. regardless of its general thematic equivalence with other versions. essential to the concept of literary canon. More relevant is that despitethe two texts' generalequivalences. it abrogated and caused the virtual demise of any pre-Islamic Arabian pagan religious texts that may have existed. and brings him animals to receive names (2:7. 18-20). Jewish and Christian religious texts and oral traditions. but the principle itself. is quite obvious. For pious Muslims. Quranic Studies. It continued to flourish in the ensuing centuries. Poetry suffered a serious loss of prestige. secondary materials to 5 This term may be my own. The versions may share similar objective meanings. The Qur'anic version of Adam's creation may be of historical or intellectual interest for the believingJew or Christian. for example. Beyond this. Privileging texts is a social decision. For early Muslims. grants absolute primacy to only one.

eds. Arkoun's concepts of "le pensable. 1963) 41-43. or historical context of the one text that mattered7. and then in relation to secondary materials pertinent to its understanding. Cf.. 1983) 322-43. (Oxford: Oxford University Press. But to the same degree. Another consequence of privileging is that it reorients society's perceptions of what other texts mean. For a useful beginning. M. et du Arkoun. where the author offers as proof of the Qur'dn'sinimability the fact that its eloquence overcame that of the greatest Arab poets and orators. ed. Each word becomes a trigger for interpretive processes. for example. in A. F..XIIff. investigating questions of intertextuality and the <anxiety of influence. The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. l'impense. within the hermeneutic context of the rest of the book. grammatical. ((TheImpact of the Qur'an and Hadfthon Medieval Arabic Literature. cf. A. in this way implicitly valorizing the literature they produced. One reads one part of the Qurldn.1964-) 1:9-10. Beeston et al. Gibb. Verbal expression gains an extraordinary degree of ascendancy. Tafsfr at-Tabart:JdmiCal-bayan can ta'wll al-Qur'dn. see A. stemming from what T. all of an Islamic society's other literature. Arabic Literatureto the End of the UmayyadPeriod. Todorov has termed the ((Principle of Pertinence. See also below. The Qur'dn (or any other text granted a similar position of social privilege) pervasively affects.2nd. HEATH draw upon for understanding the lexical.. Lectures Coran. and at times may even conclusively determine. how other literary works are understood. R. L. l'impensable. it is one I believe to be generally defensible. To test its accuracy one needs only to attempt to determine which poet or literary corpus throughout the succeeding history of Arabic literature could replace the Qur'dn. When a position of ultimate authority is awarded a text. it provoked would be a fascinating project. here M. and 79.>> 8 A thorough study of the Qur'an's stylistic and structural influence on Arabic literature. H.. MahmmudShakir and Ahmad Shakir (Cairo: Dar al-maCarif. It also exerts a powerful influence on how texts are thereafter constructed8. A third consequence of a society's decision to privilege a certain text (and to use it as a primary frame of reference for understanding other texts) is that the balance between the signified and signifier becomes heavily weighted toward the latter. . Arabic Literature:An Introduction.>> Cf.It is interesting that once the achieved its place of privilege. is also comprehended through the medium of Qur'anic intertextual reference. note 12. ed. other texts are understood within the new frame of reference it creates. Zubaidi. the literature that it had displaced regained Qur'dn prestige specifically because of its contemporaneity with the Qur'dn. Although this is a general historical statement. at-Tabari.178 P.. religious or secular.

Trans. Todorov. Todorov. Given the particular nature of the Qur'dn's narrative style and structure. It would be equally revealing to compare the Odysseyor Genesis to the Qur'dn. cites past and present signs.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 179 In order to account for the triggering of the interpretive process. Validity in Interpretation(New Haven: Yale University Press. equating meaningwith literal sense and significance for any secondary symbolic sense or contextually drawn implication. Eric Auerbach brilliantly contrasts the Odyssey'sparticularistic. . Todorov. The latter's rich rhythms and flowing cadences create a style of tremendous connotative and symbolic power. Willard R. Cast typically as thematic units rather than 9 T. In accordance with this principle. if not always in particular. Symbolism.)) See also. 10 See E. ' Erich Auerbach. A revelation of God's warnings and guidance. Hirsch's distinction is an idealistic one. But the principle upon which it is based is. If. or indeed anything imaginable. Hirsch suggests. I concentrate here only on the lexical and stylistic indices this principles includes.. as E. employing it to cover any textual index-lexical. I believe. structural. it opens its floodgates. D. cf. and such scholars as Jacques Derrida or Stanley Fish can chip away at it until it seems to collapse. empirical representational techniques with the starkly austere minimalist texture of Genesis". the principle of pertinence is of special importance for understanding its later exegesis. Symbolism. pp. according to which if a discourse exists there must be a reason for it9. or a situation. on the other hand. Symbolism and Interpretation(Ithaca: Cornell University Press. we must assume at the outset that the production and reception of discourse . Hirsch. 1982) 28. the Qur'dn admonishes and exhorts. 28-38. defensible in general. similar to Todorov's distinction between directand indirectmeaning. 140-44. 11-13. texts may be viewed as having a single meaning but many significances. Mimesis: The Representationof Reality in WesternLiterature. semantic. D. names a relationship between that meaning and a person. it is what the signs represent. every word or phrase in the Qur'an acquires enormous power for eliciting hermeneutic responses. stylistic. In Mimesis. describes future reckonings. 1953) 3-23. the emphasis that Muslim societies put on the unique verbal appropriateness of the Qur'an does not forestall interpretation. obey a very general rule of pertinence. or contextualwhich causes the reader to feel the need to interpret. Todorov intends a broad definition for this principle. Significance. Each word now has as many osignificances>> as interpreters can identify10. or a conception. I am here applying it more strictly than Hirsch himself might argue for. and also extremely useful. 1967) 8: ((Meaningis that which is represented by a text. cf.. it is what the author meant by his use of a particular sign sequence. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press.

70 and 69. the Qur'an's style became venerated as being miraculously unique (cf. see Noeldeke. . compelling. von Grunebaum's article ((ICdjaz>)EI(2) 3:1018-20. 79-83. du esp. The Genesis of Secrecy:On the Interpretation Narrative of (Cambridge. see Mahmoud M. see at-Tabari. 1:5ff. Against this view. Kenneth Cragg. The Qur'dn and its Interpreters. Studiesin Arabic Literary Papyri II: Qur'anic Commentary and Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. however. J. Quranic Studies. 32-35).: Harvard University Press.89). see John Wansbrough. 1967) and Wansbrough. Quranic Studies and The SectarianMilieu. The Prophet's companions quickly embarked upon the process of interpretation. but symbolic significances demand interpretation12. view of this point. is important. There are. such as the Joseph story. The results of this process were to provide the materials used by such later scholarly commentators as Abui Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir at-TabarCi3. on the other hand. Exegesis. Madhhab alat-tafsfr isldmi (Cairo: Dar al-kutub al-haditha.119-246. see G. esp. This prevented its text from undergoing a process of fabulation where external fictional material or motifs could gain entrance. see Wansbrough. Muhammad's opponents in Mecca accused him of being a poet or soothsayer rather than a prophet (cf. 1977). 27-44 (esp. vol. the Qur'dncreates an hermeneutical arena where literal meaning may be obvious. The standard history of Qur'anic exegesis is still Ignaz Goldziher. the greatest ((proof&) Muhammad's prophecy. 1970). 1984) 16-40. 2 and 3. The Collectionof the Qur'dn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.throughout but especially 152. 1976) 30-44. exceptions to the Qur'dn's non-narrative impetus. 13 I adhere here to the traditional views of both Islamic and western scholarship in regard to the history of the Qur'dn'scollection. the Qur'an relatively quickly attained a finalized state. Useful for the early period is Nabia Abbott. It was arranged and recorded in written form within two decades of the Muhammad's death (10/632). 117-189. forceful style which Muslims consider inimitable. began early. 1955). in which provides relevant bibliography.180 P. With its magnificent verbal textures. The Mind of the Quran: Chaptersin Reflection(London: George Allen &Unwin Ltd. and on i'jdz. 6 (Leiden: E. Tafsir. the Qur'dn's reply to these charges: 36. One last point is relevant to the historical study of Qur'anic hermeneutics. Qur'an 17. Brill. For furtherdiscusdu sion and references. The Qur'dn and its Exegesis: Selected Texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. Useful De is cAbd al-Halim an-Najar's Arabic translation of this work. vols. warnings. For a discussion of the process of fabulation in regard to the Gospels. In contrast to such religious texts as the Torah or the Gospels. 1973) 54-74. For other recent brief descriptions. and why. voiced in a rhythmic. 1 (Albany: State University of New York Press.39-53). on the one hand. reminders. evoked as examples. HEATH organized diachronical narrative. Ayoub. Lectures Coran. Compare of also Arkoun.1. of course. Mass. and John Burton. 12 This is why. Helmut Gatje. see Frank Kermode. Quranic Studies. descriptions of events occur and reoccur. Goeje-Stiftung series No. and 70-71. Die Richtungen der islamischen Koranauslegung. in differentways. Arkoun's Lectures Coran. 1979) 75-99. Suira For a contrary 12. 6986. Geschichte.

word for word. engender much controversy. de Goeje et at. and what he himself considers correct. 1983) 2:114. its meanings. (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-Cilmiyya. It was concentrated. Although comparison indicates essential methodological similarities. and exegeseet imagination. his task did not extend to solving problems of textual discrepancy. Since the Qur3an had existed in a definitive edition for several centuries. Exegese et 14 . At-Tabari's approach to Qur3anic exegesis is essentially philological. and comparing it with other occurrences of the word. Enormously influential. arguments against those who disbelieve in it. either in the Qur'dn or in pre-Islamic poetry. 15 Cf.exege'se histoire. 945/1533-34). and other things of the ordinances and wonders it contains. the words of one of at-Tabari's students. At-Tabari. its difficult and unusual expressions. ed.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 181 II At-Tabari treats the Qur"anic rendition of Adam's creation in both his voluminous commentary (tafs&r)and in the first part of his universal history14. on establishing the text's meaning. Not every word required analysis on all these levels. to this day they remain monuments in their fields. M. which is used as a kind of etymological lexicon'5. Nywia. so the technical morphological and syntactical analysis of each word or phrase did not. stories and traditions of the Muslim community. its abrogating and abrogated verses. Arabic grammar was a well-developed science. noting unusual syntactic features or characteristics. but the methodological tools were available. Quoted in Shams ad-Din Muhammad ibn 'All ibn Ahmad ad-Dd'idI (d. Nevertheless. 15 vols. he devotes page after page to the ponderous task of providing the exact vowels for each word in question. verse by verse. By at-Tabari's day. This he sought to do by analyzing it-word for word-from three perspectives: grammatical. they belong to different genrestherefore naturally reveal methodoexegesis and history-and logical divergences. J. 2 vols. in general.. the desinential inflexion of its letters. [accounts] of the day of resurrection. rather. Compare Paul Nywia's analytic division of Muqatil's exegetic method into lecturelitterale. These works serve as useful foci for the study of Islamic hermeneutics because both are major achievements in their genres. Tabaqit al-mufassirfn. note 7). Tafsir (see above. the differences of opinion among interpreters and scholars concerning its ordinances and interpretation. and historical. Abui Muhammad cAbd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Farghani (d. semantic. 1879-1901). (Leiden. the history is Tarikh ar-rusul wa-lmulhk. 362/972-3): He explains in it [the commentary] its [the Qur'dn's] ordinances. from its very beginning until its end.

Arkoun discusses this and points out the ahistoricity and closure of this approach. This is as it should be. Analyzing a text word for word invests it with increased significance. See also Wansbrough's analytic structure. when (idh). the task has an ideological function. that his pronouncements may be trusted. Lecturesdu Coran. in terms of knowledge and energy. An example of this last characteristic occurs in at-Tabarl's analysis of the second word of the second Qur'anic passage quoted above: And when thyLordsaid . 35-68. it would be unthinkable that even a simple adverbial particle not be there as the result of a cosmic decree. Every word in the text has meaning. would require broadening the scope of our present tafszr bi-l-"ilm. TafsFr. therefore. 62-69. coranique. essential. When the grammar involved is indeed complex or difficult. Investigating the nature of such traditional exegetical terminological distinctions such as that between tafsir and ta'wtl. seeking to disprove it by citing lines of early poetry where the word could not be removed without causing a change of meaning'6.. Not because the word is particularly difficult or rare. For other examples of the emphasis on grammatical analysis in Qur'anic commentary. deserving as much attention as the commentator or reader is able. Quranic Studies. potentially more complex and problematic textual difficulties. so (one should believe) can other. the problem is that Abiu cUbaida (d. At-Tabari devotes nearly six pages of commentary to this word. or tafstr bi-l-ma'tur. and solved. a priori.182 P. At-Tabarl argues strenuously against this position. or tafszr bi-r-raDy inquiry beyond the conspectus of this paper. 16 At-Tabari. But there is also a rhetorical dimension involved. analyzed. the more important each word.. Here is the principle of pertinence at work. And the more privileged and prestigious the text. HEATH This method of linguistic analysis has three purposes. but rather its assumption. Since this is the Holy Book. Finally. see K. 1:439-444. Cragg. devoting great attention to them grounds the exegetic enterprise in an aura of certainty.. . I shall address aspects of Nywia's third category later in this paper. 209/824-5) had suggested that here it was semantically superfluous. With a text such as the divinely revealed Qur'dn. each word is. grammatical analysis serves its purported goal. A reader comes to feel that the commentator knows his job. 119-246. to devote to it. because it must have meaning. This is not a conclusion of exegesis. And just as grammatical problems can be identified. One can solve most problems of grammar. Xff. The Mind of the Qur'dn.

has several possible meanings here. and thoroughness. . including editors' note 3. p. I am setting are innfjacilun. Some claim that the jinn inhabited the earth before man. He then uses this interpretation to refute a commentator who had defined halafa as 'inhabitant' (sdkin). Now that at-Tabarl has defined the meaning of jdcilun by tying it to halafa. and then indicates the interpretation he favors. according to at-Tabarl. For each word or phrase examined. 447. p. 110/728). jdCilufj. In Arabic the first words. Adam succeeded. He begins by offering his own (implicit) interpretation. the greatest ruler is termed halafa because he takes the place of the previous ruler. Several versions of why God created humans as successors to the jinn are then related. 1:447-48. Others believe Adam is replacI 18 See above.14 as reference points. and it is they who Adam and his kind are replacing. But the correct interpretation. At-Tabari.. in fact. he defines the word as 'replacer' or 'successor'. says at-Tabari. Inna means 'I' or 'Indeed I'. Tafszr.>> is I am setting in the earth a viceroy"7. Hence. But now at-Tabari must address the question of whom.. Interpreters (ahl atta'wi7) have disagreed over this. The second line of the above-cited quote from ((Surat alBaqara. one effect of at-Tabari's emphasis on grammatical analysis is that it imbues his enterprise with a feeling of scientific certainty. 165. take the place of) and its appearance in Qur'dn 10. 'builder' (camir). halfatan)lB8. This he sets about to do. he enumerates all possible meanings. cites sources supporting one possibility over another. Others believe that it means 'creating' (hdliqun). Yet here again at-Tabari strives to dispel any sense of ambiguity or uncertainty by grounding his task in an air of methodicalness. he must clarify the latter word's meaning. A concrete example or two will clarify the parameters of the process. This is to its advantage. empiricism. explains at-Tabar1. certitude is less easy to attain when he turns to dimensions of semantic and historical analysis. Using the most common meaning of halafa's verbal root halaf (to follow. is a third possible meaning: 'appointing a viceroy or vice-regent (mustahlifun.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 183 As mentioned above. Some commentators believe that it means 'making' or 'doing' (fdcilun). here at-Tabarl cites a chain of authorities who trace this interpretation to al-Hasan al-Basri (d. come after. since their were no humans living on the earth before him.

Material of popular nature-entertaining but obviously far-fetched was probably excluded. the idea that Adam stands in God's place on earth as a just ruler. discussing. vice-regent. HEATH ing the angels. Bint ash-Shati. Scholarly soundness is one. created on the third and fourth days of creation. having to undergo a similar process of selection in regard to pre-modern commentaries. when possible. of ruler. that is. Cragg.71-74. cites their sources.184 P. implicitly established in his initial definition. the commentator endorses one version. Another interpretation is that the word 'replacer' or 'successor' refers to Adam's children. who replace and succeed him and each other. This he proceeds to do with another by introducing. explicitly or implicitly. TheMind of the Qur'dn. respectively. comparing. By this term ((historical. he must also draw in the connotation. and compares the interpretations or extrapolations they provide. Several aspects of this hermeneutic method. On this level at-Tabari introduces different narratives. At-Tabari obviously draws on a deep reservoir of prior exegesis. require providing. in turn. At each step's completion.. This last step leads him from the purely lexical to the historical plane of analysis. He examines different possibilities. The particulars of at-Tabarl's discussion are of less interest to us than his method. 1:449-53.)) I intend here citations of different versions of events-such as the question of who inhabited the earth before Adam and in what circumstances. One is the question of implicit selection20. and analyzing another series of exegetic traditions"9. Enormous as his own commentary is (30 parts. These. Cf. 20 . where he discusses a modern commentator. Now that at-Tabari has provided testimony for the replacer/successor dimension of the word's meaning. it is doubtful that he records all interpretations current in his time. generation after generation. and interpreting further source material. Introducing such narratives may solve hermeneutical problems. as described briefly above. viceroy. but one can offer tentative preliminary suggestions. K. deserve attention. or may create new ones. What then are the criteria on which he bases his selection of materials? This subject requires careful and thorough study. citing his sources. as was material coming from disreputable 19 Ibid. or both angels and jinn. usually printed in 15 volumes in the complete Biilaq-based versions).

sound judgement. or qussas. stem from the prophets' companions and later respected religious authorities. while at-Tabari certainly intends to emphasize his preferred personal interpretations. Although the commentator doubtlessly excludes certain materials. after all. On the other hand. His main support for the selections he makes is the air of good sense. the traditions and accounts he cites. if only implicitly. those included are set forth as potentially equally plausible. Again. And it is rare that he does not endorse one interpretation. after all. This would be difficult to do. The pluralistic view of the text that results is one of this hermeneutic's most attractive dimensions. Many prophetic traditions were being forged22. in the course of his analyses of materials. often pursuing them in remarkably persistent and subtle fashions. the details of at-Tabari's particular case are less relevant than the fact that commentators create borders between material they are willing or unwilling to include in their works. Interpretations too deeply offensive to at-Tabari's own theological stance would be excluded. Here is interpretation working against itself even as it tries to fulfill itself. Theological acceptability is another obvious criterion. On the other hand. 22 See EI(2) 3:23-28. he cannot explicitly urge his readers to reject other possibilities. and scholarly authority that pervade his enterprise.. see EI(2) 4:733-35 for description and relevant bibliography. . <Hadfth.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 185 narrators2". More interesting is a third aspect of at-Tabarl's method: its hermeneutic pluralism. At-Tabari obviously has pre-judgements: distinct ideas regarding which interpretations he will espouse. Hence. This is significant. coming about because of real historical necessity. citation of sources also serves a rhetorical function. Instead of emerging from at-Tabari's commentary with an understanding of 21 Such as the popular preachers. he does not usually even argue for his choices. if on a lower level. similar to that which the grammatical level of analysis described above serves. he rarely explicitly discounts alternatives. as the Qurldn. This early became standard practice in the Islamic religious science. found a school offiqh. it imbues the project with an air of scientific objectivity and veracity. such as Hasan al-Basr1. Interestingly. Another significant aspect of at-Tabari's method is his habit of citing sources. he did. They are therefore privileged in much the same way.

is. for it seems arguable that the intellectual forces driving the humanistic engine of pre-modern Islamic civilization were culujmad-din (eventually including mysticism).233-45. Studies on the Civilization of Islam. Supplement. But he does not censure opposing views. 108-137. Nietzsche. I think. Franz Rosenthal. .>((148). Gibb's article <Ta'rzkh(( in EI(1).Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: A Preliminary Survey. the text has only one meaning.Rosenthal's point here. which he himself earlier cites and with which he claims to agree: ((Rosenthalavows that the 'role of knowledge (cilm)as the driving force in religion and.. Instead coexisting interpretations are left in suspension. J.))Journal of the American OrientalSociety 104.186 P. 1 (1984) 135-164. . More recent works are J. eds. See also Nabia Abbott. this one is circumscribed. and falsafa. Gibb.Here he goes against the more perceptive insight of Franz Rosenthal. useful. R. Cf. What remains is an exercise in humanism. Hegel. H. Kraemer. thereby. in that order. 1968) and B. 24 Pre-modern Muslim historiography is. see J. materials have been previously selected and censored. in all human life' was essential to the development of the Graeco-Arabic translation activity. Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri I: Historical Texts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. But mainstream religious scholars and traditionalists (for at-Tabarl typifies the mainstream approach here) refuseto determine it. The philo-hellenism of nineteenth and twentieth century scholars. 23 For a survey and discussion of the use of the term humanismin the pre-modern Islamic context. Heidegger. that the humanism of the translation and philosophy movements may be viewed as resulting from the cilm-drivenhumanism of the practitioners of the religious sciences and adab. This same tension between hermeneutical determinateness and also typifies at-Tabar-l's historiographical indeterminateness method24. must be understood within the context of an intellectual environment permeated with a passionately idealistic and romantic view of the ancient Greeks. Brill.>>(144). R. (Boston: Beacon Press. Lewis and P. a much understudied field. The ultimate choice is left to the individual reader23. As with every education. H6lderlin. it is the word of God. A. at-Tabari makes known his opinions about the materials that remain. at least as an initial theoretical perspective for further inquiry. A priori. inter alia. Once again different versions of events are provided. a position Kraemer seems desirous of avoiding but then apparentlyfalls back into with such statements as: <(The cosmopolitan atmosphere breathed by learned circles in the Renaissance of Islam was inspired by the impact of the ancient classical legacy-by the ecumenical power of antiquity. considering its historical importance and intrinsic interest. It is dangerous. Holt. reprinted in H. 1962). HEATH which one should the Qur'dn's one true literal meaning-to undergo instead a thorough exegetical thereafter cling-readers education in its possible significances. adab. L. A. And like every good teacher.. Historians of theMiddle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press. I believe. Schiller. especially those emerging from the German orientalist tradition. 1962) are still basic surveys. 1957). to equate humanism with hellenism. A History of Muslim Historiography(Leiden: E.

although preferred readings are indicated. &trans. 25 At-Tabari. cited on the authority of <<certain companions of the Prophet. In the commentary each word of the Qur)dnis pertinent. At-Tabari takes almost fifty pages. This requires interpretation. offering different accounts citing chains of transmitters. Few modern readers would term his rendition of historical events dynamic or fast-paced. In his history the guiding impulse is temporal narrative. Cahen discusses at-Tabari pp. Once again. Still. 146-49. To do this convincingly..First Series. Arabica 33. for example. however. and Claude Cahen. word for word. esp. ending with its last. Grammatical or semantic levels of discourse are rarely referred to. But this being a historical text. The history. Here is an example. oL'Historiographie arabe: des origines au Vile s.>. But differences in general approach arise as well. Conrad (Princeton: Princeton University Press. as we have seen. endorsing certain views without conclusively rejecting alternatives25. TheRise of Historical Writing the among Arabs.>> Wansbrough. he must contextualize these passages. history has priority. The narrative impulse dominant in at-Tabari's historiographical writings must of course be viewed in perspective. .>>rather than <(what does it mean. &ectarian Milieu. 1-49. 1:29-78. at-Tabari relies on his scientific method-producing alternative versions.ed. citing sources.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 187 each supported by chains of transmitters. In the commentary at-Tabari follows the thread of the Qur)dn'stext virtually. for context and narrative thread are set by the Qur)dn's text. begins with creation and continues to his own day. When at-Tabari comes to the story of Adam's creation.o Readers of the history still receive a large dose of Qur'anic commentary. He cites lines from S"Surat al-Baqara>> and other relevant passages. But he also moves in a different direction: he particularizes the text. make them diachronically coherent. alternative possibilities are not explicitly excluded. The narrative is structured to answer the question <what happened. L. his approach here is different. beginning with the Qur)dn's first word. here at-Tabari cites only those relevant to his historical narrative.2 (1986) 133-198. Ta'rfkh. he approaches the story from the Qur'anic perspective. CAbdal-IAziz Dfiri. fill in the gaps. Genesis takes less than a page to recount the story of creation of the world until man. In his commentary at-Tabari adopts a static philological approach. H. I. 1983).

The angels said ((Say:Praise be to God!. seeing a very narrow entrance and narrow apertures. But by the time at-Tabari records it (without endorsing it. Then the spirit reached his ears. said. Iblis.37)26. He said to the angel. it is clear that the narrative has assumed a life of its own. Popular versions of prophets' tales are even more detailed and elaborate.. Then the spirit began to turn in his head and brain. how can I enter?)) It was told. bow down before him!>> the spirit entered Adam's head.). When it entered his (bodily) cavity. ((O Lord. while the angels gazed upon him. however. ((Enterreluctantly and exit reluctantly. 26 At-Tabari.>So Adam said. One may speculate that this tradition arose in order to clarify the Qur'anic verse Man was createdof haste. 1:91. kept his opposition secret in his heart. may He be gloried and exalted. HEATH When the time came that God. Ta'rfkh. waiting to be commanded to prostrate themselves. The spirit. events are set together in sequence. Here is the same sequence of events as related in al-Kisadi' s The Tales of the Prophets. When spirit in him. God bade the spirit to be immersed in all the lights. may He be gloried and exalted. the historian must provide a connecting line. He jumped up before the spirit reached his two feet. Adam then opened his eyes and looked at his clay body. Narrative impulse and the drive towards particularistic detail combine to make at-Tabari's rendition of the story of Adam's creation diachronically coherent. . but he saw inscribed on the pavilion of the Throne: THERE IS NO GOD BUT GOD MUHAMMAD IS THE APOSTLE OF GOD IN TRUTH. First Series. then He commanded it to enter Adam's body with praise and without haste. ((When I have blown my Then He blew in him the spirit. he looked at the fruits of Paradise. He could not speak. ((Praisebe to God!> Then God. he became hungry.188 P. hastening to the fruits of Paradise. When the spirit entered Adam's two eyes. said ((Your Lord has forgiven you. he sneezed. At-Tabari drew upon the immense exegetic and historiographical traditions which had accrued by his time in order to obtain the narrative materials necessary for this task. It is of interest to note that these two tendencies gain even more impetus in popular literature. This is when He said: Man was createdof haste (21.))So the spirit entered from the cranium into the eyes. One cannot write historical narrative consisting of fragmented references-even if these do stem from a divine source! In order to guide the reader from temporal point A to Z. This must occur for it to attain some degree of narrative coherence. wished to blow the spirit into Adam. and he could hear the angels adoring God round about him. details necessary (or considered necessary) to the narrative are inserted. by the way)..

From one perspective. Materials not admitted fall completely outside the range of discussion. Details are superabundant. Then the spirit moved through Adam's body until it reached his legs. The Talesof the Prophets al-Kisazi. He tried to stand but was unable. al-Kisd'i popular fiction.28-29). At-Tabarl maintains sophisticated control over his materials. the difference between this narrative and at-Tabari's historiographical account is simply a matter of degree. In summation. Notice how much more detailed and dramatized this popular version is. contextualized and made respectable by the author's respective critical methodologies. when someone sneezes..)) Ibn Abbas said: Nothing irritates Iblis more than the words. At-Tabari is writing serious history. doyefall down and worship him (15. in its own way. saying. equipoised between determinateness and indeterminateness. and Adam said.I shall have completely of formed him. Particularized diachronic movement drives narrative action. interprets the Qur'dn. and my mercy is everlasting for thee and thine offspring so long as they say as thou has said. and viewpoint. VerilyI am about to createman out of remember dried clay. W. ((Thy Lord has compassion upon thee. however. ((Praisebe to God Who Is Now and Ever Shall Be. Each. of trans. of black mud. Adam stood up erect. which remained clay. at-Tabarl's two works present a mixture of currents. and bowels. which is the meaning of His Words: Man is createdof precipitation [haste] (21. 1978) 20-21. M. But they do so circumspectly. Thackston. except his feet. Interpretations that are admitted. veins. But the width of the gap separating the two approaches should not be overlooked. Then the spirit reached Adam's nose and he sneezed. From this I created thee. Characters are developing. blood. reactions. And Adam became flesh. nerves.37). holding firmly in check the narrative forces he employs. philology 27 Muhammad ibn CAbdAllah al-Kisdl'. the narrative techniques employed are largely the same. when. wrought into shape.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 189 God had informed the angels before creating Adam. 0 Adam. therefore. as He hath said: And when thy Lord said unto the angels. each with their own emotions. The sneeze opened the blocked passages. Jr. When the spirit reached the legs and feet. Bless you. and shall have breathed my spirit into him.)) This was the first thing spoken by Adam. Library of Classical Arabic Literature 2 (Boston: Twayne Publishers. Then the Majestic One called to him. . coexist. bones. It is said that the spirit took five hundred years to permeate throughout Adam's body and that it was on Friday at sunset that is was completed27. they become irrelevant.

C. du 48-50. This makes his hermeneutic activity a magic circle. Anawati. 2nd ed. readers remain free to make their own choices. Those in the privileged position of the who accept its conditions-belief Qur)dn-enter and reap the fruits of centuries of interpretive labor. Their faith is sensible.but this might be explained by his wrestling with early modern Persian's lexical inadequacies in regard to the writing of philosophical texts. The text's stylistic clumsiness speaks against its being composed by the philosopher. McCarthy. 1950) 321-22. 1971) 1:892. the form. 29 Ibn Sind. This work has long been attributed to Ibn Sina (cf Katib Chelebi [laji Khallfa]. Avicennaand the VisionaryRecital. English trans. He maintains the ascribed hierarchy between his primary text and those used as secondary resources. Sh. It is to the investigation of these latter two possibilities to which we now turn. 2 vols. J.eds. At-Tabari interpretes the Qur'an by presenting and enumerating its acceptable significances. Lectures Coran. Kasf az-znunzncanasma'al-kutub wa-lfunuin.. Micrdj-nama. allegorize it. See also H. n. They then have three choices. Cf. Within this delimitation. 1952) 14r.facsimile edition by Mahdi Bayani (Tehran: Anjuman-i duistdaran-ikitab.) 14-16. 83. Ordinary people bear the husk. Yaltkaya and R. They can ignore the text. The superior truthfulness of the Qur'dn is never questioned. especially if he wrote it before his Ddnish-ndma-z . 1980) 68-69. He referred to dialectical theologians (almutakallimun). for they are the bearers of the core and the truth. another great religious scholar. 7. (Istanbul: Devlet Kitaplari. Prophets have real faith. Essai de bibliographie Avicennienne (Cairo: Al-Maaref. 1954) 297-98. Abii Hamid al-Gazali (d. al-Munqid min ad-daldi (Cairo: Maktabat al-Jundi [al-Gindi]. or transcend it.Library of Classical Arabic Literature 4 (Boston: and Twayne Publishers. and 74. R. A century and a half after at-Tabarl's death. Corbin. HEATH and historiography.190 P. Arkoun. Freedom Fulfillment. 46 n. 165-78. and Yahya Mahdavi. Bibliographie d'Ibn Sina (Tehran: Danishgah-i Tahran. 505/1111). but his remark is also pertinent for our understanding of at-Tabari' s practices28. Those who do not. not intelligible29. and even after at-Tabarl makes his own preferences known. fall outside. 28 Abui Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Gazdli. the core and the husk.d. the core. remarked that the work of theologians is useful in that it sets and defends the limits of the faith. Bilge. But the attribution has been disputed: see G. III In his Micraj-nama (Book of the Prophet's Ascension) Ibn Sina states the following: Faith consists of two parts: real and metaphorical.X-XII.

Hourani.. 50. and of His creation. In his treatise. J. There I will provide more completely the evidence upon which my opinion is based. 1961) 49. It contends that religion's truth is expressed hierarchically. 31-32. assent to it has extended to everyone. since his nature does not contain any greater capacity. . except him who stubbornly denies it. the tenets of Islam are true. One of them comes to assent another comes to assent through dialectical through demonstration. Thus since this divine religion of ours has summoned people by these three methods. 3' Ibid. But prophets bring religion to all men and must therefore make it understandable to all classes of minds. W. Muhammad cImara (Cairo: Dar alMacarif. ((For Truth does not oppose truth>>31. comprehend demonstrative proofs and do not need other modes of assent.zan. trans. His argument is as follows. 30. that (end) is appointed for every Muslim by the method of assent which his temperament and nature require. Kitabjfasl al-maqal wa taqrfrmabain as-s'arica wa-l-hikma min al-ittisdl (The Decisive Treatise.for instance). Ibn Sina espouses the same idea. E. again just as firmly as the demonstrative man through demonstrative arguments. The results of demonstrative proofs are true. The psychological doctrines invoked. and that it is the religion which incites and summons us to the happiness that consists of the knowledge of God. Gibb Memorial Series (London: Luzac & Co. hold that this divine religion of ours is true. 1972) 30-31. they arrange it as a sensible and put into speech. Ibn Rusd espouses the same idea in his Fasl al-maqdl (Decisive Treatise): Since we. It is the condition of prophets that every intelligible that they perceive. arguments just as firmly as the demonstrative man through demonstration. as well as external textual evidence all lead me to believe that the work is Ibn Sina's. so that the cAldld. 30 Abu 1-Walid ibn Rusd (Averroes). therefore there can be no contradiction between philosophy Philosophers and religion.. On the Harmonyof Religion and Philosophy.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 191 This statement typifies the hermeneutic approach of the great medieval Muslim philosophers. English translation quoted from George E. ed. the phraseology of many of descriptions (compare the astrological details of Muhammad's ascent through the spheres with those found in IHayy ibn Yaq. the Muslim community. Ibn Rusd attempts to prove the fundamental concord of religion and philosophy. Determining What the Connection is Between Religion and Philosophy).. since men themselves have various levels of intellectual capability. For the natures of men are on different levels with respect to (their paths to) assent. Mighty and Majestic. while another comes to assent through rhetorical arguments. I am in the process of preparing an English translation of the text. Averroes.

Ahmad Amin (Cairo: Dar al-MaCdrif. however. asSiyasaal-madaniyya (The Political Regime). esp. also Michael E. cf. they only understand the metaphoric or symbolic dimension of revelation. Vyronis. ed. unknowing. Eighth Giorgio Levi Della Vida Biennial Conference (Malibu: Undena Publications. Jr. 1964) 85-87. therefore. He knows that the words are all symbols. and. They thus increase (its usefulness) as threats and promises and promote correct beliefs. G. When it reaches an intellectual. His heart is content with non-intelligible concrete forms and sensibles.25)32 Revelation thus has two basic levels.192 P. Mi'rdj-nafma. can apprehend revelation's true essence. HEATH community can follow it. Due to the weakness of their intellects. see Charles E. AbiuBakr Muhammad ibn Tufayl. ordinary people are unable to apprehend intellectual truths. Marmura. esp. so that its provisions can be perfect. Butterworth. Praisebe to God. he perceives it with his intellect. 17v-18r. .zan. Since only philosophers Ibn Sind. Its most striking characteristic is its subversive quality. but make it sensible and concrete for the community. and so that the basis and code of religious law and the foundation of religious devotion not be dissolved and disordered. The intention of the prophet is that (the message) not remain concealed. that since philosophers truly understand prophetic revelation. ibn ed.) 126-30. It enables its practitioners not only to interpret. of eds.> Islam's Understanding Itself. Contra Leaman. They comprehend it as an intelligible. 1981) 88-102. 1985) 182-201. Abui Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Firabi. he looks at the external speech. But philosophers. 186-87.n. <The Islamic Philosophers' Conception of Islam.Hayy Yaq. R. He asks. permeated with intelligibles. it is they who are most qualified to interpret scripture for the rest of the community. and listens. 97ff.Ibn Rusd33. Hovanisian and S. Even such an avowed skeptic of ((esoteric)) readings of Islamic philosophers as Oliver Leaman accepts this point. intelligible truth and sensible symbol or metaphor. An Introduction Medieval to IslamicPhilosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ibn Sina. M. . being able to perceive intelligibles. (On Scholarshipand ScholarlyConventions. Ibn Tufayl.for indeed mostof themdo not know!(31. F.d.. Najar (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique. This hermeneutic approach was shared by all of the greatest Islamic philosophers: al-Farabi. uncomprehending. One may conclude. for example.-Journal 32 33 of the American Oriental Society 106/4 (1986) 725-32. When it reaches an ignorant person. See. but even (if they so wish) to deny scripture's literal meaning. He is enveloped by his imagination and does not pass beyond the doorway of estimation.

Both the Old and New Testaments have suffered allegorization by positivist scientific thinkers in the West since the 17th century. (Cairo: Dar alMa'arif. Gibb Memorial. but philosophy is consistently so. only they can determine what parts of revelation are true and what parts symbolic. Dunya. or the temporal creation of the world. Augustine. ed. 236. But that is beneath the dignity and the sanctity which characterize prophecy. In this way essential points of Qur'anic doctrine. but all philosophical demonstrations are true. while religion only intermittently so. Translation. 1969) 2:864-72. Translation. as-Siydsa al-madaniyya (The Political Regime). A.e. bodily resurrection. 2 vols.)) After he describes the 'First' al-Farabi remarks that He is: ((He who should be considered be God>> (emphasis mine)... 2 vols. Tahafut al-Falasifah (Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress. see his Tahafut attahdfut (Incoherence of the Incoherence). ed. But he does understand the implications of what the philosophers are up to: <What remains is that one might consider such texts [in this case the Qur'dn] to be fraudulent-i. just its use in regard to religious doctrines which are <<so plain that there is no room left for interpretation.. 31. And only philosophers know when this truth is present. for instance. while only one semantic dimension of the Qur'dn isaccording to this hermeneutic approach. S. Philosophy and religion may both be true. 1961) 283-84. Homer was read allegorically by the Stoics. 339/950). But they are by no means criticizes the philosophers for doing this in Tahdfut al-faldsifa (Incoherence of the Philosophers). New Series 19 (London: Luzac and Company. Reversals of textual priorities are always interesting historical phenomena. of course. Dunya (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif. For Ibn Rushd's reply. A telling example of this viewpoint occurs in AbM Nasr al-FarTbh's (d. S. suggesting something untrue with a view to people's well-being. Notice here how the word to <(God>> has become a gloss. Here the Qur'dn has lost its position of textual privilege. Averroes's Tahafut AlTahafut.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 193 perceive intelligibles. (A dialectical argument. S. one might note. 1954) 359-62.. <Truth does not oppose Truth)). Van Den Bergh. could be decreed only metaphorical in intent and allegorized away34. Kamali. . S.) Kemali trans. 1958) 235-6. The first of these is the Neoplatonic (<FirstCause. One point of difference between these instances and that of medieval Islamic philosophers 34 Al-Gaza. a metaphorical expression for the Neoplatonic ((One))35. Paul or St. the Old Testament by Christian theologians such as St. Al-Farabi begins this treatise by reviewing the classes of existents. Al-Gazall. does not reject the principle of ta'wll. as-Siydsa al-madaniyya.) 35 Al-Fr-abi.

)) The constant evocation of estoteric (batini) dimensions of texts is. ed. F. Ibn Sina. In the first Qur'anic version of God's creation of Adam. magic. Their being a minority made philosophers such as Ibn Sina circumspect in interpreting religious texts. religion and philosophy. whoever attains the highest level of intellectual perfection becomes a sanctified soul (nafs muqaddas). and (3) in connection with prophecy-specifically with Jesus. Madkour et al. 2 vols.15). ed. contested and. proofs and supportedhim with the Holy Spirit (2. A day the Spirit and the angelsstand up in a row (78. that I wish to examine here. Mirdj-nd`ma. 168-71. al-Ahwani (Cairo: CIsa I-Babi 1-Halabi. In the beginning of his Mi'rdj-nama. It is not the contest between faith and reason. 1v. (2) mentioned as appearing with the angels on the Day of Judgment. but had <<beenwary because of the danger. The word rtih appears in the Qur)dn in three other contexts: (1) associated with God's creative command.>>It is perhaps surprising that he recorded his interpretations to the extent he did36. F. The great majority of Muslims. 1959) 248-50. On the other hand.87)-but also in general. ed. 1985) 205-6. as'-Sifd: al-Ildhiyydt. Isma'lli theorists. and alchemy-a fondness for what might be termed the <rhetoric of mystery. A. 3J Ibn Sina. advocates of hermeticism.85). merely a rhetorical device. Ahwdl an-nafs. God blows His breath or spirit (rtih) into Adam.38). It is in this last context that Ibn Sina adopts the concept of Spirit. He casts theSpirit by His commandon whomsoever His of servants He wishes (40. WegaveJesus the son of Mary clear. 1960) 2:442. on one level. in the end. . According to him. Rahman (London: Oxford University Press. rejected this reversal of privileging. even among the intellectual elite. 1952) 139-40. and followers of other religious or intellectual trends-mystics. I. a prophet37. and to be aware that they essentially were in agreement concerning it. and mysteries are always more alluring if their investigation implies peril. Kitib an-Najdt (Beirut: Dar al-afaq al-jadida. HEATH is that the latter's hermeneutic approach remained a minority opinion. he notes that he had long wanted to explain the story of Muhammad's heavenly ascent. Say: the Spirit is from the commandof my Lord! (17. Let us pursue this point by examining a specific example. Ibn Sind. one senses in him. What is of interest here is the extent to which this theoretical position does or does not hold up during the actual practice of textual interpretation. as well as in many other philosophers.. (Cairo: Organisme General des Imprimeries Gouvernementales. 36 Ibn Sina. or more specifically the Holy Spirit. Avicenna's De Anima (Arabic Text): Being the PsychologicalPart of Kitab al-Shifad.194 P. rdh al-qudus. But it is necessary to understand these philosophers' theoretical position on this question.

The situation is different with Ibn Sina.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 195 in Al-Farabi refers to the Qur)anic term ((Holy Spirit>> the abovementioned as-Siyasa al-madaniyya. There is.>> Notice that what descends is not the Holy Spirit itself. Lexiquede la languephilosophiqued'Ibn Sina (Avicenne) (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer. The Mi'rdj-nama. however. He states this in the course of his description of the Active Intellect. and majesty that the house was alit. written in the last decade or so of his life. Nor does he help matters by vaguely 38 39 . Goichon. such as Active Intellect39. al-FarTbi. Avicenna and the VisionaryRecital. is an explanation of the story of the Prophet Muhammad's' ascension to heaven. 40 Ibn Simn. 32. this is the appropriate term for the philosopher to adopt. with its religious connotations. He explains it. Although he uses the term qudus (sanctity) or muqaddas(sanctified) consistently throughout his writings to describe the prophetic soul. See above. equating it with the religious term ((Holy is Spirit>> thus part of this description. 78).>>(Corbin.24r. Since this work is devoted to religious exegesis. it is useful to examine it here.>>But he expresses this equivalence in his customarily circumspect and precise fashion: the Active Intellect is ((that which should be consideredas the Holy Spirit>> (emphasis mine)38. instead of a more standard philosophical term. in the second. as stated above.. MiCrdj-nama. he uses this theory as a basis for allegorizing the story of Muhammad's ascension. As Corbin says.>>This means (says Ibn Sina) that the faculty of the Holy Spirit (quwwat-i riih-i qudsi) in the form of the Divine Command (amr) united with me. one work where he does discuss the concept ((Holy Spirit>>in some detail. Ibn Sina's version of the story begins with the angel Gabriel descending on an half-asleep Muhammad in Mecca: ((Suddenly Gabriel descended in his own form with such beauty. <<It still too early to write the is extensive book that a philosophy of the Angel Holy Spirit. as-Siyasa al-madaniyya. 1938) 144-45. In the first. It is the abovementioned Mi'rdj-nama. The work falls into two parts. also A. associating it with the Neoplatonic ((Active Intellect. as if to imply that if forced to employ religious terminology. he generally does not gloss the term. Ibn Sina presents an introductory description of this theory of the human soul. but does not indicate why he uses a term evocative of rzihal-qudus(Holy Spirit). note 37.. M. would demand. splendor. but its faculty40.

and to arise with him. He is. At the sphere of Mercury.). As he does in IHayy ibn Yaq. half-snow. The Holy Spirit is <<theintermediary (wasita) between the Necessary Existent and the First Intelligence. <<The 'Amr of God' in the Qur'dn>. English trans. at any time he is with whomever is suitable))41. the heavenly source of this legislation. For the divine Command (amr).. the most common (ghlalib-tar)of the Holy Faculties. Ishmael is the only prophet mentioned in Ibn Sind's version of the heavenly journey. but those who do are not ill-favored but rather of a rare excellence.e. 42 Ibn Sina. He then ascends to the other spheres. Baljon. Buraq. He is a High King. Acta Orientalia 23 (1958) 7-18. There he sees Ishmael. represents the Active Intellect (caql-ifaccdl9. d'Avicenne. 41 Ibid. that aspect (emanation) of the Holy Spirit that descends upon prophets in order to reveal religious legislation (s'ar). Venus is a beautiful and good angel. the souls who reach him are rare. and is instructed to choose the honey (which represents the rational soul).). (<Previously his help had come through intelligibles in the world of generation and corruption. Muhammad encounters an angel half-fire. (Leiden. 26r-26v. then the three set off to Jerusalem. 13v. by A. . His general intent is that Buraq represents the Active Intelligence. very luminous.. Muhammad and Gabriel discussing the concept as found in the works of half a dozen other authors (77ff. 1889-99) 1:10-13. and honey. i. he rules over a region of fire and torture (hell). Avicenna and the VisionaryRecital. on the sphere of the moon. on the right track. There Muhammad is offered three refreshments: wine. S. HEATH Gabriel tells Muhammad to stop slumbering.dn. and the Holy Spirit. Mars has a dark and ominous aspect. 4 fasc. 143-45.. Gabriel. Saturn is reddish and inauspicious.Hayyibn Yaqzdn.(Micrdj-nama. He then goes into the mosque to pray (the mosque represents the rational and spiritual world) where he encounter angels and other prophets and talks with them. associated in this treatise with the Archangel Michael and the Divine Command (amr). the bestower of help to souls. Jupiter is a wise angel on a chair of light who spends his time praising and sanctifying the Lord. also J.. Risilat . the Sun is a statesmanlike angel seated on a throne of light. water. M. Corbin. F. Ibn Sina portrays the spheres' natures in astrological terms42. Muhammad then sees Buraq. H. who.196 P. to stop being satisfied with the world of counterfeit representations. according to Ibn Sind. He is one of the celestial intelligences. Mehren in Traites mystiques.see EI(2) 1:44950. In the Micrdj-nana. however.Ibn Sind himself does not always achieve (or intend?) analytic precision. He climbs a ladder of gold to heaven where a door opens to admit Gabriel and him. ed. Gabriel helps Muhammad tame the mount. Thereafter.

substance. as far as it goes. which can only be perceived by a perfect intellect. pure of body. while the stream is the First Soul. the unadulterated Word (kalima-i mahid). without beginning or end. 40v. where they encounter human souls that have attained the utmost purity. Muhammad returns to the house in which he was sleeping45. the Lotus Tree of the FarDistance. Muhammad sees an angel (<of complete augustness. the greatest of the angels. These angelic beings have completely transcended the physical world. Then. After he has communed with the Holy Spirit. for I shall reveal to you all that you desire (to know)>>44. They then ascend to the great sphere (falak-i a'zam) which is the domain of the sidrat al-muntahd. majesty.)> He approaches the angel and asks him his name. ask of me! Whatever you desire. At the head of the brook is an angel pouring water from the sea to the brook. 31r-38v. Philosophers will thus be helped to perceive the story's true (<core)). Mi'rdj-nama. Beneath the sea Muhammad sees an immense valley. Whatever is difficult. This angel represents the Holy Spirit (riih al-qudus).while the masses will be left with its literal ((husk>) (which is all they are presumably understand anyway).. Compare Corbin. seek of me. and grace (this is the ninth heaven). Muhammad requests to perceive God in his unity. and observed existents in their individuality. He faithfully and industriously finds philosophical analogues for each event or description in the story. explains Ibn Sind. 40v-46v. accidents or any other physically or mentally imaginable attributes.. only aloft43. and beauty. The sea. The angel replies: (I am Michael. after communing with the One. Muhammad gazes at the angel and finds the First Command (amr-i awwal). knowledge. that is. It is clear that Ibn Sina's main intent in treating this story is to allegorize it into philosophical terms. From the sea a brook emerges. Ibid. 43 44 45 Ibn SIna. This valley represents Absolute Existence. with the pure Command (amr-i pdk). And Ibn Sina does indeed fulfill his task. 171-77. Ibid. is the First Intelligence.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 197 come to the region of the zodiac. Muhammad then reaches a boundless sea. In the valley. they never look down. . Avicenna the Visi'onary and Recital. who live in a world of luminosity and brightness residing in fixed oratories worshipping and praising God. There they meet the ((spiritual angels)) (firishtigan-i rhgdni).

brings together various accounts of the mi'crdj current in his day and presents an overview on the different ways it was interpreted. The literal husk-perhaps mi'raj story has never been a set narrative. 47 A good idea of the general state of the micrdjstory during Ibn Sina's time may be had from Abu I-Qasim 'Abd al-Karim ibn Hawazin al-Qusayrl's.1. He crosses the border between allegorizing a given text and creating an allegory. one wonders. AlQusayri (d. His text here has an astrological dimension absent from any other version of the story I have ever seen. ((Isra'.1-12. also 81. 3:50508.. Ibn Sina becomes entangled in its more than he himself would admit. but he does not refrain from invention.He follows general outlines set by tradition. What. It is based on a few references in the Qur'an and a relatively small body of prophetic traditions (Iadith)46. 1985) 159-175. engaging in much the same operation that we saw at-Tabari undertake in his history. the reference to a brook from which an angel pours water. his version.198 P. 465/1074). who lived in Iran a generation after Ibn Sind. but its details fluid47. which cites additional.>>EI(1). Commentators took this material and wove larger narrative units. and the valley beneath it. A. The same is true for his description of Muhammad's meeting with the archangel Michael. In the course of allegorizing the story. The story's outlines are clear. HEATH But what is pertinent is what transpires in the process. Helpful is Annemarie Schimmel. This is clear when he describes the angels residing in each of the heavenly spheres. more recent bibliography. Ibn Sina is creating new religious cosmology. 1964). is not allegorizing a text standard in all its details. <Mi'radj. This is important to remember when we examine Ibn Sina's version of the story. Kitdb almiCra-j. cAbd al-Qadir (Cairo: Dar al-kutub al-haditha. in the end becomes more real for him: the abstract epistemological principle that lies behind the idea of the Holy 46 See Qur'dn. This is undeniably the case. 17.ed. For it is indeed that. Yet in the process he exceeds the limits of his self-assigned task. and ibid. And Muhammad is His Messenger: The Venerationof the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. In sum.)) 2:553-554. Also. One may argue that Ibn Sina creates details to accommodate the cosmological designs of his philosophical beliefs. the boundless sea. . between perceiving abstract concepts in material images and creating material images in which to garb abstract ideas. Ibn Sina. H. The resulting versions very according to each commentator's perspectives. These details only exist in Ibn Sina's version of the story. therefore.19-25 and 53.

Ibn Sind. There he talks of revelation's two levels: the exoteric level of concrete material images and the esoteric level of intelligible principles. above both traditions. He adopts what he wants or needs fromneach to createhis own symbols. Ibn Sina complains of the rigidity of thought and servilely imitative attitude of contemporary philosophers. was never a Sufi in the strict meaning of the term. Mantiq al-masriqiyyin(Cairo: al-Maktaba as-salafiyya. This interpretation accords with the philosopher's well-known . the Qur'anic phrase with which he associates this principle. saying common people))-among the philosophers! he wrote it for <<the 48 Ibn Sind. In a famous introduc(The Logic of the tion to a late work entitled Mantiq al-mas`riqiyyzn. This is sufficient for them. Since they were the only ones engaged in philosophy at the time. Ibn Sina stands outside. it seems to me that here Ibn Sina is religiosizing (if I may create this term) philosophy to the same degree that he is philosophizing religion. 1910) 3. The end result may only be his own interpretation. As for the common people who pursue the subject. Yet at this particular point. I believe. to ignore minor areas of disagreement. For here Ibn Sina dismisses the book. Considering that the SifJd is Ibn Sina's philosophical magnum opus. But he was quite willing to explore analogues that seemed to accord with his own intellectual and spiritual intuitions. evidence that at least in the latter part of his life Ibn Sina viewed the philosophical tradition within which he worked from much the same perspective. voicing his real opinions only when he has strongly disagreed. There is. It is clear from the passages first quoted that Ibn Sind had attained an intellectual position external to revelation's plain meaning. those who followed the Greek Peripatetic tradition. this is a remarkable statement.> as exhibited in the last part of al-fdradt wa-t-tanbihdt. he says.mystical turn. he is reluctant to break ranks. he momentarily stands above both traditions.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 199 Spirit. the result of a life-time of philosophical inquiry. or the materialized figure of the archangel Michael in which he clothes the Qur'anic phrase? To a limited extent (and I do not wish to press this point too far). open to rejection by both philosophers and religious scholars. beyond their need48. Put another way. He is willing. He ends by saying: We compiled this book to show it only to ourselves. we have given them the Kitab as'-Sifd' (The Book of the Healing). I mean those who hold the same position as ourselves. however. Orientals). .

naturally enough. Ibn al-cArabi also holds to the hermeneutic principle that texts have exoteric and esoteric levels of meaning50. ed. presents in microcosm the mystic's speculative doctrines49. 151ff. however. R. he sought an hermeneutic position from which he could treat them equally. discusses <The Wisdom of Divinity in the Word of Adam. note 36) or hermeneutical purposes. See (inter alia. Joseph. Wansbrough. Suffice to say that their use. both serve. IV Ibn al-CArabi's work. and 242-46. Solomon. Striving to view them from his own individually creative vantage-point.zahir (exoteric. 50 As with exegetical technical terms (see above. I think. Jacob. the sources are numerous) Cragg. The book's last chapter treats <The Wisdom of Singularity in the Word of Muhammad. The hermeneutic position to which Ibn Sina aspired. Ibn Sina struggled to transcend both traditions. Jesus. shares certain points of similarity with that of Ibn Sina. W. The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'dnic Hermeneuticsof the $djfrSahl At-Tustarz (d. There are signs. 283/896) (Berlin. HEATH Ibn Sina clearly works principally in the philosophical tradition of his time. and so on. religion and philosophy both contain truths cloaked in symbols. is an assumption of interpretation rather than a result. English trans. QuranicStudies. a specific concept in relation to a specific prophet: Abraham. But he differs from the philosopher in 49 Muhyi d-Din Abu. Austin. 1980) 135-42. .Bakr Muhammad ibn al-'ArabT. both have exoteric levels addressed to the masses and esoteric meanings intended for the few. New York: Walter de Gruyter. as equally useful resources from which individual thinkers may draw on in order to explicate their intuitions and beliefs. Fuisu al-hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom). Abfu I-cIld) Afifl (Cairo: Dar al-ihya) al-kutub al-'arabiyya. The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press. Exigese coranique (throughout). From such a perspective. Ibn al-'Arabi attained. however. implicit). 38-53 and 163-181. The book is organized around Ibn al-cArabl's prophetology. Enoch. Nywia. Mind of the Qur'dn.e. The Bezels of Wisdom. it is not possible to examine in detail the history of the concepts . There are indications that in but not-ultimately-definitively the latter part of his career. whether for rhetorical (see above.200 P. 1946). so. note 15). very seriously indeed. explicit) and batin (esoteric. Ishmael. J.)> i. This is. Each of its thirty-seven chapters is devoted to ((The Wisdom of (x) in the Word of (y). Fusus al-hikam. 1980). and Gerhard Bowering. that he took this tradition as seriously as he did religion. His hermeneutic method. therefore.)> Ibn al-cArabl's mystical theories are both detailed and complex. as described above.>> It first.

by blamingthem he praisesthem. He statesthat his peopleturneda deafear to his summons only becausethey knew(innately) the properway for them(maintaining God's immanence manyforms)to is respond to his summons (made from the standpoint of unity and transcendence). Austin. cArabi examines the relationship between divine immanence and transcendence. Noah's people. Noah calls upon his people to turn away from their evil idolatrous ways and worship the One True God. 70. butmysummons made only them more averse (outer) [71. 71. Austin. and by day duringthe night (the outertruthbeing implicitin the inner)53. Thosewho knowGod understand allusionNoah makes the in respectof (whathe knowsto be the real stateof) his peoplein that. Muhammad (unlikeNoah)did not summonhis peoplebynight byday. trans.. The wholetruthis a conjunction not a discrimination52. One of the most controversial chapters in the Fusuys that titled is H-ere Ibn al<(The Wisdom of Exaltation in the Word of Noah>>51. Noah frames his message in a way that denies the equally valid principle of God's immanence. on the other hand. Bezels.for He is Forgiving you your [71. ((Surat Nzib4 (Noah). 75... have only an immanent understanding of Him.. He appealedto their outer and inner understandingsaying.Ask to yourLord shield (from sins). they worship graven idols.theywould the in his have respondedto his call. .CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 201 two points: (1) the details of his theories and (2) his staunch refusal to restrict hermeneutic primacy to only one level of the text.10]. Ibn al-cArabl contends that here Noah exemplifies the transcendentalist conception of God. reasonbeingthat his summons to the was made in a spiritof discrimination (seekingto opposetranscendence to immanence). Ibn al-cArabl's main point here is that by emphasizing God's transcendence in his preaching. . since he knows the reason for their not responding (positively) his summons. concentrating his discussion on Qur'dn 71. It is not our task to investigate the first point here. 76-77. Ibid. In this sura. Ibid. Ibn al-cArabl here discusses the relationship between transcendence and immanence. but the latter requires attention. Bezels. Ibn al-cArabi contrasts Noah's practice of adopting the inappropriate mode of address to Muhammad's practice. his people neither understand nor accept what he is trying to tell them. Bezels. Had Noahcombined twoaspects summoning people. As a result. 52 53 Fusu-s. 68-74.5-6]. But his position on this subject51 Ibn al-Arabi.Thenhe said. Austin.I summoned bynight them (inwardly) byday and (outwardly). trans. and but by night duringthe day (as inner summonsimplicitin the outerone). 71-81.

affirms the validity of both inner and outer levels of meaning.. at the same time it allows him to interpret them as he sees fit. It is known that when the Scripturesspeak of the Reality [God] they speak in a way that yields to the generality of men the immediately apparent meaning.. would reveal to Him His own mystery.202 P. The elite. understand all the meanings inherent in that utterance. which. Let us examine briefly part of Ibn al-'Arabl's interpretation of the story of Adam's creation. Bezels.o his relationship to the angels. al-Futuhdtal-Makkiyya(The Meccan Disclosures) Ibn al-'Arab! (in the course of other things) inter54 55 Ibid. to see His own Essence. More important for our purposes is that he expounds his theories on the basis of completely acceptingthe meaning of the text he is interpreting. 68. 48-49. although consistent with his general theory. Thus the (divine) Command required (by its very nature) the reflective characteristicof the mirror of the Cosmos. Not every Muslim would accept his interpretation. trans. on the other hand. HEATH that both are aspects of the same Unity. and Adam was the very principle of reflection for that mirror and the spirit of that form55. And his interpretations. but none could accuse him of rejecting revelation's literal sense. Bezels.. Why did God create Adam? Ibn al-CArabi's explanation is as follows: The Reality [God] wanted to see the essences of His Most Beautiful Names or. thus. Ibid. What he says makes perfect sense within the particular context of his theories. are in fact a running commentary on the Qur)dnic passages we first quoted. devoted to Adam. are rarely what a traditionalist such as at-Tabari would have immediately understood from the text. 73. qualified by existence. But according to him bothare essential. seen from different perspectives. in whatever terms it is expressed. This position enables him to accept all of religion's external ordinances and texts literally. to put it another way. He agrees with the philosophers that revelation has exoteric and esoteric levels of meaning. and that both are necessary to fully understand God-is equally applicable to his theory of hermeneutics. The first few pages of his first chapter. Austin.. in his magnumopus. why their protests against his creation had no foundation. while He is (at the same time) hidden from all understanding. . trans. In fact. Ibn al-'Arabi continues to interpret.54 Ibn al-'Arabi. The Truth is that the Reality [God] is manifest in every created being and in every concept. Austin.. He explains the significance of Adam's <<vice-regency.. and so on. in an all-inclusive object encompassing the whole (divine) Command. 50-51.

3 (1986) 539-51: 106. In the first stance. (Beirut: Dar Sadir. (devoted to Ibn al-'Arabi). The first tries to elucidate 56 See Ibn al-CArabl.4 (1987) 629-52. to a certain extent practice stemming from each may occur in any school or tradition. Journal of the AmericanOrientalSociety 106. He has a comprehensive. . For a useful review of recent works on Ibn al-cArabi.d. Muhammad. theology. JAOS 108. Dirdsa ft ta)wFIal-Qur'dn cinda Mukyi d-Dfn ibn cArabf(Beirut: Dar al-wahda. but also throughout. the other. and Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid. sectarian advocacy. the interpreter rejects. and 107. Afifi. 1983). Morris. Here the hermeneutic of one discourse confirms the other.> 2 parts in 3 sections. Part II. Therefore. may be associated with specific schools or intellectual traditions: Qur'anic commentary. But it would be erroneous to impose such associations absolutely. there is a place for every religious text or tenet that a literalist might deem essential. ed.1 (1987) 101-19. JAOS 107. V The preceding discussion has aimed at adumbrating three stances toward a privileged text. al-Futiiiht al-Makkiyya.4 (1986) 733-56. See also Morris's new annotated translation of Chapter 367 of the Futzihdt. <<TheSpiritual Ascension: Ibn cArabi and the MiCr4j: Part I. Falsafat at-ta'wfl. prophetic tradition. Los Angeles. methods-of each stance can be logically predicted. Ashraf. [Builaq version]).CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 203 prets his way through all of the standard theological dogma of his day. (Lahore: Sh. See also Toshihiko Izutsu. cited in note 1. implicitly or explicitly. In the second. Corbin's book. Authors must be examined carefully on an individual basis in order to ascertain which stance (or combination of stances) each adopts. and the hermeneutic strategies it provokes. inclusive view of reality. In the Islamic context. In the third. The Mystical Philosophyof Muhyid Din IbnulArabi. to some extent. mysticism. 1983) esp. The hermeneutical goals-and. each stance. rev.1 (1988) 63-77. the interpreter accepts the privileged status of the text and consciously relegates interpretation to a lower position. for the chapter on Noah.. philosophy. Part I. 195-231. repr. 48-67. the privileged nature of the text and attempts to displace it by reading it in terms of other texts or modes of discourse granted higher privilege.Ibn cArabji and His Interpreters. E. An appropriate significance can be found everything. All that is required is interpretation56. A. n. London: University of California Press. varied but congruent expressions of the truth. The latter's subservient position is never questioned. of 1st ed. 4 vols. texts (or modes of discourse) are accepted as equal. Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts. H. <. see James W. 1964). 8-22. the one. (Berkeley.

are rarely a logical species. semantics. For him. practi57 tioners always accept. or history. however. however. in regard to his history. or are even consciously aware of them. by analyzing their grammar.of communal tradition inherited from respected predecessors. they embody it. For purposes of explication. At-Tabari therefore polishes off the tools of his trade-grammar. to substantiate it. simultaneously. are the actual results that emerge from each process57. Quoting numerous exegetic options in regard to any part-even single words-of the Qur'dn. The task of ascertaining it is all the more urgent when the intellectual environment of one's age is permeated with diversely imperfect or fraudulently distorted representations. the third. adopt. does not wish to reject. At-Tabari's reverence for the privileged status of the Qur'dn(or. because of its authoritative origins. HEATH the literal meaning of the prime text. he addresses them secondarily. Instead. A seeker of truth finds it here-on the cosmic or human plane. after all. mitigate or even contravene the logical parameters of their methodology. Less predictable. Humans. Perusal of his tafstr (or history) leads the student of hermeneutics to the initially surprising conclusion that the hermeneutic that most respects a text determines it least. the two do not represent the truth. Another essential mediational conduit is his strategy of secondary exegesis. His philological methodology provides one axis of mediation.204 P. permits at-Tabar1 to suggest an enormous range of potentially valid interpretation without encumbering himself with personal responsibility for exegesis with which he disagrees but. The massive size and elaborate detail of at-Tabari's tafsir and history attest to his intense commitment to the privileged ontological status of both the Qur'an and history (in regard to the latter: the assumption of being able to ascertain the objective reality of the past). he studies the Qur'an's meaning by critically examining profuse masses. I do not maintain that because each method has logical consequences. it is useful to push the assumptions of each hermeneutical stance to its logical limits. it provides him with corroborative support for interpretations he espouses-all without requiring him to approach the Qur'dn's text directly. the second. semantics. He never confronts the Qur'dn's words directly. one of the fascinating aspects of the study of hermeneutic is encountering instances where practitioners ignore. historical reality) prevents him from approaching its text unmediated. He does not expound his personal beliefs directly. to subvert it. .

Abu. poetry. Translation from R. his strategy seems clear enough. Ibn Sina's hermeneutic leads to a different quandry. If one cannot arrive at the exact truth. Reading text(s) from the perspective of an external. not saving it. Even literalists must interpret. destroy the privileged status of the very realms of discourse whose innate veracity he assumes.d. to scholarly methodology and explicit examination of as many sources as method and practicality permitted. at-Tabarl might argue that by refusing to do so they are losing the text. technical terminology. Once at work. Muhammad M. The mystics resorted to metaphor. Determining a single literal meaning for history or the Qur'dndisplaces each. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Jundi (alGindi]. Al-Gazali. this being mental existence and analogical existence. 155. as indeed the intensity of his disputes with contemporary Hanbalites suggests. to submit it to a univocal determination of the truth. How could it be necessary to affirm unbelief because of interpretation when there is not a group of the people of Islam save that is compelled to use it? The man most remote from interpretation [ta 'wFl] was Ahmad ibn mercy be upon him! And the most bizarre of interpretations Hanbal-God's and that farthest removed from reality (al-haqiqa) is that you make the thing said a trope (majdzan: figure of speech) or a metaphor (isticdra). part 1. for him the truth value of each realm of discourse was too great for it to be expressed simply or literally58. McCarthy. the methodology of critical analysis of inherited religious and historical traditions-and sets to work. paradox. J. Initially.l-Ila. as a last resort. Freedomand Fulfillment. Simply put. even though it entails a particular type of duplicity. one can at least surround it. therefore. atTabari. Such a conclusion could only have horrified at-Tabari. 58 Al-Gazali points out that even literalists must resort to interpretation at times: Unbelief needs not necessarily be affirmed of interpreters [al-mu'awwilfn] so long as they continue to adhere to the law of interpretation as we shall point it out. This. . in al-Qusuir Gazdli. symbolism. and.) 135-36. At-Tabarl's dilemma. Such a process would. was not unlike that of contemporary mystics: how does one explicate truths which are by nature ineffable. n. paradoxically. Al-Gazall proceeds to give three examples where Ahmad ibn Hanbal resorted to such interpretation. ed. In such circumstances. But even the Hanbalite is compelled to it and professes it. he is too sensitive and intelligent a scholar to force either the Qur'dn or historical reality into the straitjacket of literalism.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 205 history. however. truth resides in secondary interpretation. one no longer needs the original text(s). al-cawdlf min rasa'il al-Imam alFaisal at-tafriqabain al-Isldm wa-l-Zandaqa. indeed. atTabari precedes to do.

condemning either vice or crime or commending either utility or beneficence.e. W. but the principle is a general one. This implies. Part 16. Using hermeneutic ((keys?> read texts allegorically creates two levels of to meaning. On Christian Doctrine 2:9. Lower levels of assent might suffice for others. only demonstration suffices for him. Symbolism. privileged (for the interpreter) in regard to literal meaning. in this case the philosophers themselves. 59 Saint Augustine interprets the Christian scriptures on the basis of ideals of virtue: If a locution is admonitory. He would characterize Ibn Sin-a's (or Augustine's) hermeneutic strategy as paradigmatic (interpretation triggered by criteria external to the text. p.>> Augustine. On Christian Doctrine. 30-32 and 101. 98. (In Ibn S-in&'s case. suggests) the theory of double-truth is less a substantive philosophical position than a temporary rhetorical strategy60. Quoted in Todorov. it is figurative. Symbolism. but it intimates the fictionality of one. If only those learned in philosophical truths understand the ((real>) meaning of the Qur'dn.)59 The inner meaning thus disclosed becomes the original text's ((real)> meaning. as one might put it. Robertson. the interpreter uses the latter as an hermeneutic key to unlock the doors of the former's dimension of hidden meaning. religious texts are apprehended through the hermeneutic prism of philosophy. however. (Indianapolis: The Library of Liberal Arts. But if it seems to commend either vice or beneficence. the general public. but he perhaps deemphasizes the fact that the interpreter has much to say about which things are determined <<manifest>> or <<obscure. Hayy ibn Yaqzan . in Ibn Sina's epistle. 93. see Todorov. D. HEATH more privileged mode of discourse. pp. that literal meaning. Philosophers such as Ibn Rusd may sincerely feel that there are legitimate levels of assent to the truths of revelation. In other words. it is not figurative. not. Augustine suggests that in such cases one <may take examples from those things that are manifest to illuminate those things which are obscure. see also 3:10. 1951) Book 3. Saint Augustine. The logical implications of this are clear.>>(less real. Jr. philosophical doctrine) and at-Tabari's as essentially syntagmatic (triggered from within the text). 60 I must emphasize here that I am discussing the practitioners of this hermeneutics. Todorov's distinction between paradigmatic and syntagmatic interpretational triggers is useful here. p. trans. their recipients. Its relation to truth is no longer direct but rather-at bestindirect. 87-88. Similarly.206 P.>.?>((secondarily real>>meanings? And how many gradations of ((lesser? semantic realities are required before truth becomes fiction? For its practitioners. now allegorized. I am addressing the epistemological rather than the political dimension of this question. at least. i. what remains for those unendowed with philosophical knowledge or acumen: the Qur'dn's ((less true. but there is little doubt concerning the level to which he grants privileged status. 42. is true only in some secondary way. (as modern western history.

Hjayy gives up on mankind. literary creation. Esoteric meaning cannot stand alone. does it with the Aristotelian corpus. IHayyibn Yaq-zan. One may always stop. . Hayy is not content with mere representation (muhdkd)of the truth. disclosed. with his disciple Absal. But he himself does not remain on their level.This also explains his interest in allegorizing the story of the Prophet's milraj. Others cling to revelation. the lesser faculties of the soul. Ultimately. of muhdkd?See also above. At-Tabar1 does this with the Qur'dn. in regard to themselves. The first was the self-creation of exoteric texts requiring esoteric readings: his allegorical narratives. new exoteric texts are required as bases from which the seeker attempts once again to scale the summit of truth. recognizes that the rational soul naturallyhas two companions. Absdl and Salma-n. and displaced. he does not. Risdlat at-tayr. It also accounts for his fascination with mythic or symbolic images. with his many commentaries. but he nevertheless calls upon it to stop associating with them. Once texts-the Qur'dnor the miCrdj story-are interpreted.. But what if what one privileges is truth itself? Modern scientists seek truth from empirical investigation of external nature. of course. such as rdh alqudus. the inadequacy of the outcome is perceived. The attempt led him in two directions. 16162. he wants direct intellectual apprehension (tasawwur). Ibn Tufayl's Hayy ibn Yaqzan accepts (sddaqa) the religion that Absal explained to him. unveiling or unlocking esoteric meaning from exoteric texts is an unending process..CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 207 But this is not Ibn Sind's quandry. a pre-modern philosopher such as Ibn Sina seeks it from texts.126-26. and weak willed. subverted. In al-FarTbh's terms. note 34. And so the process must begin again. one might argue that Ibn Rusd. It appears to me (and this is a suggestion. trans. realizing them to be ((stupid. at least in part. An alternative direction. Iayy ibn Yaqza`n. requiring. what is the real truth value. if less immediately obvious. he abandons the community of men to apprehend the Truth unhindered. inadequate. The question for the espousers of tasawwur then becomes. Ibn Sina was struggling with this self-inflicted hermeneutical dilemma. It stems from the premise of duplicity that lies at the heart of the hermeneutic he invokes. but he also <<pitied mankind and hoped that it might be through him that they would be saved. reworked. re-vealed. He was eagerto go to thesemen to revealand explain the Truth>(emphasis mine). and award one or more texts positions of ultimate privilege. requiring further investigation) that towards the end of his life. The attainment of truth is contingent upon the existence of essentially redundant but nevertheless necessary exoteric meaning. emanating from religious tradition. Ibn Tufayl. his is more serious. But for a brilliantly inquiring mind. Truth must always be un-veiled. a narrative with no set text.

level of <inner>> Ironically. the hermeneutical process is reactive. for example. In other words.208 P.' [Iliad 7. One is reminded of the 61 Plato struggles with the same dilemma. ed. however. 1961) 1590-91 (My thanks to Tomis Kapitan for drawing my attention to this passage. the knowledge itself is a fourth. True meaning always lies beneath the surface. the assumption of dichotomy remains. But once the surface is removed. in ((Letter VII>>: For everything that exists there are three classes of objects through which knowledge about it must come. but now exposed. If. Hence no intelligent man will ever be so bold as to put into language those things which his reason has contemplated. a knowledge of the object.. but mortals 'have utterly blasted his wits... descriptions. third. an image. especially not into a form that is unalterable-which must be the case with what is expressed in written symbols. whether that of a lawgiver in his laws or whatever it may be in some other form. 'then surely' not the gods.. he will never gain a complete understanding of the fifth.. the subject treated cannot have been his most serious concern-that is. a description. see his remarks. Cairns. if. it is an inevitable conclusion from this that when anyone sees anywhere the written work of anyone. as exoteric texts and meaning. .. bodily forms. inner meanings of prior texts. E. The conceptual dichotomy upon which it is based presumes a duplicity (in the literal sense) of meanings. 12. Including the Letters.. concepts] do as much to illustrate the particular quality of any object as they do to illustrate its essential reality because of the inadequacy of language.) . to suggest. he really was seriously concerned with these matters and put them in writing.. Therefore. and we must put as a fifth entity the actual object of knowledge which is true reality. For this reason no serious man will ever think of writing about serious realities for the general public so as to make them a prey to envy and perplexity. Hamilton and H. . both strategies leave Ibn Sina trapped by the hermeneutic he espouses. if he were a serious man. We have then.'a man does not somehow or other get hold of the first four. Furthermore these four [names.. Bollingen Series 71 (New York: Pantheon Books. second. first. HEATH and one which evidence suggests increasingly intrigued Ibn Sind. His most serious interests have their abode somewhere in the noblest region of the field of his activity. including his own contributions to it. In a word. it requires exoteric meaning. work to disclose their <<inner>> allude to. This from a philosopher whose collected writings run to almost two thousand pages! See The CollectedDialogues of Plato. and fourth.360. either as selfcreated allegorical narrative or from previously hidden. insinuate the existence of an enticingly alluring and understandably never revealed or elaboratedmysterious-but philosophical meaning (Hikma masriqzjyya61). a name. was to use the Peripatetic philosophical tradition within which he worked. a new surface level must be created.234].

as he would say. Derrida (Berkeley. Heidegger. ((The Hermeneutics of Henry Corbin. once literal and explicit is <<dead. Anatomy of Criticism (New York: Atheneum. In the introduction to the Fusui-. and at times frankly perplexing exposition. 63 Northrop Frye. one can presume the same dichotomy of meaning. it is a <<world total metaphor. see Allan Megill. Hirsch's terms. but quash the inner rather than the outer one. Martin. Los Angelos: University of California Press. particular historical. the head becomes the tail62. elaborately detailed. Existence has no hierarchy.. but once this happens a new level of significancemust be found. in R. For elaboration on this point. requires. <I have not set forth here anything except what was set before me. 129-50 (see note 1 for full citation).. spiritual) outlook combines an essentially simple-if breathtakingly radical-central insight with profuse. It is not by chance that I discuss the latter's method last-and least. implicitly. exposition consists of exploring and explaining this insight's implications. social. Princeton: Princeton University Press. but each part implies. based on the conviction of existential unicity. Ibn al-cArabl's hermeneutic stance. 1985).>> Alternatively. as though it were all [Ibn al-cArabi: is all] inside a single body)>63. . does not privilege particular texts or discourses (or. But unlike Ibn Sina. Ibn al-cArabI9s central insight is the unity of being.CREATIVE HERMENEUTICS 209 image of the snake eating its own tail. variegated. only relationships. For he is a writer whose intellectual (or. significancebecomes meaning. 1970 [originally. as the tail is consumed. The world-view that ensues is mythopoetic. meaning. Prophetsof Extremity:Nietzsche. Approachesto Islam. 62 In E. It is not by chance that Sucad al-Hakim's monumental dictionary of Ibn al-cArabi's terminology contains no entry for ta'wdl. C.. The whole contains parts. in which everything of is potentially [Ibn al-cArabi would say essentially] identical with everything else. Foucault. Relevant hcre as well is Charles Adam's essay.>) As Paul Nywia puts it. In this hermeneutic. he cannot do this in a vacuum. ed. not have I written in this book aught but what was revealed to me. for the mystic's entire corpus is ta'wil. This point becomes clearer when one compares Ibn Sind's hermeneutic with that of Ibn al-cArab1. He adopts-and adapts-the intellectual materials of his historical environment to serve as a prism through which to formulate his innately inexpressible spiritual insights. D. he states that. he too needs exoteric levels of texts. This path ultimately leads to scientific positivism and the reaction of the post-modern nihilism of Nietzsche and Heidegger. or religious conventions or semiologies). and contains the whole. 1956]) 136. Like Ibn Sina.

texts.objectivity>> scholarly analysis is only another level of of subjective interpretation. once one applies them to specific cases. are simultaneously the subject and object of ta'wil. (Beirut: Dar al-Andalus. ed. indeed all phenomena. 109ff.. Su'ad al-Hakim. as Nasr Abui Zaid points out. for as the phenomenologists have so cogently pointed out. 2 vols. trans. Muhyl-d-din ibn 'Arabi [or perhaps CAbd ar-Razzaq al-Qs'dni]. and personality of the external analyst. 1981). Mustafa Ghalib. stemming from each individual writer's temperament.>) This principle states that abstract theoretical paradigms are of general use only. Interpretation is a dialectically creative process. Fusus. al-HIikmaJi hudiid al-kalima (Beirut: Dandara. 48. every critic or historian allows (or should allow) for them automatically. 6 (but also throughout the book). the so-called <. I must end with the caveat of the <(Principle of Particularism. What emerges is often very different than what enters. and hermeneutic influences. individual influences. This becomes important from a theoretical perspective when textual particularities which to an external observer appear of minor or idiosyncratic importance spark the interest and imagination of an individual interpreter. Exegese coranique. as well as indicated briefly some of their results. experiences. The first two levels are axiomatic. Also. and environment. See Qur'dn. Also cited in Ayoub.>>Ibn al-'Arabi. 66 Nasr Hamid Abu. mu awwil and mu'awwal. 74. interpreter and interpreted65. The third is frequently overlooked but nonetheless important. Washington University To be sure. al-Mu5jam as-sufiyya. 1981) 1:5. 1experience-not texts-is the principehermeneutique64. Falsafat at-ta'wil. also Bowering. they must be accommodated to the particular circumstances of each case.Zaid.. Bezels. Austin. Also involved here. is it the unilateral action of an active agent on a passive text66.210 P. 67-68. arising from the interpretational process itself. is the hermeneutic stance.28. 64 . Paul Nywia. of course. pertaining to the specific age and milieu each author inhabits. Having attempted to sketch the principles of three hermeneutic stances at work in pre-modern Islamic intellectual life. nor. This accommodation transpires on three levels: historical influences. HEATH for the mystic. From Ibn al-cArab-l's perspective ((interpretation [like hell-fire] all neither spares nor leaves>>. Interpretation is not an isolated individual act. The Qur'dn and its Interpreters. Mystical Vision of Existence. Tafszr al-Qurdn al-karim. Ibn al-CArabi is careful to add: <<Noryet am I a prophet or an apostle. It is not unusual that such seemingly particularistic sparks give birth to new intellectual currents. 46. 65 <At-ta'wdl ldyubql wa-ld yadharu. background.6. 135-37.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful