Rafed English

Detriment of Narration through Meaning Linguistically and Rhetorically

These were some of their sayings in regard of the detriment of reporting hadith through meaning, concerning the religious affairs. Whereas the linguistic and rhetoric detriment is elucidated through brief statement by the eminent Islamic litterateur al-Sayyid Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafi’i (may God’s mercy be upon him), when discussing the Prophetic rhetoric in his precious book I’jaz al-Qur’an,164 saying: The words of Prophethood are inhabiting a heart connected to the Glory of its Creator, and burnished by a tongue upon which the Qur’an was revealed with the realities it contains. If they not being revealed (by God), however they came to be through way of revelation, and if they having no proof in it but they were verily among its evidences. That which of affirmed chapters has no even one separated handle, and in which meddling is absent has no even one preferred word. It is, in its brevity and indication, like a speaking heart pulse, and in its sublimation and efficiency is verily a manifestation of his (S) recollections” ... etc.165

In his comment on the arrangement of the Prephetic rhetoric, he said: “It is not necessary that whatever reported as a hadith, should be taken as an utterance of the Prophet (may God’s peace and benediction be upon him and his Progeny) with its very words and expressions. Because many traditions have been reported on the basis of their meaning, the case in which most or some of their words be uttered by the one to whom they were ascribed in transmission. Due to permission of narrating through meaning, Sibawayh and other Imams of the two Cities (Basrah and Kufah) have never quoted any hadith when compiling their books on grammar and linguistics, but they depended mainly on the Qur’an and authentic traditions reported from the Arabs. Had tadwin (writing down) been prevalent during the early stage (of Islam), with the possibility of recording all the traditions they (Companions) used to hear from the Prophet (S) with their original words and expressions and eloquence, this language would have been in an extremely different state”.
The procedure common among them was that the narrator’s being accurate in realizing the meaning of the hadith, with using words some of which being in agreement with the original texts, as in the case of his short traditions and aphorisms and proverbs, and some others disagreeing whereat the narrator inserting into them some of his own words. This fact led Sufyan al-Thawri to exclaim: If I tell you that I am narrating to you exactly as I heard (from the Prophet), never believe me, as it is no more than the meaning of it.166

I have expatiated on discussing this section of the book due to its high significance.


164. I'jaz al-Qur'an, p.364, refer to the complement of this eloquent speech, in the following pages till p.422.

165. Ibid., p.364.

166. Ibid., p.422.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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