Minggu, 15 November 2009

Pengertian "Makna Zhahir"

Alhamdulillah, was-salatu was-salamu `ala Rasulillah,

When speaking about the Quranic or hadith texts that include the attributes of Allah, we often see the word “dhahir“,
which is translated in English to mean “literal“.

That actually isn’t a completely correct translation of the word, because “literal“ means “Haqiqi” or “Haqiqah” in Arabic, which is the opposite of “Majaz” or “Majazi” = figurative, metaphorical.

While “dhahir” can be the “Haqiqi” or “Majazi” meaning (literal or figurative), depending on the context it is in, and it is the opposite of “Ta’wil“.

I believe that the reason why the word “literal” is used when translating the word “dhahir”, is because there isn’t an English word that has the exact same meaning as “dhahir” ?

or the one who translated it first used that term, which is sometimes what a dhahir of a word is, but not always, so people kept on using it, wallahu a’lam.

The important thing is to understanding exactly what the definition-meaning of dhahir is in definition of scholars of Islam, regardless of what word is used for it in English.

The following is written by a brother, may Allah reward him, that should make it clear what “dhahir” means, its definition, insha Allah.


The question is, what does the term: dhahir mean?
Ibn Qudama says in Rawdhat al-Nadhir (2/25 with Ibn Badran’s comments):

القسم الثاني الظاهر وهو ما يسبق إلى الفهم منه عند الإطلاق معنى مع تجويز غيره وإن شئت قلت ما احتمل معنيين هو في أحدهما أظهر

‘The second type: al-Dhahir (literal), and that is the meaning that comes first to the mind when uttered, while other meanings might also be possible. If you wish, you may say: That which has two possible meanings, one of them more obvious than the other’
Ibn Badran al-Dimashqi al-Hanbali says in his Madkhal (p.
187, al-Turki’s edition):

اعلم أن اللفظ إما أن يحتمل معنى واحدا فقط أو يحتمل أكثر من معنى واحد والأول النص والثاني إما أن يترجح في أحد معنييه أو معانيه وهو الظاهر

‘Know, that the word may either only have one meaning, or more than one meaning.
The first type is called al-Nass. The second type, is the obvious of the two
or more meanings, and that is the dhahir.’
To give you an example of a dhahir; If one says:

‘He went to the training camp and met the Lion’
The dhahir of this is that he went to the training camp and met someone brave
and courageous, because this is what comes first to the mind.

The less possible meaning is that met a four legged predator called ‘Lion’, and
the reason why it is less possible because it is assumed that Lions aren’t
usually located in training camps, and they are not domestic enough to meet and
have a cup of tea with human beings.


Often people do not understand the concept and think that literal (dhahir) meaning is the other meaning, i.e. he actually met a four legged predator; and they have completely misunderstood the concept of dhahir, or literal in Usul al-Fiqh.


Ibn Qudama says in Dham al-Ta’wil:

فإن قيل فقد تأولتم آيات وأخبارا فقلتم في قوله تعالى ( وهو معكم أين ما كنتم ) أي بالعلم ونحو هذا من الآيات والأخبار فيلزمكم ما لزمنا قلنا نحن لم نتأول شيئا وحمل هذه اللفظات على هذه المعاني ليس بتأويل لأن التأويل صرف اللفظ عن ظاهره وهذه المعاني هي الظاهر من هذه الألفاظ بدليل أنه المتبادر إلى الأفهام منها وظاهر اللفظ هو ما يسبق إلى الفهم منه حقيقة كان أو مجازا

‘If it is said: ‘You made ta’wil of verses and reports, for instance, you said
with respect to Allah’s statement: ‘He is with you wherever you are’, meaning:
with His knowledge, and the like of these verses and reports, and therefore,
your arguments are as much applicable to you as us.
We say: We did not make ta’wil of anything, for to hold such texts in these
meanings is not at all ta’wil, because ta’wil is to change the meaning of a
word from its dhahir, and what we say here is the dhahir of the wording, that
is, what comes first to the mind from that text, irrespective of whether it
is haqiqa or majaz.’

============================ end of quotation ============

and Ta’wil means: The diversion of an expression from the preponderant (or apparent) interpretation to the outweighed interpretation. would be the opposite, choosing the less obvious-apparent meaning.

Ta’wil means to choose the non apparent, less obvious meaning of the word over the apparent, obvious (dhahir) meaning and that differs depending on the context.

for example regarding the word “ma’a” مع = with.

1_ Ali is with Ahmad in the living room.

Now, with no doubt, we understand from this that Ali is with Ahmad physically,
this is the “dhahir” meaning of ma’a in this sentence > “with” physically.

2_ Ali reads a thread posted by Ahmad in an Islamic forum asking members to
join a team of translators to translate some books into English.
so Ali responds and says, “I am with you” (ana ma’akum)

Now, would you understand from the second statement that Ali is with them phyiscally? or would you understand that he means with his help?

so the “dhahir” (apparent-obvious) meaning of ma’a in the second one would be “with his help” and not phyiscally.

In the first example, the “dhahir” meaning was the “haqiqi” (literal) meaning, while in the second example, the “dhahir” meaning is the “majazi” (figurative, metaphorical) meaning of the word.

conclusion: The “dhahir” (apparent) meaning is what first comes to your mind, and it differs depending on the context it is in.

Ta’wil is to look for another meaning for the word that is not the apparent one.

like that ayah “qal ya Ibleesu ma mana’aka an tasjuda lima khalaqtu bi-yaday ” (Sad:75)

The apparent (dhahir) meaning of “yaday” in this context is the attribute of yad (hand), first thing comes to the mind is= the attribute of the essence, the hand (yad), but the ta’wil is to reject the dhahir meaning of it and look for other meanings that are not apparent and interpret
the word to mean that non apparent, less obvious meaning.

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