The Role of Inter-Cultural Hermeneutical Studies in Shaping a Stronger Theory of Meaning in Uṣūl al-fiqh

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Rahim Nobahar (Ph. D),
Faculty of Law, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran

Text is very significant in Islam. A large part of Islamic thoughts and teachings is mentioned and explained in undeniable, sacred texts. It is the variety of texts that shape practical and mental aspects of the world-life of an individual Muslim and Muslim community at large. Therefore, interpretation has become a major field of study for Muslim scholars of different faiths from the outset of Islam. A large part of Uṣūl al-fiqh is allocated to hermeneutical studies. Thus, some scholars call Uṣūl al-fiqh the Islamic Hermeneutics. Generally, when discussing meaning and interpretation in Uṣūl al-fiqh, the theory of meaning has not been ignored. In practice, however, a large part of the discussion is dedicated to semantic theory of meaning rather than foundational theory of meaning which shapes a broader fundamental framework of theory of interpretation. Foundational theories of meaning in current Uṣūl al-fiqh seem to be narrow and limited compared with a broad spectrum of theories of meaning raised in Western hermeneutics. Thank to expansion of inter-cultural and philosophical studies in recent decades, some Muslim scholars have paid attention to the theory of meaning as discussed in Western philosophy. This trend has its own origins in Islamic mysticism and even traditional Uṣūl al-fiqh. Recently, however, it has reached not only academic and university level, but also some traditional seminaries. The task of this article is to give a brief report of the main foundational theory of meaning in the current Uṣūl al-fiqh and compare them with basic theories of meaning in Western hermeneutics. The article also points out the efforts of the Muslim scholars trying to take into account Western theories of meaning in Uṣūl al-fiqh. The literature of theory of meaning – be it for Muslims or westerners – finally belongs to humanity in general. Moreover, text – be it sacred or normal – is, eventually, under the rules of human linguistic. This would probably bring us to the conclusion that every theory of meaning, including Western ones, can be – and even should be – considered in reaching a well-founded theory of meaning. Therefore, developmental steps of cultural and philosophical interactions result in forming a more comprehensive theory of meaning.

Keywords: Uṣūl al-fiqh. Islamic hermeneutics, Theory of meaning, Intercultural hermeneutics.

Abstract for International conference on: “Philosophy, Religion and Science/Humanities in Islamic Life-World”,
Vienna University, Vienna, 12-15 March, 2018.

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