Form, Content, and the Inimitability of the Qurʾān in ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī’s Works

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Abstract

Classical Arabic literary theory is commonly thought to have given precedence to ‘form’ (lafẓ) over ‘content’ (maʿnā). By looking at the works of ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī (d. 471/1078 or 474/1081), this article seeks to uncover a more complex understanding of how lafẓ and maʿnā relate to eloquence. I argue that poetic beauty can result from form and/or content, even though the inimitability of the Quran is only attributed to form. I show that ‘form’ is constituted by sentence construction (naẓm) and only certain kinds of literary figures, ones that involve processes of indirect signification. These encompass figurative speech (majāz), metaphor (istiʿāra), and implied meaning (kināya). Simile (tashbīh), on the other hand, is distinguished from these literary figures as a declarative kind of statement, which renders it part of content. This opens up the possibility of eloquence resulting from content as well as form and shows that the criteria for iʿjāz and poetic excellence are not necessarily one and the same.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-321
Number of pages21
JournalMiddle Eastern Literatures
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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