33. The purposes that must be kept in mind in literary
composition and that alone are to be
It should be known that the storehouse of human science is the soul of man. In it, God has implanted perception (idrak) enabling it to think and, thus, to acquire (scientific knowledge). (The process) starts with perception (tasawwur) of the realities and is then continued by affirmation or negation of the essential attributes of the (realities), either directly or through an intermediary.
(Man's) ability to think thus eventually produces a problematic situation which it tries to solve affirmatively or negatively. When scientific picture has been established in the mind (of one person) through these (efforts), it must, of necessity, be communicated to someone else, either through instruction or through discussion, in order to polish the mind by trying to show its soundness.
Such communication takes place through "verbal expression," 1112 that is, speech composed of spoken words which God created in a limb (of the human body), the tongue, as combinations of "letters (sounds)" - that is, the various qualities of sound as broken by uvula and tongue - so that the thoughts of people can be communicated in speech. This is the first step in the communication of thoughts. As its most important and noble part, it includes the sciences. However, it comprises every statement or wish (command) that in general enters the mind.
After this first step in communication, there is a second. It is the communication of one's thoughts to persons who are out of sight or bodily far away, or to persons who live later and whom one has not met, since they are not contemporaries.
This kind of communication is written communication. Writing is figures made by the hand, whose shapes and forms, by convention, indicate the individual letters (sounds) and words of speech. Thus, they communicate thought through the medium of speech. Writing, therefore, constitutes the second step of communication and is one of its two parts. It gives information about the noblest part of thinking, namely, science and knowledge. Scholars take care to deposit all their scientific thoughts in books by means of writing, so that all those who are absent and live at a later time may have the benefit of them. People who do that are authors. Everywhere in the world, written works are numerous. They are handed down among all races and in all ages. They differ as the result of differences in religious laws and organizations and in the information available about nations and dynasties. The philosophical sciences do not show (such) differences. They have developed uniformly, as required by the very nature of thinking, which is concerned with the perception (tasawwur) of existing things as they are, whether corporeal, spiritual, celestial, elemental, abstract, or material. These sciences show no differences. Differences occur in the religious sciences because of differences among the various religions, and in the historical sciences because of differences in the outward character of historical information.
Writing differs in that human beings have come to use different forms and shapes of it. (These differences) are called "pen" and script.1113 There is the Himyarite script, which is called musnad. It is the script of the Himyar and the ancient inhabitants of the Yemen. It differs from the writing of the later Mudar Arabs, exactly as the (language written in the Himyarite script) is different from the language of (the Mudar Arabs), though all of them are Arabs. However, the habit of linguistic expression among (the Himyar) differed from that of (the Mudar Arabs). Both have their own general norms, which are evolved inductively from their (ways of linguistic) expression, and are different from the norms of the other (group). Those who do not know the habits of (linguistic) expression often are mistaken (about the relationship between the language of the Himyar and that of the other Arabs).
Another script is the Syrian script. This is the writing of the Nabataeans and Chaldeans. Ignorant people often think that because the (Nabataeans and Chaldeans) were the most powerful 1114 nations (in antiquity), and the (Syrian script) is of great antiquity, it is the natural script (whereas all other scripts are conventional ones). This is a fanciful, vulgar idea. No action resulting from choice is a natural one. The fact is simply that (the Syrian script 1115 is) so old and was used for so long that it became a firmly rooted habit, thought by the observer to be a natural one. Many simpletons have the same idea 1116 about the Arabic language. They say that the Arabs express themselves in good Arabic and speak (it) by nature. This is a fanciful (idea). 1117
Another script is the Hebrew script. It is the writing of the children of Eber, the son of Shelah, who are Israelites, and of other (people).
Another script is the Latin script, the script of the Latin Byzantines (Romans). They also have their own language.
Each nation has its own particular form of writing, which is attributed to it in particular. (This applies,) for instance, to the Turks, the European Christians, the Indians, and others. (However,) only three scripts are of interest. First, Syrian, because of its antiquity, as we have mentioned. Then, there are Arabic <and Hebrew>,1118 since the Qur'an and the Torah were revealed in the Arabic and Hebrew scripts and languages, respectively. These two scripts came to be (the medium of) communication for the texts (written in them, that is, the Qur'an and the Torah).1119 There arose very early an interest in works composed in them, and norms for expressing oneself in that language 1120 according to its particular method (uslub) 1121 were set forth, so that the obligations of the religious law might be properly deduced from the divine speech of (the Qur'an).
Then, (thirdly) there is Latin, the language of the Byzantine (Romans). When they adopted Christianity, which, as mentioned at the beginning of this book, 1122 is entirely based upon the Torah, they translated the Torah and the books of the Israelite prophets into their language, in order to he able to derive the law from (Scripture) as easily as possible. Thus, they came to be more interested in their own language and writing than (in) any other.
The other scripts are of no interest. Every people employs its own particular kind of script.
Now, the purposes that must be kept in mind in literary composition and that alone are to be considered valid were restricted to seven. 1123
(1) The invention of a science with its subject, its division into chapters and sections, and the discussion of its problems. Or the invention of problems and topics of research which occur to a competent scholar and which he wants to communicate to someone else, so that they may become generally known and useful. This, then, is deposited in a written volume, so that a later (generation) may have the benefit of it. This is what happened, for instance, with the principles of jurisprudence. Ash-Shafi'i was the first to discuss, and briefly to describe, the legal arguments based on the wording (of the traditions). Then, the Hanafites appeared and invented the problems of analogical reasoning and presented them fully. This (material) has been used by subsequent generations down to the present time.
(2) (A scholar) may find the discussion and works of ancient (scholars) difficult to understand. God may open understanding of them to him. He will then wish to communicate his (knowledge) to someone else who may perhaps have difficulties with (the same problems), so that all those who are worthy may have the benefit of (his knowledge). This is the interpretational approach to books on the intellectual and traditional (sciences). It is a noble chapter.
(3) Some later (scholar) may come across an error or mistake in discussions by ancient (scholars) of renowned merit and famous authority as teachers. He may have clear proof for it, admitting of no doubt. He will then wish to communicate this (discovery) to those after him, since it is impossible to eradicate a mistake (in the work in question) in view of its wide dissemination in space and time, the fame of (its) author, and the reliance people place in his learning. Therefore, he deposits this (discovery of the mistake) in writing, so that (future) students may learn the explanation of it.
(4) A particular discipline may be incomplete, certain problems or details indicated by the division of the subject of the discipline requiring treatment. The (scholar) who becomes aware of the fact will want to supply these lacking problems, in order to perfect the discipline by having all its problems and details treated and leaving no room for deficiency in it.
(5) The problems of a particular science may have been treated without (the proper) arrangement into chapters and without order. The (scholar) who becomes aware of that (situation) will arrange and improve on the problems and put every problem in the chapter where it belongs. This happened to the Mudawwanah, as transmitted by Sahnun on the authority of Ibn al-Qasim, and to the 'Utbiyah, as transmitted by al-'Utbi on the authority of the companions of Malik. In these works, many problems of jurisprudence were not mentioned in the proper chapters. Therefore, Ibn Abi Zayd improved upon the Mudawwanah, while the 'Utbiyah remained unimproved. Thus, in every chapter (of. the ' Utbiyah), we find problems that belong in another, and (scholars) restricted themselves to the Mudawwanah and the (improvements) made on it by Ibn Abi Zayd and, after him, by al-Baradhi'i.1124
(6) The problems of a certain science might (only) exist scattered among the proper chapters of other sciences. Some excellent (scholar) will then become aware of the subject of that particular discipline (as a subject in its own right) and of (the need of) collecting 1125 its problems. He will do that, and a (new) discipline will make its appearance. He will give it its place among the sciences that mankind, with its ability to think, cultivates. This happened with the science of literary criticism (bayan).1126 'Abd-al-Qahir al-Jurjani 1127 and Abu (Ya'qub) Yusuf as-Sakkaki 1128 found its problems mentioned more or less correctly 1129 in the books on grammar. In his Kitab al-Bayan wa-t-tabyin,1130 al-Jahiz had already brought together many of the problems of this science. In (dealing with) them, people became aware 1131 of the subject of (this science) and the fact that it constitutes a science in its own right. (Later,) the famous works (by the literary critics mentioned) were written on the subject. They became the basic works of the discipline of literary criticism. Later (scholars) studied (those works) and exceeded all their predecessors in (improving upon) them.
(7) Something in the main scholarly works may be too long and prolix. One will then try to compose a brief and succinct abridgment, omitting all repetitions. However, one has to be careful not to eliminate anything essential, so that the purpose of the first author will not be vitiated.
These are the purposes that must be kept in mind and not lost sight of in literary composition. All else is unnecessary, a mistake (or deviation) from the road that (all) intelligent (scholars) think must be followed. For. instance, (someone may try) to ascribe the work of an earlier author to himself with the aid of certain tricks, such as changing the wording and the arrangement of the contents. Or, someone may eliminate material essential to a particular discipline, or mention unnecessary material, or replace correct (statements) with wrong ones, or mention useless material. All this shows ignorance and impudence.
Aristotle, when he enumerated the purposes (by which an author must be guided) and had come to the last one, therefore said: "Everything else is either superfluousness or greed," by which he meant ignorance and insolence.
We take refuge in God from doing what an intelligent person ought not to do. God "guides to the things that are most correct." 1132