Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an

Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an

Toshihiko Izutsu
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 292
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    Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'an
    Book Description:

    In the Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur'án Toshihiko Izutsu analyzes the guiding spirit of the Islamic moral code, the basic ethical relationship of man to God. Izutsu asserts that, according to the Qur'anic conception, God is of an ethical nature and acts upon man in an ethical way. The resulting implications for man are enormous, requiring devotion not merely to God but to living one's life ethically. Izutsu shows that for the Qur'an our ethical response to God's actions is religion itself; it is at the same time both ethics and religion. Izutsu explores these themes by employing ethnolinguistics, a theory of the interrelations between linguistic cultural patterns, to analyse the semantic structure of major concepts in the Quar'an.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7051-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Charles J. Adams

    The republication of this book is a cause for much pleasure. It has been out of print and out of circulation far too long. At the time of its original publication in 1966 it was one of the finest, if not, indeed, the very best study of the Qur’ānic world view ever to have appeared in a Western language, and it has lost none of its significance with the passing of time. The Qur’ān is the Scripture of the Muslim community, which now numbers one-fifth to one-quarter of the world's population. It is a keystone of the great Islamic enterprise...

    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    • INTRODUCTION: Language and Culture
      (pp. 3-15)

      We may approach the subject of ethico-religious concepts in the Qur’ān in a number of different ways. We may start from the elaborate systems of Islamic law which, in later ages, came to regulate all phases of human conduct to the minutest details, and find that we are led back to the Qur’ān as the original source of all these commands and prohibitions. Or we may start from the no less elaborate systems of theology, which we will discover to be nothing but a theoretic treatment of the basic problem of what a ‘true believer’ should believe in, what kind...

    • I. The Scope and Focus of the Study
      (pp. 16-23)

      islām, which arose in the seventh century in arabia, UN-doubtedly represents one of the most radical religious reforms that have ever appeared in the East; and the Qur’ān, the earliest authentic record of this great event, describes in vividly concrete terms how in this period of crisis the time-honored tribal norms came into bloody conflict with new ideals of life, began to totter, and, after desperate and futile efforts to resist, finally yielded the hegemony to the rising power. The Arabia of this epoch, from the pre-Islamic time of heathendom to the earliest days of Islām, is of particular importance...

    • II. The Method of Analysis and Its Application
      (pp. 24-42)

      There are a variety of ways in which one gets to know the meaning of a foreign word. The simplest and commonest— but unfortunately the least reliable—is by being told an equivalent word in one’s own language: the German wordGatte,for example, means the same as the English ‘husband’. In this way the Arabickāfirmight be explained as meaning the same as ‘misbeliever’,zālimas ‘evil-doer’,dhanbas ‘sin’, and so on. There can be no question that there is recognizably some sort of semantic equivalence in each case; on the other hand, anyone acquainted with the...

    • III. The Pessimistic Conception of the Earthly Life
      (pp. 45-54)

      Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the development of moral ideas in ancient Arabia is that Islam proclaimed a new morality entirely based on the absolute Will of God, whilst the guiding principle of the pre-Islamic moral life had been tribal tradition, or ‘the custom of our forefathers’.

      There should be no misunderstanding here. We would be doing gross injustice to the pre-Islamic Arabs if we maintained that there was among them no distinction between right and wrong, between what is good and what is bad. On the contrary, a careful perusal of a document such as the famous ‘Book...

    • IV. The Spirit of Tribal Solidarity
      (pp. 55-73)

      We shall turn next to the problem of tribalism. It is a common place to say that the social structure of pre-Islamic Arabia was essentially tribal. It has often been pointed out by various writers on Arabia that the lifeblood of pagan ethics was the feeling of solidarity existing between all the members of the tribe. The tribe, or its subclass, the clan, was for the pre-Islamic Arabs not only the sole unit and basis of social life but represented first and foremost the highest principle of conduct, evolving a comprehensive pattern for the whole of life, both individual and...

    • V. The Islamization of Old Arab Virtues
      (pp. 74-104)

      Hitherto it has been my constant endeavor to bring to light the basic antagonism that exists between Islām and Jāhilīyah regarding the fundamental principles of life. We would do a grave injustice, however, to the spirit of Jāhilīyah and even to the position of Islām itself if we supposed that the latter denied and rejected without discrimination all the moral ideals of pre-Islamic Arabia as essentially incompatible with its monotheistic faith. There is clearly recognizable a certain continuity between the Quranic outlook and the old Arab world view, as much as there is a wide cleavage between them. This is...

    • VI. The Basic Moral Dichotomy
      (pp. 105-116)

      These words mark in a dramatic way the most radical break with the surrounding polytheism, to which Islām was led by its fundamental attitude in religious matters. This was, so to speak, the formal declaration of independence on the part of Islām from all that was essentially incompatible with the monotheistic belief which it proclaimed. In the domain of ethical practices, this declaration of independence involved a grave consequence. It suggested that henceforward all human values were to be measured by an absolutely reliable standard of evaluation.

      The Qurānic outlook divides all human qualities into two radically opposed categories, which—...

    • VII. The Inner Structure of the Concept of Kufr
      (pp. 119-155)

      In proceeding to give a detailed account of the principal ethico-religious values that are found in the Qur’ān, I begin withkufrrather than any of the positive virtues. I adopt this course because it has an obvious methodological advantage for my purpose:kufrnot only forms the very pivot round which revolve all the other negative qualities, but it occupies such an important place in the whole system of Qur’ānic ethics that a clear understanding of how it is semantically structured is almost a prerequisite to a proper estimation of most of the positive qualities. Even a cursory reading...

    • VIII. The Semantic Field of Kufr
      (pp. 156-177)

      In the preceding chapter i endeavoured to analyze the inner structure of the concept ofkufritself. The picture will not be complete, however, unless we consider analytically the other key terms that surround this major concept. The conceptual network formed by these closely related words is what we call the semantic field ofkufr.

      As a matter of fact,kufris not only the most comprehensive term for all negative ethico-religious values recognized as such in the Qur’ān, but it functions as the very center of the whole sytem of 'negative' properties. This would seem to imply that we...

    • IX. Religious Hypocrisy
      (pp. 178-183)

      This short chapter will be concerned with the semantical analysis of the concept ofnifāq.The word is customarily translated ‘hypocrisy’ in English. We shall use this English word for the convenience of exposition, keeping in mind that what is most important is not the problem of semantic equivalence between the English ‘hypocrisy’ and theArabic nifāq,but the structure of the latter itself. Roughly speaking,nifāqconsists in professing faith with the tongue while secretly disbelieving in the heart. Thus it is obvious that the discordance between words and deeds in matters that concern religious faith, which is one...

    • X. The Believer
      (pp. 184-202)

      Just askufrconstitutes, as we have seen, the pivotal point round which turn all the qualities belonging to the sphere of reprehensible properties, soīmān‘belief’ or ‘faith’, is the very center of the sphere of positive moral properties. ‘Belief’ is the real fountainhead of all Islamic virtues; it creates them all, and no virtue is thinkable in Islām, which is not based on the sincere faith in God and His revelations.

      As for the semantic structure of ‘belief’ itself, it may be admitted that we know already all the essential points, for, by trying to analyze semantically the...

    • XI. Good and Bad
      (pp. 203-249)

      There is in the qur’ān no fully developed system of abstract concepts of good and evil. The formation of such a secondary-level moral language is the work of jurists in post-Quŕanic ages. The Qur’anic vocabulary contains a number of words that may be, and usually are, translated by ‘good’ and ‘bad’; but many of them are primarily descriptive or indicative words. If we are justified in treating them as ‘value’ terms, it is because they invariably carry, in actual usage, a marked valuational import. They are descriptive as well as evaluative by implication. At the same time, there are, in...

    (pp. 250-254)

    We may do well to remember that this book, in the original edition, was entitledThe Structure of the Ethical Terms in the Koran.By the word ‘structure’ I meant ‘semantic constitution’. Not only does each key concept have its own peculiar connotative structure, but also the entire body of key concepts has itself a more or less closed and independent structure—a system which is, in turn, divisible into a number of subsystems.

    The whole matter is based on the fundamental idea that each linguistic system—Arabic is one, and Qur➲anic Arabic is another—represents a group of co-ordinated...

    (pp. 255-264)
    (pp. 265-275)
    (pp. 276-284)