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Arabic English Commentary

7 — General and Particular Expressions

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A general expression includes (ʿamma) two or more things. (This is the sense that ʿamma has when one says “I included both Zayd and ʿAmr1 in my gift,” or “I included everyone in my gift.”) It can be expressed using four verbal forms: a singular noun made definite by a lām;2 a plural noun made definite by a lām; pronouns such as ‘who’ for rational beings, ‘what’ for non-rational things, ‘any’ for both of these, ‘where’ for place, ‘when’ for time, ‘what’ for inquiry and partition3 and other things; and ‘no’ applied to indefinite nouns, as when one says “there is no man in the house.” Generality is an attribute of utterances, and it is not permissible to claim generality for other things such as actions or the like.

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Particular expressions are all those that are not general.

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Particularization is to distinguish part of a whole. It is divided into connected and disconnected particularization.4 Connected particularization comprises exception, condition, and qualification by an attribute.

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Exception is the exclusion of that which an expression would otherwise include. Exception is only valid on condition that there remains something of that from which the exception was made. Another condition is that the exception be connected to the expression from which exception is being made. That which is excepted can be mentioned before that from which it is excepted. A thing can be excepted from the class to which it belongs or from another class.

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A condition can precede that which is made conditional upon it.

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Unqualified expressions are interpreted in accordance with those that are qualified by some attribute. For example, the word ‘slave’ is qualified by the attribute of faith in some passages but is unqualified in others, so the unqualified passages are interpreted in accordance with the qualified ones.5

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The Book6 can be particularized by the Book, the Book by the Sunna, the Sunna by the Book, the Sunna by the Sunna, and utterance by analogy, where by utterance we mean the speech of God (He is exalted) and the speech of the Prophet (God’s blessing and peace be upon him).

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Key terms

  • general: ʿāmm
  • particular: khāṣṣ
  • particularization: takhṣīṣ
  • connected: muttaṣil
  • disconnected: munfaṣil
  • exception: istithnāʾ
  • condition: sharṭ
  • qualification: taqyīd
  1. Zayd and ʿAmr are the personal names most often used in generic examples, like Dick and Jane in old American grammar books, or John Doe and Jane Doe in legal documents.
  2. The definite article al-.
  3. This refers to (that) used, often in conjunction with min (of), to designate an indefinite portion of a larger set, as in mā ṭālaʿtu min al-kitāb, “that [part] of the book which I read.”
  4. That is, particularization by an expression adjacent to the one particularized, or by something not adjacent to it (as when the Book is particularized by the Sunna, or in any of the other cases mentioned in the last paragraph of this section).
  5. That is, Qurʾānic passages that ordain the freeing of a slave are interpreted as referring to a believing slave, because other passages specify the freeing of a believing slave.
  6. The Qurʾān.
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Source: https://waraqat.vishanoff.com/e/e7/