Khabr: Ṣādiq or Kādhib

cIlm al-Macānī is the cilm (knowledge) through which the forms of Arabic expressions suitable to the dictates of the current situation are recognized. 

It is said [that] yucraf [grasping a thing by pondering and thinking about its traces] not yuclam [grasping a thing with its true nature] is used in consideration of what some of the learned have expressed with respect to cilm being specific to universals and macrifah to particulars, as the author of al-Qānūn [i.e Shaykh Abū cĀlī Ḥusayn ibn cAbdullāh, aka Ibn Sīnā (d.428 A.H.)] mentioned in the definition of al-Ṭib, “al-Ṭib (medicine) is the knowledge by which the states of human bodies are yucraf  [recognized].” Similarly, Shaykh Abū cAmr [cUthmān ibn cUmar, aka ibn al-Ḥājib (d. 646 A.H.)], may Allāh have mercy on him, said, “Al-Taṣrīf  [inflection] is the knowledge of the foundational principles by means of which the states of speech construction are yucraf  [recognized].”

[cAllāmah Sirajuddīn Yūsuf ibn Abī Bakr ibn Muḥammad] al-Sakkākī  [d. 626 A.H.] said,“cIlm al-Macānī is the examination of the special characteristics of speech composition with respect to communication, and that which is connected to it (i.e. what is commendable, wa ghayrihi [etc.]), so that one may refrain from mistakes in making speech suit the dictates of the situation.”

This needs to be discussed, since examination is not knowledge, nor is it [i.e the term examination] ṣādiq calayh (true of it), therefore defining any of the sciences with it is not correct.

Later on he says, “By composition, I mean the composition of those who are profound and eloquent.”

There is no doubt that recognizing an eloquent person, from the aspect of them being eloquent, is suspended on recognizing balāgha (eloquence). Previously, he defined balāgha in his book when he said, “Balāgha is the speaker attaining a high degree with respect to conveying meaning; it’s features are: giving the composition choices their due and properly employing a variety of tashbī (similies), majāz (tropes), and kināyah (indirect speech).”

If, in defining balāgha, he meant by the term “composition”  the composition of those who are profound and eloquent, which is the literal meaning of what was said, then he has come to a vicious circle but if he meant something else he did not clarify it given the fact that his statement,”wa ghayrihi [etc.],” is ambiguous, his intent with it unclear. 

Now, the objective of cIlm al-Macānī is confined to eight topics:

  1. aḥwāl al-isnād al-khabarī
  2. aḥwāl al-musnad ilayh
  3. aḥwāl al-musnad
  4. aḥwāl mutallaqāt al-ficl
  5. qaṣr
  6. al-‘inshā’
  7. al-ijāz wa al-iṭnāb wa al-musāwāh
  8. al-faṣl wa al-waṣl

What is meant by this restriction [i.e. that the purpose of cIlm al-Macānī is confined to eight topics] is that kalām [speech] is either khabr [an informative statement/assertive utterance] or ‘inshā [also called ṭalab1; an expression of desire/a non-assertive utterance] since in its relation to al-khārij [i.e. reality, tangible or nontangible2] it either conforms to it or does not, or possesses no external [relation]. The first [.i.e that which has a connection to reality and is either in conformity with it or not] is an informative statement, and the second is an expression of desire.

An informative statement must possess an isnād [complete sentence], musnad ilayh [subject], and musnad [predicate], and the aḥwāl [states] of these three are [the domain of] the first three topics [i.e. aḥwāl al-isnād al-khabarī, aḥwāl al-musnad ilayh, and aḥwāl al-musnad]. 

Furthermore, the musnad may have [a multitude of] connections when it is a verb, or connected to a verb, or within the mental concept of a verb (e.g . an ‘ism al-fācil [verbal noun], etc.); this is the fourth topic [i.e. aḥwāl mutallaqāt al-ficl].

Additionally, the complete sentence and the relationship [between the subject and predicate] may be by means of qaṣr3 [qualification] or not. This is the fifth field [i.e. al-qaṣr], [and] al-‘inshā’ is the sixth topic. 

Moreover, when a jumlah [clause] is linked to another, the second will either be attached to the first, or not, and this is the seventh topic [i.e. al-faṣl wa al-waṣl]. 

The formulation and articulation of eloquent speech is either in excess of the original intent due to some benefit, or not, and this is the eighth topic [i.e. al-ijāz wa al-iṭnāb wa al-musāwāh].

N.b. The scholars have differing views concerning the restriction of informative statements to ṣādiq (truthful) and kādhib (false)

Majority of the scholars are of the view that it is restricted to these two, but then differed, [with] majority of them saying, “It’s ṣidq (veracity) is the conformity of its ḥukm [conclusion] to reality, and its kidhb [falsehood] is the nonconformity of its conclusion to [reality].”4 This is the canonical and trusted view.

Some5 of the people said,“It’s veracity [lies] in the conformity of its conclusion to the caqīdah [i.e. حكم جازم يقبل الشك; a definite conclusion that accepts doubt; a conviction]6 of the mukhbir [informant], whether they were correct or mistaken [in what they said], and its falsehood is the nonconformity of its conclusion to it.

[They] advanced two reasons in support [of this]:

  1. A person may be convinced something is true and relate it [to others], but later on it becomes apparent that his information contradicts reality. About this person, it is said, “He did not utter a lie, but he akhṭa’a [erred].” Similar is narrated about cĀishah, may Allāh be pleased with her, who said of someone in a similar state, “He did not lie but he wahima [was mistaken].”This is refuted by the fact that what is being negated is a deliberate lie, not lying, as evidenced by [our] repudiation of a kāfir [disbeliever] (e.g. a Jew) when they say, “Islām is false,” and [our] attestation of [the same] when he says, “Islām is true.“ Thus, her statement, “He did not lie,” is understood to mean, “He did not deliberately lie.”
  2. The Exalted One’s statement: و الله يشهد إن المنافقين لكاذبون “Allāh bears witness that the hypocrites are liars,”7 calls them liars with respect to their statement: إنك لرسول الله “Undoubtedly, you are the Messenger of Allāh,” even though it conformed to reality, because they were not convinced that it was true.

I give a few responses:

1. The meaning of [their statement] nashhadu [we testify] is a testimony in which [one’s] heart and tongue are in agreement, as the إن, the لام, and the clause being nominal explain [since each of the three emphasizes the informative statement]:

إِذَا جَآءَكَ ٱلْمُنَٰفِقُونَ قَالُواْ نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُۥ وَٱللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ ٱلْمُنَٰفِقِينَ لَكَٰذِبُونَ 

“When the hypocrites came they said, ‘We testify that, undoubtedly, you are the Messenger of Allāh.’ Allāh knows that you are, without a shadow of a doubt, the Messenger of Allāh; Allāh bears witness that the hypocrites are liars.”8

The rebuttal is for their statement, “we testify,” and their claim within it that [their hearts and tongues] are in agreement. It is not [a denial] of their statement, “Undoubtedly, you are the Messenger of Allāh.”

2. The refutation and denial is concerned with their naming the information they give shahādah [testimony], because notification that is void of [heart-tongue] conformity cannot be testimony in reality.

3. The meaning of لَكَٰذِبُونَ [bold-faced liars] regarding their statement: إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ “Undoubtedly, you are the Messenger of Allāh,” concerns themselves [i.e. they don’t consider themselves to be telling the truth], due to their conviction that this is information in contradiction to the state of the one they are informing about.

[Abū cUthmān cAmr ibn Baḥr ibn Maḥbūb] al-Jāḥiẓ [d. 255 A.H.]rejects the restriction of informative statements to two categories and claims that it is [divided into] three: truthful, false, and neither truthful nor false. This is due to the fact that the conclusion either conforms to reality and is accompanied by the conviction of the informant, or is not; [or is] not in conformity to reality and is accompanied by the conviction [of the informant], or is not. 

In the first case (i.e conformity accompanied by conviction) [the informative statement] is true, while in the third case (i.e. not in conformity to reality accompanied by conviction) it is false, and in the second and fourth case (i.e. conformity or nonconformity without conviction) both are neither true nor false.

[A] true [statement], according to him, is the conclusion conforming to reality accompanied by [the] conviction [of the informant], and [a] false [statement] is the absence of its conformity accompanied by [the] conviction [of the informant], while the other two types are:

a. [The] conformity [of the conclusion to reality] that is not accompanied by [the] conviction [of the informant].

b. [The conclusion] not conforming [to reality], accompanied by [the] absence of the conviction [of the informant].

As support for his argument he cites the Exalted One’s statement:

أَفْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا أَم بِهِ جِنَّةٌ

“Has he fabricated a lie against Allāh or is he mad?”9

[He uses this] because they limited the Prophet’s صلى الله عليه و سلم  claim of prophethood  to iftirā’ (a fabrication) or information given while in the state of insanity, with the idea that [that the two are] mānicah al-khulū [mutually inclusive].10 [They were] not [claiming] that the information given in the state of insanity was a lie, since they used fabrication in place of it [i.e the word kidhb], nor [were they claiming it was] true, since they did not accept its veracity within their hearts. Thus, it is established [according to him] that there are types of informative statements that are neither truthful nor false.

My response to him is that fabrication is an intentional falsehood, and thus a type of lie. Furthermore, it is not impossible for information given in the state of insanity to be a falsehood as well, since it is conceivable that [this] is another type of lie, that is, a lie that is unintentional.

Thus, the categorization [of al-Jāḥiẓ] would be for false information [which would be divided into intentional and unintentional lies]11, not information, generally speaking, and the meaning [of their statement] is: did he fabricate it or not?12 

This second [point] is what they are expressing in His statement: أَم بِهِ جِنَّةٌ “or is he mad,” since someone who is insane cannot fabricate [things].13


Before, summarizing the discussion above, there is one important objection that must be addressed. A person may object that people use mubālagah (exaggeration) and even though the definition of kidhb is applicable, according to them it is not a kidhb. Shaykh al-Hind Maḥmūd Ḥasan (d. 1339 A.H./1920 C.E.) quotes al-Tajrīd to respond to this:

“If one intended the literal meaning of the words then it is a falsehood, but if one intended a metaphorical mental concept (e.g. abundance) in the example then it is true because of the conformity of the intended mental concept to reality. Thus, what was intended was conformity with the intended mental concept (al-macna al-murād) not the conventional usage (al-waḍcī).”14

Here it seems that there is a distinction being drawn between an assertive utterance that is being used majazan (in the form of a trope, like the example, “Today, I visited you a thousand times.”) and ḥaqīqatan (as an accurate representation of reality). That is, if the words in the assertive sentence are being used ḥaqiqatan, with a view to accurately representing reality, then the definition we have seen al-Qazwīnī use for khabr would be correct, but if one is using these words in the form of a trope what would be considered is the intended mental concept of the speaker (i.e. what they are trying to say: in our example, “Today, I visited you a large number of times.”), not how the words are normally used, and therefore al-Qazwīnī’s definition would not be applicable.

To sum up, we have seen that the scholars affirm an objective reality (ḥaqīqah) that can be known, and for which we can use language to make verifiable and objective statements. We have also seen that al-Qazwīnī divided speech into assertive utterances and non-assertive utterances. We learned that assertive utterances that are being deployed as an accurate representation of reality are either true if they conform to objective reality, or false if they do not, and that a person considering what they say to be true, or not considering it to be true, or even being mistaken, or not intending to lie, will not affect whether the assertive utterance is true or false.

Building on this, we will now examine the relationship between two assertive utterances and reality as a practical application in distinguishing true assertive utterances from false ones. We begin with the example of a person saying, “Zayd is standing.” This is an assertive utterance whose truthfulness or not is tied to its conformity to reality and as al-Taftazānī tells us about this conformity and nonconformity, 

“It means that the two objects [in our case “Zayd” and “standing”] which one has made a connection between in the assertive utterance must have a connection in reality (i.e. without regard to what is in the mind), thus the conformity of that connection signified by the speech to the connection which is extra-mental by the two objects both being affirmed or negated is ṣidq and its nonconformity by one of them being affirmed and the other negated is kidhb.”15

Coming back to our example, if one says that, “Zayd is standing,” but the reality is that Zayd has not stood up and is in fact sitting, this assertive utterance would be called a lie because of its nonconformity to reality. The same would be the case if we said, “Zayd is not standing,” when the reality was that Zayd was indeed standing.

We will conclude this exercise with the following example: “Zayd is a lion.” As Shaykh Maḥmūd Ḥasan has pointed out, if the above sentence is taken as a figurative or metaphorical utterance, and what is meant is that some quality of the animal signified by the word lion (e.g. bravery, fierceness etc.) is found in Mary, then this would be a true statement. This is similar to the way Ḥafiẓ Aḥmad ibn cAlī ibn al-Ḥajr al-cAsqalānī al-Miṣrī (d. 852 A.H.) approaches the word ‘creation’ used in a certain narration when he says, “…it is like one saying, in describing a woman of excellence and good character, ’There isn’t a man like her among the people’ meaning she is better than men, not that she is a man.”16

However, if this assertive utterance is being made as an accurate description of reality, and we are saying that the human being named Zayd is in reality the animal signified by the word lion, al-Qazwīnī’s definition of kidhb would apply due to the fact that this assertive utterance does not conform to reality. A human being is not a lion, and a lion is not a human being.

Source: Shaykh Muḥammad ibn cAbd al-Raḥman ibn cUmar17 al-Qazwīnī’s al-‘Īḍāḥ fī cUlum al-Balāghah al-Macānī wa al-Bayān wa al-Badīc, Dār al-Kutub al-cIlmiyyah, pp. 24-26

[1] For example: Expressing hope and longing for something, asking a question, commanding, prohibiting, and exclamations.

[2] Baghyah al-‘Iyḍāḥ li Talkhīṣ al-Miftāḥ fi cUlūm al-Balāghah, Maktabah al-Ādāb, 1:37

[3] Qaṣr is of two categories (real and not) and those two are broken down into two types: limiting the person being described to a specific quality, or restricting a certain quality to a specific person. Some examples of Qaṣr are:
1. “Zayd is only a scribe.” This strips him of all descriptors except one, with the possibility that others also share his descriptor.
2. “Only Zayd is in the house.” This specifies him with a descriptor that no one else possesses.
3. “Zayd is only a scribe.” This sentence can also be used to address someone who thinks Zayd is a scribe and poet, informing them that he is one and not the other.

4. “There is no poet except Zayd.” This sentence can be used to address someone who accepts that Zayd is a poet but thinks cUmar is also a poet. p.98-99

[4] The reason it is possible for an informative statement to be true or false is the ability to check the conclusion in relation to each one. (Miftāḥ al-cUlūm, Dār al-Kutub al-cIlmiyyah, p.166)

[5] The phrase ‘some of the people’ is a reference to Ibrāhīm ibn Sayyār, known as al-Naẓẓām, a Muttazilī shaykh and teacher of al-Jāḥiẓ who died in 223/7 A.H. after reportedly falling off a roof while drunk. (Baghyah al-‘Iyḍāḥ li Talkhīṣ al-Miftāḥ fi cUlūm al-Balāghah, 1:38; Siyar ‘Aclām al-Nubalā’, Muassas al-Risālah, 10:541-542)

[6] I use the term ‘firmly convinced’ as a short hand translation for the definition of caqīdah written in the hashiyah of Shaykh Maḥmūd al-Ḥasan (رحمه الله) : حكم جازم يقبله; a definite conclusion that accepts doubt, as opposed to cilm: a definite conclusion that doesn’t accepts doubt

[7] Sūrah al-Munāfiqūn, Āyah 1

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sūrah Sab’a, Āyah 8

[10] Disjunction: A type of hypothetical proposition since they are either conditional [if…then], that is, those [propositions] where a judgement is on the truthfulness of the proposition or on its untruth with the assumption of another proposition being true, for example: “If this is a human then it is a living thing, and if this is not a human then it is an inanimate object,”; or they are disjointed [either…or] which are [propositions] in which a judgment of incompatibility between the two propositions is given.

If the incompatibility is related to both truth and untruth then it is literal, for example, “This number is either even or odd.”

If it is only related to untruth, then it is mānicah al-khulū, for example, “Either Zayd is in the ocean or he did not drown.”

If  it is only related to truth then it is mānicah al-jamc, for example, “Either this thing is a tree or a rock.”

Manicah al-Khulū is a disjointed proposition in which a ruling of incompatibility between its parts is passed, solely with respect to being untrue as was mentioned in the examples.

Mānicah al-Jamc is a disjointed proposition in which a judgement of incompatibility between its two parts is passed, with respect to being true like the previously written example. [] Accessed 2-12-22

[11] al-Talkhīṣ fi cIlm al-Balāghah, Dār al-Fikr al-cArabī, p.40

[12] It is apparent that His statement, “Did he fabricate,” is part of the statement some of them said to others (i.e. he is fabricating a lie against Allāh with respect to that which he is attributing to Him concerning resurrection, or there is some madness affecting him that makes him imagine that and utter it with his tongue), equating and treating fabrication and madness as equals, since this statement, in their eyes, would only emanate from one of these two. (Tafsīr al-Baḥr al-Muḥīṭ, Dār al-Kutub al-cIlmiyyah,7:251)

[13] The meaning of, “or is he mad,” is: “or did he not fabricate [it].” They expressed the absence of fabrication by means [of the word] madness because it is an essential characteristic of an insane person that they cannot fabricate, since [fabrication] – according to that which has been transmitted from the a’immah [experts] and the usage of the Arab – is an intentional lie, and there is no intentionality for a mad person. Thus the [word] ‘madness’ is not a correlative of ‘false’, rather ‘fabrication’, which is more specific, [is its correlative]. Hence, according to them, false informative statements are limited to two types: intentionally false, and unintentionally false. If it is accepted that ‘fabrication’ has the meaning of ‘false’, without any restrictions, then the meaning is: did he intend to fabricate [it] (i.e. did he intend to lie) or did he not intend [to lie], rather, he lied without intending to because of the madness possessing him.

It is said, “The meaning is: did he fabricate it or not, rather he is mad, and the speech of the insane is not informative since there is no aim that he is regarding, nor awareness. Therefore their intended meaning is limiting [his speech] to being false information, or not information, hence an informative statement that is neither true nor false is not established.” (Rūḥ al-Macānī, Muassasah al-Risālah, 22:24)

[14] Mukhtaṣar al-Macānī, Maktabah al-Bushrā, p.84, footnote on al-Wāqic

[15] Mukhtaṣar al-Macānī, p. 84

[16] Fatḥ al-Bārī, Dār Ṭaybah, 17:385

[17] The Shāficī Chief Justice Jalāluddīn Muḥammad ibn cAbd al-Raḥmān ibn cUmar al-Qazwīnī al-Shāficī (aka al-Khaṭīb al-Qazwīnī) was born in Moṣul in the year 666 A.H./1268 C.E. and died around the age of 70 in Damascus in Jumād al-Awwal of the year 739 A.H./1338 C.E. 

al-Khaṭīb al-Qazwīnī first studied Islamic jurisprudence with his father, and after he and his brother, Chief Justice cUmar ibn cAbd al-Raḥmān al-Qazwīnī al-Shāficī (d. 699 A.H.), moved to Damascus in 690 A.H. during the rule of the Mamluk Sultanate, he continued his studies there, eventually becoming an expert in Arabic, Rhetoric, and other sciences. 

He subsequently took up teaching positions in the various colleges (s. madrasah/pl. madāris) of Damascus, such as: Madrasah al-cĀdaliyyah, Madrasah al-Masrūriyyah, Madrasah al-Amīniyyah, as well as Madrasah Umm al-Ṣāliḥ, and later became the khatīb of the great al-Jāmic al-Umawī built by the Umayyad Khalīfah Al-Walīd ibn cAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān (d. 96 A.H.).

In the year 699 A.H., the Ilkhanid Mongols encroached on the Syrian region, causing massive amounts of damage and the loss of countless lives. In the face of this devastation many of the people of Damascus, including Jalāluddīn’s brother cUmar ibn cAbd al-Raḥmān, fled to Egypt. A few weeks after arriving in Egypt, cUmar ibn cAbd al-Raḥmān passed away. He was buried near the grave of Imām al-Shāficī.

Jalāluddīn al-Qazwīnī was appointed as the Shāficī Judge of Damascus in the year 725 A.H. After two years in that position, a role that he must have excelled at, he was summoned to Egypt to be the Chief Justice of the Shawāfic. al-Qazwīnī spent over a decade in Egypt, teaching in the local madāris and adjudicating. He distributed the awqāf (endowments) amongst the poor, who found a place of refuge in him, and those in need.  In 732 A.H. he accompanied the Sulṭān to Makkah for ḥāj. Unfortunately, as time went on the ruler became displeased with him on some account and sent him back to Sham. 

al-Qazwīnī’s return to Sham coincided with the death of its Chief Justice, Shihābuddīn Muḥammad ibn al-Majd al-Shāficī (d. 738 A.H.). Consequently, al-Qazwīnī was given Shihābuddīn’s former judgeship, a position he retained until he was afflicted with hemiplegia, and returned to His Lord.

Imām Muḥammad al-Qazwīnī left behind Badruddīn Muḥammad (d. 742 A.H.), an expert in oration,  Jamāluddīn cAbdullāh (d. 743 A.H.), the khaṭīb of al-Jāmic al-Umawī where his father had served before, Tājuddīn cAbd al-Raḥīm ibn Muḥammad ibn cAbd al-Raḥmān (d. ~710 A.H.) who was the khaṭīb of al-Jāmic al-Khaṭīb, and Ṣadruddīn cAbd al-Karīm. These last two died two days apart during the plague of 749 A.H. The first three brothers are all explicitly mentioned as being buried together with their father in the Ṣūfiyyah graveyard of Damascus.

Jalāluddīn al-Qazwīnī was a man of clemency, culture and refinement; he was well-educated in Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, possessed a sharp mind, and was generous. Imām Dhahabī (d. 748 A.H.) describes him in the following manner: “He studied fiqh (Islamic Jursiprudence), debated, gave fatāwā (formal legal opinions), and exerted himself in Damascus; many students graduated at his hands (tukharriju bihi al-aṣḥāb).” Shaykh Ṣalāḥuddīn Khalīl ibn Aybak (d. 764 A.H.) writes about him, “He loved literature (al-adab), would give lectures on it, was well skilled in it, and would draw out its subtleties.” 

al-Talkhīs and al-‘Īḍāḥ

Imām Muḥammad al-Qazwīnī is the author of Talkhīṣ al-Miftāḥ fi cIlm al-Macānī wa al-Bayān (The Abridgement of the Key: On the Science of Pragmatics and the Rhetorical Arts), a summarization of the third section of cAllāmah Sirajuddīn Yūsuf ibn Abī Bakr ibn Muḥammad al-Sakkākī’s (d. 626 A.H.) al-Miftāḥ al-cUlūm (The Key to the Sciences). These two books, and others written on this subject (i.e. cIlm al-Macānī wa al-Bayān), were studied by Muslim scholars to comprehend the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān.

In a statement that highlights the importance of these two works, Dr. Lara Harb asserts that they “represent a standardization of literary theory” that has remained in place up to the 21st century. While documenting the changes to the Darse Niẓāmi curriculum, especially as it was studied in the Indian subcontinent, Dr. Aamir Bashir shows that al-Taftazāni’s abridged commentary on the Talkhīs was part of the original curriculum (c. 1740 C.E.), and continues as part of Darul Uloom Deoband’s articulation of the curriculum right into the early 2000s.

Imām Muḥammad al-Qazwīnī’s Talkhīs attracted a number of abridgments, versifications, and commentaries, the most famous commentaries, according to Kashf al-Dhunūn, being the two (one lengthy and the other an abridged version) authored by Imām Sacddudīn Mascūd ibn cUmar al-Taftazānī. al-Qazwīnī also penned his own commentary on Talkhīs that he titled al-‘Īḍāḥ fī cUlum al-Balāghah wa al-Macānī wa al-Bayān wa al-Badīc, and it is a section of this commentary that is the subject of the translation to follow.

Author: Yusuf Yasin

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