Part 57

Natural and contrived speech

December 25, 2021

The secret and spirit of speech that is, expression and address - lie in conveying ideas.

If no effort is made to (convey ideas), (speech) is like “dead land” (mawat) 1568 which does not count.

The perfect way of conveying (ideas) is eloquence as shown by the literary critics.

Definition of eloquence

They say that eloquence is conformity of speech to the requirements of the situation. 1570 Knowledge of the conditions and laws governing the conformity of word combinations to the requirements of the situation is the discipline of eloquence (rhetoric).

The conditions and laws were deduced from the Arabic language and have become a sort of rules.

The manner in which word combinations are used indicates the relationship that exists between two interdependent (parts of an utterance). (It does so) with the help of conditions and laws constituting the main part of the rules of Arabic. The situations that apply to the word combinations - which may be earlier or later position, determination or indetermination, implicit or explicit (reference), statements used restricted or absolute, and so on - indicate the situations that envelop from outside the (existing) relationship and the persons discoursing with each other.

(They do so) with the help of conditions and laws that constitute the rules of a discipline belonging to rhetoric and called the “science of idea expression” (‘ilm al-ma’ani). Thus, the rules of Arabic are comprised under those of the science of idea expression, because the (purpose of) indicating the (existing) relationship is part of the (purpose of) indicating the situations that envelop that relationship.

Any word combinations unable to indicate the requirements of a given situation because of some defect in the rules governing the vowel endings or the rules governing the ideas, are (likewise) unable to establish conformity (between themselves and) the requirements of the situation; they belong to the (group of things) of which no use is made, which belong in the category of “dead land.”

After the requirements of a given situation have thus been indicated, there come the diverse ways in which the mind moves among the ideas with the help of different kinds of (word) meanings. In its conventional meaning, a word combination indicates one particular idea, but then the mind moves on to what might be the consequence of, or have as its consequence, that idea, or (what might) be similar to it and, thus, express (some idea) indirectly as metaphor or metonymy, 1571 as has been established in the proper places.1572

This moving around causes pleasure to the mind, perhaps even more than (the pleasure) that results from indicating (the requirements of the situation) All these things mean attainment of a conclusion from the argument used to prove it, and attainment, as one knows, is one of the things that cause pleasure.

The different ways the (mind) moves around in this way also have (their) conditions and laws, which are like rules. They were made into a (special) craft and called “the (science of) style” (bayan). 1573 (This science) is sister to the science of idea expression, which indicates the requirements of a given situation.

The (science of style) has reference to the ideas and meanings of the word combinations. Therules of the science of idea expression have reference to the very situations that apply to the word combinations, as far as they affect the meaning. Word and idea depend on each other and stand side by side, 1574 as one knows.

Thus, the science of idea expression and the science of style are both part of rhetoric, and both (together) produce perfect indication and conformity to the requirements of the situation. Consequently, word combinations that fall short of conformity and perfect indication are inferior in eloquence. (Such word combinations) are linked by rhetoricians to the sounds dumb animals make.

The preferred assumption is that they are not Arabic, because Arabic is (the kind of speech) in which indications are in conformity with the requirements of the situation. Thus, eloquence is the basis, genius, spirit, and nature of Arabic speech.

In the usage of (philologists), “natural speech” means the (type of) speech that conveys the intended meaning and, thus, is perfect in its nature and genius. Just speaking is not what is meant by (natural speech) as a (kind of) expression and address; the speaker (who uses natural speech) wants to convey what is in his mind to the listeners in a complete and definite fashion.

Thus, after perfect indication (of the requirements of the situation has been achieved), the word combinations, (if expressed) according to that genius that is basic (to Arabic speech), have (their) different kinds of artistic embellishment. 1575

In a way, they give them the brilliance of correct speech. Such (kinds of artistic embellishment) include the ornamental use of rhymed prose, the use of phrases of identical structure at the end of successive cola (muwazanah), 1576 allusion (tawriyah) to a cryptic idea by a homonym, 1577 and * antithesis, so that there will be affinity (tajanus) between the words and ideas (used).1579 This gives brilliance to speech and pleasure to the ear, and sweetness and beauty, all in addition to indicating (the meaning).

This craft is found represented in the inimitable speech (of the Qur’an) in numerous passages, as, for instance: By the night when it covers; and the day when it reveals itself.1580 Or: As to those who give and fear God and believe in what is most beautiful and so on, to the end of the cola division in the passage. Or:

But as to those who deviate and prefer the life of this world and so on, to the end of the passage. Also: And they think that they are doing good. 1583

There are many similar things (in the Qur’an). (But) it comes (only) after (the meaning) has been indicated perfectly by the word combinations (as they are) basically, before the rhetorical figures occur in them.1584

Rhetorical figures also occurred in pre-Islamic speech, but spontaneously and unintentionally. They are said to occur in the poetry of Zuhayr. 1 585 Among the (early) Muslim (authors), they occur both spontaneously and intentionally. These (authors) did remarkable things with them. The first to have a good knowledge of the method of (rhetorical figures) were Habib b. Aws (Abu Tammam), al-Buhturi, and Muslim b. alWalid. 1586 They very eagerly set out toachieve a (contrived) technique and did remarkable things with it.

The first to concern themselves with (rhetorical figures) were Bashshar b. Burd 1587 and Ibn Harmah, 1590 who were the last (poets whose poems) are used as evidence for (the grammatical and lexicographical problems of) the Arabic language. They were followed by Kulthum b. ‘Amr al-‘Attabi, 1591 Mansur an-Numayri,1592 Muslim b. al-Walid, and Abu Nuwas.

After them came Habib (Abu Tammam) and al-Buhturi. Then, there appeared Ibn alMu’tazz. He gave the whole craft of rhetorical figures its definitive form.

Examples of natural (speech) which is free from (contrived) technique, such as, for instance, the verse of Qays b. Dharih= 1593 I go out from among the tents; perhaps, I Shall talk about you to my(self) in secret, being alone. Or the verse-of -Kuthayyir= 159 4

I, in my passion for ‘Azzah after Our relationship had come to an end for me, and for her, Am indeed like one who hopes for shade from a cloud that, as soon as He settles down to his siesta, clears away.

This, indeed, is natural (poetry) that is uncontrived in its good composition and in the solidity of its word combinations. If, later on, some (contrived) technique were added upon such a foundation, its beauty would (merely) be increased. Contrived (speech) has been frequent since the time of Bashshar and Habib (Abu Tammam) and other (authors) of their class. (They were followed) by Ibn al-Mu’tazz who gave the craft of (rhetorical figures) its definitive form. (These authors) served as models to later (writers) who used the course they had prepared and wove on their loom.

People who cultivate the craft of (rhetorical figures) distinguish numerous subdivisions and use different terminologies for the rhetorical figures (alqab). Many of them consider them part of rhetoric, although (these figures) are not concerned with indicating (the meaning of speech), but provide embellishment and brilliance.

The early representatives of the discipline of rhetorical figures considered them not to be a part of rhetoric. Therefore, they mentioned them as part of the literary disciplines (adab) which have no (particular, defined) subject. This was the opinion of Ibn Rashiq in his Kitab al-‘Umdah, and of the Spanish litterateurs.

They mentioned various conditions governing the use of the (rhetorical figures). Among them, there is the condition that they should express the intended meaning in an unforced and unstudied manner.

The spontaneous occurrence of (rhetorical figures) causes no comment, because (in such cases, the rhetorical figures) are in no way forced, and the speech (in which they occur) cannot, therefore, be criticized as (linguistically) faulty. The forced and studied use of (rhetorical figures) leads to disregard of the basic word combinations of speech and thus destroys all basis for indication (of the meaning of speech).

It removes outright all eloquence and leaves speech only the (rhetorical) embellishments. This (however, actually) is the situation that is preponderant among (our) contemporaries. (But) people who have taste in eloquence despise (them because of) their infatuation with the various (rhetorical figures) and consider that (propensity an indication of their) inability to do better.

(Thus,) I heard our shaykh, Professor Abul-Barakat alBallaffiqi, 1598 who knew the language and had a natural taste for it, say= “The thing I most desire is some day to see one of those who practice the different branches of (the craft of)rhetorical figures in poetry or prose, punished with the most severe punishment and publicly denounced thus giving warning to his pupils not to concern themselves with this (contrived) technique.

Otherwise, they might fall in love with it and forget all eloquence.”

Another condition (governing the use of rhetorical figures) is that they be used sparingly and in no more than two or three verses of a poem, which suffices to adorn and give it brilliance, while the use of many (such rhetorical figures) would be a blemish. This was stated by Ibn Rashiq and others.

Our shaykh, the sharif Judge Abul-Qasim as-Sabti, 15 99 who was the chief cultivator of the Arabic language in his time, used to say= “The different kinds of rhetorical figures may occur to a poet or a secretary, but it is ugly if he uses many of them.

They belong among the things that embellish speech and constitute its beauty.

They are like moles on a face. One or two make it beautiful, but many make it ugly.“Pre-Islamic and . (early) Islamic prose followed the same lines as poetry.

Originally, it was straight prose, considering (only) creation of a balance between the larger portions of (speech) and its word combinations, to indicate that it’s balanced by means of cola into which it is divided, 1599a without adherence to rhyme or concern for (contrived) techniques. (This was so) until the appearance of Ibrahim b. Hilal as-Sabi’, the secretary to the Buyids. He concerned himself with (contrived) techniques and the use of rhyme. He did marvelous things with it. (However,) people criticized him because of his propensity for (using such things) in government correspondence. He could do that only because his rulers were used to non-Arabic (speech) and had nothing to do with the authority of the caliphate which caused eloquence to flourish.

Afterwards, the prose of later (authors) became more and more contrived. One forgot the period when straight prose had been used. Government correspondence came to be like private correspondence, 1600 and

Arabic came to be like the common language. Good and bad became (inextricably) confused with each other.1601

All these (statements) show that contrived, studied, or forced speech is inferior to natural speech, because it has little concern for what is basic to eloquence.

The judge in such matters is (one’s) taste. 1 602

antithesis, and other rhetorical figures (alqab) 1578 invented and enumerated by literary critics and for which they set up conditions and laws and which they called “the discipline of rhetorical figures” (badi’).

Both the older and the more recent (literary critics), as well as those of the East and the West, have differed (with each other) in enumerating the (different) kinds and subdivisions (of the rhetorical figures), just as they have differed as to whether (the discipline of rhetorical figures) should be considered part of rhetoric or not.

That (it should not) was the opinion of the Westerners. The Easterners considered it as a part of (rhetoric), but not as something basic to speech. They considered it as something that, after one has seen to the conformity of speech with the requirements of the situation, gives it brilliance and ornateness and provides it with sweetness and beauty. Without such conformity, a speech is not Arabic, as mentioned before, and no embellishment can dispense with it 1588 in (speech).

Moreover, (the rhetorical figures) are derived from the language of the Arabs by using it and investigating its word combinations. Partly, they are heard (used by the Arabs), and their existence is attested. Partly, they are derived and acquired. 1589

One knows this from the works of the authorities.When they speak about “contrived speech,” they mean word combinations representing the different types and kinds of rhetorical figures. They also speak of natural speech in (their books) as speech possessing perfect indication. The two (things) are opposed to each other. This shows that the craft of (rhetorical figures) is opposed to rhetoric.

Since the craft of rhetorical figures had no (particular, defined) subject and, consequently, was not a science, the litterateurs of ancient times considered (rhetorical figures) as part of the literary disciplines and included them in literary (adab) works.

This was done by Ibn Rashiq in the Kitab al-‘Umdah. 1595 In it, he discussed the craft of poetry in an unprecedented manner. He showed how to produce poetry. He had this (subject) followed by a discussion of the rhetorical figures. The same was done by other, Spanish litterateurs. It has been said that the first to concern himself with this (contrived) technique was Abu Tammam Habib b. Aws at-Tai. He loaded his poetry with rhetorical figures (alqab). The people after him followed him in this respect.

Before (him), poetry had been free from (rhetorical figures). The pre-Islamic and the outstanding (early) Islamic poets had not concerned themselves with them in their poetry and had not made much use of them. They occur in their (poems), but only spontaneously as a gift of (outstanding linguistic) talent, and not as the result of constant practice and studied application. Healthy natures have a good taste for them. But (rhetorical figures) are found in (early poetry) only as the result of perfect conformity (of the words to the meaning), faithful regard for the rights of eloquence, and freedom from harmful, forced use of the rhetorical figures or, from crude, studied application and constant practice (of them).

Thus, innate natural disposition makes it natural that embellishment (with rhetorical figures should be found) in (that poetry).

The prose of the pre-Islamic and outstanding (early) Islamic (authors), too, was a straight prose divided into cola without rhyme or meter, until the appearance of Ibrahim b. Hilal asSabi’, 1596 the secretary to the Buyids. He concerned himself with the use of rhymed prose in (his) speech and adhered to it in (his) government correspondence, in imitation of the rhyme of poetry. He was at liberty to do so, because his rulers were used to nonArabic (speech), and he himself had the outlook of common persons, that has nothing to do with royal aspirations or with the authority of the caliphate which wants authoritative eloquence. He dealt with the lower regions of artificially adorned speech in the same way as is done in private correspondence. At the time, he was successful with it [?], 1597 and his fame grew. Afterwards, the speech of later (authors) became more and more contrived.

One forgot the period when straight prose was in use to express authoritative eloquence. Government correspondence came to be like private correspondence, and Arabic came to be like the common language. Good and bad became (inextricably) confused with each other, and the nature (of authors) was unable to achieve basic eloquence in speech, because little attention was paid to it. Everybody now is infatuated with the different branches and kinds of the craft of (rhetorical figures) in poetry and prose and greatly concerned with cultivating every type of it. (But) the great rhetoricians always despised it and disapproved of its cultivation at the expense of other (things).

I have seen our shaykhs censure persons concerned with linguistic matters who occupied themselves (unduly) with (rhetorical figures). (I noticed that) they had a low opinion of them. (Thus,) I heard our shaykh Professor Abul-Barakat alBallafiqi, who knewthe language and had a natural taste for it, say= “The thing I most desire is some day to see one of those who practice the different branches of the craft of (rhetorical figures) in poetry or prose, afflicted by the most severe punishment and publicly denounced, so that his pupils will be deterred from occupying themselves with the craft of rhetorical figures.” He was afraid lest eloquence suffer from it and be forgotten.

Our shaykh, the sharif, Judge Abul-Qasim as-Sabti, who was the chief cultivator of the Arabic language and its standardbearer (in his time), used to say: “The different kinds of rhetorical figures may occur spontaneously to a poet or a secretary.

Still, it is ugly if he repeats them. They belong among the things that embellish speech and constitute its beauty. They are like moles on a face. One or two make it beautiful, but many make it ugly.”

All the (statements) of these excellent men consider cultivation of the craft of rhetorical figures (alqab badi’iyah) to be (linguistically) faulty, as it might deprive speech of its high eloquence. Such statements by them show that contrived speech is inferior to natural speech. We have shown here its secret and real character. The judge in such matters is (one’s) taste.

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