The Concurrence Between Expressions and Logic in the History of Legal Theory: Are ‘Amm Expressions Universal?


ʿĀmm [general] expressions are discussed in the linguistic sections of legal theory. In early periods, discussions on ʿāmm expressions involved their definition, presence, and signification (madlūl). After al-Ghazālī, however universals as one of the subjects of classical logic also began occurring in these discussions. This article discusses whether or not ʿāmm expressions denote universal meanings and also analyzes the theoretical explanations of usulists [legal theorists] in the post-classical era regarding the relation between universals and ʿāmm expressions. The article argued that al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) as the first scholar to argue ʿāmm expressions to denote universals and to attribute them to the language being assigned (*wad***ʿ) to mental images (al-ṣūra al-dhiniyya). al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210) and the later period usulists argued ʿāmm expressions to not denote universal but to instead only have universal meanings among their individuals. al-Qarāfī (d. 684/1285), al-Iṣfahānī (d. 688/1289), and al-Subkī (d. 771/1370) continued the same idea and considered ʿāmm expressions as universal propositions under the influence of Avicenna (d. 428/1037), whereas al-Taftāzānī (d. 792/1390) had considered them to be both whole (kull) and universal through the concept of signification (ṣulūh). The usulists are shown to have written commentaries and glosses on Jam‘ al-jawāmi‘, synthesized the teachings of both different understandings, and argued ʿāmm expressions to have three different denotations: whole, universal, and universal proposition.


Islamic legal theory logic ʿāmm expressions universals al-Ghazālī al-Rāzī al-Qarāfī al-Subkī Jam‘ al-jawāmi‘