He attained the concepts of the language of the Quran by understanding the relations between the network of words.
Quranic Studies in the Far East
Islamic scholars often see the Far East (China, Japan, and neighboring regions) as a region void of Islamic studies and thinking. Most of the Islamic studies in this region are promotional other than fundamental because of their distance from the center of Islam. This is why works produced in this region are not properly monitored and welcomed by researchers in the Islamic world.
Izutsu; An Exception
However, the case of Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1993) who was a Japanese linguist and Quran researcher is different. After translating the Quran from Arabic to Japanese, he acquired a special understanding of Quranic concepts. In two of his works named “God and Man in the Koran” and “Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Quran”, he has used semantics as an innovative path in the methodical understanding of the Quran. This approach studies each key concept of the Quran in relation to other concepts.
Instead of focusing on the culture of the age of revelation and instead of inspecting the etymology like orientalists, Izutsu was thinking about the Quran being the source of the development of meaning and evolution of concepts. He believed that every language, including the language of the Quran, has a special worldview in its meaning network that makes its understanding needless of other matters. He would reach the network of meaning and concepts of the Quran by understanding the semantic connection between words.
His work was a kind of engineering of the semantic structure of Quranic words. This method is similar to the method used by Allameh Tabatabai dubbed “interpretation of Quran by Quran” in which he tried to understand verses by studying their links with other verses. The scholar’s argument was based on part of verse 88 of Surah An-Nahl which reads “We have sent you the Book which clarifies all matters”. He noted that it is impossible for the Quran which “clarifies all matters” to not be able to express its own meaning and purpose.
Izutsu put the Quran prior to any other science outside this holy book and developed a family of Quranic words before extracting Quranic concepts from them.
Written by: Seyyed Mojtaba Mojahedian