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Lafz and Ma ‘Na in the Balance (1): Al-Jahiz’s (D.255/868) Inquiry into Verbal Art


Al-Jāĥiz is considered an outstanding literary critic by most of his biographers. He was the first to unambiguously judge the issue of lafz versus ma‘na in favor of the former. His predecessors consistently avoided preferring one over the other, al-Jāĥiz has been regarded as the head or upholder of the ‘lafz school’ of Arabic literary criticism. His school came to be known as Ansar al-lafz (the upholders of verbal form). His views are usually regarded as being in favor of rhetorical style, figurative language and the tools that accompany this style, including eloquent phrases that rely on creative images, and figures of speech. According to al-Jahiz, all of these elements must be inspired by the masterpieces of ancient Arab diction.

 This article is going to explain and elucidate more on the issue of lafz and ma‘na according to the view of al-Jahiz school of thought in literary theory.


Lafz, Ma‘na, Balance, al-Jahiz, Inquiry, Verbal Art

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