The Contribution of Early Muslim Scholars to Semiotics: Selected Highlights and Implications

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Elma Berisha

Abstract

In a previous article I have argued that the contribution of early Muslim scholars to Semiotics needs to be unearthed and highlighted. Semiotics is broadly defined as the study of signs or sign-use behaviour leading to communication and understanding between humans in society. Semiotics emerged in the early twentieth century as distinct from mainstream philosophy or philosophy of language. As an institutionalised academic discipline, semiotics has acknowledged the implicit contributions of earlier scholars from antiquity, the middle ages and early modernity. However, to date the contribution of Muslim scholars is conspicuously absent. Hence, in this article I intend to recapitulate perspectives from selected Muslim scholars in order to obtain a more balanced notion of sign-function and its potential implications. This is where the unique contributions of al-Ghazali (1058-1111) and Ibn Barrajan (n.d.-1141) come in, whose perspectives are reflected in key
modern approaches to sign models and their interpretational tendencies. The article suggests that there is a need to explore the legacy of Muslim scholars in the field of semiotics in a much more systematic and comprehensive way, given
that sign-based thinking (or the ayah doctrine) is a major theme in the Qur’an.

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