18 Jumada II, 1445 AH / 31 Dec 2023 CE
Article is pending review (Expect some changes)
Kināyah is an expression where the meaning is not [directly] apparent [to the listener]. The ruling is that it will not be acted upon without knowing the intent or that which is equivalent to it. The default in speech is that it be ṣarīh (apparent). In kināyah, there is a discrepancy due to there being a doubt in the meaning.1
- Kinayah: An expression the meaning of which is not obvious to the listener without knowing the context or being informed of the speaker’s intent.
- Sarīḥ: An expression the meaning of which is obvious to the listener without the need to review the context or being informed of the speaker’s intent. This is the default state.
- Majāz: An expression which is used in other than its literal meaning. The meaning may not be so obvious due to it being uncommonly used and as such has multiple possible meanings. Alternatively, the meaning may be obvious due to it being used in everyday language (mutaʿraf).
- Haqīqat: An expression which is used in its literal meaning. The meaning may not be obvious such as its literal meaning falling out of common usage (mahjūrah). Alternatively, the meaning may be obvious as it still used in common speech (mustaʿmilah). This is the default state.
Key principles and maxims
- An expression can have only one intended meaning at a given instance (Ahnaf).
- If one meaning cannot be determined, no actions can be taken.
- If the meaning is not obvious, certainty is lost and there will be some doubt in the discovered meaning.
- Doubt leads to caution in forming rulings.
- Doubt leads to divorce being classed as bāʾin as a matter of caution.
- Doubt leads to ḥadd (mandatory punishment) being dropped as a matter of caution.
Definition and types
وَالْكِنَايَة هِيَ مَا استتر مَعْنَاهُ. وَالْمجَاز قبل أَن يصير متعارفا بِمَنْزِلَة الْكِنَايَة.
Kinayah is [an expression] the meaning of which is obscured [to the listener]. Majāz, before it becomes common parlance (mutaʿaraf), is equivalent to kināyah [in ruling].
The definition of kināyah has been highlighted above.
Majaz (qv.) and kinayah are similar but not the same. The difference is that in majāz the focus is on how the information is conveyed by the speaker. In kināyah, the focus is on how the information is received by the listener. If the listener understands it directly, it is ṣarīh or else it is kinayah.
Majāz can be ṣarīḥ (obvious) when it is conveyed in a way that everybody understands the meaning without further thought or inquiry. For example, “Sit in iddat” when said to the wife is an apparent metaphor for divorce as iddat (waiting period) is only recognised after death or divorce.
Alternatively, majāz can be kināyah (obscure) when it is used in a way where the listener needs additional input or context. For example, “The lion roared” as a metaphor for a brave soldier is not common and not immediately apparent. It requires additional input or context such as “The lion roared as he drove the tank through the battlefield.”
A similar grouping is found in Ḥaqīqat (q.v) also. Ḥaqīqat is ṣarīḥ when it is used in its literal meaning, it is still in use (mustaʿmilah) and the meaning is obvious. For example, “You are divorced” unequivocally will be understood as divorce. Alternatively, Ḥaqīqat may be kināyah when it is used in its literal meaning, but its literal use is abandoned (mahjūrah) or impractical to apply (mutʿazzirah). For example, “There is a bug in my computer” will be kināyah if by bug they mean there is an insect in their computer.
Hence, some (cf. Manar) have argued that kinayah is a subtype of Majāẓ and Ḥaqīqat independently. Others have argued that it is an independent utility. The distinction in classification and the underlying mechanism is not so significant at this point. The crucial point is that if the meaning is not obvious to the listener without knowing the context or further input, the ruling of kināyah or similar to it will apply.
Consequently, the rules same as kināyah will apply to mushtarak (a word with two or more literal meanings) when the intended meaning is not apparent. For example: ‘Get me a pound of sweet’ will be treated like kināyah as it is unclear whether the pound is a weight or currency.
Likewise, the rules same as kināyah applies to khafi, mushkil, mujmal, and matashabih. The details of these are discussed in their respective sections.
وَحكم الْكِنَايَة ثُبُوت الحكم بهَا عِنْد وجود النِّيَّة أَو بِدلَالَة الْحَال إِذْ لَا بُد لَهُ من دَلِيل يَزُول بِهِ التَّرَدُّد ويترجح بِهِ بعض الْوُجُوه.
The rule for kināyah is that the ruling from [kinayah] is confirmed when intention is found, or it is indicated by the context. The reason is that it is necessary for [establishing the ruling] that there be evidence that removes indecision and gives preference from some of the possibilities.
The author has outlined two methods (qarāʿin) for determining the meaning of
- The first is lafẓiyyah as in the speaker mentions their own intent as to what they meant. For example, saying “Get out!” when the wife has demanded divorce. The statement could be interpreted as a rejection of the demand or acceptance. Divorce will occur if the husband states that he intended to divorce.
- The second is maʿnawiyyah as in the context suggests a meaning. For example, saying “You are free” when the wife has demanded a divorce. In the context of discussing divorce, there is only one reasonable meaning, so the meaning of divorce is taken.
The rationale for the ruling is that so long as there is ambiguity or indecision in a statement it cannot be acted upon because it is not known as to which aspect to act upon. One meaning must be determined to act. If that is not possible, action upon the statement will remain pending. For example, in saying “Get out!” when the wife demanded a divorce, the husband cannot claim that he intended to both reject her demand and grant it in the same utterance. Hence, if he had no intention at the time of utterance, we would have to forego the implementation of his statement.
وَلِهَذَا الْمَعْنى سُمِّيَ لفظُ الْبَيْنُونَة وَالتَّحْرِيم كِنَايَة فِي بَابِ الطَّلَاق لِمَعْنى التَّرَدُّد واستتار المُرَاد لَا أَنه يَعْمَلُ عَمْلَ الطَّلَاقِ
Hence, the words baynūnah (vis ‘You are separate’) and taḥrīm (vis ‘You are prohibited’) are considered kinayah (obscure) in the context of divorce. This is because there is doubt and obscurity in their meaning. It is not because of the effect of divorce [from the words itself].
The author gives two similar examples and follows up with an answer to a possible query.
The first example: The husband says “أنت بائن” (trans: You are separate) to his wife. The intent is not obvious. It could mean ‘You are separated (divorced) from me’ but it could also mean ‘You are separate in your anger compared to others’ or ‘You are separate in beauty compared to others’ and there are other possible interpretations. The expression is a kinayah as no meaning is obvious without context or the intent being stated.
The second example: The husband says “أنت حرام” (trans: You are prohibited) to his wife. Like in the first example, here also the intent is not obvious. It could mean ‘You are prohibited (divorced) upon me’ but it could also mean ‘You are prohibited upon everyone other than me’ or other such possible interpretation. The expression is a kinayah as no meaning is obvious without context or the intent being stated.
Advanced topic: A query is raised2 that ‘أنت بائن’ and ‘أنت حرام’ are commonly used phrases for divorce. As such the meaning is obvious so why is it considered kināyah? There is no contest that these words are used for divorce, but the doubt arose because we are unsure whether it was applied for divorce in this instance. The doubt has led to the ruling of kināyah being applied. Contrast this with statements such as ‘اعتدي’ (trans: Sit iddat). It is a known metaphor for divorce and when it is stated for divorce there is no doubt that it is applied to divorce. Hence, it is considered ṣarīḥ and the ruling is applied accordingly. In short, the determination of kināyah is not based on literary usage (لغة) rather it is based on ascertaining meaning (معنى).
In this section, the author highlights the ramifications of the ruling of kināyah. The key principle is that as doubt stems from kināyah, the resulting ruling will err on the side of caution. Four examples are given which is as follows:
وَيتَفَرَّع مِنْهُ حكم الْكِنَايَات فِي حق عدم ولَايَة الرّجْعَة
(1) [In terms of divorce occurring from kināyah] the ruling that stems from kināyah [due to doubt and caution] is the loss of the right to rajʿā (returning the wife to his marriage without renewing marriage vows).
In the case of divorce with kināyah, a talaq baʿin occurs meaning for the wife to return to his marriage they must redo the marriage. This contrasts with a talaq rajʿi wherein a couple can reconcile after a divorce during the iddat by a simple declaration (رجعة) without needing to repeat their marriage vows. The talaq baʿin ruling (due to kināyah) which requires remarriage is the more cautious position as there remains no doubt that they are in fact married.
ولوجود معنى التَّرَدُّد فِي الْكِنَايَة لَا يُقَام بهَا الْعُقُوبَات حَتَّى لَو أقرّ على نَفسه فِي بَاب الزِّنَا وَالسَّرِقَة لَا يُقَام عَلَيْهِ الْحَد مَا لم يذكر اللَّفْظ الصَّرِيح
(2) Due to there being doubt in kināyah, ḥudūd (mandatory punishments) will not be applied due to it. So much so if one confesses3 to zinā (adultery) or theft, no ḥadd (punishment) so long as they did not mention it with ṣarīh (unambiguous) wordings.
Ḥadd is statutory punishment for proscribed crimes. The punishment may result in death, loss of limb, or severe bodily harm. The damage is mostly non-reversible. As such, the punishment is dropped due to the slightest doubt. Hence, kināyah statement due to its inherent doubt will be discarded as evidence when considering ḥadd.
ولهذا المعنى لَا يُقَام الْحَد على الْأَخْرَس بِالْإِشَارَةِ.
(3) Due to this reason, ḥadd will not be applied to a mute [if they confess to adultery or theft] through signing.
Communicating with signs is susceptible to being misinterpreted especially if a non-formal system is being used or someone is not adept with the system. As there is doubt, ḥadd is dropped if a mute person confesses by indicating.
وَلَو قذف رجلا بِالزِّنَا فَقَالَ الآخر صدقت لَا يجب الْحَد لاحْتِمَال التَّصْدِيق لَهُ فِي غَيره.
(4) If a man was accused of committing zina (adultery), then another said, ‘He spoke the truth’. Ḥadd will not be given [on the other man] because of the possibility that he was confirming another matter related to him.
If a man says “He spoke the truth” about a person who accused someone of adultery. The statement “He spoke the truth” does not necessarily confirm the accusation. It could be that he is attesting to another matter on which the accuser said the truth. As there is doubt, we will assume he did not accuse also. Hence, no ḥadd will be applied to him.
[It is stated in Usūl al-Shāshi:]
Definition: Kinayah is [an expression] the meaning of which is obscured [to the listener]. Majāz, before it becomes common parlance (mutaʿaraf), is equivalent to kināyah [in ruling].
Ruling: The rule for kināyah is that the ruling from [kinayah] is confirmed when intention is found, or it is indicated by the context. The reason being it is necessary for [establishing the ruling] that there be evidence that removes indecision and gives preference from some of the possibilities.
Example: Hence, the words baynūnah (vis ‘You are separate’) and taḥrīm (vis ‘You are prohibited’) are considered kinayah (obscure) in the context of divorce. This is because there is doubt and obscurity in their meaning. It is not because of the effect of divorce [from the words itself].
Ramification 1: [In terms of divorce occurring from kināyah] the ruling that stems from kināyah [due to doubt and caution] is the loss of the right to rajʿā (returning the wife to his marriage without renewing marriage vows).
Ramification 2: Due to there being doubt in kināyah, ḥudūd (mandatory punishments) will not be applied due to it. So much so if one confesses to zinā (adultery) or theft, no ḥadd (punishment) so long as they did not mention it with ṣarīh (unambiguous) wordings.
Ramification 3: Due to this reason (doubt and caution), ḥadd will not be applied to a mute [if they confess to adultery or theft] through signing.
Ramification 4: If a man was accused of committing zina (adultery), then another said, ‘He spoke the truth’. Ḥadd will not be given [on the other man] because of the possibility that he was confirming another matter related to him.
Subject: Usul, Usul al-Shashi
Author: M. Saifur Rahman Nawhami