On the Subject of yashāʼ in Some Qurʼānic Verses

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Abstract

This paper investigates a number of Qurʼānic verses that feature the verb yashāʼ, meaning 'to will' or 'to wish', preceded by the relative pronoun man 'مَنْ', in relation to the concepts of guidance and misguidance. The available interpretations of these verses maintain that Allāh guides whom He wishes and misguides whom He wishes. In other words, these standard interpretations assign Allāh the status of the subject of yashāʼ, and assign the relative pronoun man the status of an object. I claim that these interpretations are not accurate with regard to the subject of yashāʼ. I argue that the relative pronoun man should be analyzed as the subject of yashāʼ, not as an object. Using evidence from the Holy Qurʼān and Sunnah, I show that the subject of yashāʼ may not be Allah Almighty, but rather the human being himself/herself. To show how the new interpretation is derived, I provide a syntactic analysis of the sentence that contains the free relative clause man yashāʼ, according to which man 'مَنْ' moves from a subject position, which means that it should be construed as a subject. The observed structural ambiguity thus results from an interpretation where man moves from an object position. The proposed linguistic analysis supports the view that the human being chooses the path, good or evil, that he/she wants to pursue; that is, Allah does not lead the human being along a predetermined path, which is the position adopted by Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamāʻah. Thus, this paper provides evidence against the Jabriyya doctrine, according to which human beings are compelled to follow a specific path.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-616
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Islamic Research
Volume33
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 19 2022

Keywords

  • yashāʼ, man (who/whom), subject, object, movement, Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamāʻah, Jabriyya, Qadariyya

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