Words and Meanings: A Dangerous Trap we are in (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)

Look to the words!
Words carelessly used can cause a dangerous impact. In his book “Words and Meanings” Huxley points out that the word “enemy” does not have the same sensitivity in its implication as, if we were to use the words men, women and children instead. A slight change in the shade of meaning can change the whole perspective of life, a whole world-view. That is why semantics or science of words has gained tremendous significance in the modern world. But the developing countries with their static and stoic societies have not paid any attention to this area of research.

The meanings of words also change through the evolutionary processes and the dynamics of experience any nation passes through. The negative forces that work through the ages in all the societies also have their impact. Its result is that the words are retained, but their meanings and their relatedness to life are changed. This is a very dangerous and imperceptible delicate trap. And is acted upon as a deliberate and concerted measure by the religiouscraft, or the so-called religious protagonists; its sole purpose is to make these words suit the existing status quo and to serve the vested clandestine interests. Then the great revolutionary movements are stalled and people start regressing. The following examples will make this point clear:

“ibadat” (obedience to, subservience to) was translated and understood as “worship”. This word was retained. And hence “ibadat” (obedience to, subservience to) of either Pharaohs’ Laws or of Allah’s Laws was translated and understood as “worship” in various societies under their own socio-cultural fabric. Similarly the word “Service” (to humanity) was narrowed down to “service” in the church and was then used with reference to the church unconsciously.

Such examples can be endless in all languages and among all people of different regions. After this all what the rulers (kings or religiouscraft, the maulvis or politicians of the day) have to do is simply to pick up the words and phrases out of context from the words of *Ambiya* or of great thinkers and scholars and then to beat them hollow by repetitive slogan mongering. In this way the great human concepts are lost to the altar of humanity and that of the prosperity.

Therefore, pre-requisite to progress is to lay emphasis on the discipline of semantics, the science of words. Semantics helps in clarifying thoughts and dispelling ambiguity; definition of words is what philosophy is all about. Defining a word is half the problem solved. After all what is Socratic claim to immortality? Nothing but the defining of words?

With reference to what has been tried to communicate above is that what we do is we retain the right to define or even invent new words when we express our own ideas and concepts in our own times and our own experiences. And then we forget that the books of by gone days must be like-wise understood in the very tone and tenor of the words and meanings of the times in which they were written. And there is no exception whether they are of Greek philosophers, or of Shakespeare and other Elizabethan writers, or of the Bible, or of the Quran. Actually, this is a subject by itself and should be studied as such. Semantics, the science of words, goes a long way in revealing and illuminating as to what happened in history and as to why we are still stuck in the quagmire of confusion in our thought processes.

The subject of culture and civilization is another example and is particularly relevant and deeply linked to the concept of a State based on ideological bearings because that State claims its justification as an attempt to preserve its “culture”.

Did you follow the delicate trap we are in for developing the insight of Islam?
Dr. Manzoor-ul-HaquePAKISTAN

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