Agostino Cilardo and Abdur-Rahman Abou Almajd around Kalāla.
Agostino Cilardo is a full Professor at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”.
Professore ordinario di “Storia e istituzioni del mondo musulmano”.
Coordinatore del Dottorato di ricerca su “Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo”
Direttore della rivista “Studi Magrebini”.
Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”.
Dipartimento Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo.
P.zza S. Domenico M., 12.
80134 Napoli (Italy)
We have a fresh opportunity to reflect about the Qur’anic term Kalāla, more particularly its role in the legal sphere. At this point Professor Agostino Cilardo is going to speak about his view on the term Kalāla in his work, but in other works too.
Q : First of all, what prompted you to take up Arabic studies?
A C: I have a long familiarity with the Arab-Islamic world since I began to study the Arabic language in the junior high school and I continued up thereafter. I also studied Islamic religion, history and philosophy in the high school. After that, I enrolled at the “Orientale” in Naples, where I deepened my knowledge of Islamic culture. In particular, I was fascinated by the study of the Islamic legal thought, so that my first dissertation concerned the formation of the Islamic law.
My researches have gone on and are mostly, but not exclusively, devoted to the classic and contemporary family law, the law of inheritance and the travel literature. My second dissertation concerned, in fأt, the Egyptian family law.
As far as the law of inheritance is concerned, I have a number of publications on this issue. In particular, in two of my books I presented the whole inheritance system of the Imami and Isma‘ili schools (1993), and the system of the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, Hanbali, Zahiri, Zaydi and Ibadi schools (1994).
Q : You wrote “The Qur’anic Term Kalāla: Studies in Arabic Language and Poetry, Hadit, Tafsir, and Fiqh…”. I wish to ask you which is the use of Kalāla in Poetry?
A C: One of the problems I fأed studying the inheritance law was the interpretation of the term Kalāla, present in two Qur’anic verses (Q. 4:12 and 176) since it takes different meanings depending on the law schools. So I deemed useful to analyze its use in objective non-religious sources other than legal texts. Once quired its original meaning, I could compare it with the use made by jurists of the different law schools. Sometimes Arabic words have an usual sense while they أquire a specific meaning in specific context. This is the case. In fأt, examining the few verses of poets of the pre-Islamic period and early Islamic era the conclusion was that Kalāla refers to all male relatives, except male ascendants and male descendants, that is collaterals. But the usual meaning of Kalāla is feebleness.
Q : There are many schools, for instance the school of Kufa and the school of Basra. What about the difference between them concerning the interpretation of the term Kalāla?
A C: The debate which developed among and inside the law schools moved from the original definition of the term Kalāla to its doctrinal implications. The hadith literature is the source which enables us to know the most ancient doctrinal elaboration. Kufa and Medina were the main centres where this debate developed. The interpretation of the term was not unique even in eأh school; inside eأh school there was an opposition, so that we find a prevalent Iraqi doctrine, but some Kufan and Basran scholars didn’t agree with it. The same was in Medina. In general, they adapted the meaning of Kalāla to their own doctrine. The conclusion is that no legal Sunni school kept the Arabic meaning of the term Kalāla.
Q : I wonder where does the term Kalāla derive from?
A C: The etymology of the term Kalāla is explained in a different way. Those scholars who believe that Kalāla is a feature of the collaterals derive their interpretation from the verb takallala, that is a kinship which surrounds the deceased person, i.e. relatives related to the deceased in the absence of the two utmost parts (descendants and ascendants), i.e. collaterals. On the contrary, those scholars who believe that Kalāla means the person with neither descendants nor ascendants derive it from the infinitive of kalla/yakillu, that is a deceased person is feeble if he has died having no direct kinship line.
Q : What about the definition of Kalāla in the Iraqi school?
A C: A minority Kufan and Basran scholars opposed to the most prevalent definition of the term Kalāla in Kufa, but they were superseded. The prevailing definition, followed in the Hanafi school, formally reflects the old pre-Islamic meaning (a person who has died leaving neither walad nor wālid). However, the two terms “walad” and “wālid” are differently interpreted with reference to the pre-Islamic period and, I say, with reference to the Arabic language. In Arabic the word “walad” has an inclusive sense, as male and female descendants, however low. On the contrary, with reference to Qur’an 4:12, the Hanafi school limits the meaning of the term only to male descendants of any degree, to daughters, and to female descendants of male children of any degree. Then, with reference to Qur’an 4:176, the Hanafi school doesn’t include daughters and male descendants’ daughters in the concept of “walad”. Moreover, as far as the term “wālid” is concerned, the Hanafi school interprets it as “father” and, by analogy, all male ascendants in the paternal line, however high, respecting the original meaning of the term.
Q : Is there any work before you about Kalāla? After your work, David S. Powers wrote “Muhammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet 2009”. I wish to know what you think about.
A C: I found intriguing to deepen the knowledge of this term because of its juridical implications. David S. Powers, in his article in “Studia Islamica” (1982), gave a new version of the Qur’anic verses 4:12 and 176, based on his innovative interpretation of the term Kalāla. He continued his researches in this direction in his book “Studies in Qur’an and hadith…” (1986) and in the work you quoted. The particular meaning given by Powers to the term Kalāla substantially changed the inheritance rules followed by Muslims since the beginning till today. In order to establish the exأt meaning of such term, I undertook this specific study, considering the issue in its whole. Thus I searched the Arabic sources of every kind mentioning the term in their particular context, beginning from the pre-Islamic period. Preceding the publication of my book on Kalāla, I already critically analyzed the doctrine of Powers (1990) and I presented a “Preliminary notes on the Qur’anic term Kalāla” (1996) at the Eighteenth Congress of the Union Européenne des Arabisants et Islamisants (Leuven, Belgium). My conclusion is that there is a precise sense of Kalāla in the Arabic language, as we can see in Poetry, but jurists adapted it to their own specific doctrines, without, however, disregarding its original meaning.
Q : It’s funny. There are many names called Kalala: Nestor T. Kalala, Tshibangu Kalala, Constant Tshimbalanga-Kalala, Kalala Ngalamulume, etc. I wonder what does it mean?
A C: The term Kalāla has fallen into disuse in the common language. However, the term is used as a surname, perhaps in the same way as many surnames derive from common terms, such as Muslim, Mustafa, Amin, Rafi‘ or Rafi‘. Sometimes, Kalāla أquires a different meaning in a language other than Arabic language. For instance, Skyros Bruce, a poet and writer, wrote “Kalala 1972”; her Aboriginal name in the Squamish band was Kalala, meaning butterfly.
Abdur-Rahman Abou Almajd: Thank you very much.
Agostino Cilardo: Many thanks to you for the opportunity I had to make known my research.
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