Teaching Literature: Reading and Analyzing One Quranic Surah

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Teaching Literature: Reading and Analyzing One Quranic Surah

Postby dralmenoar2006 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:45 am

CoAuthor:
Dr Soha Raafat
Assosciate Professor
English Department
British University in Egypt

This paper was coauthored by Dr Soha Raafat. Dr Soha is specialized in the field of Literature and she has kindly given her professional advice in the preparation of the contents of this paper.

ABSTRACT

A stylistic analysis is one approach of analysing a literary text using literary descriptions. The use of literary texts in the literature classroom has been limited to mostly Western sources. This paper is an attempt to create an awareness of the linguistic features present in the English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. One Medinan surah (chapter of the Quran) was selected from The Holy Quran-the English translated version of the Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali for a stylistic analysis. The Medinan surah is the sixty-first surah, As-Saff. This surah proves to contain a rich variety of linguistic features which indicate that it can be an alternative source besides Western sources to be used as literary texts in the literature and language classroom.

INTRODUCTION

Surah As-Saff is a Medinan surah. Its theme is on the need for unity between professed belief and actual behaviour. The time of revelation of this surah is about the third or fourth year after the Prophet’s migration. The need for discipline, practical work and self-sacrifice in Allah's cause is the theme of this surah. In other words, unshaken belief, faith and discipline are needed if we are to receive the help of Allah.
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
1 Whatever is
In the heavens and
On earth, declares
The Praises and Glory
Of Allah : for He is
The Exalted in Might,
The Wise.
2. O ye who believe !
Why say ye that
Which ye do not ?
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.
4. Truly Allah loves those
Who fight in His Cause
In battle array, as if
They were a solid
Cemented structure.
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people: “O my people!
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you?”
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said:
“O children of Israel!
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad.”
But when he came to them
With clear signs,
They said, “This is
Evident sorcery!”
7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah
Even as he is being invited
To Islam ? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.
8. Their intention is
To extinguish Allah’s Light
(By blowing) with their mouths :
But Allah will complete
His light,
Even though the Unbelievers
May detest (it).
9. It is He who has sent
His Messenger with Guidance
And the Religion of Truth.
That He make it prevail
Over all religion,
Even though the Pagans
May detest (it)
SECTION 2
10. O ye who believe !
Shall I lead you
To a bargain that will
Save you from
A grievous chastisement?
11. That ye believe in Allah
And His Messenger, and that
Ye stive (your utmost)
In the Cause of Allah,
With your wealth
And your persons :
That will be best for you,
If ye but knew!
12. He will forgive you
Your sins, and admit you
To Gardens beneath which
Rivers flow, and to beautiful
Mansions in Gardens
Of Eternity : that is indeed
The supreme Triumph.
13. And another (favour
Will He bestow), which ye
And a speedy victory.
Do love, - help from Allah
So give the Glad tidings
To the Believers.
14. O ye who believe !
Be ye helpers of Allah :
As said Jesus the son of Mary
To the Disciples, “Who will be
My helpers to (the work
of) Allah ?” Said the Disciples,
“We are Allah’s helpers!”
Then a portion of the children
Of Israel believed, and
A portion disbelieved :
But We gave power
To those who believed
Against their enemies,
And they became
The ones that prevailed
(Abdullah,1983:1736)


THE STYLISTIC ANALYSIS OF THE SIXTY-FIRST SURAH, AS-SAFF BY ABDULLAH YUSUF ALI

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
1. Whatever is
In the heavens and
On earth, declares
The Praises and Glory
Of Allah: for He is
The Exalted in Might
The Wise.


Analysis: Verse one contains praises towards Allah which illustrates the theme further of the need for unshaken belief. The prepositions used are “in” and “on” in lines two and three. The use of “in” for “in the heavens” signifies the position on a surface with an enclosure. One often reads as the heavens having gates for the God-conscious who will enter. The use of “on” for “on earth” however signifies the position on a surface with no enclosure. One hardly hears of “the gates of earth”. The conjunctions used are “and” and “for” to provide cohesion. “The” definite article is used four times - “the heavens”, “The Praises and Glory of Allah”, “The Exalted in Might”, and “The Wise” to underscore The One and Only who is worshipped. “He” in line five is referring to Allah.
2. O ye who believe !
Why say ye that
Which ye do not?


Analysis: “Ye” is used in verse two to refer to the believers which makes it Classical English. There are two Wh - words used to form one question - “Why” and “which” - “Why say ye that which ye do not?” This question seems to carry a dissapointed tone. When there is disobedience towards Allah, there is therefore a breach of discipline. In other words, people had talked much but had failed to back up their words with the firmness of action towards the cause of Allah.
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.


Analysis: Verse three explains that if men’s words do not measure up to their conduct, it is hateful in the sight of Allah. “Ye” is used to refer to the believers which puts forth the Classical effect. There is deviation via inversion in line one -“Grievously hateful is it in the sight of Allah”. It normally appears as “It is grievously hateful in the sight of Allah”. This verse carries the tone of a sad reminder. In all instances, when men's deeds do not measure up to their words, their conduct is hateful in the sight of Allah and these men are headed for disaster and destruction.
4. Truly Allah loves those
Who fight in His Cause
In battle array, as if
They were a solid
Cemented structure.


Analysis: In verse four, the title of this surah is touched upon - Battle array- in line three. What is meant by a battle array is an arrangement of soldiers in warfare in which a large number of men or soldiers stand, march or hold together against assault as if they were a solid wall. This is a show of order, discipline, cohesion and courage. The words “battle array” are followed by a metaphor “as if they were a solid cemented structure”. “Solid cemented structure” gives one a picture of something strong and hard and in one piece - united. “They” is used to refer to the fighters of Allah. The words “those” in line one and “Cause” in line two rhyme. Verses one to four are in the present tense which is timeless and universal.
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people : “O my people !
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you?”
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.


Analysis: Verse five recalls when Prophet Moses speaks to his people who were the children of Israel. Prophet Moses asked, “O my people! Why do ye vex and insult me, though ye know that I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you?” Prophet Moses used “ye” to refer to his people throughout his speech except for the last word in his speech - he used “you”. It seems like Prophet Moses had separated himself from his people when he used “you” after mentioning that he was the messenger of Allah. The people of Prophet Moses often rebelled against him not through ignorance but from a selfish, perverse and rebellious spirit for which they received punishment. Thus, believers should let this serve as a reminder and should avoid any deviation from the teachings of Allah. In line seven, the conjunction “then” is used. In lines seven and eight, there is repetition and parallelism - “Then when they went wrong, Allah let their hearts go wrong”. Lines seven and eight explain that the sinner’s own will deviates from the right path and does wrong. Allah then withdraws from protecting the sinners. When Allah withdraws His Grace from protecting the sinners their hearts are tainted and there will be disease in their hearts and their spiritual state is ruined. Allah's guidance is withdrawn from the sinners. Line nine has deviation via inversion - “For Allah guides not those”. It usually appears as for Allah does not guide those”. The conjunction, “For” is used in line nine. There is rhyme in “those” in line nine and “transgressors” in line ten. Verse five is in the past tense until line eight when it changes from the past to the present tense when Allah’s law is mentioned which is timeless and universal – “Allah let their hearts go wrong. For Allah guides not those who are rebellions transgressors.”
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said :
“O children of Israel !
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad.”
But when he came to them
With clear signs,
They said, “This is
Evident sorcery !”


Analysis: Verse six recalls about Prophet Jesus who addresses his people who were the children of Israel. This verse contains the speeches of Prophet Jesus and his people. Prophet Jesus uses “you” to refer to his people. Prophet Jesus tells his people of the coming of “Ahmad” who is Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Jesus was accused of lying. His people called the message that Prophet Jesus had brought as “Evident sorcery” which the last line of this verse states. The last two lines used “They” to refer to the children of Israel who did not believe Prophet Jesus. “This”, in the second last line is an exophoric pronoun referring to the message of Allah that Prophet Jesus brought. Verse six is in the past tense. Prophet Muhammad was foretold in many ways. He came and showed forth many Clear Signs:
i)His whole life from beginning to end was one vast miracle.
ii)He fought and won against odds.
iii)Without learning from men, he taught the highest wisdom.
iv)He melted hearts that were hard.
v)He strengthened hearts that were tender and needed support.
Yet, the disbelievers called it all "evident sorcery!"
7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah,
Even as he is being invited
To Islam? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.


Analysis: Verse seven starts off with a question using “Who”. The disbelievers is described as “one who forges falsehood against Allah”. The conjunction “and” follows right after the question. There is deviation via inversion in lines five to seven - “and Allah guides not those who do wrong.” It usually appears as “And Allah does not guide those who do wrong”. There is repetition and parallelism in lines five to seven of verse seven and lines nine and ten of verse five. Lines five to seven of verse seven states, “And Allah guides not those who do wrong” and lines nine and ten of verse five states, “ For Allah guides not those who are rebellious transgressors.” Conjunction “and” and “for” are used to provide cohesion. The words “Allah guides not those” are repeated. “who do wrong” and “who are rebellious transgressors” are viewed to be equivalent in meaning. Verse seven is in the present tense which is timeless and universal. Allah sends His guidance freely, but withdraws His grace from those who wilfully do wrong.
8. Their intention is
To extinguish Allah’s light
(By blowing) with their mouths :
But Allah will complete
His Light,
Even though the unbelievers
May detest (it).


Analysis: This verse tells one of the disbelievers’ intention of trying to “extinguish Allah’s Light”. Lines two and three contain a metaphor. The word “extinguish” usually describes the putting out of a great fire. Thus, in this verse, the word “extinguish” describes the intensity and greatness of Allah’s Light. And Allah’s Light cannot be extinguished merely “by blowing with their mouths”. “Mouths” is used to imply untruths or falsehoods that comes out from the mouth. “By blowing with their mouths” depicts the ability of putting out little flames of candles. Thus, it is making a comparison of the inability of “blowing” out Allah's intense Light. Line four begins with the conjunction “But” followed by another metaphor “Allah will complete His Light” which carries the meaning that Allah’s Light shines clearer and keeps on shining “even though the Unbelievers may detest it”. Line six begins with the conjunction “even though”. Rhyme occurs with the words - “Light” in line two, “complete” in line four, “Light” in line five and “it” in line seven. Verse eight is in the present tense which is timeless and universal. God's light is unquenchable and the more the disbelievers try to quench God's Light, the clearer it shines to shame them.
9. It is He who has sent
His Messenger with Guidance
And the Religion of Truth
That He make it prevail
Over all religion,
Even though the Pagans
May detest (it).


Analysis: “He” in lines one and four refer to Allah. “The Religion of Truth” refers to Islam. Rhyme occurs in these words - “Guidance” in line two and “Pagans” in line six. “It” in line four is an exophoric pronoun referring to the Religion of Truth and “it” in line seven is an exophoric pronoun also referring to the Religion of Truth. Line six begins with the conjunction “even though”. There is repetition and parallelism in lines six and seven in verse nine and lines six and seven in verse eight. Lines six and seven in verse eight state, “Even though the unbelievers may detest it” and lines six and seven in verse nine state, “Even though the Pagans may detest it”. The only word that is not repeated is in line six of verses eight and nine - “unbelievers” and “Pagans” which are viewed as equivalent in meaning. Verse nine is in the present tense which is timeless and universal. There is only one true religion, the religion preached by all the Prophets (by whatever name it may be called). People corrupt that pure light and call their religions by different names. But Truth (Islam) must prevail over all religions.
SECTION 2

10. O ye who believe!
Shall I lead you
To a bargain that will
Save you from
A grievous Chastisement?


Analysis: Verse ten marks the beginning of Section 2 of this surah. Line one addresses the believers the same way as line one in verse two. Verse ten asks the believers if they want to know of a wonderful bargain that asks for so little and gives so much more in return. The word “grievous” in line five is used again in line one of verse three but in a different form. Lines one and two in verse three state, “Grievously hateful is it in the sight of Allah.” Verse ten leads one to verse eleven which tells one exactly what the “bargain” is.
11. That ye believe in Allah
And His Messenger, and that
Ye strive (your utmost)
In the Cause of Allah,
With your wealth
And your persons :
That will be best for you,
If ye but knew !


Analysis: Verse eleven tells one:
i)To believe in Allah and His Messenger and
ii)To strive hard in Allah’s Cause with everything one owns.
“Ye” is used throughout to refer to the believers except in line seven where “you” is used to refer to the believers. After the mention of “your persons” which means those whom you are responsible for, “ye” becomes “you”. It seems to make a distinction between the leader and his followers. He uses “ye” again in the very next line to include all again- the leader and his followers. It would indeed be a great and wonderful bargain to give so little and get so much in return, if only we knew and understood the comparative value of things. Verse eleven leads one to verse twelve which tells one about the reward of doing what verse eleven says.
12. He will forgive you
Your sins, and admit you
To Gardens beneath which
Rivers flow, and to beautiful
Mansions in Gardens
Of Eternity : that is indeed
The supreme Triumph.


Analysis: Verse twelve is what awaits the believers. Verse twelve is a picture of Paradise. “The supreme Triumph” is the entry to Paradise which is the ultimate goal of Muslims. Lines three to six is a description of Paradise. The word “Eternity” is used to encourage one to strive hard to be able to enter Paradise forever. “You” is used to refer to the believers. The preposition used in this verse is “beneath” which gives one the picture of an uneven piece of surface to carry those flowing rivers. Verse twelve is in the future tense. The supreme Triumph is so easy to achieve and in exchange for so little to get so much in return- the sacrifice of our wealth and possessions for Allah's forgiveness, His love and eternal bliss.
13. And another (favour
Will He bestow), which ye
do love, - help from Allah
And a speedy victory
So give the Glad Tidings
To the Believers.


Analysis: Verse thirteen tells one that there is more that awaits the believers. Verse thirteen begins with the conjunction “and”. Verse thirteen tells one of something which everyone wants and hopes for, that is, one gets Allah’s help however much the odds are against one, that one is sure of victory. “Ye” is used to refer to the believers in line two and “He” is used to refer to Allah. Verse twelve tells one of the rewards one will receive after death and verse thirteen tells one of the rewards one will receive while living. The conjunction “So” is used in line five to provide cohesion. Verse thirteen is in the present tense which is timeless and universal. For all striving in Allah's righteous cause, the reward is Allah's help and the assurance of victory.
14. O ye who believe!
Be ye helpers of Allah :
As said Jesus the son of Mary
To the Disciples, “Who will be
My helpers to (the work
Of) Allah?” Said the Disciples,
“We are Allah’s helpers!”
Then a portion of the children
Of Israel believed, and
A portion disbelieved :
But We gave power
To those who believed
Against their enemies,
And they became
The ones that prevailed.


Analysis: Verse fourteen is the last verse of this surah and it begins with the same way of addressing the believers as in verses two and ten. This verse contains the speeches of Prophet Jesus and his disciples. Prophet Jesus was able to convince only a portion of the children of Israel to believe in Allah's messages. “Ye” is used to refer to the believers. “We” in line seven is used to refer to the disciples when it is in speech form. However,when it is not in speech form, “We” in line eleven is used to refer to Allah. “They” in line fourteen is used to refer to the ones who believed Prophet Jesus and “they became the ones that prevailed”. The conjunctions used in this verse are - “As” in line three, “Then” in line eight, “But” in line eleven, “And” in line fourteen, all having the function of providing cohesion. Verse fourteen recalls about Prophet Jesus and is in the past tense. If we seek Allah's help, we must first dedicate ourselves to Him entirely. This was also the teaching of Prophet Jesus. A portion of the children of Israel - the ones who really cared for Truth, believed in Prophet Jesus and followed his guidance. But a greater portion of the children of Israel were hard-hearted. However, it is promised to the Muslims that the Muslims must prevail if they adhere to the Truth (Islam).

CONCLUSION

For surah As-Saff taken from the translated version by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the distinctive features that were discerned about this particular surah is that this surah is divided into two sections. The beginning of the second section is clearly stated - SECTION 2. Each verse is numbered one after another and every line begins with a capital letter.
For example, verse ten marks the beginning of SECTION 2. It is clearly stated - SECTION 2 just before verse ten. Each line of the verse begins with a capital letter.
SECTION 2
10. O ye who believe !
Shall I lead you
To a bargain that will
Save you from
A grievous Chastisement?


The two sections found in this surah are:
i) Verses one to nine
ii) Verses ten to fourteen
Each of the two sections of this surah was examined closely to detect the linguistic features that were present through a stylistic analysis. A variety of different linguistic features were found. Some examples of linguistic features found in this surah are as follows:
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.


In verse three, there is deviation via inversion. There is deviation via inversion in line one of verse three - “Grievously hateful is it in the sight of Allah”. It normally appears as “It is grievously hateful in the sight of Allah.”
7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah
Even as he is being invited
To Islam ? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.


There is another deviation via inversion in verse seven. “And Allah guides not those who do wrong”. It normally appears as “And Allah does not guide those who do wrong.”
In verse four, the words, “battle array” are followed by a metaphor, “as if they were a solid cemented structure.” The metaphor gives one a picture of something so strong and hard and in one piece - united. For example, in verse four,
4. Truly Allah loves those
Who fight in His Cause
In battle array, as if
They were a solid
Cemented structure.

There is rhyme in the words “those” and “cause” in lines one and two of verse four. For example, in verse four,
4. Truly Allah loves those
Who fight in His Cause
…….


In verses five and seven, there is repetition and parallelism. The words, “For Allah guides not those…” are repeated; “who do wrong” and “who are rebellious transgressors” are viewed as equivalent. For example, in verses five and seven,
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people : “O my people!
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you ?”
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.

7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah
Even as he is being invited
To Islam ? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.


For the sixty-first surah, As-Saff, taken from the translated version by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, it is noticeable in arrangement that the whole surah is broken into 2 sections: a) verses1-9 and b)verses 10-14. Each section was analysed separately.
With regard to language and style variation of Section 1 (verses 1-9), the language is Classical English, religious-class, adult, educated language. The words which give the Classical English effect include “ye” instead of you, “doth” instead of does. For example, in verses two and seven,
2. O ye who believe !
Why say ye that
Which ye do not ?

7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah
Even as he is being invited
To Islam ? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.


The change of “ye” to “you”- the shift from Classical to Modern English seems to have a purpose. The act of differentiating a leader from his followers. In verse five, it is Prophet Moses from his people. For example, in verse five,
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people : “O my people !
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you?”
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.


This particular type of shift happens again in verse six when Prophet Jesus separates himself from his people (the children of Israel) after the mentioning of “I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you……..” For example, in verse six,
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said :
“O children of Israel !
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad.”
But when he came to them
With clear signs,
They said, “This is
Evident sorcery!”


The medium is written language but these verses also contain the speeches of Prophet Moses and the children of Israel and the speeches of Prophet Jesus and the children of Israel. For example in verse five,
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people : “O my people!
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you ?”
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.


The tenor of verses two and three seems to reflect a disappointed address (in verse two), leading to a sad but firm reminder (in verse three). For example, in verses two and three,
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.


The tenor is generally formal but becomes informal and impolite in verse six when the children of Israel called Allah's words "evident sorcery". For example, in verse six,
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said :
“O children of Israel !
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad.”
But when he came to them
With clear signs,
They said, “This is
Evident sorcery!”


The domain is the language of instruction telling one to believe in Allah and His Messengers. For example, in verse eight,
8. Their intention is
To extinguish Allah’s Light
(By blowing) with their mouths :
But Allah will complete
His light,
Even though the Unbelievers
May detest (it).


However, in verse three, in the form of a sad but firm reminder, the verse sounds more like an appeal than the language of instruction. For example, in verse three,
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.


With regard to language and style variation of Section 2 (verses 10-14), the language is Classical English, adult, religious-class, educated language. The medium is written language but contains the speeches of Prophet Jesus and his disciples. For example, in verse fourteen,
14. O ye who believe !
Be ye helpers of Allah :
As said Jesus the son of Mary
To the Disciples, “Who will be
My helpers to (the work
of) Allah ?” Said the Disciples,
“We are Allah’s helpers!”
Then a portion of the children
Of Israel believed, and
A portion disbelieved :
But We gave power
To those who believed
Against their enemies,
And they became
The ones that prevailed .


The tenor is formal. The domain is the language of instruction telling one to believe in Allah and His Messengers. For example, in verse eleven,
11. That ye believe in Allah
And His Messenger, and that
Ye stive (your utmost)
In the Cause of Allah,
With your wealth
And your persons :
That will be best for you,
If ye but knew !


There is accessibility in the language used to describe Paradise in verse twelve. The words used- gardens, rivers and mansions-are familiar to all to help create a clear picture. For example, in verse twelve,
12. He will forgive you
Your sins, and admit you
To Gardens beneath which
Rivers flow, and to beautiful
Mansions in Gardens
Of Eternity : that is indeed
The supreme Triumph.


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