|Title||Symbols and Worlds: a study of the Sacred in a selection of works by Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Salman Rushdie|
This thesis provides a reading of the concept of the Sacred in a selection of texts by Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Salman Rushdie. The aims of this thesis are threefold. The first aim is to demonstrate that the selected texts of the three authors creatively engage with the Sufi Islamic heritage through the use of symbolic expressions of the Sacred. The second aim is to argue that the symbols of the Sacred in the three authors’ works ontologically project what are termed here “intermediate worlds” of the Sacred. And the third aim is to gain a hermeneutic understanding of the concept of the Sacred in the literary works of Djebar, Ben Jelloun and Rushdie. In order to achieve these aims I adopt Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutic approach which allows me to interpret the symbolic and ontological underpinnings of the Sacred in the three authors’ works. Furthermore, I draw from the Sufi philosophy of Ibn Arabi, since locating this thesis within a Sufi conceptual and philosophical framework is essential given the Islamic tradition with which, as I argue, the three writers creatively engage.
The contribution of this thesis consists in seeking new lines of inquiry by expanding on the predominant postcolonial, postmodern and feminist approaches to Djebar’s, Ben Jelloun’s and Rushdie’s work. By tracing affinities between the three authors’ selected texts, through a focus on the creative encounter with the Sacred, this thesis makes a new contribution to the study of the three authors in its aim of providing a broader understanding of their literary works.
The symbols that I interpret in this thesis are the journey, the “hidden”, the “openings”, “darkness” and “light”. The choice of exploring the symbolic aspect of the journey is motivated by its link, as this thesis argues, with the Sacred journey of the Prophet Muhammad as well as with the meaning of a Sufi spiritual journey. I also chose to examine the four symbols of the “hidden”, the “openings”, “darkness” and “light” because of their connection to the Sacred names of God in the Islamic tradition and to their structural relations, as signifiers, to the symbol of the journey.
In addition to the symbolic expressions of the Sacred, I explore in this thesis the ontological dimension of the experience of the Sacred in the three authors’ selected works. In this regard, I draw from Ibn Arabi’s Sufi concept of the barzakh which is an ontological concept that refers to an intermediate reality where the Sufi seeker encounters opposite worlds. My hermeneutic reading of the “projected worlds” in light of the concept of the barzakh highlights the creative encounter between the three authors’ selected texts and the Sacred. Hence, the Sacred is not presented as a definite and defined system of thought. On the contrary, it is argued that these texts oblige the reader to question philosophically how the Sacred is both expressed in the texts and experienced beyond the parameters of the texts.