Literal meaning is what a text means in itself, regardless of what its author intends to convey or the reader understands to be its message. The idea of literal meaning, together with insights from modern semantic and pragmatic philosophers, informs this reading of Islamic legal hermeneutics.
Robert Gleave explores various competing notions of literal meaning, linked to both theological doctrine and historical developments. The idea of a text's literal meaning that rules over human attempts to understand God's message has become an element in discussions about who has the authority to interpret the revelatory texts, and how they can identify this meaning. This has resulted in a series of debates over the processing of legal meaning amongst modern Muslim legal theorists, which centre on the importance of defining, identifying and promulgating the literal meaning of the central texts of Islam.