Seeing the Unseen
Hamid Dabashi has an interesting article, In the Absence of the Face, that investigates the unseen or faceless presence of God in the Quran, as a collapse of the sign into the signifier.
He quotes the 6th/12th century Shaykh Abu al-Futuh al-Razi, who tried to explain why Joseph smashed the idols in his prison:
… Calling them [the idols] gods is not but a meaningless name. The reason is that the Name is not the Named. Because if the Name were the Named, then by virtue of calling them god they would be god and it would be proper to worship them, and they would have been god by attributes, and yet that is impossible….
Here is another excerpt from the article:
Alif. Lam. Mim. This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance
unto those who ward off (evil). Who believe in the Unseen, and establish
worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; And who believe in
that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed
before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter.
— The Qur’an 2:1-4
The inaugural moment of the Qur’an, of Re-Citation, is alphabetical. Audible, inarticulate, visible, meaning-held-at-bay, alphabet: Alif. Lam. Mim mean nothing. Signatures, though, authoritative. Letters coagulating to no word. Pseudo-Signs announcing themselves. Signifiers signifying nothing beyond their visuality. Signifiers feigning the Sign. Alif. Lam. Mim are the optical illusions of Signs precisely at the moment when they are about to suppress the visible absence of the Sign and mutate that absence, and thus that in/ability, into the instrumentality of the Signifier, the Sacred, the alphabetical ordering of access to Truth Manifest. The Truth is about to be Manifest-ed right here where it cannot be Manifest and it must hide its in/ability to be Manifest. Signatures of the Unseen: Alif. Lam. Mim are neither Signs nor Signifiers. They are both Signs and Signifiers. In that disabling contradiction is the enabling configuration that makes the Sacred, the aggressive substitution of the suggested Signification for the suppressed Sign, of the meaning of the Name for the shape of the Face, of the Hermeneutics of postponement for the Semiotics of the present, of the Metaphysics of fear for the Aesthetic of pleasure, possible.
[…The] visible substitution of the invisible Sign by determinedly collapsing it into a pregnant Signifier.