yakhṭafu abṣārahum kullamā aḍā’a la-hum mashaw fī-hi wa idhā aẓama ‘alayhim qāmū wa-law shā’a Allāhu la-dhahaba bi-sam‘ihim wa abṣārihim, innā Allāhu ‘alā kulli shay’in qadīr.)
Consider this: the Qur’an’s miraculousness is founded on the eloquence of its word-order (naẓ̣m), and the eloquence of its word-order is of two sorts: the first is like decoration and the second like a garment.
The First Sort resembles strung pearls, finely worked decoration, and embroidery studded with gems. It is derived from following the grammatical and verbal meanings of a speech, like molten gold running among lumps of silver. The exposition of the subtle points that are the fruits of this sort of eloquence has been undertaken by fann [‘ilm] al-ma‘ānī.
The Second Sort is like a costly gown or robe of honour, cut out according to the stature of the meanings, sewn from different pieces with regular stitches, and clothed altogether on the meaning, or the story, or the aim. This sort’s craftsman and master is fann [‘ilm] al-bayān.
One of the most important questions of this [latter] sort is that of allegorical comparisons (tamthīl). The Qur’an contains as many as a thousand, for allegorical comparisons contain a subtle mystery and are elevated wisdom. Yes, through them delusion is overcome by reason, imagination is compelled to submit to thought, the hidden is made present, the abstract made tangible, and the meaning made palpable, the disparate are brought together, the various are blended, the diverse united, the sundered connected, and the defenceless armed. If you want to hear a detailed discussion, then listen along with me to what the author of Dalā’il al-I‘jāz chants in Asrār al-Balāgha,1 when he says:
On the Appropriate and Effective Use
of Allegorical Comparisons
The intelligent (‘uqalā’) agree that when allegorical comparisons come after the meanings, or when the meanings emerge on being summarized by comparisons, and are transposed from their original forms to that of the comparisons, the comparison clothes them in splendour, makes them glori-
‘Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī (d. 471/1078). He was a luminary in the fields of language and rhetoric. For this passage, see, Aḥmad Muṣṭafā al-Marāghī (ed.), (Cairo: Maṭba‘ al-Istiqāma, 1948), 128.