order included in them, are miracles of power. Thus, when speech comes face to face with actuality, and its arrangement is in conformity with the latter’s order, it possesses purity of style in its entirety. But if it turns to the ordering of the words, it descends into artificiality and hypocrisy, and as though degenerates into dry earth or a delusive mirage.
The underlying reason the literalists deviated from true eloquence was that when the non-Arabs became Arabicized on being drawn by the attractions of Arab rule, the art of words came to have paramount importance for them. With their intermingling with the Arabs, the speech of the Mudari, which forms the basis of the Qur’an’s eloquence, became corrupted; that mirror of the Qur’an’s styles became tarnished – although it sprang from the emotions and temperament of the Mudar people. So a large number of later scholars were carried away by love of the words.
NOTE: Embellishing words enhances them only if it is necessitated by the meanings. And decorating the forms of the meanings only elevates them if the meanings permit it. And burnishing the literary devices employed augments the purity of style only if permitted by what is intended. And the subtlety of the comparisons becomes eloquence only when suitable to the aim and approved by what is intended. And the power and roaming of the imagination is eloquence only when it does not mar the truth, nor preponderate over it, and the imagination exemplifies the truth, springing from it. If you wish for some comprehensive examples of these conditions, you should consult the above-mentioned allegorical verses.
The Second Matter
If rhetorical magic (al-siḥr al-bayānī) is manifested in speech accidents become substance, meanings are embodied, inanimate beings acquire spirits, and plants are endowed with intelligence. Conversation then starts up between them that leads sometimes to dispute, and sometimes to banter. Lifeless beings start to dance before the imagination. If you want an example, consider these lines:
Perfidiousness whispered to me from behind his deferment,
And hope and despair fell to disputing in my breast.1
Or take note of the love between the earth and the rain in the lines:
The earth complained to the rain of its tardy coming,
Then drank deep of its waters, sipped from its lips.2
By Ibn al-Mu‘taz; see, Dalā’il al-I‘jāz, p. 61; Dīwān Ibn al-Mu‘taz, p. 226.
See, al-Mutanabī, Dīwān, i, 263.