sometimes they are absorbed by a phrase, and sometimes they take refuge in a story; you can distill them if you press where they are found. Like the disappointment expressed by Mary’s mother in the verse, “O my Lord! Behold I am delivered of a female child!,”(3:36) and the regret in the lines, “Were my youth to return one day, I would tell it of the woes of old age.” And such meanings as longing, self-praise, addressing others, allusion, suffering, bewilderment, wonder, and boasting.
The relations between all these competing meanings are good on condition attention and care are allotted to them proportionately to their serving the main aim. If you want examples of this matter, the clearest are provided by this sura, from the beginning up to here, and by the manner in which it is expounded.
The Seventh Matter
Know that if imagination has a place in a style or literary device (uslūb), it definitely has to sprout from a seed of truth, and to be like a mirror reflecting onto non-material matters (ma‘nawiyāt) the physical laws and causes and effects in the chains of external beings. The philosophy of grammar (al-naḥw), the works of which contain the above-mentioned relationships, is also of this sort – just as it is said that the nominative is the right of the doer, for the powerful takes the powerful. You can make further examples in the same way.
The Eighth Matter
Know that Sibawayh1 stated categorically that particles that express numerous meanings like ‘from’ (min), ‘to’ (ilā), and ‘by’ (al-bā’), and others, in fact express only a single, unchanging, meaning. It is rather that they absorb a suspended meaning related to the context (lit. station – maqām) and aim, drawing it into themselves, and their original meanings become forms or modes of expression (uslūb) for their guests. Similarly, when someone well-versed in the science of language studies these closely, he knows that a shared word [bearing several meanings] mostly has a single meaning. Then, because of the relationships between them, the meanings have become similies and some have become metaphorical, and others, becoming part of the common language, have lost their original meanings (ḥaqā’iq ‘urfiyya). In this way single words have come to have numerous meanings. The word al-‘ayn, which means ‘eye’ or ‘spring,’ was applied to
‘Umar ibn ‘Uthmān Sībawayh (d. 796 H.), a leading authority on Arabic grammar.