The First of these: to make [the new or unfamiliar] appear familiar to the imagination (al-khayāl), which accepts the products of imagination more readily than rational ideas; and to make the surmising faculty (al-wahm), which is given to doubts and questioning and opposing the reason, submit by showing the strange in a familiar form, and by depicting the hidden as visible.
The Second: to arouse the conscience and excite disgust in it, so by representing what is mental (abstract) as tangible to unite the mind and emotions.
The Third: to bind together scattered meanings by means of the comparison, and point out the true bonds between them. Also, to plant [the desired facts] before the eye of the imagination so that it may garner the subtle points that the tongue fails [to express].
Consider this: the meaning of this verse’s phrases corresponds both to the meaning of the whole story of the dissemblers, and to all the verses that [relate] it. Don’t you see that they believed outwardly for worldly advantages then inwardly they disbelieved. They were then confused and disconcerted. They then did not search out the truth so were unable to return [to it] that they might recognize it. How this resembles the situation of people who light a fire or a lamp but cannot keep it alight and it goes out. They are plunged in darkness. They can see nothing and it seems to them that everything has ceased to exist. Due to the silence of the night it is as though they are deaf; and because the night seems blind and their lights have been extinguished, it is as though they are blind; and because there is no one they can turn to for help and they receive no assistance, it is as though they are dumb; and because they cannot return, it is as though they are lifeless spectres, devoid of spirits. The main points in the comparison look to the main particulars of their subject [lit. the things compared – mushabbah]. For instance, the darkness looks to [their] disbelief, and the bewildered confusion to [their] vacillation, and the fire to dissension. You can make further analogies in the same way.
• If you were to ask: Light [is mentioned] in the comparison, but how can the dissembler have light, that the comparison be applied to him?
You would be told: If a person has no light, it may be found in his surroundings, from where he may seek it. If there is none there, it may be found among his people, from whom he may take it. If there is no light among his people, there may be some among the human race from which he may benefit. And if not, there may be [a spark that] emanates from his