to refrain [from propounding one] except shame, and since shame is impossible for the Most High, there is absolutely no reason to refrain [from propounding one]. Thus, it silences [the unbelievers] most effectively and subtly. Moreover, it alludes by means of [the literary device by which similar forms express different meanings, called] mushākala al-ṣuḥba, to the foolish words they were saying: “Isn’t Muhammad’s lord ashamed by these parables about trifling matters?” [That is, the Qur’an uses the expression they used in order to refute what they were saying.]
The choice of “to propound (an yaḍriba)” rather than ‘of lowly parables,’ although the latter would have been more appropriate, indicates a stylistic subtlety which is that a parable resembles striking a seal in order to affirm and authenticate [something], or minting a coin to set the value and credibility [of money]. And this suggests that fine parables and comparisons repel doubts and suspicions. Similarly, it indicates that parables are a well-known and valued device, for propounding examples is an acknowledged method.
Furthermore, the choice of “to propound (an yaḍriba)” [which is in the imperfect tense] rather than [the verbal noun] ‘ḍarb’ although this is more concise, is to indicate that the source of [the unbelievers’] objections is the triviality [of the thing represented in the parables, not the parables themselves, which are useful.] For being a verb, “to propound” is not independent [self-sufficient]; it seems insubstantial, so the mind (lit. aim, intention, goal] passes lightly onto the object. However, because [the verbal noun] ‘ḍarb’ is independent, it is dense and impedes the mind.
[The word] “a parable (mathalan)” alludes to the particular attribute of parables and allegories (al-tamthīl), which is to depict abstract things with concrete ones, and represent the imaginary with the real, and portray the hidden with the manifest. And this is a sign that they repel doubts and suspicions.
The indefiniteness of “a parable” indicates that what is noteworthy is the parable itself, not the character [it assumes through the thing it portrays], which is related to what is demanded by the context (al-maqām) or the situation of the thing it depicts.
The generality of “what (lit. the parable of ‘what’ is a gnat) (mā)” indicates that the rule [of parables] is a general one, so that the reply should not be [considered] particular to their objections; [and it should be understood that] the thing depicted will take whatever form necessitated and deemed appropriate by [the science of] rhetoric (eloquence – al-balāgha).