Saturday, September 29, 2007

Expressions in the Qur'an II

A simile is described as a comparison of two unlike things, typically marked by use of "like", "as", "than", or "resembles" 1


The Qur’an employs similes (amthal, singular mathal (مَثَلُ)) to explain certain truths or to drive home important points of the message. Similes are used by likening it to something well known or describing it in a pictorial, vivid manner. They are referred to the natural phenomena and existential situation the Arab was most familiar with, but one does not have to be an Arab to feel their force.

The particle كَ is used in the meaning of "like", "as", "than", or "resembles". It is also interesting to note that the كَ is a harfe Jar, therefore the word following it will be Majroor (in the state of Jar)


1. Jews who have the Torah but do not profit by it are compared to an ass loaded with books:

مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا
THE PARABLE of those who were graced with the burden of the Torah, and thereafter failed to bear this burden, is that of an ass that carries a load of books [but cannot benefit from them] [62.5].

2. The works of unbelievers, from which they hope to benefit at the Judgement, are like ashes blown away by the wind [14.18], or like a mirage which appears to be water, but, when one comes to it, turns out to be nothing [24.39].

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ بِرَبِّهِمْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَرَمَادٍ اشْتَدَّتْ بِهِ الرِّيحُ فِي يَوْمٍ عَاصِفٍ
the parable of those who are bent on denying their Sustainer: all their works are as ashes which the wind blows about fiercely on a stormy day [14.18]

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاء حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا
But as for those who are bent on denying the truth, their [good] deeds are like a mirage in the desert, which the thirsty supposes to be water - until, when he approaches it, he finds that it was nothing [24.39].

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References:
1. Wikipedia

6 comments:

Ibn Uthman said...

Assalamu ‘alakum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Masha Allah, Sister, the fact that “Arabic Learners” are touching on different points of Balaghah is very refreshing and is well appreciated. It is high time that Balaghah acquires the status that its bigger brothers, Nahw & Sarf, have acquired. I personally hope that this trend will develop later more seriously and be discussed more vigorously among Arabic learners in general in the new future. Maybe this is just the type of jump start that is needed.

To contribute to the discussion, I have the following brief comments to make.

(1) The topic under discussion is treated under the heading of “al-tashbih” (likening, equating, resembling) in Balaghah. Al-tashbih, though, is more general than simile (which to the best of my knowledge is a direct comparison with the comparative instruments / words such as (كـ، مثل) mentioned in the sentence. Traditionally, they have identified 4 components or elements of which a typical tashbih is composed: (1) the object compared, (2) the object compared to, (3) the instrument of comparison, and (4) the particular respect in which the two are compared. While the (3) and (4) are optional , (1) and (2) are essential for the expression to qualify as a tashbih. Should (1) or (2) be omitted then the expression becomes an isti‘arah (trope or metaphor). Also you can either liken one object to another or you can liken an object in a particular setting or going through a particular process to another object in a particular setting or going through a particular process. An example of the latter is the first comparison mentioned about the keepers of the Taurah who have been given the honour of carrying the burden of the Taurah, but fail to do, who are compared to a donkey in the process of carrying books. They call this tashbih “tashbih tamthili” because it is not merely likening one object to another but rather an object whilst being in a certain state to another being in a certain state.

(2) There is also an interesting discussion on the significance of why the word "مثل" was used at the beginning of the second verse [14:18] and not used at the beginning of the third verse [24:39] .

(3) Obviously, delving into the depths of these comparisons to reveal their subtle meaning and fine implications is where the joy of it all lies. This is the activity called “al-Tafakkur” (reflection & contemplation) that the Qur’an urges us to engage in (وتلك الأمثال نضربها للناس لعلهم يتفكرون) “Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect” [59:21].

All-in-all, you’ve done a great job at reviving and inspiring discussion around topics that belong to the domain of Balaghah which is still very much in its infancy. Insha Allah, maybe the time of having simple Balaghah manuals in our midst is near – manuals similar to those of Nahw & Sarf , and simple systems or methods be devised for making their contents available.

sheepoo said...

One question (and this may not correspond to the current post):
I will copy-paste some quranic ayats from Suran Luqman below:

1) لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَوتِ وَالْارْضِ انَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ
[31:26]

2)وَلَوْ انَّمَا فِي الْارْضِ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ اقْلَمٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ ابْحُرٍ مَا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمتُ اللَّهِ انَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
[31:27]

3) مَا خَلْقُكُمْ وَلَا بَعْثُكُمْ الَّا كَنَفْسٍ وَحِدَةٍ انَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ
[31:28]

4) ذَلِكَ بِانَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَانَّ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ الْبَطِلُ وَانَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ
[31:30]

Note how verse 26 and verse 30 have a huwa in front of the attributes of Allah (Subhana wa Ta'ala) but none in the other two examples.
Does this effect the meaning in some way? What is the underlying rule here?

Jazak Allah!

Ibn Uthman said...

Assalamu 'alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

In Balaghah there is a phenomenon called القصر (al-qasr) which is to specify or limit an attribute to the essence described or to specify or limit the essence described to that attribute. The first part of such a construction is called the المقصور (the part that is specified) and the secomd part is called the المقصور عليه (the part for which it is specified) e.g. لا خالق إلا الله (here the attribute of creating is limited to Allah and Allah alone), ما قام إلا زيد (no one stood except for Zayd) i.e. standing is limited to Zayd only.

Now, there are 4 or 5 ways to produce القصر :
(1) ما + إلا
(2) إنما (innama)
(3) fronting what should normally come later in the sentence, e.g. إياك نعبد orig. نعبدك
(4)using لا , بل and لكن as conjunctions, e.g. زيد حاضر لا غائب
(5) using a definite khabar with a definite mubtada' e.g. القارئ زيد (the reciter is Zayd). Often to emphasise القصر and increase its effect huwa is inserted between the two definite nouns. This is what the verses with "huwa" are about. Both the mubtada' & khabar or Ism anna and khabar anna, and so on, are definite producing the effect of القصر with the addition of "huwa" there is an added element of القصر .

In Surah al-Hadid there is the verse which reads ومن يتول فإن الله هو الغني الحميد . However, Nafi' al-Madaniy reads as فإن الله الغني الحميد without the "هو" the difference the one being more emphatic in القصر than the other. The point here is that it is not a prerequisite to use huwa - which btw is referred to as ضمير فصل as it often separates between two definite nouns so as to avoid taking the construction to be that of a sifah-mawsuf one or something similar.

So the next question is why use القصر in verses 26 & 30? The answer is that only Allah in the real sense possesses those qualities and onoe else such that they are limited only to Him. As for the other attributes, I suppose, you can find them in created beings as well.

Ibn Uthman said...

Btw br. Sheepoo, I forgot to mention: Great Stuff there on your blog, masha Allah.

Arabic said...

Jazakumullahu khayran katheeran for linking ArabicTree; we have reciprocated the link :)

sheepoo said...

Is this blog dead?