Points to be Avoided on the Metaphor in the Qur’an

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There are points to be avoided on the use of words on the metaphorical meanings of the Noble Qur’an:

  1. Metaphor-mongering undermines the Qur’an’s authority because as metaphor-mongering exists in a speech, what is meant by the speaker becomes ambiguous and unknown, and the speech relinquishes its definitiveness and certainty and will be subject to doubt and skepticism from among different meanings.

And in this case, not only that it will not definitely be in use but also cause astonishment and doubt, and everyone will interpret and construe the speech according to his understanding, knowledge, and belief.

And as we can see from this perspective, every person must cite the Noble Qur’an according to his thinking, and every sect or group brings out proof and evidence from the verses of the Holy Qur’an in order to establish its doctrines or dogma.

Yes, as the door of metaphor and interpretation vis-à-vis the truth is closed in the heavenly book, the verses of the Qur’an will relinquish their decisiveness and can somehow conform with every subject through the ways of metaphor, and reason for every weak and deviant course.

And in this case, faithful and religious individuals will also be incapable of proving their true beliefs and will naturally be precarious in their program.

2. The Divine truths and knowledge will not be of use because what are in the mind of people and public views and beliefs are beyond and higher. Naturally, because of their lack of understanding and analysis, regarding interpretation and metaphor-mongering, they will be subject to estimation (taqdīr) or ellipsis (ḥadhf) and as a result, the sublime knowledge in the high level of the Noble Qur’an will be totally discarded, remain covered and fade away.

Yes, the Divine truths and knowledge are at the higher level and can be witnessed by the pure, luminous, and veilless heart as well as by perfect insight. Now, how is it permissible that these subjects be expressed through metaphorical and multi-layered words and how can we expect that others benefit from them as they ought to be benefitted while avoiding being misguided and gone astray.

3. Miraculousness (i‘jāz) in the Noble Qur’an will be totally discarded because once the door of metaphor-mongering is opened, the Divine truths and knowledge will fall down the level of allegory, estimation (taqdīr) or ellipsis (ḥadhf) and be situated in the level of thinking of the common people, and every exegete (mufassir) will interpret the Word of God according to his perception, taste, and understanding.

And in this way, the superiority, supremacy, and distinction of the concepts of the Noble Qur’an will not remain and nothing else can be seen more than the level of understanding and thinking of the exegete as can be noticed in the common exegeses (tafāsīr).                 

Meanwhile, concerning the words and expressions, in case the applications of the Noble Qur’an are coupled with permissiveness (tajawwaz), ellipsis (ḥadhf), linkage (waṣl), estimation (taqdīr), and metaphor, there will be not much difference with other eloquent texts, and it will be very difficult to put a distinction between the Noble Qur’an, on one hand, and the Nahj al-Balāghah, Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādiyyah, traditions (aḥādīth) of the Prophet and Imām ‘Alī, pithy aphorisms, and other authentic supplications. And it will become impossible to prove its inimitability (i‘jāz) to others as well as to understand and analyze.

And more than important than this is the fact that in cases where the meanings of the holy verses are higher than [what] our mind [can comprehend], we will be forced to conform the meanings of the verses to our mind by means of speculative interpretation, ellipsis, allegory, and the like, Nobody will ever embark on research and search for the truth, and we will bring down the level of the Noble Qur’an’s gnosis and truths to that of our understanding and comprehension. And this point can be seen in most of the exegeses (tafāsīr).      

(An excerpt from ‘Allamah Hasan Mustafawi, “Scientific Approach in Translating and Interpreting the Noble Qur’an and Traditions,” trans. Mansoor Limba (ElziStyle.com, 2020), pp. 62-63.)

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