In another respect, it is divided into literal and figurative speech. Literal usage is that which retains the sense for which words were coined, or alternatively, usage according to the conventions of speech. Figurative usage is that which goes beyond the sense for which words were coined. Literal usage can be linguistic, revealed, or customary. Figurative usage can be based on surplus, deficiency, transference, or borrowing of meaning. Figurative usage by surplus of meaning is like God’s saying “There is nothing like his likeness.”2 Figurative usage by deficiency of meaning is like God’s saying “Ask the town.”3 Figurative usage by transference of meaning is like ‘hollow’ being used for what comes out of a person.4 Figurative usage by borrowing of meaning is like God’s saying “a wall that wants to collapse.”5
- speech: kalām
- literal (usage): ḥaqīqa
- linguistic: lughawiyya
- revealed: sharʿiyya
- customary: ʿurfiyya
- figurative (usage): majāz
- by surplus: bi-l-ziyāda
- by deficiency: bi-l-nuqṣān
- by transference: bi-l-naql
- by borrowing: bi-l-istiʿāra
- Many copies add “as well as wish, offer, and oath,” but this is an addition by a commentator.
- Qurʾān 42:11. The surplus is the redundancy of saying “like his likeness” (ka-mithlihi), when “like him” (mithlahu) already expresses the meaning fully.
- Qurʾān 12:82. The deficiency is that the meaning “ask the people of the town” is not fully stated, but is understood.
- Ghāʾiṭ means a hollow or depression in the land, and is also used to mean excrement. The transference from one meaning to another is explained by the fact that people would defecate in a hollow in order to screen themselves from view.
- Qurʾān 18:77. To say that a wall wants or wills something is to borrow an expression that is ordinarily used of animate beings.