Episode 2: Kinds of parables in the Sunnah

Parables in the Sunnah are of three kinds:

1- Explicit parables: which are stating the wordings of the parable or mention something to indicate comparison just as mentioned in the authentic Hadith: "The example of guidance and knowledge with which Allah has sent me is like abundant rain falling on the earth, some of which was fertile soil that absorbed rain water and brought forth vegetation and grass in abundance. (And) another portion of it was hard and held the rain water and Allah benefited the people with it and they utilized it for drinking, making their animals drink from it and for irrigation of the land for cultivation. (And) a portion of it was barren which could neither hold the water nor bring forth vegetation (then that land gave no benefits). The first is the example of the person who comprehends Allah's religion and gets benefit (from the knowledge) which Allah has revealed through me (the Prophet) and learns and then teaches others. The last example is that of a person who does not care for it and does not take Allah's guidance revealed through me (He is like that barren land.)"(1) There are many examples to this kind.

2- Implicit parables: which are not mentioning the wordings of assimilation, but they denote great meanings in short statements that have the same effect if they are compared to other situations, such as: "And the best of things are moderation."(2) and "Hearing is not like seeing."(3) and "A believer is never tricked twice by the same situation."(4)

3- Normal Parables: which resemble normal statements without mentioning the words of assimilation, such as "`Ukkashah preceded you with it."(5)

Benefits of setting parables:

1- Parables highlight the imaginary meaning into a material image which people can imagine and understand which causes the mind to accept because perceptible meanings do not stay in mind unless they are formed in a material image near their understanding.

2- Parables reveal facts and exposes the absent in the form of the present.

3- Parables collect terrific meanings in short phrases.

4- A parable is given for exhorting people to the compared thing so that people would desire it.

5- Parables are given to disapproval where the compared thing is reprehensible to the people.

6- Parables are given to praise the compared to thing.

7- Parables reproach the opponent.

8- Parables are more near to the minds, more rhetoric, more powerful in reproach, and more suitable for persuasion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used much parables in the Sunnah for taking lessons and remember. Parables are also used by Du`ah (callers for Allah) in every time to defend the truth and set the proof. Furthermore, educators use them as visual aids and excitement, for exhortation or preventing the people, and in praise or dispraise.

Az-Zamakhshary said: Parables are given to reveal the meaning and taking the listener to a material meaning that is perceptible. Therefore, when the compared to things are great, the parable would be great and if the compared to thing is vile, the parable would be vile too. Greatness and villainy are not meant by the compared thing, but by the situation itself. Therefore, when things were clear, the parable is given for light and when the falsehood is against the truth, a parable of darkness is given, as Allah gave an example with the house of spider to weakness.(6)

Al Asbahany said: People used to give examples and scholars used them too to reveals secrets and remove curtains from facts, so you can imagine a meaning as a physical matter as if you see it now. Parables are also given to reproach the opponent and restriction to his limits because they affect the hearts more than any regular description. Therefore, Allah (may He be Exalted) used these parables in His Book frequently, as they were used by prophets and wise people.(7)

Al Baydawy said: A parables is given for more explanation because it affects the heart more than any other thing, and restrictive to the opponent because it shows you the imaginary thing as material, otherwise, Allah would not use parables in His Books and prophets and wise people would not have used them in their speaking.(8)

Summary: Giving parable is full of various benefits, such as: Reminding, advising, exhortation, reproach, taking a lesson, admission, and drawing the intended meaning to the mind in a material image. Parables are depicting images in the form of humans because they stay in the minds for a long time where the mind uses senses in imagining them. Hence, the purpose of parables is to compare the hidden with the apparent and the absent with the present.(9)


1) Sahih Al Bukhari, book of knowledge, chapter on the excellence of knowledge and scholars No. (79) and Sahih Muslim, book of virtues, chapter on the explanation of the similitude of what Allah has sent down to the Prophet (peace be upon him), No. 2282.

2) Sunan Al Bayhaqy Al Kubra 3/273 No. 5897, however, the Hadith was graded as weak by Al Albany, see: Da`if Al Jami` No. 3177.

3) Musnad Imam Ahmad, 1/215 No. 1842. The Hadith is authentic and its narrators are trustworthy as they are being the narrators of authentic Hadiths in Al Bukhai and Muslim.

4) Sahih Al Bukhari, book of etiquettes: chapter on a believer is never tricked twice by the same situation No. (6133) and Sahih Muslim, book of etiquettes: chapter on a believer is never tricked twice by the same situation No. (2998).

5) Sahih Al Bukhari, Book of soft-hearting materials, chapter on seventy thousand will enter Paradise without reckoning, No. (6542), and Sahih Muslim, book of Faith, chapter on: The proof that some other sects will enter Paradise with Muslims, No. (216).

6) See: Al Burhan fi `Ulum Al Qur'an, 1 / 488.

7) See: Al Itqan fi `Ulum, Al Qur'an by As-Suyuty 2 / 344.

8) See: Tafsir Al Baydawy, 1 / 186.

9) See: Al Itqan fi `Ulum, Al Qur'an by As-Suyuty, 2 / 344.




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