The Secrets of Metaphor in Rhetoric


This book is a modern scholarly edition of the seminal work by al-Jurjani (died circa 1078) on Arabic rhetoric, Asrar al-balaghah fi ‘ilm al-bayan (The secrets of metaphor in rhetoric), especially the branch called al-bayan (use of metaphor and figures of speech), of which he is considered the founder. In the classical context, ‘ilm al-balaghah (rhetoric) is divided into three interconnected arts, al-ma’ani (clear expression); al-bayan; and badi’ (embellishment and beautiful style). Al-Jurjani’s study of the stylistic and psychological importance of metaphor received widespread acceptance by classical Arabic writers and remains a source of discussion and research in modern linguistics. The work is carefully organized. After defining a particular figure of speech and pointing to its differences from other types of metaphor, al-Jurjani gives examples from leading poets such as Abu Nuwas (756-814) and al-Mutannabi (915-65) and from proverbs and sayings. He then dissects the passages with reference to the morphology of the tropes. This edition, by no means the only published rendering of known manuscripts, was edited by the Lebanese-Egyptian reformer and publicist Muhammad Rashid Rida. Rida was a prominent exponent of a modern Islam, which he believed should acknowledge its scriptural roots while adapting to Western modes of expression. Neither Rashid Rida (as he is commonly called) nor his elder associate, Muhammad ‘Abduh, were known for their textual scholarship, so this text edition is not often cited in standard bibliographies. In his introduction, Rida mentions that his interest in Asrar al-balaghah derived from a desire to rescue contemporary Arabic letters from what he termed the “sickness” that had afflicted the language since the fifth century AH (12th century), and the study of which had become merely “another of the languages taught in schools.” He discussed this problem with ‘Abduh. Together they searched for and had copied several manuscripts of al-Jurjani’s work in Medina, Tripoli (Lebanon), Baghdad, and Istanbul. The present edition is the fruit of Rida’s comparison of the texts and contains extensive footnoting of variant readings and unusual words and other explanatory commentary. The book was published in Cairo at the al-Taraqqi Press.

Publication Information

Al-Taraqqi Press, Cairo


Title in Original Language

أسرار البلاغة في علم البيان

Type of Item

Physical Description

357 pages ; 25 centimeters


  1. K. Abu Deeb, “'Abd-Al-Qaher Jorjani,” in Encyclopædia Iranica (New York: Bibliotheca Iranica Press, 1985).

Last updated: January 16, 2015