Ta’wil: In the same way as the term mutashabih was understood in contrast with the term muhkam, ta’wil is also to be understood in contrast with tafsir. The simplest meaning of tafsir is that it is a science of understanding the Qur’an or explaining the meanings of God’s words in the Qur’an within the limits of human capacity. [7] The word ta’wil derives from awl in the sense of returning and reverting to something. [8] Both tafsir and ta’wil have been used in the Qur’an in the sense of exposition and explanation (Furqan, 32). Muhammad Hadi Ma’rifat is of the opinion that the word ta’wil occurs seventeen times in the Holy Qur’an;

1. five times in the sense of the ultimate outcome (ma’al; 4:59; 17:35; 7:35 twice; 10:39);
2. eight times in the sense of interpretation of dreams (12:6,21,36,37,44,45, 100, 101), and
3. four times in the sense of interpreting the mutashabih (3:7, twice; 18:78,82).

Some scholars consider ta’wil to mean foregoing the literal meaning of a text for its metaphorical sense without violating the norms of Arabic language for metaphorical usage, and in consonance with metaphorical relations, such as referring to a thing by the name of something similar to it or by its cause or that of something which is closely associated with it. [9] Some have held ta’wil to mean interpretation of mutashlibihat and the finding of a second meaning for the text which is called its inward or esoteric sense (batn) as opposed to its apparent and literal meaning (zahr).

I am following up here to a reference made in an earlier post, where Hillman relates Ta’wil to epistrophe.

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