In this lesson on ilm ul-ma’aani we are going to talk about why you would extend the subject of your sentence with عطف بيان (the AKA extension). 

atf bayaan in Arabic grammar

1. Another Name for the Subject 

عطف بيان is where you bring another noun after the first noun. It is just another way of saying the first noun. 

For example: 

atf bayaan in Arabic example

“Umar” is just another name for “Abu Hafs”. With عطف بيان both nouns are equally important. They are analogous to synonyms. Like when you say “I saw Abu Hafs aka Umar”, neither of the two names is more important. Usually the second is more popular though than the first and is intended to clarify what you mean by the first. 

That is a primary reason for using this extension. 

2. In Reverence of the Subject 

The second reason for using this extension is for the عطف بيان to serve as a form of honour, praise or reverence for the subject. 

This is how in English we would say: “His Majesty the King has arrived”. 

It is enough to say: “His Majesty has arrived”, or “The King has arrived”. Both of these statements are equivalent and interchangeable. But you say both “His Majesty” as well as “the King”, for reverence purposes. 

An example of this from the Qur’an, where Allah says: 

quranic example of atf bayan

البيت الحرام (The Sacred House), is just another way of referring to the Ka’bah. It has been given as a title to the Ka’bah to honour and glorify it. 

It is important to distinguish between عطف بيان and other extensions. Let’s use this verse as an example. 

First of all, البيت الحرام is clearly not a description of the Ka’bah. Plus, it’s not even an adjective. So that possibility is completely gone. 

Second of all, البيت الحرام is not emphasizing Ka’bah. Plus, we know that grammatical emphasis can only be achieved through repetition or by using some specific words, none of which is البيت الحرام. 

Third of all, this is clearly not conjunction. Because in conjunction you combine two different things. Here it is just one thing mentioned in two different ways. Plus of course there is no joining words between them like “and” or “but”. 

Fourth of all, this is not replacement (بدل), which we will talk about in the next lesson. In بدل, the first word merely paves the way for the second. The second is more important, it is actually what you mean. The first is just leading into the second and is less important. 

With عطف بيان they are both equally important. One is just another way of saying the other. Sometimes to clarify and sometimes to honour the first word. Here both the Ka’bah and البيت الحرام are equal in importance.