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Notion of Divine Trial in the Qur’an
A Critical Analysis and Reappraisal of the balā Narratives

ROUZATI, NASRIN (2013) Notion of Divine Trial in the Qur’an
A Critical Analysis and Reappraisal of the balā Narratives.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The notion of Divine trial, balā / ibtilā', occupies a significant position in the Islamic revelation; however, its multi-dimensional meanings and the wholly positive nature that the Qur'an seems to import has remained under-researched until now. Balā has traditionally been discussed in two main sources: the exegetical literature, and Muslim theodicean thought; both sources, however, deal with it in a narrow sense and fail to engage with it in its all-inclusive manner. Furthermore, due to the fact that balā is generally equated with adversity and human suffering, it is mainly discussed as an undesirable phenomenon which encompasses negative connotations, a misunderstanding that is far from the wholly positive and all-inclusive portrait of the concept of balā represented in the Qur'an.

This study offers a critical analysis and re-examination of the balā / fitna narratives in the Qur'an. This is done by first providing a comprehensive typology of the Qur'anic verses which deal with this concept, followed by a historical review of the exegetical literature, an overview of balā in the lives of the prophets, balā from the Muslim mystical perspective, and finally balā in Muslim theodicy with special emphasis on al-Ghazālī’s notion of "the best of all possible worlds".

The findings of this research demonstrate that balā is a multi-dimensional concept and it is charged with a wholly positive connotation; that it is not equated with human suffering, for its manifestation is both in adversity and prosperity; that it is not meant to punish the sinful, as all human beings, including the prophets, experience balā in good and bad. It is further concluded that the mainstream Qur’anic exegetical literature do not engage in an in-depth elucidation of this concept; rather, it is the Muslim mystical literature that elucidates on the entirely positive nature of balā and explains its importance within the creational structure of the universe, as well as its instrumentality in man’s spiritual development which accords with the overall picture of balā portrayed by the Qur’an.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Islam,Quran,Divine Trial,bala,suffering,Muslim Theodicy,Muslim Mysticism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Apr 2014 08:44

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