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Title: Theology of 'Nahj al-Balāghah'
Author: Al-Atar, U.
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 6553
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2020
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Nahj al-Balāghah is a book consisting of the sermons, letters and short words of wisdom of Imam ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661), compiled by the fourth century Shiʿi scholar and poet Muḥammad ibn Ḥusayn al-Mūsawī, more commonly known as al-Sharīf al-Raḍī (d. 406/1015). It contains important theological discussions reflecting Imamī beliefs. By the fourth Islamic century, it was established that the core Twelver Shiʿi Imamī theology, uṣūl al-dīn, consisted of the following: tawḥīd (monotheism), ʿadālah (divine justice), nubūwah (prophethood), Imamah (divinely appointed leadership), and maʿād (resurrection and the afterlife). Imam ʿAlī discussed all these topics in Nahj al-Balāghah in a manner and style that is notably different form the language used by fourth Islamic century theologians. This thesis is the first work in English that explores the five uṣūl al-dīn as discussed in Nahj al-Balāghah. The first chapter introduces this work and gives an overview of Imam ʿAlī, al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, Nahj al-Balāghah, and the methodology of the work. Chapter 2 examines the main theological topics that were discussed in the third and fourth Islamic centuries. It also critiques two major works and refutes the idea that Shiʿi scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Mufīd (d. 413/1022) and al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā (d. 436/1044) were influenced by Muʿtazilī ideologies. Chapter 3 explores tawḥīd in Nahj al-Balāghah while also comparing Shiʿi beliefs to those of Muʿtazilīs and Ashʿarīs. Chapter 4 reviews the concept of ʿadālah in Nahj al-Balāghah and considers the Imamī stand versus Muʿtazilī and Ashʿarī theologies. Chapter 5 looks at nubūwah in Nahj al-Balāghah, and it shows that the topics mentioned by Imam ʿAlī form the basis for al-Sharīf al-Murtaḍā’s description of the qualities of prophets. Chapter 6 is about Imamah in Nahj al-Balāghah, which is the most contentious issue discussed by early Shiʿi theologians, and arguably the first to be debated immediately after the death of the Prophet Muḥammad. Chapter 7 discusses the concept of maʿād in the Nahj, and how Imam ʿAlī revolves the essence of life around God-wariness (taqwā Allāh) and achieving the pleasure of God. The belief in the Hereafter encourages a person to have a virtuous character and drives one to implement justice in all one’s interactions. This dissertation is among the few works in western scholarship that investigates Nahj al-Balāghah, one of the most important books in Shiʿi Islam. It demonstrates that Imam ʿAlī discussed important theological themes long before they were explored by early Muslim theologians. It shows that concepts such as God and His attributes, free will and predetermination, the essence of prophethood and Imamah, as well as death, physical resurrection and the afterlife are all explored in Nahj al-Balāghah. This establishes Imam ʿAlī as the founder of ʿilm al-kalām, and his inevitable influence can be observed in Muʿtazilī theology. Instead of studying theology per early theologians and scholars, this thesis derives theological understanding directly from the words of Imam ʿAlī. The thesis concludes that the core of the entire corpus of Twelver Imamī Shiʿi belief is presented in Nahj al-Balāghah, providing a solid foundational basis for the followers of Imam ʿAlī.
Supervisor: Rizvi, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nahj al-Bala¯ghah ; Imam ?Ali¯ ; theology ; kala¯m ; tawh?i¯d (monotheism) ; ?ada¯lah (divine justice) ; nubu¯wah (prophethood) ; Imamah (divinely appointed leadership) ; ma?a¯d (resurrection and the afterlife) ; Qur’a¯n ; Sahri¯f al-Rad?i¯ ; Shari¯f al-Murtad?a¯ ; Shi?a ; Mu?tazila ; Asha¯?ira