Divine Story-Telling as Self-Presentation: An Analysis of Sūrat al-Kahf
This dissertation explores the application of narrative analysis to five Qur'ānic stories in Sūrat al-Kahf, the eighteenth chapter of the Qur'ān. Traditional Qur'ānic exegesis treats the narratives atomistically, giving great attention to the historical details, whilst contemporary Western scholarship approaches Qur'ānic narratives from literary-textual analysis that focuses on plot, characters, and recently literary features such as chiasmus. These approaches do not shed light on the deeper aims and psyche of the Speaker except that God recounts them to offer moral lessons. The purpose of this study is to engage the question of how narratives are functioning in the Qur'ān. This dissertation specifically asks whether they are fulfilling didactic aims using history or whether they are serving as a medium through which we can come to know God? This study presents one way to possibly understand God's motives in telling the stories by applying narrative analysis. As such, the narratives of Sūrat al-Kahf are approached with these key questions: Why is the narrator telling the story? What is the point of the narrative? How does the narrator organize his story to make his point? In exploring these questions multiple new insights into the notion of Qur'ānic subjectivity emerge. This thesis argues that God, the sustained Speaker, is ultimately using His narratives to construct and develop His superior `Self-image.' In closely tracing the distribution of this Self-image throughout the narratives, various linguistic devices and strategies are discovered for how God constructs His narratives as `personal' narratives. Through such techniques, we find that a multifaceted presentation of God as al-walī, `The Protector,' alongside other virtues such as God as al-qādir, `The Omnipotent,' and God as khayr-un thawab-an wa `uqb-an, `The Best giver of reward and punishment' emerge as dominant attributes that also provide the sūra with coherency.
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