The Meaning of the Term "Fitna" in Islam

Opening sequence from the controversial film 'Fitna' made by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images



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The word fitna comes from an Arabic verb that means to "seduce, tempt or lure." There are many shades of meaning, mostly referring to a feeling of disorder or unrest. It can be used to describe the difficulties faced during personal trials, the oppression of the powerful against the weak, or to individuals or communities giving in to the "whispers" of Satan and falling into sin.


Variations of the word fitna are found throughout the Qur'an to describe the trials and temptations that may face the believers:

  • "And know that your worldly goods and your children are but a trial and a temptation (fitna), and that with Allah there is a tremendous reward" (8:28).
  • "They said: 'In Allah do we put our trust. Our Lord! make us not a trial (fitna) for those who practice oppression'" (10:85).
  • "Every soul shall have a taste of death. And We test you by evil and by good by way of trial (fitna). And to Us you must return" (21:35).
  • "Our Lord! Make us not a test and trial (fitna) for the unbelievers, but forgive us, our Lord! for You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise" (60:5).
  • "Your riches and your children may be but a trial (fitna), but in the presence of Allah, is the highest reward" (64:15).

In modern usage, the term is used to describe forces that cause controversy, fragmentation, scandal, chaos or discord within the Muslim community, disturbing social peace and order.

 The term has also been used to describe religious and cultural divisions that occurred between different factions in the early years of the Muslim community.

The Dutch Anti-Muslim activist Geert Wilder used the term "Fitna" as the title of his controversial 2008 short film that attempts to connect verses of the Qur'an with acts of violence.

The film was released only on the internet and failed to garnish a large audience.

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Huda. "The Meaning of the Term "Fitna" in Islam." ThoughtCo, Aug. 14, 2017, Huda. (2017, August 14). The Meaning of the Term "Fitna" in Islam. Retrieved from Huda. "The Meaning of the Term "Fitna" in Islam." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 19, 2018).