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Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

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For other individuals bearing the same name, see Tabari (name).
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

Bal'ami's 14th century Persian version of Universal History


by Tabari
Full name Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

224AH
Born
Amol, Tapuria, Iran
Died 310AH
Era Medieval era
Region Persian scholar
School Jariri
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (Persian: ‫ ;محمد بن جریر طبری‬Muḥammad b.Ǧarīr
aṭ-Ṭabarī, Arabic: ‫ ;أبو جعفر محمد بن جریر بن یزید الطبري‬Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad b.Ǧarīr b.Yazīd aṭ-
Ṭabarī) (838–923) 224 - 310H, was one of the earliest, most prominent and famous Persian[1][2][3]
[4][5]
historian and exegete of the Qur'an, most famous for his ( ‫)ككككك ككككك ككككككك‬
Tarikh al-Umam wa al-Mulook, or abbreviated as: "Tarikh al-Tabari" and Tafsir al-Tabari.

Contents
[hide]
• 1 Name
• 2 Biography
• 3 Personal Characteristics
• 4 Works
• 5 See also
• 6 References
• 7 Bibliography
• 8 External links

[edit] Name
His name means "Muhammad of Tabaristan, father [abu] of Jafar, son [ibn] of Jarir".
[edit] Biography
He was born in Amol, Tabaristan (some twenty kilometres south of the Caspian Sea) in the
winter of 838–9.[6] As he memorized the Qur'an at seven, was a qualified religious leader at eight
and began to study the prophetic traditions at nine. He left home to study in A.H. 236[7] (850–1)
when he was twelve. He retained close ties to his home town. He did return at least twice, the last
time in A.H. 290 (903) when his outspokenness caused some uneasiness and led to his quick
departure.[8]
He first went to Ray (Rages), where he remained for some five years.[9] A major teacher in Rayy
was Abu Abdillah Muhammad ibn Humayd al-Razi already in his seventies [10] Ibn Humayd had
taught in Baghdad and was now retired in his native city. Among other material, ibn Humayd
taught Jarir Tabari the historical works of ibn Ishaq, especially al-Sirah, his life of Muhammad.
[11]
Tabari was thus introduced in youth to pre-Islamic and early Islamic history. Tabari quotes
ibn Humayd frequently. Beyond the names of at least two of them, we know little about Tabari's
other teachers in Rayy [10].
Then he went to Baghdad to study from ibn Hanbal, who, however, had recently died [12] This
was in late 241 [13] (late 855 or early 856). Tabari possibly made a pilgrimage prior to his first
arrival in Baghdad [13]. He left Baghdad probably in 242 [14](856–7) to travel through the southern
cities of Basra, Kufah and Wasit.[12] There he met a number of eminent and venerable scholars.
[14]
>
On his return to Baghdad, he took a tutoring position from the vizier Ubaydallah b. Yahya b.
Khaqan.[15] This would have been before A.H. 244 (858) since the vizier was out of office and in
exile from 244 to 248 [14](858-9 to 862). There is an anecdote told that Tabari had agreed to tutor
for ten dinars a month, but his teaching was so effective and the lad's writing so impressive that
the teacher was offered a tray of dinars and dirhams. The ever ethical Tabari declined the offer
saying he had undertaken to do his work at the specified amount and could not honourably take
more.[16] This is one of a number of stories about him declining gifts or giving gifts of equal or
greater amount in return [13].
In his late twenties he travelled to Syria, Palestine and Egypt.[17] In Beirut he made the highly
significant connection of al-Abbas b. al-Walid b. Mazyad al-'Udhri al-Bayruti (c.169-270/785-6
to 883–4) [13]. Al-Abbas instructed Tabari in the Syrian school's variant readings of the Qur'an
and transmitted through his father al-Walid the legal views of al-Awza'i, Beirut's prominent jurist
from a century earlier [13].
Ibn Jarir arrived in Egypt in 253H (867).[18] There he was among the "Famous Four" who met
there who were all named Muhammad: Muhammad ibn Jarir (d. 310H), Muhammad ibn Isaak
ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311H), Muhammad ibn Harun (d. 307H), and Muhammad ibn Nasr (d.
294H). So the story goes that their path to seek knowledge coincidentally joined them at Egypt at
this time and they roomed together. Obviously, these are famous scholars within the Sunni
school well-versed in Hadith, Quran Exegesis, and Fiqh. Ibn Jarir was exceptional in his rank for
not only was he a great Hadith and Quran scholar but his level of knowledge led him to become
a "Mujtahid" (i.e., a Fiqh Scholar in the ranks of Shafi'i, Maliki and so on). In one legend it goes
that while these distinguished learned men were roomed together they exhausted their funds
along with all available food in their dwelling quite so for a while but then days passed that the
stress surfaced to find a solution. So they called a meeting among them to discuss it. A decision
was reached that one of them should raise the issue among his halaqa (i.e., his learning circle)
when he goes to the mosque. That one became Ibn Khuzaymah by luck of the draw, so in turn
when he showed up for his halaqa still in dire need but not showing any signs of breakdown, he
got at the end of the lessons to say "I have something to say!" then again he shied away to raise
any issue in the presence of his halaqa instead saying further "I have to do two Rak'a of Salah,
then I will come back to you!". So he went prostrated to his Lord Most Glorious and Most
Hearing, and guess what? A messenger came from the King announcing where r these
Muhammads the scholars? Ibn Khuzaymah affirmed he was among them. The messenger said
that the King had sent gifts of 50 Dirhams to be given to each Muhammad. Only a bump on the
road! You see this is a typical of the earlier scholarly generation in Islam, they were so humble
and kafaaf (i.e., contented with little) to keep the religion pure and legitimate, and they saw their
worth was nothing compared to the grandiour of Allah's Will.
Some time after 256/870 Tabari returned to Baghdad,[19] possibly making a pilgrimage on the
way [13]. If so, he did not stay long in the Hijaz [13]. Tabari had a private income from his father
while he was still living and then the inheritance.[20] He took money for teaching. He never took a
government or a judicial position.[21]
[edit] Personal Characteristics
He is described as having a dark complexion, large eyes and a long beard. He was tall and
slender[22] and his hair and beard remained black until he was very old. He was attentive to his
health, avoiding red meat, fats and other unhealthy foods [13]. He was seldom sick before his last
decade when he suffered from bouts of pleurisy [13]. When he was ill, he could treat himself to the
approval of physicians. He had a sense of humour, though serious subjects he treated seriously.
He had studied poetry when young and enjoyed writing, reciting and participating in poetic
exchanges. It is said that he was asked in Egypt about al-Tirimmah and was able to recite this
seventh century poet's work for Egyptians who had merely heard al-Tirimmah's name.
He was witty and urbane, clean and well mannered.[23] He avoided coarse speech, instead
displaying refined eloquenc.[24] He had a good grounding in grammar, lexicography and
philology. Such were considered essential for Qur'anic commentary. He knew Persian and was
acquainted with the origins of various foreign loan words in Arabic from a number of other
languages.
Tabari never married.[25] There is a description of his normal day: rising early for prayer,
studying till early afternoon, publicly praying the afternoon prayer, reciting Qur'an and teaching
Qur'an, and then teaching law, etc. until late.
He died in Baghdad on February 17, 923.[26]
[edit] Works
At Tabari wrote history, theology and Qur'anic commentary. His legal writings were published
first and then continued to appear throughout his life. Next were his commentaries on the Qur'an.
Lastly, his history was published. Despite a style that makes it seem he drew largely on oral
sources, written material (both published and unpublished) provided him with the bulk of his
information. His biographers stress his reverence for scholarship and his keen intent to offer his
readers hard fact.
He didn't hesitate to express his independent judgement (ijtihad).[27] He stated his assessment as
to which of the sources he cited was accurate [13]. This was more understandably an aspect of his
theology than of his history. This does not mean he saw himself as innovative. On the contrary,
he was very much opposed to religious innovation. The story goes that when he was near death
ibn Kamil suggested he forgive his enemies. He said he was willing to do so, except for the
person who had described him as an innovator.[28] In general Tabari's approach was conciliatory
and moderate, seeking harmonious agreement between conflicting opinions.[29]
Initially he identified as a Shafi'ite in Fiqh law and Shafi'ites were happy to have him so
considered. He later was seen as one establishing his own school. Although he had come to
Baghdad in youth to study from Hanbal, he incurred the vehement wrath of the Hanbalites.[30]
Tabari's madhhab is usually designated by the name Jariri after his patronymic.[31] However, in
the keenly competitive atmosphere of the times, his school failed to endure.[32]
His wrote extensively; his voluminous corpus containing two main titles:
• History of the Prophets and Kings – (Arabic: ‫ تاریخ الرسل والملوك‬or Tarikh al-Rusul wa
al-Muluk or Tarikh al-Tabari)
The first of the two large works, generally known as the Annals (Arabic Tarikh al-Tabari). This
is a universal history from the time of Qur'anic Creation to AD 915, and is renowned for its
detail and accuracy concerning Muslim and Middle Eastern history. Tabari's work is a major
primary source for the Zanj Revolt.
• The Commentary on the Qur'an – (Arabic: al-musamma Jami al-bayan fi ta'wil al-
Qur'an or Tafsir al-Tabari)
His second great work was the commentary on the Qur'an, (Arabic Tafsir al-Tabari), which was
marked by the same fullness of detail as the Annals. Abul-Qaasim Ibn 'Aqil Al-Warraq ( (‫رحمه‬
‫ )ال‬says: " Imām Ibn Jarir (‫ )رحمه ال‬once said to his students: “Are you'll ready to write down my
lesson on the Tafsir (commentary) of the entire Holy Quraan"? They enquired as to how lengthy
it would be. "30 000 pages"! he replied. They said: "This would take a long time and cannot be
completed in one lifetime. He therefore made it concise and kept it to 3000 pages (note, this was
in reference to the old days when they used ink and hard-paper which was a bit long format
today). It took him 7 years to finish it from the year 283 till 290. It is said its the most
voluminous Athari Tafsir (i.e., based on hadith not intellect) existent today so well-received by
the Ummah that it survived to this day intact due to its popularity and widely printed copies
available worldwide. Scholars such as Baghawi and Suyuti used it largely. It was used in
compiling the Tafsir ibn Kathir which is often referred to as Mukhtasar Tafsir at-Tabari.
• Tahdhīb al-Athār (‫ )تهذیب الثار‬was begun by Tabari. This was on the traditions
transmitted from the Companions of Muhammad. It was not, however, completed.
[edit] See also
Arabic Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

• Islamic scholars
• List of Persian scientists and scholars
• List of Muslim historians
[edit] References
1. ^ Gaston Wiet, etc, "The Great Medieval Civilizations: cultural and scientific
development. Volume 3. The great medieval civilizations. Part 1", Published by Allen
and Unwin, 1975. pg 722:In the meantime another author, Tabari, Persian by origin, had
been unobtrusively at work on two monumental pieces of writing, a commentary on the
Koran ..
2. ^ John R. Perry , "Tabari was an ethnic Iranian, but wrote exclusively in Arabic", Form
and Meaning in Persian Vocabulary: The Arabic Feminine Ending, Published by Mazda
Publishers in association with Bibliotheca Persica, 1991
3. ^ George Rosen, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Published by H.
Schuman, 1986, V.41 1986, page 101
4. ^ Bruce Lawrence, The Qur'an: A Biography, Page 91
5. ^ Alastair HamiltonThe Copts and the West, 1439–1822: The European Discovery of the
Egyptian Church Published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 2006ISBN. page 136:"
6. ^ Rosenthal pp. 10–11, in volume 1 of History, pp. 5–134
7. ^ Rosenthal pp. 15–16
8. ^ Rosenthal p. 11
9. ^ Rosenthal p. 16
10. ^ a b Rosenthal p. 17
11. ^ Rosenthal p. 18
12. ^ a b Rosenthal p. 19
13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Rosenthal
14. ^ a b c Rosenthal p. 20
15. ^ Rosenthal p. 21
16. ^ Rosenthal p. 22
17. ^ Rosenthal p. 23
18. ^ Rosenthal p. 27
19. ^ Rosenthal p. 31
20. ^ Rosenthal p. 14
21. ^ Rosenthal p. 36
22. ^ Rosenthal p. 40
23. ^ Rosenthal p. 41
24. ^ Rosenthal p. 4o
25. ^ Rosenthal p. 33
26. ^ Rosenthal p. 78
27. ^ Rosenthal p. 55
28. ^ Rosenthal p. 61
29. ^ Rosenthal p. 56
30. ^ Rosenthal p. 63
31. ^ Rosenthal p. 64
32. ^ Rosenthal p. 66

[edit] Bibliography
• Bosworth, C.E., Encyclopedia of Islam, "Al-Tabari, Abu Djafar Muhammad b. Djarir b.
Yazid"
• Ehsan Yar-Shater (ed) "The History of al-Ţabarī", in 40 volumes, State University of
New York press 1989–2007 ISBN 0-88706-563-5.
• Rosenthal, Franz, "The Life and Works of al-Tabari"
[edit] External links
• Biographical Data: Abu Jaffar Tabari, salaam.co.u,
http://www.salaam.co.uk/knowledge/biography/viewentry.php?id=114, retrieved 2008-
09-15
• Imām Abu Ja'far Muhammad Ibn Jarīr At-Tabarī ( ‫)كككك كككك‬, http://www.al-
inaam.com/alinaam/old/1427rtabri.htm
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_ibn_Jarir_al-Tabari"
Categories: 838 births | 923 deaths | Iranian historians | Khazar studies | Sunni Muslim scholars
of Islam | Muslim historians | 10th-century historians
Hidden categories: Articles containing Persian language text | Articles containing Arabic
language text
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