1902 Encyclopedia > Tabarí and Early Arab Historians

Tabarí and Early Arab Historians

TABARI AND EARLY ARAB HISTORIANS. Arabian historians differ from all others in the unique form of their compositions. Each event is related in the words of eye-witnesses or contemporaries transmitted to the final narrator through a chain of intermediate reporters (ráwís), each of whom passed on the original report to his successor. Often the same account is given in two or more slightly divergent forms, which have come down through different chains of reporters. Often, too, one event or one important detail is told in several ways on the basis of several contemporary statements transmitted to the final narrator through distinct lines of tradition. The writer therefore exercises no independent criticism except as regards the choice of authorities; for he rejects accounts of which the first author or one of the intermediate links seems to him unworthy of credit, and sometimes he states which of several accounts seems to him the best. Modern judgment does not always confirm this choice; some authorities much esteemed by Moslems are by European scholars deemed untrustworthy, and vice versa. Fortunately the various historians did not always give preference to the same account of a transaction, and so one supplies what another omits.

A second type of Arabian historiography is that in which an author combines the different traditions about one occurrence into one continuous narrative, but prefixes a statement as to the lines of authorities used and states which of them he mainly follows. In this case the writer recurs to the first method, already described, only when the different traditions are greatly at variance with one another. In yet a third type of history the old method is entirely forsaken and we have a continuous narrative only occasionally interrupted by citation of the authority for some particular point. But the principle still is that what has been well said once need not be told again in other words. The writer therefore keeps as close as he can to the letter of his sources, so that quite a late writer often reproduces the very words of the first narrator.

From very early times the Arabs had great delight in verses and tales, and the development of their language was certainly much Influenced by this fact. In ancient times storytellers and singers found their subjects in the doughty deeds of the tribe on its forays, in the merits of horse or camel, in hunting adventures and love complaints, and sometimes in contests with foreign powers and in the impression produced by the wealth and might of the sovereigns of Persia and Constantinople. The appearance of the Prophet with the great changes that ensued, the conquests that made the Arabs—till then a despised race—lords of half the civilized world, supplied a vast store of new matter for relations which men were never weary of hearing and recounting. They wished to know everything about the apostle of God, whose influence on his own time" was so enormous, who had accomplished all that seemed impossible and had inspired the Arabs with a courage and confidence that made them stronger than the legions of Byzantium and Ctesiphon. Every one who had known or seen him was questioned and was eager to answer. Moreover, the word of God in the Koran left many practical points undecided, and therefore it was of the highest importance to know exactly how the Prophet had spoken and acted in various circumstances. Where could this be better learned than at Medina, where he had lived so long and where the majority of his companions continued to live? So at Medina a school was gradually formed, where the chief part of the traditions about Mohammed and his first successors took a form more or less fixed. Soon divers fathers of Islam began to assist memory by making notes, and their disciples sought to take written jottings of what they had heard from them, which they could carry with them when they returned to their homes. Thus by the close of the 1st century many dictata were already in circulation. For example, Hasan of Basra (d. 110 A.H.; 728 A.D.) had a great mass of such notes, and he was accused of sometimes passing off as oral tradition things he had really drawn from books ; for oral tradition was still the one recognized authority, and it is related of more than one old scholar, and even of Hasan of Basra himself, that he directed his books to be burned at his death. The books were mere helps, and what they knew these scholars had handed on by word of mouth. Long after this date, when all scholars drew mainly from books, the old forms were still kept up. Tabarf, for example, when he cites a book expresses himself as if he had heard what he quotes from the master with whom he read the passage or from whose copy he transcribed it. He even expresses himself in this wise : " 'Omar b. Shabba has related to me in his book on the history of Basra."

Historians before Taharí.

Naturally, then, no independent book of the 1st century from the Flight has come down to us. But in the 2d century real books began to be composed. The materials were supplied in the first place by oral tradition, in the second by the dictata of older scholars, and finally by various kinds of documents, such as treaties, letters, collections of poetry, and genealogical lists. Genealogical studies had become necessary through 'Omar's system of assigning state pensions to certain classes of persons according to their kinship with the Prophet, or their deserts during his lifetime. This subject received much attention even in the 1st century, but books about it were first written in the 2d, the most famous being those of Ibn al-Kalbí (d. 146 A.H.), of his son Hishám [2-1] (d. 204), and of Al-Sharkí ibn al-Kotámí. Genealogy, which often called for elucidations, led on to history. Beládhorí's excellent Ansáb al-Ashráf (Genealogies of the Nobles) is a history of the Arabs on a genealogical plan.

The oldest extant history is the biography of the Prophet by Ibn Ishák (d. 150). [2-2] This work is generally trustworthy. Mohammed's life before he appeared as a prophet and the story of his ancestors are indeed mixed with many fables illustrated by spurious verses. But in Ibn Ishák's day these fables were generally accepted as history—for many of them had been first related by contemporaries of Mohammed— and no one certainly thought it blameworthy to put pious verses in the mouth of the Prophet's forefathers, though, according to the Fihrist (p. 92), Ibn Ishák was duped by others with regard to the poems he quotes.

The Life of the Prophet by Ibn 'Okba (d. 141), based on the statements of two very trustworthy men, 'Orwa ibn az-Zobair (d. 94) and Az-Zohrí (d.124), seems to be quite lost, Sprenger having vainly made every effort to find a copy. It was still much read in Syria in the 14th century. But we fortunately possess the Book of the Campaigns of the Prophet by Al-Wákidí (d. 207) and the important Book of Classes of his disciple Ibn Sa'd. [2-3] Wákidí had much more copious materials than Ibn Ishák, but gives way much more to a popular and sometimes romancing style of treatment. Nevertheless he sometimes helps us to recognize in Ibn Ishák's narrative modifications of the genuine tradition made for a purpose, and the additional details he supplies set various events before us in a clearer light. Apart from this his chief merits lie in his studies on the subject of the traditional authorities, the results of which are given by Ibn Sa'd, and in his chronology, which is often excellent. A special study of the traditions about the conquest of Syria made by De Goeje in 1864 led to the conclusion that Wákidí's chronology is sound as regards the main events, and that later historians have gone astray by forsaking his guidance. This result has been confirmed by certain contemporary notices found by Nöldeke in 1874 in a Syriac MS. of the British Museum. And that Ibn Ishák agrees with Wákidí in certain main dates is important evidence for the trustworthiness of the former also. For the chronology before the year 10 of the Flight Wákidí did his best, but here, the material being defective, many of his conclusions are precarious. Yet, though we have good ground for doubts, we are seldom able to construct a better chronology. Wákidí had already a great library at his disposal. He is said to have had 600 chests of books, chiefly dictata written by or for himself, but in part real books by Abú Mikhnaf (d. 130), Ibn Ishák (whom he uses but does not name), 'Awana (d. 147), and other authors. Abú Mikhnaf left a great number of monographs on the chief events from the death of the Prophet to the caliphate of Walíd II. These were much used by later writers, and we have many extracts from them, but none of the works themselves, except a sort of romance based on his account of the death of Hosain, of which Wüstenfeld has given a translation. With regard to the history of 'Irák in particular he was deemed to have the best lights, and for this subject he is Tabarí's chief source, just as Madáiní, a younger contemporary of Wákidí, is followed by preference in all that relates to Khorásán. Madáiní's History of the Caliphs is the best if not the oldest published before Tabarí; but this book has quite disappeared and is known only by the excerpts given by later writers, particularly Beládhorí and Tabarí. From these we judge that he had great narrative power with much clear and exact learning, and must be placed high as a critical historian. His plan was to record the various traditions about an event, choosing them with critical skill; sometimes, however, he fused the several traditions into a continuous narrative. A just estimate of the relative value of the historians can only be reached by careful comparison in detail. This has been essayed by Brünnow in his study on the Kharijites (Leyden, 1884), in which the narrative of Mobarrad in the Kámil is compared with the excerpts of Madáiní given by Beládhorí and those of Abú Mikhnaf given by Tabarí. The conclusion reached is that Abú Mikhnaf and Madáiní are both well informed and impartial.

Among the contemporaries of Wákidí and Madáiní were Ibn Khidásh (d. 223), the historian of the family Mohallab, whose work was one of Mobarrad's sources for the History of the Kharijites; Haitham ibn 'Adi (d. 207), whose works, though now lost, are often cited; and Saif ibn 'Omar at-Tamímí, whose book on the revolt of the tribes under Abú-bekr and on the Mohammedan conquests was much used by Tabarí. Saif, however, seems to have been little esteemed ; Beládhorí very seldom cites him, and nothing can be found in Arabic literature about his life and those of his authorities. He is barely mentioned in the Fihrist, the writer plainly having nothing to tell of him, and blundering in the one thing he does say by representing his disciple Sho'aib as his master. Hájji Khalifa knows nothing but his name. His narratives are detailed and often tinged with romance, and he is certainly much inferior to Wákidí in accuracy. Besides these are to be mentioned Abú 'Obaida (d. 209), who was celebrated as a philologist and wrote several historical monographs that are often cited, and Azrakí, whose excellent History of Mecca was published after his death by his grandson (d. 244). With these writers we pass into the 3d century of Islam. But we have still an important point to notice in the 2d century; for in it learned Persians began to take part in the creation of Arabic historical literature. Ibn Mokaffa' translated the great Book of Persian Kings, and others followed his example. Tabarí and his contemporaries, senior and junior, such as Ibn Kotaiba, Ya'kúbí, Dínawarí, preserve to us a good part of the information about Persian history made known through such translations. But even more important than the knowledge conveyed by these works was their influence on literary style and composition. Half a century later began versions from the Greek either direct or through the Syriac. The pieces translated were mostly philosophical; but the Arabs also learned something, however superficially, of ancient history.

The 3d century was far more productive than the 2d. Abú 'Obaida was presently succeeded by Ibn al-A'rábi (d. 231), who in like manner was chiefly famous as a philologist, and who wrote about ancient poems and battles. Much that he wrote is quoted in Tabrizí's commentary on the Hamása, which is still richer in extracts from the historical elucidations of early poems given by Ar-Riyashi (d. 257). Of special fame as a genealogist was Ibn Habíb (d. 245), of whom we have a booklet on Arabian tribal names published by Wüstenfeld (1850). Azrakí again was followed by Fákihí, who wrote a History of Mecca in 272, and 'Omar b. Shabba (d. 262), who composed an excellent history of Basra, known to us only by excerpts. Of the works of Zobair b. Bakkár (d. 256), one of Tabarí's teachers, a learned historian and genealogist much consulted by later writers, there is a fragment in the Köprülü library at Constantinople, and another in Göttingen, part of which has been made known by Wüstenfeld (Die Familie Al-Zobair, Göttingen, 1878). Ya'kúbí or Ibn Wádih wrote a short general history of much value, published by Houtsma (Leyden, 1883). About India he knows more than his predecessors and more than his successors down to Bèrúní. Ibn Khordádbeh's historical works are lost. Ibn 'Abdalhakam (d. 257) wrote of the conquest of Egypt and the West. Extracts from this book are given by De Slane in his Histoire des Berbères, and others by Karle and Jones, from which we gather that it was a medley of true tradition and romance, and must be reckoned, with the book of his slightly senior contemporary, the Spaniard Ibn Habíb, to the class of historical romances (see below, p. 5). A high place must be assigned to the historian Ibn Kotaiba (d. 276), who, as Rosen has well shown, wrote a series of books with a view to raising the scholarship of the large class of kátibs or official scribes. To this series belong his very useful Handbook of History (ed. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1850) and his 'Oyún al-Ahhbár, though the latter book according to the arrangement falls rather under the class of litterae humaniores. Much more eminent is Beládhorí (d. 279), whose book on the Arab conquest (ed. De Goeje, Leyden, 1865-66) merits the special praise given to it by Mas'údí. Of his great Ansáb al-Ashráf a large part exists at Paris in the valuable collection of M. Schefer and another part was published by Ahlwardt in 1884. A contemporary, Ibn abí Táhir Taifúr (d. 280), wrote on the 'Abbásid caliphs and was drawn on by Tabarí. The sixth part of his work is in the British Museum. Of the universal history of Dínawarí (d. 282), entitled The Long Narratives, an edition by Girgas is now (1887) in the press.


All these histories are more or less thrown into the shade by the great work of Tabarí, whose fame has never faded from his own day to ours, and who well deserves to have this article on early Arabic histories placed under his name. Abú Ja'far Mohammed b. Jarír at-Tabarí (so his full name runs) is described as a tall lean figure, with large eyes, brown complexion, and hair which remained black till his death. His learning was astounding and few could speak so well. Born 224 A.H. (838-9 A.D.) at Amol in Tabarístán, he came to Baghdad as a young man and heard there the most famous teachers of the age. He travelled through Syria and Egypt (where he was in 263), and finally settled down in Baghdad, where he remained till his death in 310 (922 A.D.), always active and surrounded by pupils. He is said to have written forty pages daily for forty years. This no doubt is an exaggeration, but certainly he must have been a man of most persistent industry. His two chief works are a great Commentary on the Koran and his Annals. There is an anecdote to the effect that each originally filled 30,000 leaves, but that his pupils found them too extensive to be written to his dictation, and that he then resolved to condense them to a tenth of their original size, exclaiming, "God help us! Ambition is extinct." One cannot say how far this story is true, but it is probable enough that his materials, at least for the Annals, were many times greater than the book itself.

Where the same topic comes up in the Annals and in the Commentary we often find different traditions quoted, or the same tradition derived through different channels, and this shows the copious variety of his sources. Various parts of the Annals give the impression of being condensed. The Commentary was published before the Annals, and is better composed. It is the head cornerstone of Koran exegesis, as the Annals are of historiography. It came into general use mainly through the abridgment of Baghawí in the beginning of the 6th century of the Flight, being itself too large to be much read. The great book exists complete in the viceregal library at Cairo, and ought to be published at once. [4-1]

The Annals are a general history from the creation to 302 A.H., and are in the course of publication at Leyden. They will fill some 7000 to 7500 pages, one and a half printed pages corresponding roughly to one leaf of Tabarí's original MS. Tabarí added a supplement about his authorities, an abridgment of which is to follow the Leyden edition. It contains biographical notices of traditionalists, contemporaries of Mohammed, and their successors to the second half of the 2d century. [4-2] Other works by Tabarí will be spoken of in detail in the preface to the Leyden edition.

The success of the Annals and Commentary was due above all to the author's personality. The respect paid to him by his contemporaries appears in various anecdotes preserved in his biography. His pupils had an unbounded admiration for his extraordinary knowledge, and what he said seemed to them the best that could be said. In truth, both his great works were the best of their kind, especially the Commentary, which, in the judgment of all impartial critics, has not been equalled, before or since, in completeness, learning, and independent judgment. A contemporary says that "it would be worth a journey to China to procure the book." So general was this view that the opinion of Tabarí. was quoted as a legal authority.

The inferiority of the Annals as a literary composition may be due partly to the author's years, partly to the inequality of his sources, sometimes superabundant, sometimes defective, partly perhaps to the somewhat hasty condensation of his original draft. Nevertheless the value of the book is very great: the author's selection of traditions is usually happy, and the episodes of most importance are treated with most fulness of detail, so that it deserves the high reputation it has enjoyed from the first. This reputation rose steadily; there were twenty copies (one of them written by Tabarí's own hand) in the library of the Fatimite caliph 'Aziz (latter half of the 4th century), whereas, when Saladin became lord of Egypt, the princely library contained 1200 copies (Makrízí, i. 408 sq.). Only princes and rich men could own a book, which in the time of 'Azíz cost one hundred dinars. We know that it had a place in most great libraries in other countries, for we find that it was used in all lands. Thus the fact that no complete copy can now be found anywhere, and that the Leyden edition rests on odd volumes lying in various places, gives a striking image of what the East has suffered from barbarism.

The Annals soon came to be dealt with in various ways. They were published in shorter form with the omission of the names of authorities and of most of the poems cited; some passages quoted by later writers are not found even in the Leyden edition. On the other hand, some interpolations took place, one in the author's lifetime and perhaps by his own hand. Then many supplements were written, e.g., by Ferghání (not extant) and by Hamadhání (partly preserved in Paris). 'Aríb of Cordova made an abridgment, adding the history of the West and continuing the story to about 365. [4-3] Ibn Mashkawaih wrote a history from the creation to 369 A.H., with the purpose of drawing the lessons of the story, following Tabarí closely, as far as his book is known, and seldom recurring to other sources before the reign of Moktadir; what follows is his own composition, and shows him to be a writer of talent. [4-4] In 352 an abridgment of the Annals was translated into Persian by Bal'amí, who, however, interwove many fables. [4-5] Ibn al-Athír (d. 630) abridged the whole work, usually with judgment, but sometimes too hastily. Though he sometimes glided lightly over difficulties, his work is of service in fixing the text of Tabarí. He also furnished a continuation to the year 620. Later writers took Tabarí as their main authority, but fortunately sometimes consulted other sources, and so add to our knowledge,— especially Ibn al-Jauzí (d. 597), who adds many important details. These later historians had valuable help from the biographies of famous men and special histories of countries and cities, dynasties and princes, on which much labour was spent from the 4th century onwards.

Historians after Tabarí.

The chief historians after Tabarí may be briefly mentioned in chronological order. Rází (d. 325) wrote a History of Spain; Eutychius (3. 328) wrote Annals (published by Pocock, Oxford, 1656), which are very important because he gives the Christian tradition; Ibn 'Abd Rabbihi (d. 328) has very valuable historical passages in his famous miscellany called Al-'Ikd al-Faríd (3 vols., Cairo, 1293 A.H.); Súlí (d. 335) wrote on the Abbásid caliphs, their viziers and court poets; Mas'údí (see MAS'ÚDY) composed various historical and geographical works (d. 345). Of Tabarí's contemporary Hamza Ispahání we have the Annals (published by Gottwaldt, St. Petersburg, 1844); Abu 'l-Faraj al-Ispahání (d. 356) in his Book of Songs (Kitáb al-Aghání, 20 vols., Cairo, 1285) gave the lives of poets whose songs were sung; Ibn al-Kútiya (d. 367) wrote a History of Spain; Ibn Zúlák (d. 387) a History of Egypt; 'Otbi wrote the History of Mahmúd of Ghazna (d. 421), at whose court he lived (printed on the margin of the Egyptian edition of Ibn al-Athír); Tha'labí (d. 427) wrote a well-known History of the Old Prophets; Abú No'aim al-Ispahání (d. 430) wrote a History of Ispahan, chiefly of the scholars of that city; Tha'álibí (d. 429 or 430) wrote, inter alia, a well-known History of the Poets of his Time, now (1887) in course of publication at Damascus. Bèrúní (d. 440) takes a high place among historians by his Chronology of Ancient Nations (ed. Sachau, Leipsic, 1878 ; Eng. trans., London, 1879) and his contributions to the history of India and Khwárizm; Kodá'í (d. 454) wrote a Description of Egypt and also various historical pieces, of which some are extant; Ibn Sá'id of Cordova (d. 462) wrote a View of the History of the Various Nations. Baghdad and its learned men found an excellent historian in Al-Khatíb al-Baghdádí (d. 463), and Spain in Ibn Hayán (d. 469), and half a century later in Ibn Khakán (d. 529) and Ibn Bassám (d. 542). Sam'ání (d. 562) wrote an excellent book on genealogies; Ibn 'Asákir (d. 571) a History of Damascus and her Scholars, which is of great value, and exists in whole or in part in several libraries. The Biographical Dictionary of tho Spaniard Ibn Pascual (d. 578) and that of Dabbí, a somewhat junior contemporary, are edited in Codera's Bibliotheca Arab. Hisp. (1883-1885); Saladin found his historian in the famous 'Imad addín (d. 597). Ibn al-Jauzí, wdio died in the same year, has been already mentioned. Abdalwáhid's History of the Almohades, written in 621, was published by Dozy (2d ed., 1881). The geographer Yákút (d. 626) wrote also some historical works, now lost. Abdailatíf (d. 629) is known by his writings about Egypt (trans. De Saey, 1810); Ibn al-Athír (d. 630) wrote, in addition to the Chronicle already mentioned, a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries of the Prophet. Kiftí (d. 646) is especially known by his History of Arabic Philologists. Sibt ibn al-Jauzi (d. 654), grandson of the Ibn al-Jauzí already mentioned, wrote a great Chronicle, of which much the larger part still exists. Codera has edited (Madrid, 1886) Ibn al-'Abbár's (d. 658) Biographical Lexicon, already known by Dozy's excerpts from it. Ibn al-'Adím (d. 660) is famed for his History of Aleppo, and Abú Sháma (d. 655) wrote a well-known History of Saladin and Nureddin, taking a great deal from 'Imád addin. A. Müller has recently published (1885) Ibn abi Osaibia's (d. 668) History of Physicians. The History of Ibn al-'Amíd (d. 675), better known as ELMACIN (q.v.), was printed by Erpenius in 1625. Ibn Sa'íd al-Maghribí (d. 673 or 685) is famous for his histories, but still more for his geographical writings. The noted theologian NAWAWÍ (q.v.; d. 676) wrote a Biographical Dictionary of the Worthies of the First Ages of Islam. Pre-eminent as a biographer is Ibn Khallikán (d. 681), whose much-used work was partly edited by De Slane and completely by Wüstenfeld (1835-40), and translated into English by the former scholar (4 vols., 1843-71).

Abu 'l-Faraj, better known as Bar-Hebraeus (d. 685), wrote besides his Syriac Chronicle an Arabic History of Dynasties (ed. Pocock, Oxford, 1663). Ibn 'Adhárí's History of Africa and Spain has been published by Dozy (2 vols., Leyden, 1848-51), and the Kartás of Ibn abí Zar' by Tornberg (1843). One of the best known of Arab writers is Abulfeda (d. 732), whose Annales Muslemicae were published with a Latin version by Reiske (Copenhagen, 5 vols. 4to, 1789-94). The History of the Time before Mohammed has been published by Fleischer (1831). Not less famous is the great Encyclopaedia of his contemporary Nowairí (d. 732), but only some extracts are as yet in print. Ibn Sayyid an-Nás (d. 734) wrote a full biography of the Prophet; Mizzí (d. 742) an extensive work on the men from whom traditions have been derived. We still possess, nearly complete, the great Chronicle of Dhahabi (d. 748), a very learned biographer and historian. A complete edition of the geographical and historical Masálik al-Absár of Ibn Fadlalláh (d. 749) is much to be desired. It is known at present by extracts given by Quatremére and Amari. Ibn al-Wardí (d. 749 or 750), best known by his Cosmography, wrote a Chronicle which has been printed in Egypt. Safadí (d. 764) got a great name as a biographer. Yáfi'í (d. 768) wrote a Chronicle of Islam and Lives of Saints. Sobkí (d. 771) published Lives of the Theologians of the Sháfi'ite School. Of Ibn Kathír's History the greatest part is extant. For the history of Spain and the Maghrib the writings of Ibn al-Khatíb (d. 776) are of acknowledged value. Another history, of which we possess the greater part, is the large work of Ibn al-Forát (d. 807). Far superior to all these, however, is the famous Ibn Khaldún (d. 808), who proves himself a great thinker in the Prolegomena to his Universal History. Of the Prolegomena there are an edition by Quatremère (1858) and a French version by De Slane (1863). The latter scholar also published text and version of the History of the Berbers, and there is a poor Egyptian edition of the whole work. Of the historical works of the famous lexicographer Fírúzabádí (d. 817) only a Life of the Prophet remains. MAKRIZI (d. 845) is spoken of in a separate article; Ibn Hajar (d. 852) is best known by his Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries of the Prophet, now in course of publication in the Bibliotheca Indica. Ibn 'Arabsháh (d. 854) is known by his History of Timúr (Leeuwarden, 1767). 'Aini (d. 855) wrote a General History, still extant. Abu 'l-Mahásin (d. 874) wrote at length on the history of Egypt; the first two parts have been published by Juynboll. Flügel has published Ibn Kotlubogha's Biographies of the Hanafite Jurists. Ibn Shihna (d. 890) wrote a History of Aleppo. Of Sakháwi we possess a bibliographical work on the historians. The polymath Soyútí (d. 911) contributed a History of the Caliphs and many biographical pieces. Samhúdí's History of Medina is known through the excerpts of Wüstenfeld (1861). Ibn Iyás (d. 930) wrote a History of Egypt, and Díyárbekrí (d. 966) a Life of Mohammed. To these names must be added MAKKARI (q.v.) and Hájji Khalífa, the famous Turkish bibliographer (d. 1068), who, besides his Bibliographical Lexicon and his well-known geography, the Jihán-numa, wrote histories, mostly in Turkish. He made use of European sources, and with him Arabic historiography may be said to cease, though he had some unimportant successors.

A word must be said of the historical romances, the beginnings of which go back to the first centuries of Islam. The interest in all that concerned Mohammed and in the allusions of the Koran to old prophets and races led many professional narrators to choose these subjects in place of the doughty deeds of the Bedouins. The increasing veneration paid to the Prophet and love for the marvellous soon gave rise to fables about his childhood, his visit to heaven, &c, which have found their way even into sober histories, just as many Jewish legends told by the converted Jew Ka'b al-Ahbár and by Wahb ibn Monabbih, and many fables about the old princes of Yemen told by 'Abíd, are taken as genuine history (see, however, Mas'údí, iv. 88 sq.). A fresh field for romantic legend was found in the history of the victories of Islam, the exploits of the first heroes of the faith, the fortunes of 'Alí and his house. Even under the first Omayyads there were in the mosques of most great cities preachers who edified the people by stories about Islam and its victories, and there is ample evidence that these men did not stick to actual fact. Sho'ba said of them "they get from us a handbreadth of tradition and make it an ell." Then, too, history was often expressly forged for party ends. The people swallowed all this, and so a romantic tradition sprang up side by side with the historical, and had a literature of its own, the beginnings of which must be placed as early as the second century of the Flight. The oldest samples still extant are the fables about the conquest of Spain ascribed to Ibn Habíb (d. 238), and those about the conquest of Egypt and the West by Ibn 'Abdalhakam (d. 257). In these truth and falsehood are mingled, as Dozy has shown in his Recherches. But most of the extant literature of this kind is, in its present form, much more recent; e.g., the Story of the Death of Hosain by the Pseudo-Abú Mikhnaf (translated by Wüstenfeld); the Conquest of Syria by Abú Ismá'íl al-Baçri (edited by Nassau Lees, Calcutta, 1854, and discussed by De Goeje, 1864); the Pseudo-Wákidí (see Hamaker, De Expugnatione Memphidis et Alexandriae, Leyden, 1835); the Pseudo-Ibn Kotaiba (see Dozy, Recherches); the book ascribed to A'sam Kúfí, &c. Further inquiry into the origin of these works is called for, but some of them were plainly directed to stir up fresh zeal against the Christians. In the 6th century some of these books had gained so much authority that they were used as sources, and thus many untruths crept into accepted history. (M. J. DE G.)


2-1 Of Hishám b. al-Kalbí's book there are copies in the British Museum and in the Escorial.

2-2 Ibn Ishák's original work seems to be still extant in the Koprülü library at Constantinople; the edition of it by Ibn Hishám has been edited by Wüstenfeld (Göttingen, 1858-60) and translated into German by Weil (Stuttgart, 1864).

2-3 Wákidí has been edited from an imperfect MS. by Kremer (Calcutta, 1856). A condensed translation by Wellhausen appeared in 1882. The great book of Ibn Sa'd is unpublished, but there are some useful papers on it by Loth.

3-1 For details see the introduction to Nölkdeke's excellent translation of Tabarí's History of the Persians and Arabs of the Sasanian Period, Leyden, 1879.

3-2 Published in excerpt by Wüstenfeld along with Azrakí, Leipsic, 1857-59.

4-1 See the excellent article by Loth in Z.D.M.G., xxxv. 588 sq.

4-2 The MS. containing this abridgment is described by Loth in Z.D.M.G., xxxv. 581 sq. It is now in the British Museum.

4-3 Of this work the Gotha library has a portion containing 290-320 A.H., of which the part about the West has been printed by Dozy in the Bayán, and the rest is to be published at Leyden.

4-4 A fragment (198-251 A.H.) is printed in De Goeje, Fragm. Hist. Ar., vol. ii., Leyden, 1871. Schefer possesses an excellent MS. of the years 249-315; Oxford has another fragment, 345-360 A.H.; the second part is in the Escorial.

4-5 The first part was rendered into French by Dubeux in 1836. We have now an excellent French translation by Zotenberg, 1874.

The above article was written by: M. J. de Goeje, Professor of Arabic, University of Leyden.

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