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Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (839-923) was a Moslem historian and religious scholar whose annals are the most important source for the early history of Islam. He is also a renowned author of a monumental commentary on the Koran.

Al-Tabari was born in Amol in the province of Tabaristan south of the Caspian Sea. His family was probably of Persian origin. Gifted with a prodigious memory, he knew the Koran by heart at the age of 7. After receiving his early education in the religious sciences at Amol, he continued his studies in Rayy and Baghdad, which he reached about the year 855. Not later than 857 he visited Basra, Wasit, and Kufa to hear the famous scholars there. After his return to Baghdad he studied religious law according to the doctrine of al-Shafii, which he followed for some time before establishing his own doctrine.

After visiting several towns in Syria al-Tabari went to Egypt in 867, where he, already a famous scholar, was honored by a splendid reception. After revisiting Syria he returned to Egypt for a second stay in 870. In Egypt he defended his own independent legal doctrine in disputations with the prominent Shafiite scholar al-Muzani. He returned to Baghdad to stay there for the remainder of his life, though he made at least two trips to Tabaristan, the second one in 903.

Fully devoted to writing and teaching, al-Tabari refused an appointment as judge in 912. His lectures attracted large flocks of students. However, after his second trip to Tabaristan, he aroused the hostility of the Hanbalite school, which was predominant in Baghdad, by refusing to recognize its founder, Ibn Hanbal, as a scholar of the law. The Hanbalites accused him of heresy in minor doctrinal points, attacked him and his house, and, even after he apologized to them, continued to prevent students from attending his lectures. Al-Tabari died on Feb. 15, 923. His school of legal doctrine survived for only a few generations.

His Scholarship

In his numerous books on all fields of religious learning al-Tabari summed up the work of the earlier generations of Moslem scholars. His enormous commentary on the Koran, which he completed in 883/884, gathers the statements of all famous early exegetes concerning the circumstances of the promulgation of the Koranic verses and their meaning. His own comments are mostly concerned with lexical and grammatical questions. Sometimes he points out theological or juristic implications favoring traditionalist doctrine.

Al-Tabari's universal history, completed in 915, begins with the age of the prophets, patriarchs, and early kings, followed by Sassanian history, the age of Mohammed, and the era of Islam to the year 915. After the hijra (622) it is arranged annalistically. Al-Tabari scrupulously states his sources, most of which are lost, and reproduces them without changes. Often he quotes two or more conflicting reports on the same event. With few exceptions he shows remarkable discrimination in the choice of his sources. Particularly valuable are the sections on Sassanian and Umayyad history. Al-Tabari's other works are lost except for some fragments and minor treatises.

Further Reading

A small section of al-Tabari's history was translated into English by Elma Marin as The Reign of al-Mutasim, 833-842 (1951). Information on al-Tabari is in Reynold A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs (1907; 2d ed. 1930), and H. A. R. Gibb, Arabic Literature: An Introduction (1926; 2d rev. ed. 1963). □

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Tabari

Tabari (Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari) (täbä´rē), c.839–c.923, Arab historian and commentator. The name Tabari was given him because he was born in Tabaristan, Persia. He traveled widely in Syria and Egypt, setting finally in Baghdad. He was admired for his erudition, his memory, and his industry. He wrote two great works, a commentary on the Qur'an and Annals of the Apostles and the Kings. The commentary became a standard from which later commentators drew. The annals are an attempt at recounting universal history from the creation to 915. Condensed from an even longer work, they are not a continuous narrative but contain differing versions of the same story and are thus a prime collection of Arabic sources. Tabari also taught law.

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"Tabari." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Tabarī

Tabarī: (Muslim scholar): see AL-TABARĪ.

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"Tabarī." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tabarī." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/tabari

"Tabarī." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/tabari