Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838–923) (224 – 310 AH) was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an
Tafseer is the Arabic word for exegesis or commentary, usually of the Qur'an. Ta'wīl is a subset of tafsir and refers to esoteric or mystical interpretation. An author of tafsir is a mufassir .- Etymology :...

 from Persia. His most influential and best known works are his (تاريخ الرسل والملوك) Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk (often shortened to "Tarikh al-Tabari") and Tafsir al-Tabari
Tafsir al-Tabari
Jāmi` al-bayān `an ta'wīl āy al-Qur'ān, popularly Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī is a classic Sunni tafsir by the Persian scholar Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari...



Tabari was born in Amol
Amol is a city in and the capital of Amol County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 197,470, in 55,183 families.Amol and the old part of town is the first of the four towns that populate the world in which there is Nzamyh...

, Tabaristan (some twenty kilometres south of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

) in the winter of 838–9. He memorized the Qur'an at seven, was a qualified religious leader
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 at eight and began to study the prophetic traditions
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 at nine. He left home to study in A.H. 236 (850–1) when he was twelve. He retained close ties to his home town. He returned at least twice, the last time in A.H. 290 (903) when his outspokenness caused some uneasiness and led to his quick departure.

He first went to Ray (Rages), where he remained for some five years. A major teacher in Rayy was Abu Abdillah Muhammad ibn Humayd al-Razi, who had earlier taught in Baghdad but was now in his seventies. Among other material, ibn Humayd taught Jarir Tabari the historical works of ibn Ishaq
Ibn Ishaq
Muḥammad ibn Isḥaq ibn Yasār ibn Khiyār was an Arab Muslim historian and hagiographer...

, especially al-Sirah, his life of Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

. Tabari was thus introduced in youth to pre-Islamic and early Islamic history. Tabari quotes ibn Humayd frequently. We know little about Tabari's other teachers in Rayy.

Tabari then travelled to study in Baghdad under ibn Hanbal
Ahmad ibn Hanbal
Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani was an important Muslim scholar and theologian. He is considered the founder of the Hanbali school of fiqh...

, who, however, had recently died (in late 855 or early 856). Tabari possibly made a pilgrimage prior to his first arrival in Baghdad. He left Baghdad probably in 242 A.H. (856–7) to travel through the southern cities of Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, Kufah
Kufah may refer to:* Ovophis okinavensis, a.k.a. the Okinawa pitviper, a venomous pitviper species found in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.* Alternative English spelling for Kufa, a city in modern Iraq....

 and Wasit
Wasit is a place in Wasit Governorate, south east of Kut in eastern Iraq.-History:During Ottoman times, it was the head city of the sanjak of Wasit.To quote UNESCO:...

. There he met a number of eminent and venerable scholars.

On his return to Baghdad, he took a tutoring position from the vizier Ubaydallah b. Yahya b. Khaqan. This would have been before A.H. 244 (858) since the vizier was out of office and in exile from 244 to 248 (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 boy'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. This is one of a number of stories about him declining gifts or giving gifts of equal or greater amount in return.

In his late twenties he travelled to Syria, Palestine and Egypt. 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). 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.

Tabari arrived in Egypt in 253H (867), and some time after 256/870 returned to Baghdad, possibly making a pilgrimage on the way. If so, he did not stay long in the Hijaz. Tabari had a private income from his father while he was still living and then the inheritance. He took money for teaching. He never took a government or a judicial position.

Personal Characteristics

He is described as having a dark complexion, large eyes and a long beard. He was tall and slender 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. He was seldom sick before his last decade when he suffered from bouts of pleurisy. 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. He avoided coarse speech, instead displaying refined eloquence. 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. 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
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 on February 17, 923.


Al-Tabari wrote history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 and Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

ic 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
Ijtihad is the making of a decision in Islamic law by personal effort , independently of any school of jurisprudence . as opposed to taqlid, copying or obeying without question....

). He stated his assessment as to which of the sources he cited was accurate. 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. In general Tabari's approach was conciliatory and moderate, seeking harmonious agreement between conflicting opinions.

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. Tabari's madhhab
is a Muslim school of law or fiqh . In the first 150 years of Islam, there were many such "schools". In fact, several of the Sahābah, or contemporary "companions" of Muhammad, are credited with founding their own...

 is usually designated by the name Jariri
Jariri is the name given to a short-lived school of Islamic jurisprudence that was derived from the work of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, the ninth and tenth-century Muslim scholar of Baghdad...

 after his patronymic
A patronym, or patronymic, is a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or an even earlier male ancestor. A component of a name based on the name of one's mother or a female ancestor is a matronymic. Each is a means of conveying lineage.In many areas patronyms...

. However, in the keenly competitive atmosphere of the times, his school failed to endure.

His wrote extensively; his voluminous corpus containing two main titles:
  • History of the Prophets and Kings
    History of the Prophets and Kings (book)
    The History of the Prophets and Kings is a historical chronicle written in Arabic by Persian author and historian Ibn Jarir al-Tabari d...

    – (Arabic: تاريخ الرسل والملوك or 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
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

 from the time of Qur'anic Creation to AD 915
Year 915 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar.- Europe :* Battle of Garigliano: The Christian League defeats the Saracens.* Berengar I of Italy is crowned Holy Roman Emperor....

, and is renowned for its detail and accuracy concerning Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 and Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern 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, commonly called Tafsir al-Tabari)

His second great work was the commentary on the Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, (Arabic Tafsir al-Tabari), which was marked by the same fullness of detail as the Annals. Abul-Qaasim Ibn 'Aqil Al-Warraq (رحمه الله) says: " Imām Ibn Jarir (رحمه الله) once said to his students: “Are you'll ready to write down my lesson on the Tafsir (commentary) of the entire Holy Quran"? 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
Tafsir ibn Kathir
Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim, popularly Tafsir ibn Kathir , is a classic Sunni Islam tafsir by Ibn Kathir....

 which is often referred to as Mukhtasar Tafsir at-Tabari.
  • Tahdhīb al-Athār
    Tahdhib al-Athar
    Tahdhīb al-Āthār is a collection of hadith by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. Al-Kattani described it as one of al-Tabari's amazing works, although, he did not complete it.-Description:...

     (تهذيب الآثار) was begun by Tabari. This was on the traditions transmitted from the Companions
    In Islam, the ' were the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet...

     of Muhammad
    Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

    . It was not, however, completed.

See also

  • Islamic scholars
  • List of Persian scientists and scholars
  • List of Muslim historians
  • Bal'ami
    AMĪRAK BALʿAMĪ, name given to ABŪ ʿALĪ MOḤAMMAD , son of Abu’l-Fażl Moḥammad b. ʿObaydallāh Baḷʿamī ' ; both served as viziers of the Samanids . Mostly known as Bal'ami , was a Persian historian, writer, and vizier to the Samanids...

External links

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