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Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad ibn Jarīr at-Tabarī ( Arabic أبو جعفر محمد بن جرير الطبري, DMG Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad b. Ǧarīr aṭ-Ṭabarī ; * 839 in Amol , Tabaristan ; † January 19, 923 in Baghdad ) was a Persian Islamic historian and scholar in Baghdad. Little data is available about his life.

He should not be confused with the somewhat older Christian doctor ʿAlī ibn Sahl Rabban at-Tabarī , who converted to Islam around the middle of the 9th century and wrote a medical encyclopedia and a refutation of Christianity.

Tomb at-Tabarīs in Baghdad, Iraq


The life of Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabarī can only be put together from fragments and from works from later times.

Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad ibn Jarīr at-Tabarī came from a wealthy family from Amol in Tabaristan (today Māzandarān in Iran ). He inherited enough from his father, a landowner, to be able to devote his life entirely to learning without financial worries. In this way he was able to maintain his independence from the influence of a patron . Although he later taught for two years the children of the Abbasid - vizier Ubayd ibn Yahya ibn Khaqan, but it should never be an official body as loud anecdotes Qadi have sought. Despite his wealth, at-Tabarī has always led a modest lifestyle, including a. According to the biography of Maslama ibn al-Qāsim al-Qurtubīs, he is said to have preferred celibacy (Arabic: ḥaṣūr ) to marriage.

According to his own information, at-Tabarī is said to have been a Haafiz at the age of seven and imam by eight . At the age of twelve he left his homeland and began his extensive study trip to Syria , Egypt , Baghdad, Kufa and Basra “in search of knowledge” ( fī ṭalab al-ʿilm ). He studied with numerous teachers, including ʿAbd Allāh ibn Humaid ar-Rāzī, whom he cites several times in his history. In Baghdad - at that time a stronghold of Islamic learning - he wanted to study with Ahmad ibn Hanbal , but he died shortly after his arrival in the city. Later at-Tabarī's teaching was disrupted by the Hanbalites and his disciples were attacked. The background was that at-Tabarī had founded another school of law with the Dscharīrīya (DMG: Ǧarīrīya ) and this had ultimately challenged Ahmad ibn Hanbal's authority as a legal scholar without success.

After further study trips and the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina , he returned to Baghdad around 870 and devoted himself entirely to his writing for the last 50 years of his life.


At-Tabarīs most famous works are his annals ( taʾrīch ) and his commentary on the Koran ( tafsīr ). He also studied law ( fiqh ) , hadith, and other scientific disciplines.


The "Annals" - sometimes also called "The Story" - are at-Tabarīs universal history, mostly with Muchtasar taʾrīch ar-rusul wa-l-mulūk wa-l-chulafāʾ (مختصر تأريخ الرسل والملوك والخلفاء, DMG Muḫtaṣar tāʾrīḫ ar-rusul wa-l-mulūk wa-l-ḫulafāʾ ' Small copy about the history of the prophets, kings and caliphs') and which goes from the creation story to the biblical prophets up to at-Tabarī's time (915 ) enough. The annalistic compiled work is still one of the most important sources about the early Islamic period and the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties . Much attention is paid to the great Zanj uprising between 869 and 883, one of the most notable events in the long history of slavery in Islam .

The author evaluates older materials from Islamic historiography that were either available to him in writing or made accessible through correspondence. For southern Central Asia ( Khorasan ), he refers entirely to the Arab historian al-Madāʾinī (752 - around 840). For many monographs that are no longer available today - such as the writings of Abū Michnaf , al-Wāqidī and Saif ibn ʿUmar - he received the tradition rights from his teachers; at the same time, he also resorted to oral traditions from his contemporaries. From Ibn Ishāq's biography of the prophets at-Tabarī quotes the first part of the work in a review that Ibn Hishām has not received.

His information on the history of the New Persian Empire of the Sassanids is of inestimable value for research, as he was able to fall back on sources from late ancient times that are now lost . The presentation of Sassanid history "follows on from that of Jesus and the Byzantines and leads directly to the Vita of Muhammad, the goal of history." The history work was translated into Persian by Mu gekammad Balʿamī in the 10th century; because it was able to convey to the Persians the knowledge that the religion proclaimed by Mohammed was the divine destination of Persia.

The complete works were first published by European orientalists from 1879 to 1901 under the direction of Michael Jan de Goeje in Leiden (see also Theodor Nöldeke and Eugen Prym ) and have been reprinted several times since then. An English translation appeared under the title The History of al-Tabari. An Annotated Translation at State University of New York Press, Albany 1985-1998.

Koran exegesis

His commentary on the Koran, Jamiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-Qurʾān جامع البيان عن تأويل آي القرآن, DMG Ǧāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-qurʾān 'Summary of the explanations for the interpretation of the Qur'anic verses', was written between 896 and 903. Only a few fragments of the work were known until the beginning of the 20th century; the discovery of the complete copy in the private library of the governor of Ha'il was of crucial importance for the Koranic research. The edition, first published in Cairo in 1903 and then reprinted several times, comprises 30 volumes. The new edition of the commentary, taking into account new manuscript finds and comprehensive indices, was published in Cairo in 2001. At-Tabarī comments on the entire text of the Koran verse by verse. First, lexical questions are explained, followed by the presentation of the historical background of the revelation, furthermore various traditional interpretations of the contents, the discussion of the question of abrogation . Finally, the author gives his own judgment on the most likely interpretation.

At-Tabarī based his commentary mainly on written sources and quoted traditions from Qatāda ibn Diʿāma , Mujāhid ibn Jabr , ʿAbdallāh ibn Wahb , as-Suddī and many others, whose Koran exegetical writings have either been lost or only exist in fragments. The importance of this Koranic exegesis in Islamic scholarship is also confirmed by the fact that it was recorded on parchment in the Islamic West in Andalusian style around eighty years after the author's work, around 1000-1001 .


In jurisprudence ( Fiqh ) at-Tabarī initially tended towards the Shafiite school of law and studied with the students of al-Shāfiʿī in Baghdad as well as in Fustāt . In Egypt he also frequented Malikite circles . In Baghdad he then worked for ten years as the Mufti of the Shafiites. Towards the end of his life he developed his own school of law, the followers of which were named after his father's name, the "Dscharīrīya"الجريرية / al-Ǧarīriya called. Some of his students wrote treatises on the defense of his teachings, which we only know from their titles in Ibn an-Nadīm : “Introduction to the law school at-Tabarīs and its defense”, “The consensus ( ijma ) according to the legal doctrine of Abu Jafar “And other writings written by Islamic theologians (mutakallimun) in the 10th century. The contents of these writings, in their titles always from "Madhhab at-Tabarī" or "Madhhab Abī Dschaʿfar" (The School of at-Tabarī or Abū Jaʿfar) and "Fiqh at-Tabarī" (The Jurisprudence of at-Tabarī ), but not the so-called "Jarīrīya", are unknown. Ibn an-Nadīm mentions one of the most famous traditionalists who was close to his contemporary at-Tabarī in the field of jurisprudence: Abū Muslim al-Kaddschī from Basra († 904). The Shafiite as-Subki († July 1370), author of a comprehensive scholarly biography of the Shafiites, names a Kitāb Ahkām Sharāʾiʿ al-Islām among the works of at-Tabariكتاب أحكام شرائع الإسلام / Kitāb aḥkām šarāʾiʿ al-islām  / 'Regulations of Islamic Legislation' and adds: "He (at-Tabarī) wrote it as his ijtihad enabled him to do". As-Subki does not say whether this book is a summary of his own teachings.

Ibn ʿAsākir names the same work title in his Damascus scholar biography with the comment: “It is his legal doctrine (madhhab) that he has chosen, mastered and argued with. It consists of 83 chapters. ”In another work, according to Ibn ʿAsākir, under the title Sharh al-Sunnaشرح السنة / Šarḥ as-sunna  / 'The Explanation of the Sunnah ' at-Tabarī set out his own legal doctrine (madhhab) according to the views of the Companions of Muhammad, their successors and the legal scholars in the Islamic provinces. Details of the content are not handed down here either. Both these writings and those of his pupils have been lost and are not cited in the legal literature of subsequent generations. Thus, the reconstruction of a separate school of law - in contrast to the legal doctrine of al-Auzāʿī († 774) - is not possible. Ibn an-Nadīm has compiled not only the titles of at-Tabarī's numerous legal writings in his Fihrist , but also those of his followers. The section in which Ibn ʿAsākir lists the writings of at-Tabarī was published by Ignaz Goldziher in 1895 based on a manuscript with the note that the Damascus scholar-biographer also received work titles that Ibn an-Nadīm apparently did not know.

His significant work in the field of jurisprudence under the title ichtilāf al-fuqahāʾ  /اختلاف الفقهاء / iḫtilāfu ʾl-fuqahāʾ  / 'The controversial doctrines of legal scholars' is one of the few works in which the predominantly controversial legal doctrines of the oldest legal schools have been summarized. The fragment of the work in the Istanbul library is entitled: kitāb al- Jihad wal- Jizya li-ṭ-Ṭabarī  /كتاب الجهاد والجزية للطبري; It therefore deals with legal questions of Islamic international law . The German orientalist Joseph Schacht identified it as part of the work mentioned and published it in 1933. This part contains numerous fragments from the legal work of Abū Ishāq al-Fazārī , who reports on the doctrines of al-Auzāʿī on questions of war and international law. Further parts were published in the edition by Friedrich Kern. They deal with legal questions about the right to buy and sell slaves and their release. Both parts of the work have been reprinted several times in the Orient.

In this fragmentarily obtained image shows at-Ṭabarī the teachings leading lawyers of the early period as Malik ibn Anas , Abu HANIFA , ashShaafi'ee, further, the Al-Auza'i and in Cufa -based Sufyan al-Thawri represents but includes Ahmad ibn Hanbal as primary scholars of hadith and non-lawyers, just like the theories of the Muʿtazila . The author himself does not comment on the controversial views presented by the schools of law mentioned; he only highlights those points on which the predecessors reached consensus (ijma). The work is therefore a valuable compilation of legal teachings from the late 2nd and early 3rd Islamic centuries that no longer exist.

Joseph Schacht pays tribute to this work with the following words:

“In summary, it can be stated that aṭ-Ṭabarī has used his sources, as far as we can check, with great care and completeness. The differences found are not based on inaccurate excerpts on his part, but on differences in the rivājas . Even if we have parallel messages that are missing from him, he offers us much more news about the views of the old authorities and a unique opportunity for comparison. "

- The Constantinople fragment. S. XXIV.

Hadith literature

In the field of hadith there are parts from his Tahdhib al-athar  /تهذيب الآثار / Tahḏīb al-āṯār  / 'The Summary of Hadith' obtained. It is arranged according to the last sources of the sayings of the prophets (Musnad). The present parts deal with the statements of Muhammad conveyed by ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās , ʿUmar ibn al-Chattāb and ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib . at-Tabari explains each tradition first according to linguistic aspects and determines its value as conclusive evidence in ritual law, insofar as it corresponds to the Sunna , the second source of Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn an-Nadim knew this work by this title and noted that the author had not finished it.


Arabic sources

  • ar-Rūmī, Yāqūt ibn ʿAbdallāh al-Ḥamawī: Iršād al-Arīb ilā Maʿrifat al-Adīb . Ed. DS Marǧuliyūṯ. Maṭbaʿa Hindīya bi-l-Mūskī, Cairo, 1925. Vol. 6, pp. 423-462. Digitized
  • aṭ-Ṭabarī, Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad Ibn Ǧarīr: Taʾrīḫ aṭ-Ṭabarī - Taʾrīḫ ar-Rusūl wa-l-Mulūk . Ed. Muḥammad Abū l-Faḍl Ibrāhīm. 2nd edition Dār al-Maʿārif bi-Miṣr, Cairo. Digitized


  • Ihsan Abbas et al. (Ed.): The History of al-Tabari. An Annotated Translation. 40 volumes, New York 1985 ff. (English translation of Tabari's Universal History)
    • Clifford Edmund Bosworth (translator), foreword by Ehsan Yarshater : Al-Tabari. The Sasanids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. State University of New York Press, Albany 1999 (published in the above series, covers the history of the Sasanids )
  • History of the Persians and Arabs at the time of the Sasanids. From the Arab Chronicle of Tabari. Translated and provided with detailed explanations and additions by Theodor Nöldeke . Leiden 1879 ( digitized version of the University and State Library of Saxony-Anhalt, Halle ).
  • Tabarî, La Chronique Histoire des prophètes et des rois. 2 volumes, translated from Persian by Hermann Zotenberg . Éditions Actes Sud / Sindbad 2001, Volume I, ISBN 2-7427-3317-5 , Volume II, ISBN 2-7427-3318-3 .

Secondary literature

  • CE Bosworth: Art. Al-Ṭabarī , in: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition , Vol. 10 (2000), pp. 11-15. Also online. Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, CE Bosworth, E. van Donzel, WP Heinrichs.
  • Heribert Busse : Arab Historiography and Geography. In: Helmut Gätje (Hrsg.): Outline of Arabic Philology. Volume II: Literary Studies. Wiesbaden 1987, pp. 264-297.
  • Ignaz Goldziher: The literary activity of the Ṭabarī after Ibn ʿAsākir. In: Viennese magazine for the customer of the Orient (WZKM). Volume 9, 1895, pp. 359-371
  • Ignaz Goldziher: The directions of the Islamic Koran interpretation. Brill, Leiden 1920
  • Joseph Schacht (ed.): The Constantinople fragment of the Kitāb Iḫtilāf al-Fuqahāʾ of the Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Ǧarīr aṭ-Ṭabarī. Brill, Leiden 1933.
  • Fuat Sezgin: History of Arabic Literature. Volume 1, Brill, Leiden 1967, pp. 323-328.

Web links

Commons : al-Tabari  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Bosworth: Art. "Al-Ṭabarī" in EI² .
  2. ^ McAuliffe, Jane Dammen: Qurʾānic Christians - An Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis . Cambridge [u. a.], Cambridge University Press 1991. p. 39.
  3. ^ Makdisi, George: The Rise of Colleges - Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West . Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1981. p. 8. Digitized
  4. Heinz Halm: The traditions about the uprising ʿAlī Ibn Muḥammads, the "Lord of the Zanǧ". A source-critical investigation. Bonn 1967. See also the English translation of aṭ-Ṭabarī: D. Waines: The History of al-Ṭabarī. An annotated translation. Volume XXXVI, The revolt of the Zanj, Albany 1992, pp. 29-67 and pp. 108-207; PM Field: Volume XXXVII: The ʿAbbāsid recovery. Albany 1987, pp. 1-43.
  5. Étienne de La Vaissière : Sogdian Traders. A history. ( Handbook of Oriental Studies. 8th section: Central Asia. Volume 10) Brill, Leiden / Boston 2005, p. 264.
  6. Fuat Sezgin (1967), pp. 323-324.
  7. ^ Uri Rubin: Prophets and Caliphs: the biblical foundations of the Umayyad authority. In: Herbert Berg (Ed.): Method and Theory in the Study of Islamic Origins. Brill, Leiden 2003, pp. 80-81.
  8. Heribert Busse (1987), p. 271.
  9. Heribert Busse (1987), p. 271 after Bertold Spuler: The historical and geographical literature in Persian language. In: Handbook of Oriental Studies. 1. Department, Volume 4: Iranian Studies. Section 2: Literature. P. 104.
  10. Ignaz Goldziher (1920), p. 87; on the first appraisal of the work, based on a fragmentary preserved manuscript in Cairo, see Otto Loth : Tabarī's Korancommentar. In: Journal of the German Oriental Society (ZDMG). Volume 35, 1881, pp. 588-628. ( Digitized version of the University and State Library of Saxony-Anhalt, Halle )
  11. Edited by ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muḥsin at-Turkī et alii in 26 volumes.
  12. Miklos Muranyi : Contributions to the history of Ḥadīṯ and legal scholarship of the Mālikiyya in North Africa up to the 5th century. Wiesbaden 1997, pp. 412-413 (supplements).
  13. ^ AJ Wensinck and JH Kramers (eds.): Short dictionary of Islam. Brill, Leiden 1941, p. 710; Fuat Sezgin (1967), p. 323.
  14. Fihrist. Ed. Riḍā Taǧaddud. Tehran 1971, p. 292.
  15. About him see: Fuat Sezgin (1967), p. 162.
  16. About him see: Carl Brockelmann: History of Arabic literature. Second edition adapted to the supplement volumes. Brill, Leiden 1949, Volume 2, pp. 108-109.
  17. Ṭabaqāt aš-Šāfiʿīya al-kubrā. Cairo 1965, Volume 3, p. 121.
  18. Volume 52, p. 196.
  19. Volume 52, p. 197.
  20. Ed. Riḍā Taǧaddud. Tehran 1971, pp. 291-292.
  21. Ignaz Goldziher (1895), pp. 359-360.
  22. The Constantinople fragment of the Kitāb Iḫtilāf al-Fuqahāʾ by Abū Ǧaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Ǧarīr aṭ-Ṭabarī. Brill, Leiden 1933, pp. VII-IX.
  23. Cairo 1902; 2nd Edition. Beirut, without a year.
  24. This is also evident in the fact that he specifies exactly when he draws a conclusion from his sources (e.g. BS 31.5; 247.15; 248.11f.).
  25. D. h. Work records.
  26. Fuat Sezgin (1967), p. 327, No. 2; the present fragments were published in three volumes in Beirut (1982–1983).