Monday, October 20, 2008

Veracity of Tabari's Islamic History - 1

Action's Fury Truth Speaker wrote:

Reality of Anti-Islamist favorite Hadith book "Tabari":***

Dear Sir,

Veracity of Tabari in his own words:

Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari [838-923] was the Sunni Historian and Theologian and there was another Tabari who was a Shia and his full name was Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Rustom al-Tabari, was a Shia thinker who is commonly confused with the first one. He is the author of the book Dala'il al-Imamah (Proofs of the Imamate) and has no other book e.g. on Islamic History.

1- Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk or Tarikh al-Tabari

2- Al-Musamma Jami al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an or Tafsir al-Tabari

Veracity of Sunni Tabari:


Tafsir al-tabari and Tarikh al-tabari(history compiled by Tabari) are just a bunch of reports that Imam Tabari has complied. He says in the beginning of the books(either both or one of them) that he has just merely compiled all the reports that have cone to him, and that he will leave it up to future scholars to decide which ones are authentic.

Tabari himself, in a disclaimer at the end of his introduction (vol. 1 p. 24) declares that in terms of authenticity the material in his book is only as good as the chains of narration through which it has come down to him. "

Laymen like us looking through Tabari is the worst thing in the world. Tabari is not for people like us. The orientalists translated the entire Tarikh Tabari, and now, any non muslims goes and looks in it and thinks that it is authentic. Imam Tabari just collected everything that came to him and he said that he will leave it up to future muhaditheen [Traditionalists] to look for the authenticity of the reports.

Why Tabari is important for Shias?

It is a lie that Mu’awiyah ordered to insult Ali from the pulpits. There is no rightful or clear evidence about that. Mu’awiya’s biography and manners refuses this accusation. What some of the historians mention about that has no value because when these historians present these words about Mu’awiyah, they do not differentiate between true or false stories? In addition, most of these historians are Shia. But some of the Historians narrated in their books sound stories and false stories, but they are excused when they attributed these stories to their narrators so that we could judge these stories, whether to accept them or reject them. Among these historians is Al-Tabari, who lived in a time of Shia’s growing power. Al-Tabari says in the introduction to his history: “Let the person who reads through our book know that my reliance on whatever I recorded is on news and history with attribution to their narrators, without using intellect except in rare occasions. The knowledge of what had happened before, and what is going to happen at present time, is not reached to those who did not see and their time did not allow them for it without being told by people and without the interference of intellect. Therefore, whatever news you find in my book about history that the reader may deny it, or the listener may abhor it because he did not find it truthful according to him, then let him know that we did not present it ourselves, but it came from some of the people who narrated the story to us. We just presented what we have been told.”

[Tareekh Al-Tabari, Introduction, p.13]

Abu Makhnaf narrates this story. Abu Makhnaf’s full name is Loot bin Yahaya Al-Azday Al-Koufay [Tareekh Al-Tabari, vol.3, p.232, and year of 51H]. Al-Thahabi and Ibn Hajar said about him: “Ekhbaray Talif” (This is a phrase for the Scholars of hadeeth. Ekhbaray is the person who narrates stories, and talif is the one who lies when he narrates stories) [ Meezan Al-E’tidal by Al-Thahabi, vol.3, p.419 #6992 and Lisan Al-Meezan by Ibn Hajar, vol.4, p.492] Abu Hatim and others did not take him, and Al-Darqutnay said: “He is weak,” Ibn Mu’een said: “Not a trustworthy,” Marrah said: “He is nothing,” and Ibn Uday said: “A burned Shia!”) [Meezan Al-E’tidal, vol.3, p.419-420] and Al-Aqeelay accounted him as a weak [Al-Du’afa by Al-Aqeelay, vol.4, p.18-19 #1572]. Therefore, this story is false and hence is not an argument.

Tareekh at-Tabari was a voluminous text compiled by Imam Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (may Allah be pleased with him). Imam at-Tabari followed the classic methodology of early Islamic historians, a process which differed greatly from modern day historical writers. Islamic historians would simply compile all the known narrations about a certain event, regardless of how authentic or reliable each of those narrations were. They would copy the Isnads (chains of transmitters) into their books, in order that the Muhaditheen (scholars of Hadith) could determine which narration was Sahih/Hasan (authentic/good) and which was Dhaeef (weak) or even Mawdoo (fabricated). In other words, the historians compiled the narrations, and the Muhaditheen authenticated them.

Therefore, based on the above, we find that Tareekh at-Tabari is simply a collection of narrations on certain events; some of these narrations are accurate, whereas others are not. The authenticity of each narration depends on the Isnad (chain of transmitters): if the narration was transmitted by reliable narrators, then it would be accepted as valid, but if it was transmitted by unreliable people, then the narration was to be disregarded. As such, we find that it is ignorant of the enemies of Islam that they assume that we Sunnis accept every narration in Tareekh at-Tabari as valid, when in fact this is not the case nor has any Sunni scholar ever accepted this–not even Imam at-Tabari himself! Imam at-Tabari clearly says in the introduction of his book that the narrations found in his book are only as good as the people who narrate them. If the compiler of the book does not view all of the narrations as authentic, then it is indeed absurd for the Shia
to assume that we accept each and every single narration in Tareekh at-Tabari. Tabari says in a disclaimer in the introduction of his book:

I shall likewise mention those (narrators) who came after them, giving additional information about them. I do this so that it can be clarified whose transmission (of traditions) is praised and whose information is transmitted, whose transmission is to be rejected and whose transmission is to be disregarded…The reader should know that with respect to all I have mentioned and made it a condition to set down in this book of mine, I rely upon traditions and reports which have been transmitted and which I attribute to their transmitters. I rely only very rarely upon (my own) rationality and internal thought processes. For no knowledge of the history of men of the past and of recent men and events is attainable by those who were not able to observe them and did not live in their time, except through information and transmission produced by informants and transmitters. This knowledge cannot be brought out by reason or produced by internal thought processes. This book of mine may contain some information mentioned by me on the authority of certain men of the past, which the reader may disapprove of and the listener may find detestable, because he can find nothing sound and no real meaning in it. In such cases, he should know that it is not my fault that such information comes to him, but the fault of someone who transmitted it to me. I have merely reported it as it was reported to me.

(Tareekh at-Tabari, Vol.1, Introduction)

Imam at-Tabari’s book was simply an attempt to place Hadiths into a chronological order so that they would read out like a historical narrative; therefore, Tabari–like Ibn Ishaq–did a wonderful job of creating one of the first books which placed Hadiths in a chronological order. However, Imam at-Tabari only placed them in the right order, but he did not authenticate them, nor did he claim that. It should be known that to the Sunnis, the only two books of Hadith which are considered completely authentic are the Sahihayn (Bukhari and Muslim). After these two books, there are four other books which are considered reliable, but which contain some authentic and some unauthentic Hadiths. As for Tareekh at-Tabari, it is considered less reliable than any of these six books of Hadith! If, for example, a Shia were to quote a Hadith from Sunan at-Tirmidhi, then we would have to look up the Isnad in order to verify its authenticity. If this is the case with Sunan at-Tirmidhi, one of the six books of Hadith, then what can be said of a book (i.e. Tareekh at-Tabari) which is of a lower status than the six? For that matter, Tareekh at-Tabari is not even a book of Hadith, but it is lower than that: it is a book of history, and as is well-known, the scholars of Hadith would criticize the historians for their lack of scruples when it came to using weak narrations.

The most authentic book of Shia Hadith is Al-Kafi, compiled by Imam al-Kulayni, i.e. “Thiqat al-Islam”. Yet, many times the Shia will adamantly deny Hadiths found in that book, and even go as far as to say that the book contains thousands of unauthentic Hadith. If this is the Shia attitude towards the book they claim is the most authentic, then it is absurd for the Shia to expect us to accept every narration found in at-Tabari’s book, when in fact we Sunnis view Imam at-Tabari’s book with less honor than the Shia view Imam al-Kulayni’s book. In Al-Kafi there are narrations from the mouths of the Shia Imams that mention how Ali ibn Abi Talib wed his daughter to Umar ibn al-Khattab. Yet, the Shia will claim that these are falsely attributed to the Imam; then why do the Shia balk when we say that not every narration in Imam at-Tabari’s book is authentic?

What we have stated above applies to books written by Islamic historians in general; as for Imam at-Tabari in particular, then it should be known that he was specifically criticized for his over-reliance on weak and unauthentic narrators. Imam at-Tabari wished to create a well-balanced book, which would contain both Sunni and Shia narrations. He felt that his book would be incomplete if he only included one side to the exclusion of the other. In fact, Imam at-Tabari used so many Shia narrators and included so many Shia narrations that he was accused of being a Shia Rafidhi. Furthermore, the rumors that Imam at-Tabari did not recognize the jurisprudential superiority of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal further fueled the discontent towards Imam at-Tabari amongst the ranks of the Sunni orthodoxy. The Hanbalis–whom the Shia of today would refer to as the founding fathers of the “Wahabis”–rioted outside Imam at-Tabari’s home in protest.
Franz Rosenthal of Yale University writes:

He [Tabari] was denounced by Abu Bakr b. Abi Dawood to the influential chamberlain of al-Muqtadir, Nas al-Qushoori. He [Tabari] was accused of Jahmite inclinations and extremist [Shia] Rafidhi views and was forced to issue a denial…[of the] general accusations of dogmatic heresy and extremist Shi’ah sympathies which we hear about mainly in connection with quarrels with the Hanbalites…They [the Hanbalites] propagated the idea that he was a Shi’ah extremist and, ultimately, a heretic…Enraged Hanbalites thereupon stoned his residence and caused a serious disturbance which had to be subdued by force.

(Franz Rosenthal, General Introduction to “The History of al-Tabari”)

According to some sources, Imam at-Tabari issued a formal apology to the Hanbalis before his death; we read:

Tabari secluded himself in his house and produced his well-known book containing his apology to the Hanbalis. He mentioned his own legal views and dogmatic beliefs. He declared unreliable those who thought differently about him with respect to those matters…He extolled Ahmad ibn Hanbal and mentioned his legal views and dogmatic beliefs as being correct. He continued to refer to him constantly until he died.

(Irshad, Vol.6, p.437)

Therefore, it is not at all surprising that Tareekh at-Tabari would contain some narrations that the Shia would use against us; this was a consequence of Imam at-Tabari’s decision to compile both Sunni and Shia narrations, without commenting on their authenticity. Of course, the accusations against Imam at-Tabari that he was a Shia Rafidhi were one hundred percent incorrect; there is no doubt that Imam at-Tabari was a very respectable Imam of the Sunnis. He merely included Shia narrations/narrators based on the tradition of Islamic historians to simply compile Hadiths and to leave the authenticating to the Muhaditheen. So while we do not question the “Sunni-ness” of Imam at-Tabari, we bring up the point that people accused him of being a Shia Rafidhi to prove that the narrations found in Tareekh at-Tabari were never accepted by the mainstream Muslims as being one hundred percent authentic, and whoever would claim such a thing is a liar. The Shia narrations found in Tareekh at-Tabari were rejected back then, as they are now.

Not only did Imam at-Tabari include Shia narrations in his book, but he also included Christian and Zoroastrian accounts. This was in line with his belief of compiling a “balanced” book that would document all the various accounts from a variety of segments of the society. It is for this reason that some of the narrations in his book with regards to the story of Creation are not in line with the Islamic belief. Indeed, as we have stated repeatedly, not all the narrations in Tareekh at-Tabari can be accepted.

The Shia are allied with the other enemies of Islam when they use weak narrations in Tareekh at-Tabari in order to attack the mainstream Muslims. It was, after all, Salman Rushdie who used a narration in Tareekh at-Tabari to prove the story of the “Satanic verses.” And yet, we know that even though this narration is found in Tareekh at-Tabari, it is unauthentic as mentioned by Ibn Katheer and others. The methodology the Shia use to attack the mainstream Muslims is very similar to that employed by the apostates and avowed enemies of Islam. If the Shia propagandist would mock us when we doubt the authenticity of Tareekh at-Tabari, then let us mock them when they doubt the authenticity of their most authentic book of Hadith (i.e. Al-Kafi). If they insist that we accept every narration in Tareekh at-Tabari, then we insist that they accept every narration in Al-Kafi, that book which is full of Shirk, Kufr, and utter blasphemy. If they seek to weaken the Sunni position by bringing up narrations in Tareekh at-Tabari, then let us respond by toppling the Shia position by bringing up narrations in Al-Kafi.

To conclude, we say as Ibn Katheer said:

In these volumes, he [Tabari] reported the various narrations as they were transmitted and by whom. His discussion is a mixed bag of valuable and worthless, sound and unsound information. This is in keeping with the custom of many Hadith scholars who merely report the information they have on a subject and make no distinction between what is sound and what is weak.

(Ibn Katheer, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol.5, p.208)


Mawdoodi and Tabari:

1) Syed Abul 'Ala Mawdudi in, Khilafat o Mulukiyat, states:

"One more dis-liked innovation (bid'at) that reigned in the time of Hadhrat Muawiya [ra], that he himself (khud), and by his orders all (tamam) his governers, in their sermons (khutboon) through the pulpit reviled and insulted (sab o shatm) Hadhrat Ali [ra]. Even yet, in the mosque of the Prophet (S), through the pulpit (minbar) before the rawdah e nabawi, the dearest of the Prophet's (S) relatives were villified (gal'ian) and Hadhrat Ali's (ra) children and the nearest of his kin bore witness to these villifications (gali'an)."

The references from Mawdudi are to al Tabari, Tarikh, v4, p188, Ibn al Athir, al Kamil, v3, v4, p154, Ibn Kathir, al Bidaya, v8, p259, v9, p80.

2) Al Tabari writes in his work on history, they were,

"al Hasan had already made peace with Muawiyah on condition that he concede to him what was in his treasury plus the revenue of Darabjird and that 'Ali not be reviled in his hearing." (The History of al Tabari, Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Muawiyah, Section: The Rendering of Allegiance to al Hasan b. Ali).

3) "Marwan the architect of Umayyad dynastic rule, clearly recognized the importance of cursing as a tool of the government. He told 'Ali's grandson Ali b. al Husayn privately: 'No one [among the Islamic nobility] was more temperate (akaff) towards our master than your master'. The harmless son of al Husayn asked him: 'Why do you curse him then from the pulpits? 'He answered: 'Our reign would not be sound without that (la yastaqimu l-amru illa bi-dhalik)". (Baladhuri, AnsabII, 184-5 and ; Ibn Asakir, 'Ali, III, 98-9).

4) "Particularly useful for Muawiyas purpose was the public cursing of Ali in Kufa where he hoped it would bring out into the open the latent opposition of the Umayyad rule, thus facilitating his measures of repression. When he appointed al Mughira b Shuba governer of Kufa in Jumada 41/September-October 661, he instructed him: 'Never desist from abusing and censuring 'Ali, from praying for God's mercy and forgiveness for Uthman from disgracing the followers of Ali, from removing them and refusing to listen to them, and never cease praising the partisans of Uthman, may God be pleased with him, bringing them close to you and listening to them". (Tabari, II, 112).



When believers fight against each other, Allah did not call that act as "disbelieve" if the two warring factions had somehow valid arguments. Allah says in Surat Al-Hujurat, verse 9, “If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the Command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).”

Allah called the two warring factions as believers although they fought each other. Therefore, Muslim scholars had concluded that a Muslim is not a disbeliever if he committed a sin as the Khawarij did when they attributed disbelieve to Muslims when they commit a sin. However, to fight against a Muslim is a major sin, but it does not lead to disbelief. If affliction and different interpretation to events lead to the fighting, then it’s not disbelief.

If fighting is not disbelief, then how could slander and libeling is considered to be disbelief?

In Saheeh Al-Bukhari, the Prophet was giving a sermon while Al-Hasan was with him on the pulpit. Then the Prophet was looking to Al-Hasan, then to the listeners, and said, “My son (Al-Hasan) is a noble man, and perhaps Allah may establish peace between two great factions of Muslims through him.” And it happened as the Prophet predicted; Allah made peace between the people of Sham and people of Iraq after exhaustive years of wars and afflictions.

All of the above is on the occasion that Mu’awiyah did really slander and libel Ali bin Abi Talib. However, the truth is that Mu’awiyah never slandered Ali, and no one is able to prove otherwise with a valid argument.

History books are full of unbelievable stories. They contain both; true and false stories. These stories are examined by studying their narrators to distinguish the true stories from the false ones.

Most of history scholars who came after Al-Tabari like Ibn Katheer and Ibn Al-Atheer relied on Tareekh Al-Tabari as a source for their stories. The latter scholars narrate the stories without their chain of attribution. Thus, to know the authentic stories, we should refer back to Tareekh Al-Tabari because Al-Tabari is the one who narrated the stories by writing down the names of the narrators.

Let us look at the course of Al-Tabari in his books. Al-Tabari did not take an oath to write down only authentic stories, but he took an oath to write down the stories with their chain of narrators, false or true stories. Al-Tabari had handed over the task of examining the stories to the scholars. Al-Tabari says in his introduction, “Let the reader be aware that whatever I mention in my book is relied on the news that were narrated by some men. I had attributed these stories to their narrators, without inferring anything from their incidents …” [Tareekh Al-Tabari, 1/7-8]

The history of the affliction between the Companions is a very sensitive issue. Historical incidents relating to these times were filled with emotions and differences in political theories. Hence, it became difficult for historians to authenticate a particular story. Then, to issue a final judgment on a certain incident would be a very complex matter.

Therefore, Al-Tabari went on collecting all the different views of different stories, but he had mentioned the names of the people who narrated the stories. Al-Tabari says, “If a certain man gets horrified by a certain incident that we reported in our book, then let him know that it did not come from us, but we only wrote down what we received from the narrators.” [Tareekh Al-Tabari, 1/8]

Al-Astath Al-Mowdawi is an Islamic “thinker” (mufakir) and a mujahid. It had not known that he was a scholar in the fundamental of Islam, however. Hence, it is inappropriate to take him as a valid argument in these sensitive scholastic subjects. Al-Mowdawi did not authenticate the relevant stories; perhaps he was not aware of the course of the historians in narration.

The Peace stories between Mu’awiyah and Al-Hasan contain both authentic and false stories. The peace that occurred between Mu’awiyah and Al-Hasan is of great importance in the history of Islam due to the following reasons:

• Al-Hasan was a grand scholar.

• As a result of this treaty, Muslim bloods had been spared and Muslims united under one leader after years of disunity.

• That Al-Hasan became the first caliphate to relinquish his position without force and at the same time being on a strong foothold just to make peace between Muslims.

• That Al-Hasan believes in Mu’awiyah's faith and in his Islam. Otherwise, he would have not given him the leadership of Islam. This is a refutation to Shia’s claims.


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