Historiography of early Islam
The historiography of early Islam is the scholarly literature on the early history of Islam during the 7th century, from Muhammad's first revelations in 610 until the disintegration of the Rashidun Caliphate in 661,
and arguably throughout the 8th century and the duration of the Umayyad Caliphate, terminating in the incipient Islamic Golden Age around the beginning of the 9th century.
7th-century Islamic sources
- Between c. 568 and 645 Birmingham Quran manuscript
- Between c. 649 and 675 Tübingen fragment
- Between c. 578 and 669 Sanaa manuscript
- 692 – Qur'anic Mosaic on the Dome of the Rock.
- The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays, attributed to Sulaym ibn Qays. The work is an early Shia hadith collection, and it is often recognized as the earliest such collection. There is a manuscript of the work dating to the 10th century. Some Shia scholars are dubious about the authenticity of some features of the book, and Western scholars are almost unanimously skeptical concerning the work, with most placing its initial composition in the eighth or ninth century. The work is generally considered pseudepigraphic by modern scholars.
7th-century non-Islamic sources
- 634 Doctrina Iacobi
- 636 Fragment on the Arab Conquests
- 639 Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem
- 640 Thomas the Presbyter
- 640 Homily on the Child Saints of Babylon
- 643 — 25 April PERF 558
- 644 Coptic Apocalypse of Pseudo-Shenute
- 648 Life of Gabriel of Qartmin
- 650 Fredegar
- 655 Pope Martin I
- 659 Isho'yahb III of Adiabene
- 660 Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis
- 660 A Chronicler of Khuzistan
- 662 Maximus the Confessor
- 665 Benjamin I
- 670 Arculf, a Pilgrim
- 676 The Synod of 676
- 680 George of Resh'aina
- 680 The Secrets of Rabbi Simon ben Yohai
- 680 Bundahishn
- 681 Trophies of Damascus
- 687 Athanasius of Balad, Patriarch of Antioch
- 687 John bar Penkaye
- 690 Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius
- 692 Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephraem
- 694 John of Nikiu
- 697 Anti-Jewish Polemicists
Some epigraphs found from the first century of Islam include:
- Analysis of a sandstone inscription found in 2008, determined that it reads: "In the name of Allah/ I, Zuhayr, wrote at the time 'Umar died/year four/And twenty." It is worthwhile pointing out that caliph Umar bin al-Khattāb died on the last night of the month of Dhūl-Hijjah of the year 23 AH, and was buried next day on the first day of Muharram of the new year 24 AH, corresponding to 644 CE. Thus the date mentioned in the inscription conforms to the established and known date of the death of ʿUmar bin al-Khattāb.
- Jerusalem 32 - An Inscription unearthed at the south-west corner of the Ḥaram al-Sharīf in Jerusalem during excavations conducted by Professor Benjamin Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1968 from 32 AH / 652 CE mentions, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful...the protection of Allah and the guarantee of His Messenger... And witnessed it ʿAbd al-Raḥmān bin ʿAwf al-Zuhrī, and Abū ʿUbaydah bin al-Jarrāḥ and its writer - Muʿāwiya....the year thirty two"
- An Inscription, at Taymāʾ, Saudi Arabia, c. 36 AH / 656 CE reads, "I am Qays, the scribe of Abū Kutayr. Curse of Allah on who murdered ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān and have led to the killing without mercy." Greek Inscription In The Baths Of Hammat Gader, 42 AH / 662-63 CE mentions, "In the days of the servant of God Muʿāwiya, the commander of the faithful the hot baths of the people there were saved and rebuilt..."
- Tombstone of a women named ʿAbāssa Bint Juraij, kept in Museum of Islamic Art Cairo, from 71 AH / 691 CE mentions,"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The greatest calamity of the people of Islām is that which has fallen them on the death of Muḥammad the Prophet, Peace be upon him..."
- An Inscription at Ḥuma al-Numoor, near Ṭāʾif from 78 AH / 697-698 CE mentions, "This was written in the year the Masjid al-Ḥarām was built in the seventy eighth year."
Traditional Muslim historiography
Ilm ar-Rijal is the "science of biography" especially as practiced in Islam, where it was first applied to the sira, the life of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and then the lives of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs who expanded Islamic dominance rapidly. Since validating the sayings of Muhammad is a major study, accurate biography has always been of great interest to Muslim biographers, who accordingly attempted to sort out facts from accusations, bias from evidence, etc. The earliest surviving Islamic biography is Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, written in the 8th century, but known to us only from later quotes and recensions.
The "science of hadith" is the process that Muslim scholars use to evaluate hadith. The classification of Hadith into Sahih, Hasan and Da'if was firmly established by Ali ibn al-Madini. Later, al-Madini's student Muhammad al-Bukhari authored a collection that he believed contained only Sahih hadith, which is now known as the Sahih Bukhari. Al-Bukhari's historical methods of testing hadiths and isnads is seen as the beginning of the method of citation and a precursor to the scientific method. I. A. Ahmad writes:
Other famous Muslim historians who studied the science of biography or science of hadith included Urwah ibn Zubayr, Wahb ibn Munabbih, Ibn Ishaq, al-Waqidi, Ibn Hisham, al-Maqrizi, and Ibn Hajar Asqalani, among others.
Historiography, cultural history, and philosophy of historyThe first detailed studies on the subject of historiography itself and the first critiques on historical methods appeared in the works of the Arab Muslim historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldun, who is regarded as the father of historiography, cultural history, and the philosophy of history, especially for his historiographical writings in the Muqaddimah and Kitab al-Ibar. His Muqaddimah also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history, and he discussed the rise and fall of civilizations.
Franz Rosenthal wrote in the History of Muslim Historiography:
In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun warned of seven mistakes that he thought that historians regularly committed. In this criticism, he approached the past as strange and in need of interpretation. The originality of Ibn Khaldun was to claim that the cultural difference of another age must govern the evaluation of relevant historical material, to distinguish the principles according to which it might be possible to attempt the evaluation, and lastly, to feel the need for experience, in addition to rational principles, in order to assess a culture of the past. Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data." As a result, he introduced a scientific method to the study of history, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science", now associated with historiography. His historical method also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history, and he is thus considered to be the "father of historiography" or the "father of the philosophy of history".
World historyis known for writing a detailed and comprehensive chronicle of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history in his History of the Prophets and Kings in 915. Abu al-Hasan 'Alī al-Mas'ūdī, known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs", was the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work, Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawahir, a book on world history.
Until the 10th century, history most often meant political and military history, but this was not so with Persian historian Biruni. In his Kitab fi Tahqiq ma l'il-Hind, he did not record political and military history in any detail, but wrote more on India's cultural, scientific, social and religious history. Along with his Researches on India, Biruni discussed more on his idea of history in his chronological work The Chronology of the Ancient Nations.
Famous Muslim historians
- Urwah ibn Zubayr
- * Hadith of Umar's speech of forbidding Mut'ah
- Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri
- * Hadith of Umar's speech of forbidding Mut'ah
- * Hadith of prohibition of Mut'ah at Khaybar
- Ibn Ishaq
- * Sirah Rasul Allah
- Imam Malik
- * Al-Muwatta
- * Book of History and Campaigns
- Ali ibn al-Madini
- * The Book of Knowledge about the Companions
- Ibn Hisham
- * Sirah Rasul Allah
- Dhul-Nun al-Misri
- Muhammad al-Bukhari
- * Sahih Bukhari
- Muslim b. al-Hajjaj
- * Sahih Muslim
- Ibn Majah
- * Sunan Ibn Majah
- Abu Da'ud
- * Sunan Abi Da'ud
- * Sunan al-Tirmidhi
- Abu al-Hasan 'Alī al-Mas'ūdī
- * Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawahir
- Ibn Wahshiyya
- * Nabataean Agriculture
- * Kitab Shawq al-Mustaham
- * Sunan al-Sughra
- Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
- * History of the Prophets and Kings
- * Tafsir al-Tabari
- * Kitab Futuh al-Buldan
- * Genealogies of the Nobles
- Hakim al-Nishaburi
- * Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain
- Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī
- * Indica
- * History of Mahmud of Ghazni and his father
- * History of Khawarazm
- Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi
- Ibn Abi Zar
- * Rawd al-Qirtas
- * Major History of Islam
- * Talkhis al-Mustadrak
- * Tadhkirat al-huffaz
- * Al-Kamal fi ma`rifat al-rijal
- Ibn Kathir
- *Al-Bidāya wa-n-Nihāya
- *Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya
- Ibn Khaldun
- * Muqaddimah
- * Kitab al-Ibar
- Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani
- * Fath al-Bari
- * Tahdhib al-Tahdhib
- * Finding the Truth in Judging the Companinons
- * Bulugh al-Maram
Modern academic scholarship
- William Muir
- Reinhart Dozy "Die Israeliten zu Mecca"
- David Samuel Margoliouth
- William St. Clair Tisdall
- Leone Caetani
- Alphonse Mingana
Another pioneer of Islamic studies, Abraham Geiger, a prominent Jewish rabbi, approached Islam from that standpoint in his "Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?" . Geiger's themes continued in Rabbi Abraham I. Katsh's "Judaism and the Koran"
Establishment of academic researchOther scholars, notably those in the German tradition, took a more neutral view. They also started, cautiously, to question the truth of the Arabic texts. They took a source-critical approach, trying to sort the Islamic texts into elements to be accepted as historically true, and elements to be discarded as polemic or as pious fiction. Such scholars included:
- Michael Jan de Goeje
- Theodor Nöldeke
- Ignaz Goldziher
- Henri Lammens
- Arthur Jeffery
- H. A. R. Gibb
- Joseph Schacht
- Montgomery Watt
The revisionist challenge
The oldest of this group was John Wansbrough. Wansbrough's works were widely noted, but not necessarily widely read, owing to, his "awkward prose style, diffuse organization, and tendency to rely on suggestive implication rather than tight argument". Nonetheless, his scepticism influenced a number of younger scholars, including:
- Martin Hinds
- Patricia Crone
- Michael Cook
Crone defended the use of non-Muslim sources saying that "of course these sources are hostile and from a classical Islamic view they have simply got everything wrong; but unless we are willing to entertain the notion of an all-pervading literary conspiracy between the non-Muslim peoples of the Middle East, the crucial point remains that they have got things wrong on very much the same points."
Crone and Cook's more recent work has involved intense scrutiny of early Islamic sources, but not their total rejection.
In 1972 construction workers discovered a cache of ancient Qur'ans – commonly known as the Sana'a manuscripts – in a mosque in Sana'a, Yemen. The German scholar Gerd R. Puin has been investigating these Qur'an fragments for years. His research team made 35,000 microfilm photographs of the manuscripts, which he dated to the early part of the 8th century. Puin has not published the entirety of his work, but has noted unconventional verse orderings, minor textual variations, and rare styles of orthography. He has also suggested that some of the parchments were palimpsests which had been reused. Puin believed that this implied an evolving text as opposed to a fixed one.
Karl-Heinz Ohlig has also researched Christian/Jewish roots of the Qur'an and its related texts. He sees the name Muhammad itself as part of that tradition.
In their study of the traditional Islamic accounts of the early conquest of different cities -- Damascus and Caesarea in Syria, Babilyn/al-Fusat and Alexandria in Egypt, Tustar in Khuzistan and Cordoba in Spain -- scholars Albrecht Noth and Lawrence Conrad find a suspicious pattern whereby the cities "are all described as having fallen into the hands of the Muslims in precisely the same fashion". There is a
"traitor who,... points out a weak spot in the city's fortification to the Muslim besiegers; a celebration in the city which diverts the attention of the besieged; then a few assault troops who scale the walls,... a shout of Allahu akbar!... from the assault troops as a sign that they have entered the town; the opening of one of the gates from inside, and the onslaught of the entire army."They conclude these accounts can not be "the reporting of history" but are instead stereotyped story tales with little historical value.
Contemporary scholars have tended to use the histories rather than the hadith, and to analyze the histories in terms of the tribal and political affiliations of the narrators, thus making it easier to guess in which direction the material might have been slanted. Notable scholars include:
- Fred M. Donner
- Wilferd Madelung
- Gerald Hawting
- Jonathan Berkey
- Andrew Rippin
Scholars combining traditional and academic scholarship