Satellite image of the Middle East, with super-imposed political borders. The Sawād is visible as the dark expanse of land in south-central Iraq. 
Arguably the most famous scholar and historian of early Islamic civilisation, Abū Jafar Muḥammad b
. Jarīr b
. Yazīd aṭ-Ṭabarī (Āmul, 839–Baghdād, 923) left behind not only an important universal history, but also a significant Qurʾān commentary and numerous other volumes on history, law, ethics, tradition, and religion. Although aṭ-Ṭabarī was born in Ṭabaristān, in northern Iran along the Caspian Sea, scholars are unsure whether his ancestors were locals or Arab settlers. Coming from a family of means, aṭ-Ṭabarī enjoyed the luxury to study in Baghdād and to travel widely and, in his later years, to remain somewhat exempt from the external political and social pressures of patronage that affected poorer scholars. A precocious student, he qualified as a prayer leader by the age of eight; a prolific scholar, he studied in many of the major centres of learning: Rayy, Baghdād, Wāsiṭ, Baṣrah, al-Kūfah, and travelled later throughout Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. Aṭ-Ṭabarī never accepted an official post and became known for his avoidance of excess. His independent approach to scholarship and emphasis on independent interpretation (Ar
) resulted in baseless accusations of Shīʿī sympathies by Ḥanbalī contemporaries. While technically belonging to the Shāfiʿī school (Ar
) of Islamic law, aṭ-Ṭabarī’s followers described his views as a distinct school in itself, known as the Jarīriyyah, although the movement’s growth did not continue long beyond the lifetime of its intellectual founder. Aṭ-Ṭabarī died in Baghdād at the age of 84 and, having never married, left behind no progeny, although he was eulogised by many leading scholars of the age.
A manuscript page, dating to the early Thirteenth Century, from a Persian translation of aṭ-Ṭabarī’s Qurʾān commentary. 
His most lasting legacy lies in the magisterial Taʾrīkh ar-rusul wa-ʾl-mulūk wa-ʾl-khulafāʾ
(‘History of the messengers and the kings and the caliphs’), a universal history constituting over eight thousand pages in twelve-and-a-half volumes in the printed Leiden edition (1879–1901) and nearly forty volumes in the recent English translation (1985–2007). The Taʾrīkh
commences with the Creation of the world and Biblical history, relates the history of ancient Israel and Iran, covers the life of Jesus and other prophets preceding Muḥammad, and reproduces the history of pre-Islamic Iranian dynasties, before culminating in the age of Islam, from the life of Muḥammad to the year 915 during the reign of the ʿAbbāsid caliph al-Muqtadir (r
. 908–932). Aṭ-Ṭabarī’s meticulous use of a wide range of sources—typically, he provided the reader with numerous versions of one event—means that the Taʾrīkh
preserves many chronicles that are no longer extant, including the Persian Khvadāy-nāmag
(‘Book of lords’). It became a standard text for generations of Muslim historians, who studied, copied, abridged, and translated it for centuries. (Biography based upon Bosworth, I 971-971
5.1 Abū Jaʿfar [aṭ-Ṭabarī]←as-Sarī b. Yaḥyā←Shuʿayb b. Ibrāhīm←Sayf b. ʿUmar←Muḥammad b. Nuwayrah, Ṭalḥah [b. Aʿlam al-Ḥanafī], Ziyād [b. Sarjis al-Aḥmarī], and ʿAṭiyyah [b. al-Ḥārith al-Hamdānī]
… [ʿUmar ordered Jarīr to head to Iraq, but Jarīr insisted on Syria.] When [the Bajīlah] had gone forth to (join) Jarīr and he had ordered them to meet at the appointed time, ʿUmar gave him compensation for having compelled him and to benefit him, making over to him a quarter of the fifth of what God had bestowed on them as spoils in their campaigns. This was for him, those who gathered to him, and those who had been brought forth to him from among the tribes. …
Source: aṭ-Ṭabarī, Annales, I 2183 (Arabic); English translation from idem, Challenge to the empires, 196.
5.2 as-Sarī [b. Yaḥyā]←Shuʿayb [b. Ibrāhīm]←Sayf [b. ʿUmar]←ʿAṭiyyah [b. al-Ḥārith al-Hamdānī] and Sufyān al-Aḥmarī←al-Mujālid [b. Saʿīd]←ash-Shaʿbī
When the army of the Bajīlah was collected, ʿUmar said,
Come to us on your own way. … [The Bajīlah preferred to go to Syria, but ʿUmar wished them to head to Iraq.] He did not cease insisting to them and they refusing him until that was decided on and he assigned them a quarter of the fifth of what God had bestowed on the Muslims as booty, in addition to their [proper] share of the booty. He appointed ʿArfajah to be in charge of those Bajīlah who had been residing among the Jadīlah, and Jarīr [b. ʿAbd-Allāh] to be in charge of those who were living among the Banū ʿĀmir and others. … Then ʿUmar gave him charge of the main part of the Bajīlah. … [Jarīr undermined ʿArfajah amongst the Bajīlah and had them complain about him.] [ʿUmar] then appointed Jarīr in his place, bringing together the Bajīlah under him. He also revealed to Jarīr and the Bajīlah that he would send ʿArfajah to Syria; that made Jarīr like Iraq. …
Source: aṭ-Ṭabarī, Annales, I 2186 (Arabic); English translation from idem, Challenge to the empires, 199.
5.3 as-Sarī [b. Yaḥyā]←Shuʿayb [b. Ibrāhīm]←Sayf [b. ʿUmar]←Ismāʿīl b. Abī Khālid←Qays b. Abī Ḥāzim
The Persians sent in the direction of the tribe of Bajīlah thirteen elephants.
Source: aṭ-Ṭabarī, Annales, I 2298 (Arabic); English translation from idem, Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, 92.
Depiction of the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah from a manuscript of the Persian epic Shāh-nāmeh
5.4 as-Sarī [b. Yaḥyā]←Shuʿayb [b. Ibrāhīm]←Sayf [b. ʿUmar]←Ismāʿīl b. Abī Khālid
The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah took place at the beginning of Muḥarram of the year 14. A [Muslim] man went out to the Persians. They said to him:
Direct us! He directed them towards the Bajīlah, and they sent in the direction of Bajīlah sixteen elephants.
Source: aṭ-Ṭabarī, Annales, I 2298 (Arabic); English translation from idem, Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, 92.
5.5 Ibn Ḥumayd←Salamah [b. al-Faḍl]←Muḥammad b. Isḥāq←Ismāʿīl b. Abī Khālid, a client of the Bajīlah←Qays b. Abī Ḥāzim al-Bajalī, who participated in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah on the side of the Muslims
A man from the tribe of Thaqīf was with us on the day of al-Qādisiyyah. He joined the Persians as a renegade and informed them that the Muslims in the area held by Bajīlah had (the most) courage and valour. We were [only] one-quarter of the Muslims, but they sent against us sixteen elephants and sent only two elephants against the rest. They scattered iron spikes under the feet of our horses and sprayed us with arrows, so that it was as if rain were falling upon us. They tied their horses to each other so that they could not run away.
ʿAmr b. Maʿdīkarib used to pass by and say:
O Emigrants, be lions! A lion is a man who takes care of his affairs on his own. When a Persian drops his spear, he is nothing but a stupid goat. There was a Persian commander whose arrow never missed the target. We said to ʿAmr b. Maʿdīkarib:
O Abū Thawr, beware of this Persian, because his arrow never misses the target. ʿAmr turned toward him. The Persian shot at him an arrow which hit his bow. ʿAmr fell upon him, seized him by the neck, and slew him, taking from him two golden bracelets, a gold-plated belt, and a brocade coat.
[The khabar continues with an account of the killing of Rostam, the defeat of the Persians, and some skirmishes that followed the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. It then includes two sets of verses criticising Saʿd.]
Source: aṭ-Ṭabarī, Annales, I 2355-2356 (Arabic); English translation from idem, Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, 140. (Cf. Abū Yūsuf, 1.1.)
An Arabic manuscript dating to the late ʿAbbāsid period. 
The son of a preacher (Ar
), Abū Bakr Aḥmad b
. ʿAlī b
. Thābit b
. Aḥmad b
. Mahdī ash-Shāfiʿī (known as al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, ‘The Baghdād Preacher’, Hanīqiyā, near Baghdād, 10 May 1002–Baghdād, 05 September 1071), commenced his studies under his father and eventually become a leading scholar of traditions (Ar
) and jurisprudence (Ar
) of the Eleventh Century. During his youth, al-Khaṭīb travelled widely, collecting ḥadīth
material in Baṣrah, al-Kūfah, Nīshāpūr, Rayy, Eṣfahān, Hamadān, and Dīnavar, before returning to Baghdād in 1028. Over time, his preaching and knowledge attracted him renown and the favour of the caliph al-Qāʾim (r
. 1031–1075) and his vizier; al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī however, with it, came the hostility of the powerful Ḥanbalīs who opposed his preference for the Shāfiʿī school (Ar
) of Islamic law. Al-Khaṭīb’s lectures are full of attacks on the Ḥanbalī movement and its leadership. His fortunes changed when a rebellion brought down his protector the vizier, and he fled to Damascus, where he lectured widely until a mishap enraged the Shīʿī population of the city and caused his arrest. Only the intervention of a notable Shīʿī figure saved him from execution and al-Khaṭīb took flight yet again to Ṣūr, Ṭarābulus (Tripoli), and Aleppo, before returning to Baghdād, where he died at the age of 69 and was buried with great honour. Al-Khaṭīb was a prolific author; a register written ten years before his death records 81 titles. His chef d’œuvre
was his Taʾrīkh Baghdād
(‘History of Baghdād’) biographical encyclopædia of over 7800 scholars and figures, including women, relating to the cultural and political life of Baghdād, finished shortly before his death. Sellheim noted that al-Khaṭīb’s aim had not been to produce a biographical dictionary, but rather, a reference tool for traditionists to study and evaluate the reliability of ḥadīth
s. (Biography based upon Sellheim, IV 1111-1112
7.1 Abū ʿAlī Ismāʿīl b. Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl aṣ-Ṣaffār←Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. ʿAffān al-Kūfī←Yaḥyā b. Ādam←Ibn Abī Zāʾidah←Ismāʿīl b. Abī Khālid←Qays b. Abī Ḥāzim
7.2 al-Ḥasan b. Abī Bakr [al-Bazzāz]←ʿAbd-Allāh b. Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm al-Baghawī←ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz [al-Baghawī]←Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim b. Salām [al-Harawī]←Hushaym [b. Bashīr as-Salamī]←Ismāʿīl [b. Abī Khālid]←Qays [b. Abī Ḥāzim]
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aṭ-Ṭabarī, Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr. Annales quos scripsit Abu Djafar Mohammed ibn Djarir at-Tabari. 15 vols. Ed. Michael Jan de Goeje, Jakob Barth, Theodor Nöldeke, et al. Leiden: E J Brill, 1879–1901. [online (vol. 4)] [online (vol. 5)]
aṭ-Ṭabarī, Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī. Bibliotheca Persica. Transl. from Arabic by Khalid Yahya Blankinship. Vol. 11, The Challenge to the empires: A.D. 633–635/A.H. 12–13. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
aṭ-Ṭabarī, Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī. Bibliotheca Persica. Transl. from Arabic by Yohanan Friedmann. Vol. 12, The Battle of al-Qādisiyyah and the conquest of Syria and Palestine: A.D. 635–637/A.H. 14–15. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
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