Sources for the Early History of Islam. Islamic History: the First 150 Years. © Abdur Rahman 2006-2007. Session Plan. The Early Development of Arabic/Islamic Historiography Understanding Pre-Islamic Arabia The Advent of Islam: the Impact of the Quran Islamic Historiography: Key Features
Islamic History: the First 150 Years
© Abdur Rahman 2006-2007
Writing about the past from within the Islamic tradition, very broadly defined
‘For the Arabs, poetry took the place of philosophy and most of the sciences…In fact, the Arabs had nothing to refer to for their opinions and actions except poetry. It was with poetry that they fought; it was poetry they quoted; in it they vied in virtue, through it they exchanged oaths and with it they exerted themselves against each other; in it they were praised or blamed’ (Tarikh 1.262)
‘I am of the Ghaziyya: if she be in error, then I will err; and if Ghaziyya be guided right, I go right with her!’
‘Take for your brother whom you will in days of peace, But know that when fighting comes, your kinsman alone is near. Your true friend is your kinsman, who answers your call for aid, With good will , when deeply drenched in bloodshed are sword and spear. Oh never forsake your kinsman even when he does you wrong, For what he has marred he mends thereafter and makes sincere’
(Both quoted in Firestone, 1999, 31 & 145)
‘We are the noble ones, and no other clan is our equal;
From our number kings [are raised], and among us temples erected.
How many clans we have overpowered during [our] raiding!
It is [only] a surfeit of might [such as ours] that finds imitators…’
(Both quoted in Firestone, 1999, 31)
‘I saw the Manaya strike blindly, whom they hit, they slay, whom they miss lives on to weak old age. He who dreads the ropes of Manaya, they snare him, even were he to ascend the ropes of heaven on a ladder. And he who does not defend his fort with his weapons, his fort will be destroyed; and he who does not oppress will himself be oppressed. But when the arrows of the Manaya are aimed at a man, neither medicine nor magic avails him’
(quoted in Khalidi, 1994, 3)
Sulmi ibn Rabi’a
‘Time (dahr) is change, Time’s fool is man,
Wealth or want, great store or small,
All is one since Death’s are all’
‘The young man runs, but his fated death (himam al-mawt) reaches him.
Every day brings the fixed term nearer to him.
I know that my day will once reach me
And I shall not care for my world any more’
(Both quoted in Firestone, 1999, 29)
‘O my friends, a respected death
Is better than an illusory refuge;
Anxiety does not ward off the decree (qadar)
But endurance is a cause of victory.
Death (manaya) is better than vileness,
And having death before oneself is better than having it behind.
Thus, courage! There is no escape from death ’
(Quoted in Firestone, 1999, 29)
Living for the Moment…
‘Roast flesh, the glow of fiery wine, to speed on camel fleet and sure, as thy soul lists to urge her on through all the hollows breadth and length; White women statue-like that trail rich robes of price with golden hem, wealth, easy lot, no dread of ill, to hear the lute’s complaining string – these are Life’s joys. For man is set the prey of Time [Dahr], and Time is change’ (Quoted in Khalidi, 1994, 4)
‘If We sent down this Quran upon a mountain, you would see it humbled, shattered by the fear of God’ (59:21)
‘They say: there is nothing but our earthly life. We die, we are born and only the Dahr destroys us. But they have no knowledge of this for they are only guessing…Say: It is God who gives you life, then makes you die, then restores you to life upon the Day of Resurrection, of which there is no doubt. But most of mankind is ignorant’ (45:24-26)
‘To his enemies, he was a revolutionary bent upon destroying the whole fabric of their society, whose activities had to be keenly watched if the progress of his mission was to be suppressed…If his enemies took a close interest in his statements and actions, the interest of his followers was more intense still. They had accepted him as their sole guide and prophet…All his actions served them as an ideal, and hence a precedent (sunna); every word which he uttered was a law to them…’ (Siddiqui, 1993, 2-3)
‘Narrated Ibn Abbas (May God be pleased with him): Allah’s Messenger (May God bless him and grant him peace) was divinely inspired at the age of forty. Then he stayed in Mecca for thirteen years and was then ordered to migrate and he migrated to Medina and stayed there for ten years and then died’ (Bukhari no. 1580, 5:190)
‘Ismail ibn Abdullah told us that Malik ibn Anas told him on the authority of Ishaq ibn Abdullah ibn Abi Talha from Anas ibn Malik, may God be pleased with him, who said…’ (Quoted by Rippin and Knappert, 1986, 73)
‘They did not ask about the isnad, but when civil war …broke they said, ‘Name to us your men’; those who belong to Ahl al-Sunnah, their traditions were accepted and those who were innovators their traditions were neglected’ (Quoted by A`zami, 2000, 213)