This volume deals with the last two and a half years of the Prophet's life. In addition to the three major expeditions to Hunanyn, Ta'if, and Tabuk, it describes in detail the circumstances surrounding the illness from which he died and the subsequent crisis of leadership faced by the nascent Muslim community. The author depicts with admirable fairness all the various opinions and divisions that existed within the community. He also presents a vivid picture of the Prophet's physical appearance, his personal life, and his marriages. Among other topics discussed in this volume are all the deputations that came to Medina; a summary of all the expeditions and raiding parties; and his scribes, freedmen, horses, camels, goats, swords, coats of mail, and so on. It also covers the apostasy of Musaylimah, Aswad, and Tulhahah and the Prophet's attempts to deal with them.
The translation not only preserves the original lively flavor of al-Tabari but also, in its annotations, draws extensively on both parallel Arabic sources and the intensive research of recent years. Readers who seek a deeper understanding of the Prophet's personality and of the reasons for antagonisms engendered among various factions will find this volume most informative.
This volume 16 of Tabari's great 40-volume history of the Arabs treats the Caliphate of 'Ali I, 656-651
This volume of al-Tabari's history deals with the traumatic breakup of the Muslim community following the assassination of the Caliph 'Uthman. It begins with the first seriously contested succession to the caliphate, that of 'Ali, and proceeds inexorably through the rebellion of 'A'ishah, T'alhah, and al-Zubayr, to the Battle of the Camel, the first time Muslim army faced Muslim army. It thus deals with the very first violent response to the two central problems of Muslim history: who is the rightful leader, and which is the true community? It is a section with the weightiest implications for the Muslim interpretation of history, wide open to special pleading.
There are the Shi'a who depict 'Ali as a spiritual leader fighting against false accusations and the worldly ambitious. Conversely, there are those who would depict him or his followers in a negative light. There are also the 'Abbasid historians, who, though anti-Umayyad, must balance a reverence for the Prophet's household (ahl al-bayt) with a denunciation of 'Alid antiestablishmentarianism. All these points of view, and more, are represented in al-Tabari's compilation, illustrating the difficulty the Muslim community as a whole has faced in coming to terms with these disastrous events.
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