History of al-Tabari Vol. 12, The: The Battle of al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine A.D. 635-637/A.H. 14-15

SUNY Press
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The present volume of the History of al-Tabari deals with the years 14 and 15 of the Islamic era, which correspond to A.D. 635-637. The nascent Islamic state had just emerged victorious from the crisis that followed the Prophet's death in 632 and had suppressed what was known as the riddah ("apostasy") rebellion in the Arabian peninsula. Under the leadership of 'Umar b.'al-Khattab, the second caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims embarked on the conquests that would soon transform the whole of the Middle East and North Africa into an Arab empire. Most of the present volume describes the battle of al-Qadisiyyah, which took place on the border between the fertile Iraqi lowlands (al-sawad) and the Arabian desert and resulted in the decisive defeat of the Persian army. The Muslim victory at al-Qadisiyyah heralded the downfall of the Sasanian dynasty, which had ruled Persia and Mesopotamia since A.D., the third century; it also paved the way for the conquest of Iraq and facilitated Islamic expansion in Persia and beyond.

The volume also deals with the conquest of Syria and Palestine and the Expulsion of the Byzantines from those regions. Particular attention is devoted to the traditions related to the conquest of Jerusalem at the hands of 'Umar b. al-Khattab, the first Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount, and its transformation into an Islamic sanctuary.

The volume contains colorful descriptions of the various battles, expatiations on the bravery of the Muslim warriors, and portrayals of the futile negotiations between the parties before the beginning of hostilities. It thus provides the reader with a fascinating insight into the later Muslim traditions related to those crucial events of early Islamic history.
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SUNY Press
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Published on
Jun 15, 2015
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History / Middle East / General
Religion / General
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Many of the events treated in this volume have become part of the historical consciousness of Muslims. The first civil war of Islam, the Fitnah, is widely seen as of decisive importance in dividing the Muslims into three major traditions, Sunnis, Shi'is, and Kharijis, which have persisted until today. Although this division may be an over-simplification of a much more complex process of community formation, the events narrated here are certainly of great importance in the early history of Islam.

The volume is focused on the struggle between the caliph 'Ali and his rival and eventual successor as caliph, Mu'awiyah, the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. About half of the material is concerned with the confrontation between the two at the battle of Siffin in 657, the fighting, the ending of the battle when the Syrian supporters of Mu'awiyah are described as having attached Qu'ranic texts to their lances, and the subsequent negotiations between the two rivals which resulted in the dispute's being put to arbitration. Much detail is also provided about 'Ali's struggle against the Kharijis, his former supporters who had turned against him as a result of his agreement with Mu'awiyah to accept arbitration; the revolt against 'Ali in regions of Iraq and Persia around the northern edges of the Persian Gulf, which involved Christians, as well as Muslims, Arabs, and such non-Arab groups as Kurds; the events in Egypt that led to the burning of 'Ali's representative there in the skin of a donkey; and the murder of 'Ali by Ibn Muljam, the account of which sometimes reads as if it were a popular story.

Al-Tabari's text makes available a wealth of detail in narratives collected from the now lost compilations of scholars of earlier generations. The bulk of the material is cited from the famous Abu Mikhnaf, who died in A.D. 774, but there are also many reports from other traditionists and narrators whose materials would be largely unknown to us if it were not for the work of al-Tabari. The volume contains a number of speeches and letters attributed to the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin 'Ali, including his deathbed speech to his sons, and there is also a version of the document drawn up by 'Ali and Mu'awiyah in which they agreed to appoint arbitrators.

The Arabic text of the Leiden edition of al-Tabari has been compared with the more recent Cairo edition and with the substantial parallel passages in such other works as the Waq'at Siffin of al-Mingari and the Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah of Ibn Abi' l-Hadid, as well as other sources, in an attempt to provide a secure text for translation. Individuals and places are identified in the footnotes, further references to sources and secondary literature are provided, and textual problems and historical matters are discussed. The volume contains a bibliography and index.
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