29942701911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 26 — ṬabarīGriffithes Wheeler Thatcher

ṬABARĪ [Abū Ja‘far Mahommed ibn Jarīr ut-Ṭabarī] (838-923), Arabian historian and theologian, was born at Amol in Tabaristan (south of the Caspian), and studied at Rei (Rai), Bagdad, and in Syria and Egypt. Cast upon his own resources after his father's death, he was reduced to great poverty until he was appointed tutor to the son of the vizier ‘Ubaidallāh ibn Yaḥyā. He afterwards journeyed to Egypt, but soon returned to Bagdad, where he remained as a teacher of tradition and law until his death. His life was simple and dignified, and characterized by extreme diligence. He is said to have often refused valuable gifts. A Shāfi‘ite in law, he claimed the right to criticize all schools, and ended by establishing a school of his own, in which, however, he incurred the violent wrath of the Hanbalites.

His works are not numerous, but two of them are very extensive. The one is the Tārīkh ur-Rusul wal-Mulūk (History of the Prophets and Kings), generally known as the Annals (cf. Arabia, Literature, “History”). This is a history from the Creation to A.D. 915, and is renowned for its detail and accuracy. It has been published under the editorship of M. J. de Goeje in three series, comprising thirteen volumes, with two extra volumes containing indices, introduction and glossary (Leiden, 1879-1901). A Persian digest of this work, made in 963 by the Samanid vizier al-Bal‘amī, has been translated into French by H. Zotenberg (vols. i.-iv., Paris, 1867-1874). A Turkish translation of this was published at Constantinople (1844). His second great work was the commentary on the Koran, which was marked by the same fullness of detail as the Annals. The size of the work and the independence of judgment in it seem to have prevented it from having a large circulation, but scholars such as Baghawī and Suyūṭī used it largely. It has been published in thirty vols. (with extra index volume) at Cairo, 1902-1903. An account of it, with brief extracts, has been given by O. Loth in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. xxxv. (1881), pp. 588-628. Persian and Turkish translations of the commentary exist in manuscript. A third great work was projected by Ṭabarī. This was to be on the traditions of the Companions, &c., of Mahomet. It was not, however, completed. Other smaller works are mentioned in the Fihrist, pp. 234-235.  (G. W. T.)