Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/289

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
274
[LITERATURE
ARABIA

important Book of Classes of his disciple Ibn Sa‛d (q.v.). Wāqidī had much more copious materials than Ibn Isḥāq, but gives way much more to a popular and sometimes romancing style of treatment. Nevertheless he sometimes helps us to recognize in Ibn Isḥāq’s narrative modifications of the genuine tradition made for a purpose, and the additional details he supplies set various events before us in a clearer light. Apart from this his chief merits lie in his studies on the subject of the traditional authorities, the results of which are given by Ibn Sa‛d, and in his chronology, which is often excellent. A special study of the traditions about the conquest of Syria made by M. J. de Goeje in 1864 (Mémoires sur la conquête de la Syrie, 2nd ed., Leiden, 1900), led to the conclusion that Wāqidī’s chronology is sound as regards the main events, and that later historians have gone astray by forsaking his guidance. This result has been confirmed by certain contemporary notices found by Th. Nöldeke in 1874 in a Syriac MS. of the British Museum. And that Ibn Isḥāq agrees with Wāqidī in certain main dates is important evidence for the trustworthiness of the former also. For the chronology before the year 10 of the Flight Wāqidī did his best, but here, the material being defective, many of his conclusions are precarious. Wāqidī had already a great library at his disposal. He is said to have had 600 chests of books, chiefly dictata written by or for himself, but in part real books by Abū Mikhnaf (d. 748), Ibn Isḥāq (whom he uses but does not name), ‛Awāna (d. 764), Abū Mashar (d. 791) and other authors. Abū Mikhnaf left a great number of monographs on the chief events from the death of the Prophet to the caliphate of Walīd II. These were much used by later writers, and we have many extracts from them, but none of the works themselves except a sort of romance based on his account of the death of Hosain (Ḥusain) of which Wüstenfeld has given a translation. With regard to the history of Irak in particular he was deemed to have the best information, and for this subject he is Ṭabarī’s chief source, just as Madāinī, a younger contemporary of Wāqidī, is followed by preference in all that relates to Khorasan. Madāinī’s History of the Caliphs is the best, if not the oldest, published before Ṭabarī; but this book is known only by the excerpts given by later writers, particularly Balādhurī and Ṭabarī. From these we judge that he had great narrative power, with much clear and exact learning, and must be placed high as a critical historian. His plan was to record the various traditions about an event, choosing them with critical skill; sometimes, however, he fused the several traditions into a continuous narrative. A just estimate of the relative value of the historians can only be reached by careful comparison in detail. This has been essayed by Brünnow in his study on the Khārijites (Leiden, 1884), in which the narrative of Mubarrad in the Kāmil is compared with the excerpts of Mādainī given by Balādhurī and those of Abū Mikhnaf given by Ṭabarī. The conclusion reached is that Abū Mikhnaf and Mādainī are both well informed and impartial.

Among the contemporaries of Wāqidī and Mādainī were Ibn Khidāsh (d. 838), the historian of the family Muhallab, whose work was one of Mubarrad’s sources for the History of the Khārijites; Haitham ibn ‛Adī (d. 822), whose works, though now lost, are often cited; and Saif ibn ‛Omar at-Tamīmī, whose book on the revolt of the tribes under Abu-Bekr and on the Mahommedan conquests was much used by Ṭabarī. His narratives are detailed and often tinged with romance, and he is certainly much inferior to Wāqidī in accuracy. Wellhausen has thoroughly examined the work of Saif in Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, vi. Besides these are to be mentioned Abū ‛Ubaida (d. 825), who was celebrated as a philologist and wrote several historical monographs that are often cited, and Azraqī, whose excellent History of Mecca was published after his death by his grandson (d. 858). With these writers we pass into the 3rd century of Islam. But we have still an important point to notice in the 2nd century; for in it learned Persians began to take part in the creation of Arabic historical literature. Ibn Muqaffa‛ translated the great Book of Persian Kings, and others followed his example. Ṭabarī and his contemporaries, senior and junior, such as Ibn Qutaiba, Ya‛qūbī, Dīnawarī, preserve to us a good part of the information about Persian history made known through such translations.[1] But even more important than the knowledge conveyed by these works was their influence on literary style and composition. Half a century later began versions from the Greek either direct or through the Syriac. The pieces translated were mostly philosophical; but the Arabs also learned something, however superficially, of ancient history.

The 3rd century (816-913) was far more productive than the 2nd. Abū ‛Ubaida was succeeded by Ibn al-A‛rābī (d. 846), who in like manner was chiefly famous as a philologist, and who wrote about ancient poems and battles. Much that he wrote is quoted in Tabrīzī’s commentary on the Ḥamāsa, which is still richer in extracts from the historical elucidations of early poems given by ar-Riyāshī (d. 871). Of special fame as a genealogist was Ibn Ḥabīb (d. 859), of whom we have a booklet on Arabian tribal names (ed. Wüstenfeld, 1850). Azraqī again was followed by Fākihī, who wrote a History of Mecca in 885,[2] and ‛Omar b. Shabba (d. 876), who composed an excellent history of Baṣra, known to us only by excerpts. Of the works of Zubair b. Bakkār (d. 870), one of Ṭabarī’s teachers, a learned historian and genealogist much consulted by later writers, there is a fragment in the Köprülü library at Constantinople, and another in Göttingen, part of which has been made known by Wüstenfeld (Die Familie Al-Zobair, Göttingen, 1878). Ya‛qūbī (Ibn Wāḍiḥ) wrote a short general history of much value (published by Houtsma, Leiden, 1883). About India he knows more than his predecessors and more than his successors down to Berūnī. Ibn Khordādhbeh’s historical works are lost. Ibn ‛Abdalḥakam (d. 871) wrote of the conquest of Egypt and the West. Extracts from this book are given by M‛G. de Slane in his Histoire des Berbères, from which we gather that it was a medley of true tradition and romance, and must be reckoned, with the book of his slightly senior contemporary, the Spaniard Ibn Ḥābīb, in the class of historical romances. A high place must be assigned to the historian Ibn Qutaiba or Kotaiba (d. 889), who wrote a very useful Handbook of History (ed. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1850). Much more eminent is Balādhurī (d. 893), whose book on the Arab conquest (ed. M. J. de Goeje, Leiden, 1865-1866) merits the special praise given to it by Mas‛ūdī, and who also wrote a large work, the Ansāb al-Ashrāf. A contemporary, Ibn abī Tāhir Taifūr (d. 894), wrote on the Abbasid caliphs and was drawn on by Ṭabarī. The sixth part of his work is in the British Museum. The universal history of Dīnawarī (d. 896), entitled The Long Narratives, has been edited by Girgas (1887).

All these histories are more or less thrown into the shade by the great work of Ṭabarī (q.v.), whose fame has never faded from his own day to ours. The Annals (ed. M. de Goeje, Leiden, 1879-1901) are a general history from the creation to 302 A.H. (= A.D. 915). As a literary composition they do not rank very high, which may be due partly to the author’s years, partly to the inequality of his sources, sometimes superabundant, sometimes defective, partly perhaps to the somewhat hasty condensation of his original draft. Nevertheless the value of the book is very great: the author’s selection of traditions is usually happy, and the episodes of most importance are treated with most fulness of detail, so that it deserves the high reputation it has enjoyed from the first. This reputation rose steadily; there were twenty copies (one of them written by Ṭabarī’s own hand) in the library of the Fatimite caliph ‛Aziz (latter half of the 4th century), whereas, when Saladin became lord of Egypt, the princely library contained 1200 copies (Maqrīzī, i. 408 seq.).

The Annals soon came to be dealt with in various ways. They were published in shorter form with the omission of the names of authorities and of most of the poems cited; some passages quoted by later writers are not found even in the Leiden edition. On the other hand, some interpolations took place, one in the

  1. For details see the introduction to Nöldeke’s translation of Ṭabarī’s Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden (Leiden, 1879).
  2. Published in excerpt by Wüstenfeld along with Azraqī (Leipzig, 1857-1859).