Al-Tabari ca. 839–923

An important Islamic scholar and thinker whose works continue to influence Sunni Islam. Born in Iran but writing most of his major works in Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate and center of Islamic thought in his day, al-Tabari’s full name is Abu Ja-far, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. His major works are the Qur’an Commentary and History of the Prophets and Kings. The Qur’an Commentary connected the words of the Qur’an with explanatory material attributed to the prophet Muhammad and his original companions as well as other early Muslim thinkers. It remains an important reference for Islamic thinkers. The History of the Prophets and Kings attempted a full history of the world focusing on prophecy, and it featured an account of Muhammad’s life as the culmination of that history of prophecy. To assemble it, al-Tabari used a variety of sources ranging from earlier biographies and accounts to poetry and tribal genealogies. Very popular from the time of its first appearance, al-Tabari’s History depicted the course of history as the playing out of God’s divine will.

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