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Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (AD 838-AD 923), Iranian Sunni historian and theologian, was born in Amol, Tabaristan (south of the Caspian), and studied in Ray (Rages), Baghdad, and in Syria and Egypt. "Tabari" means from Tabaristan. He died in Baghdad in 923.
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 Tibaidalläh ibn Yaliya . He afterwards journeyed to Egypt, but soon returned to Baghdad, 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 Shafi'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 Tãrikh ur-Rusul wal-Mulük (History of the Prophets and Kings), generally known as the Annals. This is a history from the Creation to AD 915, and is renowned for its detail and accuracy.
His second great work was the commentary on the Qur'an, 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 Baghawi and Suyuti used it largely.
A third great work was projected by Tabari. This was to be on the traditions of the Companions, etc., of Muhammad. It was not, however, completed.
Editions and translations
Various editions of the Annals include:
- A version 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 C.E. by the Samanid scholar al-Bal'ami , translated into French by H. Zotenberg (vols. i.-iv., Paris, 1867-1874).
- A modern version in thirty-nine volumes, published by the State University of New York Press from 1988 through 1998. Various editors.
Editions of Tabari's commentary on the Qur'an:
- Edition published in thirty vols. (with extra index volume) at Cairo, 1902-1903.
- Tafsir al-Tabari : al-musammá Jami‘ al-bayan fi ta’wil al-Qur’an. Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1997.
- An account with brief extracts given by O. Loth in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, vol. xxxv. (1881), pp. 588-628.
- Commentary on the Quran, Vol.1, Delhi 1987. ISBN 0199201420
- The commentary on the Qur'an, by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jarir al- Tabari ; being an abridged translation of Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil ay al-Qur'an, with an introduction and notes by J. Cooper, general editors, W.F. Madelung, A. Jones. Oxford University Press, 1987-?. This translation may not have been carried beyond the first volume and seems to be both out of print and rare.
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