When Was The First Biography Of Holy Prophet Written? - Our Prophet 1
Now, what are the major works of Sirah [biography] that we have today? By far, the most famous source of biography is Ibn Is-haq. But that was not the first one. Before him, the first person who formally put together a biography for the Prophet, who compiled a biography was a man by the name of 'Urwah Ibn Zubayr Ibn al-Awwam. The famous Zubayr, this is his son, the Prophet's cousin. So, he is a distant relative to the Prophet. Now, he died in the year 92 after the Hijrah [migration]. So, we are talking about a century after the Prophet, almost a century.
This was the first work of biography of Sirah on the Prophet's life. Now, his work did not survive in history. We know that he authored a biography, but it got lost in history. Today, we cannot find his book. We do not have access to it but this was the earliest source on the Prophet's life. We had books of Hadith [narrations] that talk about some aspects of the Prophet's life, but this was an effort solely to give us an idea of the Prophet's life. It was a work of biography. So, this is one work.
Another more important source is Ibn Is-haq. Whenever you examine the Prophet's life, the history of the Prophet, the Sirah and the biography, the two most famous names are who? Ibn Is-haq and who? Ibn Hisham.
Now, Ibn Is-haq , he came about eight decades after the Prophet. He lived in the city of Madinah. He had this passion to record everything about the Prophet's life. He would go to the people of Madinah. He would ask them, what did you hear from your parents about the Prophet? Those who lived with the Prophet. Give me details. He would even travel to various cities to interview people who had met the Prophet or their parents had met the Prophet to learn about the Prophet's life. And he compiled a book that was about 15 big volumes at the time. This was, at the time, a very, very big effort. So, Ibn Ish-aq is the first one who really compiled a comprehensive Sirah and biography on the Prophet's life. Yes?
Is this kind of like what happened with the final Imam? When he goes into Ghaybah [occultation], how many things become lost because there is nobody there to, like, record it?
When the Imam, 'alayhi as-salaam, went into Ghaybah, before he went into Ghaybah, we already had Hadith books, the previous Imams of Ahl ul-Bayt, whatever we needed to know, they gave it to us. Some things did get lost in history, but the most important aspects of Islamic knowledge were passed down to us. For example, in the book of al-Kafi [a book of narrations]. So, this is different with the challenge that we see after the Prophet's life, because there was a ban on the recording of the Hadith.
So Ibn Ish-aq, he compiled this huge work. But did it survive in history? No, it did not. Why? Because it was ten to 15 volumes. Remember, at the time, there was no paper that was easily accessible and you could not just make copies of it. You had to have a scribe who would sit there and write every word in every sentence and carrying that was just burdensome. So, it was something that the average person would not have access to.
What happened is one of his indirect students, who is Ibn Hisham. Now Ibn Ish-aq, what year did he pass away? He died in the year 150 Hijrah. He was born around the year 85. So, he was born about eight decades after the Prophet. He lived for about 70 years until the year 150 after the Hijrah. So, one and a half centuries after the Prophet.
Now there was a man by the name of Ibn Hisham. Ibn Hisham was a famous historian. What he did, he took the Sirah of Ibn Ish-aq and he summarized it. And the Sirah of Ibn Ish-aq that we have today is not the original Sirah that he compiled. The 10 to 15 volumes, that got lost in history. What survived until today? The work of Ibn Hisham. Ibn Hisham took this big book, he realized it is too big, it is full of details. He summarized it for us, he deleted a lot of details. He made some additions here and there. So, the book of Sirah that we have from Ibn Ish-aq was actually edited by Ibn Hisham.
So, the two biggest names in the biography of the Prophet, the Sirah of the Prophet, are Ibn Ish-aq and Ibn Hisham. But we do not have the actual work of Ibn Ish-aq. What survived is the edition of who? Of Ibn Hisham.
What is the title of this book or his volumes?
Who? Ibn Ish-aq?
Ibn Hisham? So, he summarized the Sirah of the Holy Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa alihi it is attributed to Ibn Hisham, but it is really for Ibn Ish-aq. So, it is just the Sirah of the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa alihi. Yeah, yeah, we have it today, Ibn Hisham's Sirah, it survives, it is just the Sirah of the Prophet, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa alihi.
So, he is the one who summarized to us the Book of Ibn Ish-aq. Now, I do not know what was the original title of the book of Ibn Ish-aq, because it did not really survive in history, but Ibn Hisham, he passed it to us. So, today, if you want to find this book, it is just, you know, called 'Sirah Ibn Hisham', that is the short for it. If you are looking for it online or if you want to buy it, and it is in Arabic of course, some parts of it have been or all of it I think has been translated into English. So, if you can just look up Sirah Ibn Hisham, you will find the Book. And it is also called Sirah Ibn Ish-aq, as well, because it is the same. He just summarized it and he edited it for us. Now Ibn Hisham, he died in the year 218. So, we are talking about two centuries after the Prophet.
Now, there were other attempts, so there were seven other Sirahs on the Prophet's life, but they never made it in history. They also got lost in history. Now, the third most famous Sirah, is one that was offered by Ibn Sa'd in his book 'Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra'-'The Book of the Major Classes'. They call it Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'd. Or you can just say for short Sirah Ibn Sa'd, the biography of Ibn Sa'd. Ibn Sa'd died in the year 230 after Hijrah. So, this is also one of the important works on the Prophet's life.
And then you have a more recent one by the name of Al-Tabari [or Taarikh al-Tabari]. He has a book on the history of kings and rulers. And in that, he also analyses a lot of the Prophet's biography. And you will find many scholars or speakers referring to Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'd in speaking about the Prophet's life. He [al-Tabari] died in the year 923 [after Hijrah], so about 500 years ago.
So these are the main works of biography on the Prophet's life. So, the first one who really compiled something comprehensive was Ibn Ish-aq, but it did not survive through history. What survived was the summary of Ibn Hisham. So, the most important book of Sirah that we have today is the book by Ibn Hisham called 'Sirah Ibn Hisham'. So, this is the biography of the Prophet that we have.
All of these are Ahl al-Sunnah?
Ok, that is a good question. Now, it is commonly known that they are of the Ahl al-Sunnah. However, Ibn Ish-aq, if you go to the literalist Sunnis like the Hanbalis, the Wahhabis, they do not like Ibn Ish-aq and his biography. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, the leader of the Hanbali School of Thought, he had an issue with a lot of things that Ibn Ish-aq would narrate. Some of them were valid, some of his observations, but some of them no. And they accused him of being a Shi'a.
So, they accused Ibn Ish-aq of being Shi'a. Why? For two reasons. The primary reason is because sometimes he mentioned some details about some of those Khulafa, the early caliphs that they did not like. They are like, wait a minute, you are exposing these caliphs! Where did you get this from? Since they did not like that, they rejected it and they accused him of being a Shi'a.
Al-Waqidi was another historian who wrote biographies of the Prophet. Harun al-Abbasi [the Abbasid Caliph] employed al-Waqidi. Also because they had an issue with some of the things he would write,they accused him of being a Shi'a.
Now, we really do not know what the beliefs of Ibn Ish-aq were. He is, compared to some others who were extreme towards Ahl ul-Bayt, he was definitely moderate. He was not anti-Shi'a. Now, whether he was Shi'a or not, that is subject to interpretation. Some people might consider him close to the Shi'as. Some people just consider him to be a Sunni, but not an extreme Sunni. He was a moderate Sunni, but some have accused him throughout history of being a Sunni.[Shi'a]
Sayyid, you said there were two reasons, so one of them was that he exposed the caliphs.
So, one of them was that he exposed some of the caliphs. The other, he would document some of the virtues of Imam 'Ali that they did not like.
They really do not have any equivalent. What they did is they looked at Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, these Hadith books, and they tried to give a picture of the Prophet's life based on the Hadiths in their books. So it is nothing comprehensive. They are forced at the end of the day to accept some of Ibn Ish-aq's works, because the Hadith books are not biographies. They are about laws, rulings, different events, and there is a lot of biography in them, like Bukhari does have some biography, but it is not a book of biography. It is a Hadith book. it is a book of what the Prophet said, what he taught, what he preached, but not necessarily his life, in chronological order.
Ibn Ish-aq, what he did with his biography, he examined the life of the Prophet in a chronological order.
So the edited version by Ibn Hisham, is it having the virtues of Imam 'Ali?
It does have some of it. He deleted some of them, of course, maybe either due to Taqiyyah [dissimulation] or due to...he wanted to summarize it and be brief about it. But, yes, there were some things that were deleted, and Taqiyyah is definitely one of the reasons.
And what did you say about al-Waqidi?
Al-Waqidi, he, some also considered him to be Shi'a. He was in the second to the third centuries. So, during the time of Imam as-Sadiq and Imam al-Kadhim, he was employed by Harun Al-Abbasi to write the Sirah of the Prophet. Now, his work, the way that he wrote it, did not survive. Some parts of it, through his students, did survive. So, we do have some instances and accounts from the work of Al-Waqidi, but you will find that those strict Sunnis, let us say they do not accept it because they considered him to be a Shi'a.