All praises are for Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, we praise Him, seek His assistance, and ask for His forgiveness. We seek His protection from the evil of ourselves and the evil of our actions. Whomsoever He guides none can lead astray and whomsoever He leads astray none can guide. I bear testimony that there is no deity besides Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, a testimony that will save the one who recites it and acts according to its purport on the Day of Judgment. I testify that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger who conveyed the Message, discharged the trust, and sincerely advised the ummah. May the choicest peace and salutations be upon him, his family, and his Companions.
There remains a pressing need to review Islamic history, as establishing and authenticating historical incidents and reports are just as important as establishing and authenticating the subject matter of other sciences such as tafsir, hadith, and fiqh. This is crucial due to the many innovations that continue to exist amongst the ummah which are based upon fraudulent historical accounts and ambiguous versions of events that reflect upon the very early days of the faith. Raising awareness surrounding historical accounts is vital to have a complete vision of the shari’ah and a true understanding of it. Knowing well that the historical reports garnered from the era of the rightly guided Khalifas are applied accounts of Islamic doctrine and practice.
The Muslim researcher or historian will find himself, at times, dismayed and disappointed when studying the details of the rightly guided era. A golden time period in Islamic history, the narrations of which have been compiled in our early sources with the Tarikh al Rusul wa al Muluk of Imam al-Tabari being a principle compilation. One will find a great divide between the Islamic values, the character of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, their pure beliefs, their giving preference to what is by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and between the portrayal of some accounts that have been narrated to depict a ‘so-called’ true picture of history.
There is no doubt that this strange phenomenon requires deep thought. Over and above this it calls to accepting the historical accounts of our early historians only after having established its veracity.
Contemporary times and scholars have seen a surge in calls towards conducting an in-depth study into revaluating Islamic history. This matter came under the consideration of the official scientific and research authorities with the first official call to revaluating Islamic history made by the Sheikh Muhib al Din al Khatib in his book followed by the struggle stalwart Sayed Qutub in his book Fi al Tarikh…Fikrah wa Minhaj.
It was then seen under the consideration of Majlis Ittihad al Jami’ah al Arabiyyah in the year 1973/1394. A preparatory committee was formed to conduct a study in rewriting Islamic history, establish an Institute of Islamic history, and initiating an Encyclopaedia of Islamic history in the Arabic language.
A project workshop was then conducted to rewrite Islamic history at Jami’ah al Kuwait followed by an undertaking by the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League in their twenty third session in the year 1981/1401. A resolution was passed to form a committee by the general secretariat counsel comprising of five members to draw up a plan in rewriting Islamic history. This was then presented to the scholars as a research competition similar to the research competition held in Qatar on the subject of Sirah al Nabawiyyah.
The interest of the scholars and organisations alike make a clear indication to the pressing need on this matter. It should be noted that the objective behind rewriting Islamic history is to sift out the mistakes, ambiguities, and fabrications that have peppered it thus redrafting it to conform to Islamic principles. This will have the added benefit of detecting the realities of history on one hand and benefiting from this field of education on the other hand.
Why the interest in this topic?
My interest in the history of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, especially the era of the Rightly Guided Khalifas was piqued whilst I was pursuing my master’s degree due to the following reasons:
- The era of the Rightly Guided Khalifas plays an important role in expounding the motives and attitude of the Muslims on one hand whilst relaying the significance the early Muslims held for the need for a complete practical Islam on the other hand. Islam has practical applications in our day to day life which governs every moment of it.
- The Muslims of today are in a severe need to know and understand the virtue of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, the effects that followed the education given to them by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and their high aspirations by virtue of which they became the best of people and the best example humanity has seen. This would serve as a reminder for the Muslims to follow their example in saving humanity from the depths of despair to the heights of success both in this world and the next.
- My conviction that the history of other nations has been written by its own sons, though others have contributed to it. The burden of penning down Islamic history lies squarely on our shoulders with inferring the principles and values of our civilization as we—the Muslims—see it. If not, our history will reflect the views and ideologies of others. I would not be exaggerating if I say, the current repression of our civilization as is a reflection of our estranged relationship with our history, as not all that have worked on our history are champions of the Islamic cause. Some are impressed by secular ideologies, recoiling from Islamic dogmas and harbouring ill towards its history. These secularists believe that the Islamic faith has been a cause for suppression of growth in Islamic civilizations. This has led them to the belief that creating a gap between the past and future is a necessity; a way to isolate the rising generation from Islam, its injunctions, and scholarly heritage. They have therefore taken up copying Islamic history as a profession from the works of the orientalists, not concerned with original authorship nor research. Spreading poisonous falsities in Islamic societies through such does not bother them in the least.
- My belief that those who have pure faith and an academic background will no doubt find interpolations and mistakes riddled throughout the early and recent books of history. Historians of the past and self-proclaimed contemporary researchers have made countless mistakes in writing history from a biased perspective. Looking into history one will realize the extent which negative elements were introduced, even criticizing the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum with such! Fabrications and lies led to demeaning the most respectable of people, the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. This created an image in the minds of people that did not reflect the great status of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum one bit.
The process of the codification of Islamic history was infiltrated by a group of narrators and tale bearers who were weak, unjust, and followers of misguided sects such as the Saba’iyyah, Rawafid, and Shia. The Shia had an especially vital role in providing numerous liars and fabricators to help their illicit cause.
Methods used to introduce fabrications
The following methods were adopted by the innovators to introduce fabrications into Islamic history and attempt to darken the wholesome era of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum:
- Fabricating lies.
- Introducing elements or removing such from true incidents, thus placing it a light that shines negatively on Islam.
- Reporting incidents out of context to give a totally different meaning,
- Mentioning erroneous explanations of incidents.
- Blowing shortcomings out of proportion and concealing truths and virtues.
- Presenting incidents, after having corrupted them or not existing at all, in the form of poetry so they may remain forever as such. Arabic poetry was regarded as a strong chain in connecting the dots of history.
- Writing books and attributing it falsely as the books of scholars and/or men of repute. Examples of this is Nahj al Balagah and al Imamah wa al Siyasah. The former attributed to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the latter to Abu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Muslim ibn Qutaybah al Dinwari respectively due to their famed status amongst the Ahlus Sunnah.
And thus we find our books of history riddled with misinformation. Either, due to the historian gathering everything he could find with the burden of sifting out the true from the false on the reader by scrutinising the chain of narration as done by Imam al Tabari, or due to their wanting to muddy the waters of historical accounts as done by Ibn Muzahim al Ya’qubi, al Mas’udi, and others.
The early Muslims would rely on historical accounts found in authentic books not giving the time of day to books made up of inaccuracies. If they were to use such books they would do so by scrutinising each narrator in the chain to ascertain the reliability of each report. They were aware of the narrators and their conditions together with the conditions of acceptability thus able to differentiate the weak from the strong. This methodology was adopted by many of the scholars such as Khalifah ibn Khayyat, Abu Zur’ah al Dimashqi, Ya’qub ibn Sufyan al Fasawi, Ibn Abi Shaibah, Ibn ‘Asakir and others.
Then the era came where most people could not differentiate between true and false narrations and the number of those who would refer to the books of the scholars of hadith and researchers fell drastically. Imam ibn al ‘Arabi—the Maliki scholar—deemed this condition to be amongst the greatest tragedies that afflicted the Muslims.
The respectable and highly acclaimed past of a nation being tarnished by the words of liars is a catastrophe of immense proportions.
The present day situation is much more critical. The orientalists and those influenced by them have jumped onto the bandwagon of these fabrications. These reports have become the wealth of their existence, as long as it serves their purpose to criticize Islam and tarnish the lives of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. They have taken hold of the weak and fabricated narrations found in literary novels, story books, and unverified written accounts to construct an image of Islamic history that is far-flung from the truth. These are some of the books championed by them for the dubious material found within: Kitab al Aghani, al Bayan wa al Tabyin, al Imamah wa al Siyasah, al Kamil fi al Adab, Nahj al Balagah, and other such works. They complement these books with fabricated narrations found in books such as, Tarikh al Tabari, Mas’udi, Ya’qubi, Ibn Muzahim and others. They only indicate to the reference without mentioning the authenticity of such reports so that they can write lengthy commentaries on it which comprises of lies and unfounded ideas.
Furthermore, they do not research according to Islamic principles taking into consideration the chain of narrators. They are hasty in referencing without authenticating. This leads to them believing everything they read making truth and false equal in their eyes. The clear unadulterated, and pristine history of Islam thus becomes a conglomerate of unverified incidents and fabricated reports. They write Islamic History with the yardstick of explanation the Dark Ages of Europe has to offer!
The orientalists are guilty of cultural misappropriation in their works on Islamic history. As mentioned above they are quick to judge on principles foreign to Islam. Their greatest misappropriation is based on this; explaining events that occurred in Islamic history based on the cultural climate they currently live in. They do not reference incidents to the cultural sensitivities of its time together with the attitudes of people and beliefs of that era. Add to this their hate and intolerance of Islam and we find ourselves with books that do not reflect true Islamic history, rather a skewed perspective of bigots.
If we, for a moment, disregard their hate and intolerance, we find their methodology to be lacking due to their illogical reasoning. They opine that the Islamic Caliphate had no scope for difference of opinion in its government and the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were men like other men who conspired in political machination. This has led them to understand the differences amongst the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum a crisis meant to solicit power, as the orientalists had witnessed amongst the royals of Europe.
Taking a look at the incident of Saqifah Banu Sa’idah, which is a perfect example of the Islamic consultation system wherein the minority can decide against the majority, we find the orientalist Henri Lammens pontificating about it. His explanation though is in stark comparison to what we find in traditional Islamic sources. He had in his mind the image of the conspiracies in the French courts circa 15th and 16th century when commentating on the incident which skewed his perception. He has described this incident as a fight for power between the Muhajirin and Ansar which began immediately after the passing of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and culminated with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma snatching the Caliphate from ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Based on the above, a number of unverified narrations found in the books of history show a distorted picture of Islam due to the reliance of the likes of Imam al Tabari upon narrators that had ulterior, political and ideological, motives attached to the era of the Rightly Guided Khalifas and beyond. As established, the distortions in written Islamic history are rooted in either:
- The willingness to intentionally distort and muddy the waters of Islamic history or
- The unwillingness to adopt Islamic principles in authenticating incidents and Islamic methodology of thought.
Negotiating past this predicament and unfortunate situation that has plagued the writing of Islamic history in the past and present can be done by implementing the following two measures:
- Scrutinising the authenticity of historical narrations according to the principles set by the hadith scholars.
This is because the pristine truths of our history need to be relieved of the dirt that covers them stemming from fabrications, obliviousness, and political motives. Furthermore, the liars and fabricators are many which has led the scholars to author voluminous books discussing the weak, rejected, and critical narrators. The integrity of Islamic history will return when we base the science of Islamic history upon the stringent measures adopted in the science of hadith with the application of Jarh wa Ta’dil throughout. The specialist of hadith expended their energies in recollecting the lives of the narrators thus creating an encyclopaedia of their lives, beliefs, and character. The scholars who attended to this science, did so by traveling far and wide gathering information and life stories before making an informed decision, not influenced by nationalism, school of thought, or ulterior motives. They were solely interested in preserving the integrity of hadith.
There remains no doubt that using these principles to determine the authenticity of historical records will ultimately result in strengthening the chain of narrations found in historical records and scrutinising the narrators therein. The works of the early historians will benefit the most from this as they have accounted for their statements by citing chains of narrations.
Adopting the principles of scrutinising hadith in historical accounts, however, will remain relative to the nature of the narrations, as it will prove difficult to adopt this methodology through and through as is done in the science of hadith. Even though the scholars have laid down the same four conditions in permitting the narration of historical accounts: 1. ‘Aql (sanity), 2. Dabt (accuracy), 3. Islam 4. ‘Adalah (integrity), the accuracy of the narrators as well as the chain itself weren’t held to the same stringent levels in historical accounts compared to the ahadith. This of course excludes some of the historical accounts that relate to the sirah and Khalifas which are corroborated by the ahadith.
The scholars have differentiated between historical accounts that need to meet rigorous authentication and those that do not. If the recollection has to do with Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam or the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum then making an effort to establish its veracity will be imperative. On the other hand, though, if it has no standing in beliefs or laws of shari’ah then the conditions will be lax just as is in the ahadith that deal with virtues rather than laws. In the latter, weak narrations will be accepted whilst in the former, only authentic narrations will be considered. These weak narrations will be accepted to elucidate incidents further, that have already been established through authentic narrations.
This is the methodology accepted by the erudite scholars.
This is why we find, for example Hafiz ibn Hajar saying regarding Muhammad ibn Ishaq:
امام في المغازي ، صدوق يدلس
An authority in prophetic biography, truthful, though not always precise in naming his authorities.
Similarly, he says regarding Saif ibn ‘Umar al Tamimi:
ضعيف في الحديث ، عمدة في التاريخ
Weak in hadith, leader in Tarikh.
This however, does not mean that we should abandon the methodology of the hadith scholars in scrutinising narrations as it is through their approach we can reconcile between opposing narrations wherever possible. Additionally, it is the way to remove irregularities from the general framework of our history.
Prioritising authentic followed by sound narrations is a must when recounting history to build an accurate picture of Islamic civilization from its early days, with preference to the stronger narration where reconciliation cannot be made. The weak narrations that cannot be corroborated will be of benefit in filling the gaps in historical accounts as long as it is in conformity to Islamic values and does not demerit Islamic beliefs or laws as these two aspects require established verified narrations.
It is widely understood that the era of Caliphate was an era of exceptional growth in elucidating Islamic Law, with the Khalifas themselves making leaps in setting down precedents for governing according to Islamic teachings. They are thus leaders in the laws interpreted and systems adopted by them in the early Islamic period. Their injunctions and regulations are therefore accepted and implemented. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:
عليكم بسنتي وسنة الخلفاء الراشدين المهديين من بعدي عضوا عليها بالنواجذ
Hold on to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided Khalifas after me, grasp onto it with your molars.
From amongst the benefits of studying Islamic history is referencing the books of hadith as primary sources in understanding the early Islamic period. Authentic historical accounts can be found in the books of hadith; a field that has been worked upon extensively. So, for example, we find the books of Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim to have been authenticated to the highest degree as every narration has undergone scrutiny by the great scholars of the past and contemporary researchers.
The books of Sunan, Masanid, Ma’ajim, Tabaqat, and Tarikh written by the masters of hadith all carry great numbers of such authentic narrations. Similarly, one will find authentic narrations in the commentaries of hadith as well. This is due to them achieving excellence in the field of hadith and taking from the, now long lost, books of history written by the earliest scholars. A perfect example of this authorship and scholarship is Ibn Hajar and his magnum opus; Fath al Bari.
- Formulating Islamic history in line with a vision that truly reflects Islamic values and that conforms to the principles of shari’ah.
This is because Islamic history is a history of faith and belief before being the history of states, battles, and political systems. Islamic belief is what created the entities of states, political systems, economic structures, administrative branches, and thriving Muslim civilizations. The fact that our Islamic history is unique, it needs to be studied through a perspective that reflects true understanding, an Islamic perspective, and correct beliefs regarding Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, humanity, and life.
It is of high importance that we understand the true motivations of actions in the early years of Islam and the effect these motivations had on events that occurred. Similarly, the framework of initiatives, understanding of the masses, and Islamic values need to be understood in the context of the relationships between individuals and communities with the governance systems, enactment of laws, and economic policies.
The motives that permeated Islamic society in the early years of Islam was dominated by their belief and aspirations of rewards from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in hereafter. Thus, the general trend amongst the Muslims was to have no ulterior motives as sincerity is a necessity in all the doings of a Muslim, be it sacrificing one’s life or involving oneself in activities that impact the economy, society, or political system. All spheres of a Muslims’ life revolve around pleasing Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala knowing well that doing actions for anyone else will result in the destruction of such acts no matter how great. The hadith speaks clearly on this issue:
إن الله لا يقبل من العمل إلا ما كان له خالصا ، وابتغي به وجهه
Verily Allah does not accept any actions except those that are done solely for him and to earn His pleasure.
This type of thinking forms part of the lives of many Muslims today who are so far from the golden era of Islam, what then might have been the magnitude of the sincerity amongst the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the Tabi’in who lived in the best of times?
Knowing the profound effect Islamic values had on the early Islamic years with the purity of its people, high intellect, sincere belief, and devotion to worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, one will have to admit plainly that their motives were just as pure as they were. Their actions were not motived by the paltry gains of this world. Their eyes were fixated on the hereafter causing them to do acts of good, call towards piety, and forbid from evil.
It is therefore vital to develop a critical approach when dealing with our sources of history without accepting on face value every statement recorded therein. The historical records need to be measured against the character of society in that era to see if it holds any truth. In this manner one will take the general orientation and nature of the then prevalent character of Islamic society into account.
Thereafter scrutinising the narrators is of utmost importance as well. Any narration that is in conformity with a narrator’s prejudice in disparaging the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum or in tarnishing the pristine shari’ah will be disregarded. Similarly, if a narrator reports something which goes against the established and recognised norms of society due to his known prejudice, his narrations will not be accepted. Prejudice will always seek to veil the truth.
A yardstick to consider when studying the early years of Islam
Not imposing a decree upon a belief or stance of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum based on their actions without proof to support such, as the principle when considering the actions of people is to see it in a positive light unless otherwise proven.
Going beyond that which is established and branding people by citing mere views and assumptions is unacceptable. Islam has protected the honour of every Muslim from such and no historian worth his salt would engage in such. Furthermore, staying quiet in the face of fabrications does not form part of good character. Good character is rather refuting lies and purifying the early Islamic years from it, just as good character entails refraining from assumptions and speculation.
The shari’ah has instructed that our evidence be factual and not circumstantial. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:
إِلَّا مَنْ شَهِدَ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُوْنَ
But only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know.
What would the condition of one be then who comes to conclusions based on his desires and assumptions?
Islam has a very specific methodology in placing rulings on men and actions. Unprejudiced testimony is the cornerstone in such rulings with no place for assumptions that stem from hatred or love. Factual evidence is placed before circumstantial evidence so that no person is subject to oppression due to ignorant conjecture. When we agree that every person has the right to fair testimony, what of the pure souls of the golden era? Can we not afford the same to them?
Another point of note here is that we do not consider anyone to be infallible except the Prophets of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Therefore, those that have made efforts in the field of Islamic history are men who could have made mistakes, be it the greats amongst the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum. That being said, their mistakes should be considered as mistakes by authorities in Islamic law upon which they will be rewarded by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:
إذا حكم الحاكم فاجتهد ثم أصاب فله أجران وإذا حكم فاجتهد ثم أخطأ فله أجر
When an authority passes a judgment and is correct therein, he will receive two rewards and if he errs he will receive one reward.
The Three Phases to Establish the Appropriate Ruling
When studying history, it is imperative to know the conditions of that era. The socio-economic status of the time wherein the incident under review must be understood. Over and above this the causes of such mistakes should be in the fore before passing any judgments so that the judgment passed is accurate and appropriate.
Hereunder is one example of following the correct procedure in passing a judgment on an incident that has presented itself. Before passing any judgments, one would need to clear through three phases to establish the appropriate ruling.
The stance adopted by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in dealing with Hatib ibn Abi Balta’ah radiya Llahu ‘anhu when he sent a letter with a polytheist woman to inform the disbelievers of the imminent journey of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to Makkah is a perfect example of this.
Establishing the occurrence of the mistake, if the incident had indeed taken place. In this instance the most truthful source was utilized to pass this phase; revelation.
Establishing the cause that led to such a mistake. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to Hatib radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
ما حملك على ما صنعت
What led you to doing this?
This phase is important as it could serve to end to any further action if a shar’i justification is presented. If no such justification is given, this will be taken to the next phase.
Having an oversight onto all the good and pious acts of the one having erred. Mixing the mistake into the good acts can, at times, drown out the mistake in the ocean of pious acts. This is what Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam responded with when ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu sought to execute Hatib radiya Llahu ‘anhu:
أليس من أهل بدر فقال لعل الله اطلع إلى أهل بدر فقال اعملوا ما شئتم فقد وجبت لكم الجنة أو فقد غفرت لكم
Is he not from amongst the participants? Perhaps Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has looked upon the Badr warriors and said, “Do whatever you like, for I have ordained that you will be in Paradise or that I have forgiven you.”
Such incidents that occurred in the early Islamic years should not be used to justify the same in our, or another time, period. It should be considered in the context and environment prevalent in that era. If such a ruling is passed, it would not be objectively justified and therefore result in a ruling that does not correspond to reality.
My methodology in this book does not serve to refute every doubt that that has clouded Islamic history, nor does it seek to scrutinise every narration that does not conform to the nuances of that era. My methodology is rather to establish historical actualities strengthened by authentic proofs, together with presenting narrations that conform to the realities of that era within the framework of Islamic principles and values on the basis of the behaviour of the individuals and leaders of that time period prompted by their beliefs.
Therefore, I have selected such narrations from the Tarikh of Imam al Tabari that conform to the soul of society in the early Islamic years and truly reflects that civilization. On the other hand, I have scrutinised such narrations that go against the grain of that society by the aforementioned yardsticks and standards.
I have, at times. referenced other works of history to either, fill in gaps left by the narrations of Imam al Tabari, deduce from certain historical matters, or to raise an objection against a narration he has recorded. I have, by and large, relied upon the narrations of the muhaddithin which has been instrumental in giving preference to one account over another and in clearing the cobwebs from many historical accuracies. These narrations have also proven useful as alternatives to some famous narrations compiled in Tarikh al Tabari and other books of history.
To conclude, it only behoves me to call upon Muslim historians and researchers to study Islamic history with a critical eye in order to open up the true realities of our past. They should expend their efforts in formulating methodologies of analysis and contributing to correcting the sequencing of thoughts and understandings thus reverting to producing from the pristine texts of the Qur’an and Ahadith. The gravity of this can be appreciated when we realise that it is our history that represents its honour; a channel that brings us the in-depth recordings of our faith. The greater the contamination of the source, the greater the contaminants in the product.
It is apparent that emphasising an Islamic methodology in writing history, compiling its principles, and explaining its pillars and premises is most important in rectifying this science. This emphasis is an academic one just as it is an obligation of shari’ah and human need. Disrupting this disrupts the true gauges of knowledge and laws of shari’ah. It similarly causes a great shortfall in the ability to study and confusion regarding the accuracies of historical facts. It furthermore creates a runway for departing from the correct understanding of incidents.
It is therefore incumbent upon every person who is able to, to rectify the history of the early Islamic years. This should be considered amongst the best forms of worship in which one should make as much effort as possible. The result will be a presentation of history, accurate and true, to the Muslim youth which will be brimming with eminent role models whom they will follow and whose teachings they shall revive.
A concerted effort needs to be made to write Islamic history by men who believe in and love Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and His Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Such people who understand the role Islam plays in one’s life together with appreciating the importance of the golden era; that of the Khalifas. They understand the importance this era plays in shaping our history, our present, and our future. An era of unprecedented advancement in personal and social dealings in which they had protected and furthered the pure teachings of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Khalifas held firmly onto the principles of da’wah, jihad, championing the cause of justice, calling towards good, and forbidding evil. This contributed to their era being considered one with the era of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. An era that will always be the yardstick for the future generations who wish to accomplish what they had accomplished. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has given glad tidings to the Muslims on the resurgence of such an era after it being lost. Hudhayfah ibn al Yaman radiya Llahu ‘anhu reports that Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:
تكون النبوة فيكم ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا عاضًا فيكون ما شاء الله أن يكون، ثم يرفعها إذا شاء الله أن يرفعها، ثم تكون ملكًا جبرية فتكون ما شاء الله أن تكون، ثم يرفعها الله إذا شاء أن يرفعها، ثم تكون خلافة على منهاج النبوة
Prophethood will remain among you as long as Allah wills. Then Caliphate in the manner of Prophethood shall commence, and remain as long as Allah wills. Then erosive monarchy would take place, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. After that, despotic kingship would emerge, and it will remain as long as Allah wills. Then, the Caliphate shall come once again based on the precept of Prophethood.
Division of the Book
This book is divided into a preface and three chapters. Each chapter has three modules and each module has three sections.
I have prepared this chapter as an introduction to the subject. It is a crucial chapter as it places before the reader the correct methodology in scrutinising and accepting narrations together with sifting the authentic from the weak. This is done in the framework of shar’i principles and precise parameters so that the study of Islamic history does not deviate from the correct path. This deviation leads to contradictory explanations and opinions regarding the lives of the early Muslims. This chapter has three modules.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The causes of interpolation in Islamic history, the causes and reasons that led to fabricating narrations especially in the early years of Islam, and the influence of the Shia in fabricating narrations.
Section two: The methodology in studying Islamic history which is of two types:
1. That which pertains to authentication and ways of establishing the truth. Also the conditions of accepted narrations.
2. That which pertains to sources and principles of explaining and judging incidents.
Section three: The fiqh of the history of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and the binding methodology when studying their history. Their status in the Qur’an and hadith and their integrity. The stance a Muslim should adopt in reports that cast a negative shadow upon them. The definition of cursing the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum and its shar’i implications. The ruling of those who delve into it citing academic discourse and freedom of speech.
The life of Imam al Tabari, whom I have specifically chosen to discuss as his book of history continues to remain a vital source for the historians. This is in addition to the fact that I have depended largely on him as his book is the principle source for this study, which I have referenced about three hundred times.
This module has three sections.
Section one: Lineage, traveling for knowledge, character, and standpoints of Imam al Tabari.
Section two: His knowledge, integrity, intelligence, and the praise of scholars for him.
Section three: The smear campaign of rafd against him. Establishing the facts, exposing the groups who aligned him to it, and the most important cause that led to it. Comparing his views with that of the Shia. I have brought this section to a close discussing his beliefs which is without a doubt in line with that of the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah.
Section one: The nature of the Tarikh of Imam al Tabari and its academic significance.
Section two: The principle sources of Imam al Tabari in discussing the fitnah.
Section three: Explaining the methodology of Imam al Tabari in his Tarikh. He does not subscribe to the stringent measures of the scholars of hadith in sifting out the weak narrations. He has therefore included many weak narrations in his work. This is because he subscribed to another accepted methodology; mentioning all that that has reached him with the chain of narrators. Their stance was that including the chain of narrators frees them from any liability. The weight of authentication would now lie on the one who is utilizing the work. The authentic would be accepted, the weak identified and refuted according to the principles of hadith.
This chapter discusses the first fitnah that arose during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This chapter has three modules.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The definition of fitnah linguistically, through the Qur’an, and through the ahadith.
Section two: The Saba’iyyah, reality or fiction? This is to refute those that disregard the existence of Abdullah ibn Saba’. This position is held by a group of orientalists, some Arab researchers, and most contemporary Shia. His existence is established without doubt through extrapolating sources of the past and present, of the Ahlus Sunnah and the Shia.
Section three: The cause of fitnah during the Caliphate of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, the root cause being the efforts of the Saba’iyyah. The effect of the Bedouins–scholars and others–on the Saba’iyyah. The social shift during the reign of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu and its effect on the fitnah. The economic change during his era and the effects it had on the Islamic civilization. The successorship of ‘Uthman after ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu and the difference in their temperament. Tribalism which caused some of the tribes to find the leadership of the Quraysh burdensome.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The personality of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, his character, his virtues, political thought, and leadership.
Section two: The false claims made against ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu by his enemies, and its refutation.
Section three: The circumstances surrounding his murder and the efforts made by the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to oppose them. ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, however, insisted on not spilling a drop of Muslim blood, effectively ransoming himself for the ummah.
This module has three sections.
Section one: Discussing the ahadith that foreshadow the first fitnah. Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam mentioned this fitnah and that ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu would be unjustly killed.
Section two: The stance of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum in the first fitnah. They adopted the stance of praising ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu, cursing his killers, and distancing themselves from the killers.
Section three: The standpoint of the Tabi’in and those after them which is the same as the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
This chapter discusses the second fitnah and comprises of three modules.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The bay’ah and inauguration of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu which is accepted as legitimate by the consensus of the decision makers. There was no force nor any coercion. Yes, the opposition he faced was due to the political climate which is well known. It did not seek to completely oppose his Caliphate.
Section two: The political thought of ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This section plainly refutes those who seek to play down his political acumen.
Section three: The schemes of the Saba’iyyah and their principle role in igniting the flames of conflict in Jamal after ‘Ali, Talhah, and Zubair radiya Llahu ‘anhuma had already adopted measures of reconciliation.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The stance of those that sought to avenge the blood of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu which consisted of the likes of Talhah, Zubair, Aisha, Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and others that held the same view.
Section two: Those that sought to delay capital punishment until conditions were calm again. This group had the likes of ‘Ali, ‘Ammar, Qa’qa’ ibn ‘Amr radiya Llahu ‘anhum, and others that held the same view.
Section three: Lifting the veil of those that did not take any stance in this fitnah which was the majority of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
This module has three sections.
Section one: The Qurra’ that took part in the fitnah; the elders of the Khawarij sect.
Section two: The Qurra’ and the arbitration between ‘Ali and Muawiyah radiya Llahu ‘anhuma. Scrutinising the incident of arbitration and the reality of the arbitrators; ‘Amr ibn al ‘As and Abu Musa al Ash’ari radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.
Section three: The resulting effects of the fitnah.
I. The political effects. This discusses the different standpoints that came about due to the fitnah; the Khawarij, Murji’ah, and Shia. This sub-section also discusses the political effects that was borne out of the different political thoughts.
II. The theological effects. This discusses the innovations of the Khawarij, Murji’ah, and Shia together with its effects on scholastic theological discourse.
III. The jurisprudic effects. The conflict had brought to the fore the legal ramifications of those who rebel against the state.
IV. The stance of the Ahlus Sunnah wa al Jama’ah after the occurrence of the fitnah. They stand by the same today which is a viewpoint that exemplifies impartiality in speech and action. It also demonstrates the ability to understand matters from an Islamic perspective without deviating and adopting extremism.
The subject of fitnah has to be considered from two angles, that of the murderers and that of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
- The murderers of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu will carry the full blame and sin of the fitnah that followed as they opened the door to this and were instrumental in carrying it out.
- The actions of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum that followed in this fitnah will be considered in the light of good intentions and differences of opinion as authorities in Islamic law. Each group had its merits and none were after the paltry gains of this world. This difference was merely in the application of the shari’ah.
I have taken the following approach in the book:
- Profiling the personalities whose names appear in the book.
- Identifying the places mentioned in the book.
- Citing the Qur’anic verses.
- Citing the ahadith together with mentioning its grade as far as possible.
- Citing the traditions of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
- When the pronunciation of a name or place is difficult, I have endeavoured to explain the pronunciation in the first instance.
- I have not mentioned the page numbers of dictionaries when referencing them as they are compiled in alphabetical order.
- I have explained difficult words in the footnotes.
- If the reader notices that I haven’t profiled a person or narrator, it is because I have already done so before.
- I have mentioned the sources in the footnotes beginning with the earliest author.
- In the event of not coming across the date of death of an author I have indicated to it with an ellipsis (…).
- I have endeavoured to place the corresponding Gregorian date when discussing historical events.
 H. Lammens: LÏlslam: croyances et institutions pg. 47.
 The act of classifying a narrator as unreliable or weak is called: ‘Al Jarh’ (Criticism), while classifying him as reliable is known as ‘Al Ta’dil’ (Justification). This aspect in the science of Hadith is called ‘ilm al Jarh wa al Ta’dil. This science is of a very intricate nature and is the right of a specialist only.
 Ibn Hajar: Tabaqat al Mudallisin pg. 51; al Taqrib, vol. 1 pg. 344.
 Al Tirmidhi in his Sunan, Kitab al Manaqib, vol. 4 pg. 105, he has deemed it sound and authentic; Abu Dawood in his Sunan, Kitab al Sunnah, Hadith: 4607; Imam Ahmed in his Musnad, vol. 4 pgs. 126-127; Albani has deemed it authentic, Sahih Abu Dawood, Hadith: 3851.
 Genres of hadith.
 Sunan al Nasa’i, Kitab al Jihad, vol. 6 pg. 25. Albani has deemed it authentic in al Silsilah al Sahihah Hadith: 52.
 Surah al Zukhruf: 86.
 Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 1716.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 3462.
 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith: 3462.
 Musnad Imam Ahmed vol. 4 pg. 273; Musnad Abu Dawood al Tayalisi, Hadith: 438. Al Haythami has deemed its narrators strong in Majma’ al Zawaid vol. 5 pg. 189. Albani has deemed it authentic in Al Silsilah al Sahihah:5.Back to top