al-Tabarī (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: The premier historian on the first century of the Islamic empire and a renowned commentator on Koranic tradition, al-Tabarī established a model of universal history and a corpus of religious tradition crucial to the development of later Islamic theology and scholarship.
Abū Jaʿfar Muhammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī was born to a moderately wealthy family. He demonstrated all the traits of a child prodigy and began formal study at an extremely early age. Legend has it that he memorized the entire Koran by the time he was seven. Al-Tabarī’s father, realizing the extent of his son’s talents and the limitations of his hometown, provided financial support for the travel so crucial to a broad education in those days.
After visiting centers of learning in northern Iran, al-Tabarī, while still a teenager, set out for Baghdad in hopes of studying under the great Muslim jurist Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who, unfortunately, died just before al-Tabarī’s arrival in the city. Nevertheless, the youth remained briefly in Baghdad and also visited the important traditional Iraqi Muslim centers of Basra and Kufa. There followed a trip to Syria to study hadith, the traditions attributed to Muhammad. Al-Tabarī also spent some time in Egypt before returning to Baghdad around 872, where he would pass the remaining half century of his long life as an increasingly renowned scholar, teacher, and...
(The entire section is 1654 words.)
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