Hostname: page-component-8448b6f56d-jr42d Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-21T04:33:28.948Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Abraha and Muhammad: some observations apropos of chronology and literary topoi in the early Arabic historical tradition1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009


In has long been known that the chronological scheme commonly transmitted by the early Arabic sources for events of the latter half of the sixth century A.D. poses a number of major problems. These are sufficiently important to raise serious doubts about the reliability of the traditional chronological framework for the last years of the Jāhilīya in general. A key problem is that of the date for 'Ām al-fīl, the ‘Year of the Elephant’, so called after the expedition of Abraha into the Hijāz in that year. The early Arabic literary tradition does not specifically date this event: it simply maintains, first, that Muammad was born in the Year of the Elephant, and second, that he was summoned to act as God's Prophet at the age of forty. Considered together, the many reports to this effect imply―based on the prevailing view that the mab'ath is to be dated to approximately A.D. 610―that both the expedition of Abraha and the birth of Muhammad occurred in about A.D. 570.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 1987

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


2 There are, of course, various reports attempting to stabilize the date for 'Ām al-fil and the birth of Muhammad by calculating it according to other calendar systems e.g., the annus mundi, the Seleucid era, the Arabian system beginning from the Hijjat al-ghadr, and the ‘years’ of Nebuchadnezzar and Chosroes Anushirvan. See, for example, al–Tabarī, (d. 310/923), Ta'rīkh al-rusul wa-'l-mulūk, ed. Muhammad, Abū 'i–Fal, Ibrāhīm (2nd ed., Cairo, 1968–69), II, 103:18–22, 15‘18, 155: 14–16Google Scholar (from Ibn al-Kalbī, d. 204/819), ūdī, al-Mas' (d. 345/956), Murūj al-dhahab, ed. de goeje, M. J. (Leiden, 1894; BGA, VIII), 228: 7/231:2.Google Scholar But such reports appear only later. They presume the accuracy of the earlier traditions about the Prophet's birth in the Year of the Elephant, forty years before the mab'ath; and, rather than proceeeding independently they are based upon such reports. SeeTheodor, NÖldeke, Geschichte des Qorâans (2nd ed. by Friedrich, Schwally, Bergsträsser, G.., and Bergsträsser, G.Pretzl, O., Leipzig, 1909–38), 1, 68 odem, Geschichte der Perser und Araber Zur Zeit der Sasaniden (Leiden, 1879), 168, 172, 205;Google ScholarLeone, Caetani, Annali dell' Islam (Milan, 1905–26), 1, 149–50.Google Scholar

3 Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorâns, 68; ibid., Geschichte der Perser und Araber, 205.

4 SeeHenri, Lammens, ‘Qoran et tradition: comment fut composée la vie de Mahomet’, Recherches de science religeuse, 1, 1910, 2751;Google Scholaribid., ‘L’Āge de Mahomet et la chronologie de la sçra' Journal Asiatique, 10th Series, 17, 1911, 209–50. Lammens's well-known hositility to Islam is evident in both essays, particularly in the former, and neither was as well received as might evident in both essays, particularly in the former, and neither was as well reveived as might otherwise have been the case. Both, however, offer a number of useful insights.Google Scholar

5 Régis, Blachère, Le Problème de Mahomet (Paris, 1952), 15, 28, and frequently elsewhere.Google Scholar

6 Montgomery, W.Watt, Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford, 1953), 58. Cf.also pp. 16, 33, 39, 58–9, and his more generally optimistic views in his recent ‘The reliability of Ibn-Ishāq's sources’Google Scholar, in La Vie du Prophète Mahomet, ed. Toufic, Fahd (Paris, 1983), 3143.Google Scholar

7 See Ryckmans, G., ‘Inscriptions sud-arabes; dixième série’, Le Muséon, 66, 1953, 339–42Google Scholar; Beeston, A. F. L., ‘Notes on the Mureighan inscription’, BSOAS, 25,2, 1954. 389–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 Caskel, Werner, Entdeckungen in Arabien (KÖln and Opladen, 1954), 30CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Caskel's theory is somewhat similar to the earlier two-expedition theory of Carlo Conti Rossini. See the latter's ‘Expéditions et possessions des abašāt en ARabie’, JOurnal Asiatique, 11th Series, 18, 1921, 30–2Google Scholar; ibid., Storia ď Etiopia (Bergamo, 1928), 186–95.Google Scholar

9 J. Ryckmans, ‘Inscriptions historiques sabéennes’, 342.

10 Altheim, Franz and Stiehl, Ruth, ‘Araber und Sasaniden’, in Edwin redslob zum 70. Geburtstag: eine Festgabe, ed. Rohde, Georg and Neubecker, Ottfried (Berlin, 1955), 200–7.Google Scholar

11 Kister, M. J., ‘The campaign of Hulubān: a new light on the expedition of Abraha’, Le Muséon, 78,1965, 425–8.Google Scholar

12 SeeCrone, Patricia and Cook, Michael, Hagarism:the making of the Islamic world (Cambridge, 1977), 3–9, and p. 157, 39Google Scholar. Cf. also Crone, Patricia, Slaves on horses: the evolution of the Islamic polity (Combridge, 1980), 1417, and p. 210, 82;CrossRefGoogle ScholarCook, Michael, Muhammad (Oxford, 1983), 63–4.Google Scholar

13 See Lammens ‘L'Âge de Mahomet’, 210, 218–19, 249–50; Grunebaum, Gustave von, Der Islam in seiner Klassischen Epoche, 622–1258 (Zurich and Stuttgart, 1963), 30.Google Scholar

14 De bello persico, i.xx.3–8; ed. Haury, Jakob in the Teubner Procopius, 2nd ed. by Wirth, Gerhard (Leipzig, 19631964), 1, 107–8Google Scholar.

15 SeeHaury, Jacob, Procopiana (Augsburg and Munich, 18911893), 1, 57;Google Scholar. Rubin, Berthold, Prokopios von Kaisareia (Stuttgart. 1954), 25–6, 122–3;Google ScholarEvans, J. A. S., Procopius (New York, 1972), 41Google Scholar; Hunger, Herbert, Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner (Munich, 1978), 1, 293;Google ScholarCameron, Averil, Procopius and the sixth century (London, 1985), 89. Cf. also Nöldeke, Geschichte der Peser und Araber, 201.Google Scholar

16 See Cameron, Procopius and the sixth century, p. 121, n. 65. Prokopios was prepared to become rather credulous where the exotica of distant lands were concerned. See De bello persico. i. iv. 17–31 (Haury/Wirth, I, 17–19), where he offers as ‘no tentirely beyond belief’ an allegedly Persian tale about an oyster swimming (!) in the sea, accompanied by a jealously protective shark infatuated with the oyster's pearl. But such ridiculous fables are quite the exception in his military history. On the current debate over the reliability of Prokopios for developments along the eastern frontier, there are two useful contributions by Whitby, Michael in The defence of the Roman and Byzantine East, ed. Freeman, Philip and Kennedy, David (Oxford, 1986): ‘Procopius and the development of Roman defences in Upper Mesopotamia’, 717–35Google Scholar, and ‘Procopius' Description of Dara (Buildings, II. 1–3)’, 737–83,. On eht question of his reliability more generally, cf. G. Soyter, ‘Die Glaubwürdigkeit des Geschichtschreibers Prokopios von Kaisareja’, Byzantinische Zeit schrift, 44, 1951, 541–4; Robert Benedicty, ‘Vzyatie Rima Alarykhom’, vizantiyskii Vremennik, N.S., 20, 1961, 23–31; ibid., ‘Prokopios’ Berichte über die slavische Vorzeit: Beiträge zur historiographischen Methode des Prokopios von Kaesareia’, Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinischen Gesellschaft, 14, 1965, 51–1, 57–9.

17 On South Arabian dating systems see Beeston, J. F. L., ‘Problems of Sabaean chronology’, BSOAS, 26, 2, 1954, 3756, esp. 37–40;CrossRefGoogle Scholaribid., Epigraphic South Arabian calendars and dating(London, 1956), 35–8Google Scholar; Shahid, Irfan, The Martyrs of Najrân: new documents (Brussels, 1971), 235 –42.Google Scholar

18 EI (2nd ed.), II, 895.

19 Kister, ‘The campaign of ulubān’, 427–8; Beeston, ‘Notes’, p. 391, n. 2.

20 This trend is already under way in the era of ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr (d. 94/712), and fully developed by the time of Ibn Isāq (d. 150/767). See Hishām, Ibn (d. 218/833), Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, ed. Ferdinand, stenfeld(Göttingen, 18581860), 1, 1, 102: 9–12, 108:3–4, 119:2–3, 122:8, 150:8–9, 415:10–15;Google Scholar al–abarī, II, 290: 7; 7–216u. It also appears to have made its way into the polemical literature of Byzantium. See Euthymios, Zigabenos, Dialexis meta sarakēnou philosophou peri pisteōs, ed. Migne, J. P. in his Patrologia Graeca, CXXXI (Paris, 1864), col. 33D. This work was commissioned by Alexios I Comnenos (r. 1081–1118).Google Scholar

21 See Duri, A. A., Therise of historical writing among the Arabs, ed. and tr. Conrad, Lawrence I. (Princeton, 1983), 1420.Google Scholar

22 See Beeston, Epigraphic South Arabian calendars and dating.

23 On the ayyām, seeCaskel, Werner,‘ Aijām al–'rab:Studien zur altarabischen Epik’, Islamica, 3: Ergānzungsheft, 1930, 199; Egbert Meyer, Der historische Gehalt der Aiyām al–'Arab (Wiesbaden, 1970); 'A bd al–Jabb'r al–Bayāti, Kitāb ayyām al-'arab qabla 'l-Islām (Baghdad, 1976). Cf. also EI (2nd ed.), I, 793–4 (E. Mittwoch); Duri, Historical writing, index.Google Scholar

24 See, for example, Naqā'i jarīr wa-'l-Farazdaq, ed. Bevan, A. A. (Leiden, 19051912), 1, 238: 9–239: 16;II, 790:8–15, 1020:10–13;Google ScholarRabbih, Ibn'abd (d. 328/940), Al-'lqd(al-farīd), ed. Amad, Amīn. (Cairo), (1368/1384), 5,206; 14–16, 236:11–12;Google ScholarAbū'l–Faraj, al–I’fahānī(d. 356/967), Kitāb al-aghānī (Cairo, A.H. 1285), x 10, 8pu, 12:6;Google Scholara–Maydānī, (d. 518/1124), Majma' al-amthāl, ed. Muammad, Muyī'i–Dīn'Abd, al–amīd (Cairo, 1379/1959), 2, 433, 21; 436, no. 39;438, no. 57; 441, no. 83. Most of these cases are cited from Abū 'Ubayda (d. 211/826). Ibn al-Athīr (d. 630/1232) of course tried to provide a chronological structure for the ayyām in his Al-Kāmil fī 'l-ta'rīkh (Beirut, 1385–86/1965/66), I, 502: I/687u; but this effort was naturally a very arbitrary process and can hardly have produced results superior to those of the sources upon which it was based. Cf. the detailed treatment of chronological difficulties in Meyer, Der historische Gehalt der Aiyām al-' Arab, 8–9, 29, 37, 47, 47–8, 50, 70, 72–3, 76, 83, 91–2, 98–9; also the special cases to be considered below.Google Scholar

25 See the comments on this phenomenon in my ‘Seven and the Tasb’': on the implications of numerical symbolism for the study of medieval Islamic history’, JESHO, forthcoming. Cf. also Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorâns, I, p. 68, n. 2; Lammens, ‘Qoran et tradition’, 33–5; ibid., ‘L'Âge de Mahomet’, 210.

26 Al-Sakhāwī (d. 902/1497) gives us an indication of the extent to which such information was available and considered significant in late Mamlūk times (at least among the learned), when he ridicules Jalāl al-Dūn al Suyūtī (d. 911/1505), his bitter adversary, for not knowing the date of his own father's birth. See al-SakhāwFs Al-Daw' al-lāmt li–ahl al–qarn al–tasī(Cairo, A.H. 135 –55), xi, 73: 2.

27 Taymīya, Ibn, Majmūa fatāwā…Ibn Taymīya (CairoGoogle Scholar, A.H. 1326–29), I, 312: 1–10, no. 230; kitāb iqtiā al–irā al–mustaqm mukhālafat aāb al–jaīm (Cairo, 1325/1907), 141: 1–10, no. 230; Cf. also the study of Eugen, Mittwoch, ‘Muammeds Geburts– und Todestag’, Islamica, 2, 1926, 397401. This was of course not the prevailing attitude at this time. Muammad ibn Muammad al–Jazarī(d. 833/1429), for example, came to Mecca on pilgrimage in 792/1390 and found the mawlid to be the town's most lavishly celebrated festival. See his 'Urf al-ta'rīf bi-'l-mawlid al-sharīf, Al-Maktaba al-Khālidīya (Jerusalem), unnumbered MS, fol. 6v: 3–6.Google Scholar

28 See Genesis 7:12, 7; Exodus 34: 28; Numbers 14:33;Ezekiel 29:13 I Kings 19:8; Jonah 3:4; Acts 1:3. for discussions of this symbolism in the Jewish and Christian traditions, see Knig, Eduard, ‘Die Zahl Vierzig und Verwandtes’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 61, 1907, 913–17Google Scholar; Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Hastings, James (New York, 1901–4), III, 563–4Google Scholar, 565 (Eduard König); Encyclopaedia Biblica, ed. Cheyne, T. K.and Black, J. Sutherland (New York, 1899–1903), III. 3436, 3437–8Google Scholar (G. A. Barton); Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 19711972), III, 291–2Google Scholar (Y. D. Gilat); XII, 1256–8 (Israel Abrahams).

29 Some observations on this were made by Oskar Rescher. See his articles ‘Einiges ūber die Zhal vierzig’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenläandischen Gesellschaft, 65, 1911, 517–20; ‘Einige nachrāgliche Bemerkungen zur Zahl 40 im Arabischen, Tūrkischen und Persischen’, Der Islam, 4, 1913, 157–9.

30 e.g., Ignaz Goldziher's introduction to his edition of al-Sijistānīs Kitāb al–mu' ammarīin his Abhandlungen zur arabischen Philologie(Leiden, 1896–99), II, 22–3; Caetani,Annali del' Islam, IV, 175;357.

31 Ibn', Abd al–akam (d. 257/870), Futū Mir, ed. Charles, C. Torrey (New York, 1922), 82:1–4. No source is cited for this, but the greater part of the information in this work comes from either 'Abd Allāh ibn Lahīa (d. 174/790) or al-Layth ibn Sa'd (d. 175/791).Google Scholar

32 Al–abarī, Ta'rīkh, IV, 51: 2–3, from Sayf ibn 'Umar (d. 180/796); 246: 11, from Abū MIkhanf (d. 157/774). In a recent SOAS lecture, ‘reading Between the lines of Sayf ibn 'Umar in al–abarīs Annales’, G. H. A. Juynboll made special note of the non-statistical character of many of the figures cited in accounts of early Islamic history, in this case by Sayf. His observations, which in some respects differ from my own, wil appear in the appendices to his translation of Vol. XIII(A.H. 15–21)in the al–abar translation series.

33 Al–Balādhurī, (d. 279/892), Ansāb al-ashrāf, v, ed. Goitein, S. D. (Jerusalem, 1936), 337:4–8, citing 'Awāna ibn al–akam (d. 147/764).Google Scholar

34 Al–Muqaddasī, , Asan al–taqāsīm fī ma'rifat al-aqālīm, ed. Goeje, M. J. (2nd ed., Leiden, 1906;BGA, 3), 12:17.Google Scholar

35 See I Samuel 4: 18; II Samuel 5:4, I Kings 2: 11, 11: 42; I Chronicles 29: 27; II Chronicles 24: I. Cf. also Acts 13: 21–22.

36 See Naqā'ī Jarīr wa-'l-Farazdaq, I, 86:9, 92: 108: 12; Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, Al-'Iqd (al-farīd), v, 141: 5, 151: 4–5, 152: 1–2, 260: 4, 14; aghānī, iv, 143: 10; al-Maydānī, Majma' al-amthāl, II, 439, no. 64. These accounts are for the most part taken from Abū 'Ubayda and Ibn al-Kalbī. An exceptional case of some interest is the attempt in these same circles to date Dhū Qār in terms of the chronology of Muammad's prophetic career (Aghānī, XX, 135: 26–136: 3, 138: 28–139: 1). But this appears to have occurred only because the Sasanian defeat in that battle was made the occasion for predictions by the Prophet of the imminent destruction of the Persians. This, in turn, raised the question of whether Muammad was in Mecca or Medina at the time, and resulted in a precise answer―the Prophet was in Medina, and Dhū Qār occurred between Badr and Ud.

37 dīwān al–mufaalīyāt, ed. Lyall, Charles (Oxford,1921), 429:8MGoogle Scholar. The commentary by al-Anbārī (d. 304/916) cites ibn al-Kalbī for this statement. Cf. also Olinder, Gunnar, The kings of Kinda of the family of Ākil al-Murār (Lund, 1927), 54, 56, 92.Google Scholar

38 Al-Zajjājī, (d. 337'949), 'Abd al-Salām Muammad Hārŭn (Kuwayt, 1962), 171: 11–12.Google Scholar

39 For some ancient precedents and parallels from Persian and Turkish usage, see dictionary of the Bible III, 563.

40 Al–abarī, VII, 22: 17–19, from al-Madā'inī (d. 225/839). In the Byzantine tradition Yazīd is persuaded to destory images in theChristian churches by a Jewish magician promising him a reign of forty years if he will do so; see Theophanes, (d. 202–203/818), Chronographia, ed. Boor, Carl de (Leipzig, 1883), 401 pu–402: 7. Variants of the tale are very common in the Greek sources.Google Scholar

41 Al–abarī, Ta'rikh, VIII, 146: 1–16, from the contemporary Abū Budayl.

42 Ibn Zūlāq (d. 386/996), extracts from his Umarā' MIr ed. Rhuvon, Guest in his The governors and judges of Egypt (Leiden, 1912), 554: 23–555: 9.Google Scholar

43 See, for example, Ibn, al–Faqīh (wr. ca. 289/902), Mukhtaar kitāb al-buldān, ed. de Goeje, M. J. (Leiden, 1885; BGA, 5), 1, 204: 8–9.Google Scholar

44 Ibn, ajar al-Haytamī, Al–Fatāwā al–adīthīya (Cairo, 1356/1937), 31: 9–10.Google Scholar

45 In the Qur'ān, see Sūrat al-Baqara (2), vv. 51, 226, 260; Sūrat al-Mā'ida (5), v. 26; Sūrat al-Nūr (24), vv. 4, 13; Sūrat Fuilat (41), v. 10. The materials in adīth are collected in Wensinck, A. J., Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane (Leiden, 19361969), 2, 214–16.Google Scholar

46 The most detailed account of the abdāl, based on a very broad range of informants, is in Ibn 'A;sākir (d. 571/1176), Ta'rīkh madīnat Dimashq, I, ed. alā al–dīn al–Munajjid (Damascus, 1371/1951), 227: 1–u. Cf. aslo wensinck, Concordance, I, 153; EI (2nd ed.), I, 94–5 (Ignaz Goldziher).

47 Hanbal, Ahmad ibn, Musnad Cairo, (A.H.), (1311), II, 166:18.Google Scholar

48 This is discussed in detail by al–Jālhiz (d. 255/868) in several of his essays; see Rasā'il al-Jāhiz, ed. ‘Abd al–Salām Muammad Hārūn (Cario, 1384–99/1964–19), 1, 91; 91–92u, 294: 5

49 e. g. Joshua 14: 7; II Samuel 2: 10.

50 SeeHirzel, Rudolf, ‘Über Rundzahlem’, Berichie ülber die Verhandlungen der Königlich S00E4;chischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu leipzing, Phil-hist. kl., 37, 1885, 6–62, and esp. 7–14, on the conceptof akm Marcus Aurelius voices this concept when hen proclaims (meditaions, XI,1)that a man of forty is the one who ‘possesses the most moderate intelligence’.Google Scholar

51 See al–jāhiz, Rasā’il, I, 300: 10–13; al-Azraqī (d. 250/767); Ibn Durayd (d. 321–933), Kitāb al-ishtiqāq, ed. ‘Abd al–Salām Muammad Hārūn (cario, 1378/1958), 155: 7–8; al-Zubayr ibn Bakkālr (d. 256/870), Jamharat nasab Quraysh wa-akhbārihā ed. Muhmūd Muammad shākir (Cairo, A.H. 1381), 354: 5–7. 376: 4–6, from Quraysh mashyakha of the late second century and from al-Dahhāk ibn ‘Ubayd (Damascus A.H. 1329–51), IV, 421u–422: 2.

52 Al–Wāqidī (d. 207/823), Kitāb al–maghāzī, ed. Marsden Jones (London, 1966), II, 560: 20–561; I;III, 1079: 4–7; Abū Hātim al-Sijistānī (d. 255/869), Kitāb, al-mu' ammarīn ed. Ignaz, in his Abhandlungen zur arabischen philologie, II (Leiden, 1899), 19:13, the citation from al–Madā'inī; al–Buhturī (d. 284/897), kitāb al–hamāsa, ed.: pios Cheikho in Mélanges de la Faculté Orientale (université Saint–Joseph, 4, 1910, 55, no. 1079); Aghānī, x, 10: 29, from Abū ‘Ubayda; Wensinck, Cpmcprdance, IV, 348–9;Google ScholarDozy, R. P.A., Dictionnaire détaillé des noms des vētements chez les Arabes (Amsterdam, 1845), 306–7Google Scholar. Al–Bayān wa–' l–tabyīn, ed ‘Abd al–Salām Muammad Hārūn (Cario, 1367–701948–50), III, 105: 3–5, in elucidation of some early verse; Lammens, ‘L’Āge de Mahomet’, 227. It was based on this Arabin tribal custom that the ‘imāma became an important symbol of the authority of the caliphate; see al–Buhturī, Dīwān, ed. Hasan, Kāmilal-Sayrafi (Cairo, 1963–78), II 676, no. 268, v. 16;902, no. 357, v, 993, no. 389, vv. 14–15, III, 1546, no. 600, vv. 3–4; 2019, no. 771, v. 7.Google Scholar

53 SŪrat al-Ahqāf (46), v. 15.

54 See the report from ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr in Ibn Hishām, 1. 2., 1006: 15–1007: al-Wāqidī, Maghāzī, III, 1118: 6–1119: 10; Ibn Sa'd (d. 230/844), kitāb al-tabaqāt al-kabīr, ed. Eduard Sachau et al. (Leiden, 1904–40), IV. 1, 45: 19–48: 17;also al-Tabarī, Ta'rīkh, III, 225pu–L 226: 16, from al-Hassan al-Basrī (d. 110/728); al-Jāhiz, Rasā'il, I, 24: 7–8, 296: 12–13; Ei (1st ed.), Iv, 1548–9 (V.Vacca). Ghulā is the term frequently used in the ayyām lore to denote a man of fighting age, but too young to lead or to merit consultation in serious matters.

55 Ibn Sa'd, VI, 70: 22–5, al–5; al-Fasawī (d. 277/893), T'rīkh, ed. Shukr Allāh ibn Ni'mat Allāh al-Q’chānī (Damascus, 1400/1980), I, 659: 6–8. These report all originate with Ismā'l ibn Abī Khālid (d. ca. 146/763).

56 Al–Tabarī, , Jāmi al–bayān ‘an ta'wīl āy al-qu'ān (Cairo, A. H., 1330), XXVI, 12: 1213.Google Scholar

57 Al-Jāhiz, Al-Bayān wa-' l-tabyīn, I, 274: quoting ‘the sages’ (al-hukamā'). The literary compendia frequently take up this theme. See, for example, Ibn 'Abd Rabbin, Al-'Iqd (al-farīd). III, 185: 17–18; Ibn hibbā al-Bustā (d. 354/965), Rawdat al-‘uqalā' wa-nuzhat al-fudalā’, ed. Muammad Muhyī'I-Dīn 'Abd al-Hamīd (Cairo, 1368/1949), 31: 17/19; Aghānī, XVI, 45: 1–12.

58 Al–Tabarī, , Jāmī al-bayān IX, 51: 1618; XXVI, 12: 8–10.Google Scholar

59 Al-Muqaddasī, Ashsan al-taqāsīm, 8u-9: I.

60 Al-Mas'ūdī, Murūj al-dhahab, I, 92pu.

61 Yāqūt, Mu'jam al-buldān, ed. Ferdinand Wütenfeld (leipzig, 1866–73), III, 449: 1–2.Google Scholar

62 This theme has been elaborated in detail in John Wansbrought's important (albiet, in my view, overly sceptical) study, The sectarian milieu: content and composition of Islamic salvation history (Oxford, 1978).

63 See, for example, Muqātil ibn Sulaymān (d. 150/767), Tafsīr, Topkapi Sarayi Müzesi Kütüphanesi (Istanbul), MS AHmet III, 74, I, 164r: 16; Ibn Sa'd, I. I, 126: 25–7, from Sufyān al-Thawrī (d. 161/687); al-Tabarī Jāmi al-bayān, XI, 68: 6–9, Qatāda; Blachėre, Le probleème de Mahomet, 15. For Ibn Khaldū (wr. 779/1377), the length of an 'umur, Which he defines as one generation, is a topic of considerabale interest and importance. See his Muqaddima, ed. E. M. Quatremėre (Paris, 1958), I, 257: 6–8, 306: 2– On 'umur, cf. also Lammens, ‘Qoran et tradition’, 34; ‘L'Âge de Mahomet’, 221–2, 226–7.

64 See the discussion in Altheim and Stiehl, ‘Araber und Sasaniden’, 203–5 also Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser und Araber, 205; Kister, ‘The campaign of Hulubān’, 427–8; Sulaymān Bashīr, Muqaddima fi' l–ta'rīkh al-ālkhar (Jerusalem, 1984), 159–60.

65 Khalīfa ibn Khayyālt (d. 240/854). Ta'rīkh (MS), I, 202r: 4–8 = Badrān and 'Ubayd, I, 282: 4–5; al-Dhabī (d. 748/1348). Al-Sīra al-nabawīya ed. Hisām ak-Din al-Qudsī(Beirut, 1401/1981), 6: 14–15; Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373), Al-Bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 262,: 12.

66 Ibn 'Asākir, Ta'rīkh (MS), I, 201vpu-202r: 4; = Badrāln and 'Ubayd, I, 282, 4; al-Dhahabī. Sīra, 6: 8–9; Ibn Kathīr, Al-Bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 262: 12.

67 Bar Hebraeus, Ta'rīkh mukhtasar al-duwal, ed. Antoine Sālihānī (Beirut, 1890), 160: 3–4.

68 Bayāln mā waq'a min al-hawādith min 'am wilādat [al-nabī] …ilaā zamān wafātihi, Bibliothėque Nationale (Paris), MS Arabe no. 5051, fol. 17v: 8–9. On this MS, a majmū'a of six short works, see Blochet, E., Bibliothéqye Nationale: Catalogue des manuscrits arabes des nouvelles acquisitions (1884–1924) (Paris, 1925). 54.Google Scholar

69 Al-Th'labī (d. 427/1035), ‘Arā'is al-majālis (Cairo, A.H. 1295), 995: 26' al-Tabarsī (d. 548/1153), Majma' al-bayā fi tafsīr al-qur'ān (Tehran, A.H. 1373–74), X, 542: 13–14; Ibn 'Asākir, Ta'rīkh (MS), I, 199v: 27–31; = Badrī and 'Ubayd, 1,281: 12– al-Khāzin (d. ca. 741/1340), Lubāb al-ta' wil fi ma' ānīl'l-tanzīl (Cairo, A. H. 1328), IV, 440: 4–5; al-Dhahabī, Sīra, 6: 10–13; Ibn Kathīr, Al-Bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 261: 7, 262: 12–13.

70 Khalīlfa ibn Khayyārīkh, 52u; Ibn 'Asākir, Ta'rīkh (MS), I, 201V: 12–15, 202r: 8–9; = Badrīn and 'Ubayd, I, 282: 2, 5; Ibn Kathīr, Al-bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 262: 13–14; al-Jazarī, 'Urf al-ta'rīf, fol. 3v: 11–15. Cf. al-Dhahabī, Sīra, 6: 3–5.

71 Muqātil, Tafsī (ms), II, 252v: 8–9; Khalīfa ibn Khayyāt, T'rīkh, 53: 1; al-Tha'labī, 'Arā' is al-majālis, 444: 21–22; al-Baghawī, Ma'ālim al-tanzīl, 994: 26; al-Tabarsī, Majma' al-bayān, X, 542: 14; Ibn 'Asīkir, Ta'rīh (MS), I, 202r: 9–10 al-Khāzin, Lubāb al-ta'wīl, IV, 440: 4; Ibn Kathiī, Al-Bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 262: 14.

72 Ibn Sa'd i. 1., 151: 5; al-Tabarīl, Ta'rīkh, II, 292: 10–18; III, 215: 17–20; al-Dhahabī Sīra, 65: 3–4.

73 Khalīfa ibn Khayyāt, Ta'rīkh, 54: 3.

74 On him, See Ibn Sa'd, VII. 1, 109: 5–20. Bruno Meissner's reading of the death date on line 15 must be corrected from 73 to 93: the statement that 'Zurāra ibn Awfā died suddenly in the year 73, in the caliphate of al-Waliī ibn ‘Abd al-Malik’ is impossible, since this caliph ruled from 87/705 until 96/715. See also Ibn Hajar (d. 852/1449), Tahdhīb al-tahdhī (hyderabad, A. H. 1325–27), III, 332: 12–323: 6, no. 598, where Ibn sa'd isquoted correfctly.

75 On the imprecise usage of quarn, see Goldziher, Abhandlungen, II, 22–4 in the Anmerkungen (no. 6).

76 Ibn sa'd I. 1, 127: 25–7. Cf. Eugen Mittwoch's proposed correction of the passage in his Ammerkungen to this volume, p. 41.

77 Nu'aym ibn Hammād (d. 228/843), Kitā;b al-fitan, British Library (London), MS Or. 9449, fol. 24V: 1–2 Cf; also the portrayal of Yazīd in the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica (Wr. ca. 123/741), ed. Theodor Mommsen in hisChronica minora saec. V. VI. VIII. (Berlin, 1894; Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores antiquissimi, XI. 2), 345a: 14– no. 27. In an Epimetrum to this text (pp. 368–9), Theodor Nöldeke concludes that such information comes from a Syrian Arabic source, probably written in Damascus. On Yazīd more generally, seeGoldziher, Ignaz, 'Tod und Andenken des Chalifen Jezīd I’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 66, 1912, 139–43; Henri Lammens, 'Le Califat de Yazīn Ier’, Mélanges de la Faculté Orientale (université Saint-Joseph), 6, 1913, 449–63; Jibrā'il Jabbür, 'Yazīd ibn Mu'āwiya’, Al-Abhāth, 18, 1965, 115–15.Google Scholar

78 Khalīfa ibn Khayyā, Ta'rīkh, 53: 1–2. Cf. also al–abarī, Ta'rīkh, II, 290: 14–15, where it is explicitly conceded that earlier generations (al-salaf) had disagreed on the age of the Prophet at the maf'ath.

79 Ibn‘Abd, al-Barr, Al-Istīāb fī ma'rifat al–a āb, ed. 'AlīMuammad, al-Bijawi (Cairo, n.d.), i,30: 13.Google Scholar

80 Al–Dhahabī, Sīra, 6: 9, 10, 13, 16, 8: 3–4; Ibn Kathīr, Al-Bidāya wa-'l-nihāya, II, 262: 15, 17. Al–Dhahabī proposes that the error of those who say that Muammad was born 30 or 40 years after the Year of the Elephant arose because what they really meant to say was ‘days’ (yawman), not ‘years’ ('āman).

81 Peloponnesian War, v.26; tr. Warner, Rex (Middlesex, 1954), 364.Google Scholar

82 Nodes atticae, xv.23; ed. Hosius, Carl (Leipzig, 1903), II, 150.Google Scholar

83 Richmond Lattimore makes some valuable observations about this practice in the introduction to his translation of the Oresteia (Chicago, 1953), 2.

84 See The Babylonian Talmud, ed.Epstein, I.(London, 1935–48), Aboth, 75–6. Cf. also the significance attributed to the age of forty in Shabbath, II, 774, 775.Google Scholar

85 See Ibn Sa'd, I.1, 84: 1–85: 11; VIII, 7: 23–11:17, where many of the early reports about this are collected. Also Cf. Caetani, Annali dell' Islam, i, 169–73Google Scholar; Lammens, ‘L'Âge de Mahomet’,212, 241; Watt, Muammad at Mecca, 38; Von Grunebaum, Der Islam, 31. The tenacious credibility of such claims is illustrated by a later case cited by Keith Thomas for Elizabethan England. The Ealing ‘census’ of 1599 includes a woman who ‘has two children aged four and one, plus a nurse child of nine months, yet is herself aged 67’. See Thomas's, Age and authority in early modern England’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 62, 1976, 206.Google Scholar

86 Aghānī, I, 36: 29–30, from Muhammad ibn al–a ak(d. ca. 190/805). See the detailed discussion of these matters in Jibrā'īl Jabbūr, Umar ibn Abī Rabīa (Beirut, 1935–71), ii, 181–95.Google Scholar

87 unayn ibn Isāq, Risāla ilā 'Allibn Yayā, ed. and tr. G. Bergsträsser in his unain ibn Is āq ūber die syrischen und arabischen Galen-Übersetzungen (Leipzig, 1925; AKM, XVII.2), 45, no. 3.Google Scholar

88 See Gardet, Louis and Anawati, M.–M., Introduction à la théologie musulmane (Paris, 1948), 53.Google Scholar

89 As Nöldeke observed (Geschichte der Perser und Araber, 205), this leaves insufficient time for other events prior to the Persian occupation.

90 See Lammens, ‘L’Âge de Mahomet’, pp. 231–9. It is at least worth noting that according to the thirteenth-century Byzantine polemist Bartholomaios of Edessa, Muammad was 32 at the time of the first revelations and spent 15 years preaching the new faith before his death: i.e., he died at the age of 47. See his Elegchos Agarenou, ed. Migne, J.-P. in his Patrologia Graeca, IV (Paris, 1860), col. 1388A-B, D. It is unfortunately impossible to determine whether these statements are based on reliable early sources, on the one hand, or baseless anti-Islamic slander, on the other.Google Scholar

91 See Duri, Historical writing, 27–30, 95–121, and the further works cited therein.

92 Kister's translation and glosses. See his ‘The campaign of Hulubān’, 427.

93 See Ibn Hishām, i.l, 117pu–118: 1, 118u–119: 3; Ibn Sa', i.i, 80: 17–82: 2; Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih, Al–'Iqd(al–farīd), v, 253: 7–10; Aghānī, xvi, 75: 11–16; xix, 73: 26–75: 3; Ibn al-Athīr, Kāmil, I, 588: 9–595: 11.

94 On 15 as the age of majority, see my ‘Les Âges de la vie dans l'lslam classique’, forthcoming in Annales. Cf. also Harald Motzki, ‘Geschlechtsreife und Legitimation zur Zeugung im frühen Islam’, in Geschlechtsreife und Legitimation zur Zeugung, ed. Müller, Ernst Wilhelm (Munich, 1985), 481–97Google Scholar; ibid., ‘Das Kind und seine Serialisation in der islamischen Familie des Mittelalters’, in Zur Sozialgeschichte der Kindheit, ed. Martin, Jochen and Nitschke, August (Munich, 1986), 423–4.Google Scholar

95 See Crone, Slaves on horses, 3–17, where this position is argued at length.

96 Wansbrough, The sectarian milieu, esp. 116–19. For a useful introduction to his hypotheses, see Rippin, Andrew, ‘Literary analysis of Qur'ān, Tafsīr, and Sīra: the methodologies of John Wansbrough’, in Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies, ed. Martin, Richard C. (Tucson, 1985), 151–63.Google Scholar

97 Frend, W. H. C., The rise of the Monophysite movement (Cambridge, 1972), 351–2, 354.Google Scholar

98 Chronicon miscellaneum ad annum Domini 724 perlinens, ed. Brooks, E. W. in Chronica minora, II (Paris, 1904: CSCO, 3; Scriptores syri, 3), 147: 25–148: 3.Google Scholar

99 See Theophanes, Chronographia, 307: 24–25, 316: 13–15, 337: 10–12, 338: 9–10. It should also be noted that in classical and Byzantine Greek, the term bears the meaning not just of ‘a thousand’, but also of ‘many’. A number like ‘40,000’ may therefore signify nothing more precise than ‘very many’.