Tabari, Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn Jarir al-
(d. 923 )
Early Muslim historian and collector of hadith. Shariah scholar and jurist. Inspired a short-lived school of Islamic law named after him that sought to develop a more perfect system of law. Traveled throughout the Fertile Crescent prior to settling in Baghdad to teach. Wrote a substantial commentary on the Quran, collecting the chief interpretations and offering his own perspective. His monumental The History of Rulers and Kings outlined the successes and failures of various groups called to follow God, with particular emphasis on the Muslim community; it records the personal decisions of individual Muslims, rather than the actions or decisions of rulers or institutions. The history is largely chronological, with little personal commentary or interpretation, but the selection, arrangement, and documentation of reports offer insight into his views. The inclusion of various versions of the same story and different perspectives and interpretations make the work appealing to a broad audience. Al-Tabari developed history as a field secondary to hadith study. He taught that history could only be transmitted, not deduced or inferred.