one of the most eminent Iranian scholars of the early Abbasid era, author of a celebrated commentary on the Qorʾān as well as the most important of the classical Arabic historical texts still extant. JARIR (224-310/839-923), one of the most eminent Iranian scholars of the early Abbasid era, author of a celebrated commentary on the Qorʾān as well as the most important of the classical Arabic historical texts still extant.BIOGRAPHY Despite Ṭabari’s intellectual fame and enduring significance, there are numerous problems involved in establishing his biography.
Accounts by those who knew him, such as his students, the jurist and judge Aḥmad b. The most detailed extant biographical notices, primarily those provided by Ḵaṭib Baḡdādi (d. The anecdotes that have been handed down about him are certainly suggestive, and Franz Rosenthal (1989, p. However, Ṭabari is never known to have claimed or to have had attributed to him any tribal affiliation and is always called by his regional .42) thought that their “small details are no doubt to be taken as factual.” However, as Claude Gilliot (1988a, p. He certainly knew some Persian, and his history showed more than a passing interest in subjects concerning his homeland, but that proves little.237) has noted, some sound suspiciously like topoi. When he was asked about his ancestry, he was deliberately vague and quoted a verse belittling the importance of such genealogies (Yāqut, VI, p. 12-13 on the possible moralizing aspect of this anecdote).Indeed, there is much in the biographical notices that seems exaggerated and reverential to the point of hagiography, clearly intended to affirm Ṭabari’s formidable intellect, work ethic, and moral probity and piety, and it is difficult to know what to take seriously and what to discount. There is thus no way of knowing for certain whether Ṭabari’s family was native to the Āol region or perhaps arrived with the wave of Muslim colonists after the Abbasid revolution, either as converts or Arab settlers.After Māzyār was captured and executed in 225/840, the area was essentially annexed by the Ṭāherids as a dependency of Khorasan for the next quarter of a century. An interpreter of dreams explained that this meant the child would be a great scholar of the law (), which was enough to convince the father to support a religious education for his son.
Ṭabari thus grew up in Āol as it was recovering from this struggle and returning to prosperity under Ṭāherid patronage, and he left before it began to fall under the influence of anti-Ṭāherid Zaydi Shiʿism (though that was something that would certainly concern him; see below). 390/1000), a prominent judge who followed Ṭabari’s juridical system, gives his name as Moḥammad b. His expectations were not unwarranted, since in the same anecdote Ṭabari encourages Aḥmad b.
This rather complex history of the city also makes it difficult to be certain of much about Ṭabari’s ethnic and social background. Kāmel to entrust his own son to Ṭabari’s instruction by explaining that the lad’s youth was no obstacle, since Ṭabari himself had memorized the Qorʾān by age seven, was leading the public prayers at eight, and was transcribing hadith at nine.
The sources give slightly differing versions of his ancestry going back for as much as four generations. After completing his elementary education in Āol, and with the continued approval and financial support of his father, Ṭabari began a series of travels that made up a typical “journey in search of knowledge” () necessary for advanced religious studies at a time when instruction was mostly by oral dictation and memorization under the supervision of recognized transmitters of hadith. It is possible that Ṭabari went to Mecca in 240/855 (see Rosenthal, 1989, p.
), and in his case some people attributed the event in question to late 224 and others to early 225 (which would be roughly in the period September-December 839 or January 840). As far as social background is concerned, Ṭabari’s family was relatively well-to-do.
Unfortunately, that specific event is not named, but the dates fall within the period corresponding to the revolt in Ṭabarestān of the Qārenid ruler Māzyār (for some key episodes of which Ṭabari, III, pp. The evidence for this is not only that he subsisted in his lengthy studies and travels on a regular stipend from his father (Ebn ʿAsāker, LII, pp.
1274, 1299, notes that there are similarly conflicting datings). 198, 203), but also the specific statement in an anecdote (Yāqut, ).