Important sources of Sirah
The Primary Sources of Sirah
The Holy Quran
The Holy Qurān is the most authentic and important source of Sirah to achieve knowledge related to Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH). It is a collection of divine revelations.
During the period of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he supervised the process of writing on various materials such as tree leaves, barks, hides, stones, bones, etc.
Hadith or Sunnah
The second most important source of Sirah is the Ḥadith Compilations whose number of narrators reaches more than one hundred thousand.
The Ḥadīth is the record of the Prophet’s sayings and doings, his practices, and his explicit or implicit approval of the words or actions of any other person.
Often, these reports are so strong and detailed that there should be no doubt as to their authenticity There is a list of some early compilations of Ḥadīth booklets and books:
Ṣaḥīfah Hammām bin Munabbih
During his lifetime, Ḥaḍrat Abū Hurairah (R.A) (602-679 A.D) compiled several booklets.
All of Ḥaḍrat Abū Hurairah’s (R.A) compiled booklets were lost, except for his student, Hammān bin Munabbih (d.), who narrated one of them (d. 110 H) by the name “Al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Ṣaḥīḥah” which became popular as Ṣaḥīfah Hammām bin Munabbih.
Musnad Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal
i)- Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī by Imām Bukhārī (194 H-256 H).
ii)- Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim by Imām Muslim (206 H – 261 H).
iii)- Sunan Abī Dāwūd by Imām abū Dāwūd (202 H- 275 H).
iv)- Sunan al-Nasāī’ by Imām Nasāī` (214 H- 303 H).
v)- Sunan al-Tirmidhī by Imām al-Tirmidhī (209 H- 279 H)
vi)- Sunan ibn Mājah by Imām ibn Mājah (207 H- 275 H)
Al-Maghāzī and Sīrah Literature
The third most important source of gaining information about the life and activities of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the early written accounts which were popular by the name al-Maghāzī.
Although these books were lost over the course of time, their references can be found in the later works of Sīrah.
The Very Early Scholars
The Second Generation of Magazhi Writers
The second generation of Maghāzī writers consists of Abū M‘ashar al-Sindī (d. 171 H), Muḥammad ibn S‘ad (168 H-230 H), the author of al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā and Muḥammad ibn ‘Umar al-Wāqidī (130 H-207 H) whose Maghāzī was the first manuscript on Sīrah which was completely handed as down to us.
But, it is mainly focused on the period related to the life of Madīnah of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) therefore it could not be regarded as a complete biography of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH). Before him, the Sīrah of ibn Isḥāq (d. ca.152 H) had been written but, it has not come down to us in its original form and we know it only through the version of ‘Abdul Malik ibn Hishām (d. 213/218 H).
The Third Generation
In the third generation, the most important Sīrah writer is ‘Abdul Malik ibn Hishām (d. 213/218 H). He used the word Sīrah for the first time to refer to the biography of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) and named it “Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah” which became popular by the name “Sīrah of Ibn Hishām”. Actually, it is an abridged version of the Sīrah of ibn Isḥāq.
After that, numerous works have been compiled using these works as the main source on the topic of Sīrah throughout the world almost in every language.
Some Other Sources
In addition to these three main sources, there are some other important sources of Sirah of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) life such as:
Books of History
Books that deal with Islamic history played an important role in collecting information in this relation. Some of the important sources of Sirah books are given below:
a) Tārīkh al-Umam wal Mulūk (well-known as Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī) by Abū J‘afar Muḥammad ibn jarīr al-Ṭabarī (224-310 H).
b) Tārīkh al-Islām wa Wafyāt al-Mashāhīr wal Ā‘alām (popularly known as Tārīkh al-Dhahbī) by al-Ḥāfiẓ Shamsuddīn Muḥammad bin Aḥmad bin ‘Uthmān al-Dhahbī (673-748 H).
c) Al- Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah by Ḥāfiẓ ‘Amāduddīn abū al Fidā’ Ismā‘aīl ibn ‘Umar bin Kathīr (701-774 H).
d) Tārīkh al-Khulafā’ by Ḥāfiẓ Jalāluddīn al-Suyūṭī (849-911 H).
Books of Commentary (Tafāsīr)
The Companions of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) who engaged themselves in this work and became popular were Khulafā’ al-Rāshidūn (the rightly guided Caliphs), Ibn Mas‘ūd, Ibn ‘Abbās, Ubaī bin K‘ab, Zaid bin Thābit, Abū Mūsā al-Ash‘arī, ‘Abdullah bin al-Zubair bin al-‘Awwām, etc. Some well-known commentaries are:
a) Tafsīr ibn Jarīr by Abu J‘afar Muḥammad ibn Jarīral-Ṭabarī (224-310 H).
b) Al-Kashshāf ‘an Ḥaqāi’q al-Tanzīl wa ‘Uyūn al-Aqāwīl fī Wujūh al-Ta’wīl by Imām Abū al-Qāsim Jār Allah Muḥammad bin ‘Umar al-Zamakhsharī (467-538 H).
c) Tafsīr Ibn al-‘Arabī by Shaikh Muḥīuddīn Muḥammad ibn al-‘Arabī (560-638 H).
d) Tafsīr al-Baiḍāwī by al-Imām al-Qāḍī Nāṣiruddīn ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar bin Muḥammad bin ‘Alī al-Shīrāzī al-Baiḍāwī (d. 685 H).
e) Tafsīr ibn Kathīr by Al-Imān abul Fidā’ Ismā‘aīl ibn ‘Umar bin Kathīr (701-774 H).
f) Tafsīr al- Jalālain by ‘Allāmah Jalāluddīn Muḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Maḥallī (d.864 H) and Jalāluddīn al-Suyūṭī (849-911 H)
Books of Asmā’ al-Rijāl
a) Ṭabaqāt ibn S‘ad by Muḥammad ibn S‘ad (d. 230 H).
b) Tārīkh al-Faswī (known by al-M‘arifah wa al-Tārīkh) by Y‘aqūb bin Sufyān al-Faswī (d. 277 H).
c) Tārīkh ibn abī Khaithamah by al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Imām Aḥmad bin Zuhair bin Ḥarb al-Nisāi’ī (d.279 H).
d) Tārīkh abū Zur‘ah by ‘Abdur Raḥmān bin ‘Amr bin ‘Abdullah al-Naṣrī al-Dimashqī (d. 281).
e) Tārīkh ‘Alī bin al-Ḥussain al-Rāzī by ‘Alī bin al-Ḥussain al-Rāzī (d. 291 H).
f) Al-Tārīkh by al-Imām Abū Bashar Muḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Dūlābī (224-310 H).
g) Istī‘āb fī M‘arfah al-Aṣḥāb by al-Ḥāfiẓ Abū ‘Umar Yūsuf bin ‘Abdul Barr al-Andalusī (368-463 H).
h) Usud al-Ghābah fī m‘arfati al-Ṣaḥābah by Imām ‘Izzuddīn abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī bin Muḥammad al-Jundī, (widely known by the name ibn Al-Athīr (555-630 H).
i) Mīzān al-I‘atidāl fī Naqd al-Rijāl by Shamsuddīn Abū ‘Abdullah Muḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Dhahbī (d. 748 H).
j) Tahdhīb al-Tahdhīb by ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī (773-852 H).
k) Ḥilyatul A’awliyā’ by Abū Nu‘aim al-Aṣbahānī (d. 430 H).
Books of Shamāi’l
a) Shamāi’l al-Tirmidhī by Imām Muḥammad bin ‘Ῑsā al-Tirmidhī (d. 279 H).
b) Al-Shamāi’l by Abū Bakr bin al-Muqrī’ Muḥammad bin Ibrahīm bin ‘Alī (d. 381 H).
c) Al-Hudā al-Nabawī by Abū Nu‘aim al-Aṣbahānī (d. 430 H).
d) Al-Anwār fī Shamāi’l al-Nabī al-Mukhtār by ‘Allāmah Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥussain bin Mas‘ūd al-Baghwī (d. 516 H).
e) Al-Shifā’ bi T‘arīf Ḥuqūq al- Muṣṭafā by Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ al-Andalusī (476-544 H).
f) Al-Shamāi’l by Abu al-Ḥasan ‘Alī bin Muḥammad Ibrahīm bin al-Ḍiḥāk al-Fazārī (d. 552/553/557 H).
Books of Dalāi’l
a) A’‘alām al-Nubuwwah by Dāwūd bin ‘Alī al-Aṣbahānī (d. 270 H).
b) A’‘alām al-Nubuwwah by Abū Dāwūd al-Sijistānī (202- 275 H).
c) Dalāi’l al-Nubuwwah by Ḥāfiẓ Abu al-Qāsim Sulaimān bin Aḥmad al Ṭabarānī (d.360 H).
d) Dalāi’l al-Nubuwwah by Abū Nu‘aim al-Aṣbahānī (336-430 H).
e) A’‘alām al-Nubuwwah by Al-Māwardī al-Shafa‘ī (d.450 H).
f) Dalāi’l al-Nubuwwah by Ḥāfiẓ Aḥmad bin Ḥussain Baihaqī (d. 458 H).
Books of Āthār and Akhbār
a) Akhbār Makkah by ‘Allamah Azraqī (d. 223 H).
b) I‘alām al-A‘alām by ‘Allāmah Quṭubuddīn (d. 986 H).
The poetry composed during the era of the Prophet (PBUH) is also an important sources of Sirah, playing a significant role in collecting the material concerning his blessed life. Some most prominent names in this context are Abū Ṭālib (d. 620AD – A.D), A‘ashā (d. 7 H), K‘ab bin Zuhair (d. 26 H) who said the famous eulogistic poetry Qaṣīdah Burdah, Ḥassān bin Thābit (d. 54 H), ‘Abdullah bin Rawāḥah (d. 8 H), K‘ab bin Mālik (d. 50 H), etc.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Why is studying the sīrah important?
Studying the sīrah allows us to gain a profound understanding of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, teachings, and character, which serves as a source of inspiration for Muslims worldwide.
How can I start studying the Sīrah?
Begin by exploring the Qur’an and Hadith collections. Then, delve into Sirah’s literature, historical accounts, and other scholarly works. Additionally, attending seerah lectures or courses can provide valuable insights
Do you recommend any Sirah books?
Yes, “The Life of the Prophet Muhammad” by Ibn Ishaq and “Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum” by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri are highly recommended Sirah books.
Can non-Muslims benefit from studying the sīrah?
Absolutely! Studying the sīrah offers insights into the historical, social, and cultural aspects of the time, allowing individuals of all backgrounds to gain a deeper understanding of Islamic history.
Where can I find academic research on the sīrah?
You can find academic research and scholarly journals in libraries, online databases, and university repositories that focus on Islamic studies.