Early Sunnī historiography: a study of the Tārīkh of Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
This thesis is a study of the oldest Islamic chronological history still extant: the Tārīkh (‘Chronicle’) of the Basran ḥadīth scholar and historian Khalīfa b. Khayyāṭ al-ʿUṣfurī (d. 240/854), which covers the political and administrative history of the Muslim polity between year 1/622 and 232/847. Despite its early date, Khalīfa’s Tārīkh has received little attention in modern scholarship and its value for understanding the development of early Islamic historiography has generally been disregarded. The purpose of this study is, therefore, to reassess the Tārīkh by analysing both the text and its context of compilation. After outlining Khalīfa’s biography (Ch. 1) and his social and intellectual context (Ch. 2), the thesis examines different aspects of Khalīfa’s Tārīkh in comparison to the wider Islamic historical tradition: his sources (Ch. 3), methods (Ch. 4), arrangement of material (Ch. 5) and narrative treatment of key themes in the early tradition (Chs. 6–7). The thesis thereby provides an in-depth study of one of the earliest Muslim historians and his methods of compilation, which is important for both the study of Islamic historiography and the usage of such sources in historical scholarship on early Islam. It is argued that Khalīfa’s role as a ḥadīth scholar and his early Sunnī outlook is reflected throughout the content of the Tārīkh. This is particularly evident in Khalīfa’s selection of sources, which consist of mainly Basran transmitters including numerous major ḥadīth scholars, and in his narration of controversial events such as the early civil wars, which displays an early Sunnī perspective. It is also suggested that Khalīfa’s particular selection and arrangement of material was largely determined by his aim to compile a critical and concise chronology of the political and administrative history of the Muslim community. Moreover, the thesis shows that, while the Tārīkh differs from many other early histories, it bears some resemblance to other chronographies compiled by early ḥadīth scholars—such as the works of al-Fasawī (d. 277/890), Ibn Abī Khaythama (d. 279/892) and Abū Zurʿa al- Dimashqī (d. 282/895) as well as the sections on post-Prophetic history in some ḥadīth collections such as Ibn Abī Shayba’s (d. 235/849) Muṣannaf. By comparing Khalīfa’s Tārīkh with these works, the thesis draws attention to this type of historical writing among some early ḥadīth scholars, which has so far been neglected in modern studies on early Islamic historiography.