Al Waqidi The First Islamic Historian

Muhammad the prophet of Islam, who is he??? We know very little of the seer within10-20 years after his death until Al Waqidi comes into the picture. Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Umar al-Waqidi was born in Yathrib (Medina) in the year 130/747, towards the demise of Umayyad caliphate and during the rule of Marwan bin Muhammad. This earliest historian had a successful career that span to more than a jubilee and breathed his last in the year 207/823, he was just 78 years and was buried in the cemetery of Khaizuran in Baghdad. Al-Waqidi was very active when it came to collecting myriads of information from either the companions of the prophet or one of the descendants by visiting the place to which Muhammad had been. He is generally credited to be the first historian to collect the stories of warfare waged by Muhammad against the Jews and the Christians. Al-Waqidi gets the idea to pen down the life history of Muhammad after noticing the step taken by Ibn Ishaq who wrote Sirat Rasull Allah the biography of Muhammad the prophet of Islam. Al-Waqidi’s stand was to challenge his old contemporary Ibn Ishaq by adopting only the outline of the biography and coming with his own illustration known as Kitab-Al-Maghazi. Today, the work exists in three main manuscripts:

British Library Or. 1617, the only complete copy discovered which is dated to 564 hijri or 1169 A.D, which is errorless.

British Library Add. 20737 manuscript that contains only the first half of the text.

Vienna 881 which is in fragmentary form containing only one-third of the overall text.

These three manuscripts helped Marsden Jones to translate and give us his English work of Kitab-Al-Maghazi.

Can Al-Waqidi be trusted???

The answer is no, it is not because that he is rejected by the major scholars such as Imam Bukhari or Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal but because of the manuscript that comes after 300-400 years after the original has been written down. The problem is not only with the copy but also the age when Al-Waqidi chips in to write his part of the narration regarding Muhammad’s history. The duration of Muhammad’s death and writings of Al-Waqidi is more than 100 years, this shows that the early Muslims were either careless or did not take their prophet seriously. If Muhammad was a crucial figure for the entire mankind then why it takes more than 100 years to write down his war campaigns. Honestly speaking, the first complete copy is discovered more than 300 years after its original was penned down. This proves once again that Muslims were not serious about their prophet if not the copy could had been written within 50 years of its original.

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