Question: Is it possible to prepare a diary-like book based on the chronological order of events in the Prophet’s life? Could there be a ‘sirah diary’ in which his life can be followed day to day?
Answer: (Professor Kasım Şulul - Harran University –Department of Theology):
Within the framework of Islamic science, it is an ongoing tradition to accommodate the books of sirah either in a chronological or topical order.
There are some handicaps involved with a ‘diary like sirah book’ format. These are:
The life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during the Medinan period is full of a wide range of events that if presented on the basis of their dates, the main points that make it possible to understand his life, mission and activities will not be discussed sufficiently. (1) In fact, although the dates for some of the hadiths introduced in the sources have been set, tracing the time line is not possible for the majority.
For example, although the dates for approximately 80 ghazwa and sariyyah of the Prophet for different purposes have been determined, specific dates were not provided for most of his emissaries, letters and most of the delegations visiting him. In fact, Wakidi records that a delegation consisting of 400 people was first sent to the Prophet by the Muzayna tribe in Rajab, 5 A.H. Provided that they would live in their own territory, the Prophet accepted them as muhajirun. (2) Numan ibn Mukrina, who was the conqueror of Esfahan and one of the prominent people among the companions of the Prophet, was the flag man of this tribe. (3) The period of delegations sent by the residents of the Arabian Peninsula to Prophet Muhammad began on Rajab, 5 A.H, and continued until his demise. Ibn Sa’d discussed this issue in his Akhbar an-Nabi, which constitutes two volumes of his book Kitab at-Tabaqat, under the general title of “Arab Delegations to Prophet Muhammad.” He determined that 72 delegations had come to Mecca and he recorded the related narrations one by one. (4)
Based on his efforts and the narrations he cited Wakidi, Ibn Sa’d concluded that the Prophet conducted 110 correspondences and exchange of emissaries between the prominent people of different regions of the Arabian Peninsula and rulers of surrounding countries during the years the Treaty of Hudaybiyah and his return to Medina to his demise. He classified them all under the heading “The Letters of Prophet Muhammad Sent through Emissaries to Invite Kings and Prominent Arabs to Islam”. (5)
Approximately 110 religious and diplomatic activities with the highlight of six emissaries started after his return Hudaybiyah and continued until the demise of the Prophet. This means that they occurred in a very short time period of only 3 years. Although the starting dates of these 110 religious and diplomatic activities have been recorded, only a few exact dates are known. The intensity of events and the short period in which they occurred made it almost impossible to date them one by one. That is why Ibn Ishak hesitated in giving exact dates for the emissaries. In their place, he exerted a general statement: “The Prophet sent some of his companions to some Arabian and Persian kings to invite them to Islam during the period between the Treaty of Hudaybiyah and his demise. (6)
Such a study can still be possible through reference to related original sources but by taking into account the seriousness of the issue. It is absolutely crucial here to abide by these originals.
- While writing history, the historian should be aware that s/he is taking over the authority. Being loyal to this authority, s/he must not contort it. S/he should be objective and truthful.
- When s/he quotes, s/he should remain loyal to the original. S/he cannot pick up the words or styles based on her/his taste.
- S/he should be sure about the accuracy of the quote.armut
- S/he should give the source of information.
1. M. Hamidullah, Islam Peygamberi (The Prophet of Islam), I, 201.
2. Ibn Sa`d, I, 291.
3. Afzalu`r-Rahman, I, 474.
4. Ibn Sa`d, I,291-359, Ibn-ul Cevzi, II, 494.
5. Ibn Sa`d, I, 258-291.
6. Ibn Sa`d, III, 237.