The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad

The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad

The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad

The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muhammad


The Expeditions is one of the oldest biographies of the Prophet Muhammad to survive into the modern era. Its primary author, Ma?mar ibn Rashid (714-770 AD/96-153 AH), was a prominent scholar from Basra in southern Iraq who was revered for his learning in prophetic traditions, Islamic law, and the interpretation of the Qur?an. This fascinating foundational seminal work contains stories handed down by Ma?mar to his most prominent pupil, ?Abd al-Razzaq of San?a?, relating Muhammad's early life and prophetic career as well as the adventures and tribulations of his earliest followers during their conquest of the Near East.

Edited from a sole surviving manuscript, the Arabic text offers numerous improved readings over those of previous editions, including detailed notes on the text's transmission and variants as found in later works. This new translation, which renders the original into readable, modern English for the first time, is accompanied by numerous annotations elucidating the cultural, religious and historical contexts of the events and individuals described within its pages.

The Expeditions represents an important testimony to the earliest Muslims' memory of the lives of Muhammad and his companions, and is an indispensable text for gaining insight into the historical biography of both the Prophet and the rise of the Islamic empire.


Scholars of Arabic literature and readers with an interest in Arabic and Islamic civilization are now most fortunate to have available to them the works being published as the Library of Arabic Literature, the first series to attempt a systematic coverage of the Arabic literary heritage. the editors have already shown good judgment in selecting books for the series, and the present volume, The Expeditions, an early biography of the Prophet Muḥammad by Maʿmar ibn Rāshid, is no exception.

Maʿmar ibn Rāshid (d. 153/770) was a contemporary of Ibn Isḥāq (d. 151/768), author of the famous Al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah (The Prophetic Biography), also known as Sīrat rasūl Allāh (The Biography of the Messenger of God), which has come to be widely circulated and is known simply as the Sīrah. Alfred Guillaume’s English translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrah was published more than fifty years ago, so the English translation of another important early text about the life of the Prophet Muḥammad is well overdue. Indeed, there is a real need for more such texts from the early Islamic period to see the light of day.

It should be pointed out that these two works are not the earliest writings on the subject of the Prophet’s life. in his discussion of the genres of maghāzī and sīrah, the Ottoman literary historian Ḥājjī Khalīfah (d. 1067/1657) reports that Ibn Isḥāq compiled his work from preexisting materials, and goes on to identify ʿUrwah ibn al-Zubayr (d. 93/711-12) as the earliest to gather material on the topic. Thus, both Maʿmar ibn Rāshid and Ibn Isḥāq must have taken their information from written sources as well as authenticated oral reports collected by ʿUrwah and others.

The major contribution of Maʿmar ibn Rāshid and Ibn Isḥāq was to bring the material from different sources together in one place. Other early Muslim scholars immediately recognized the value of this activity. This is why we have Ibn Isḥāq’s work in a recension by the later Ibn Hishām (d. 212/828 or 218/833), and Maʿmar ibn Rāshid’s work in a recension by ʿAbdal-Razzāqal-Ṣanʿānī (d. 211/827). Similarly, written material about the pillars of Islam—including ritual prayer (ṣalāh), the giving of alms (zakāh), fasting in Ramadan (ṣawm), and pilgrimage to Mecca (ḥajj)—cannot be assumed to have appeared for the first time at the end of the first or at the beginning of the second Hijri century. Muslims had been continually engaging in ritual activities, and writing about them, since the . . .

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