The Life of Muḥammad: Al-Wāqidī's Kitāb al-Maghāzī

The Life of Muḥammad: Al-Wāqidī's Kitāb al-Maghāzī

The Life of Muḥammad: Al-Wāqidī's Kitāb al-Maghāzī

The Life of Muḥammad: Al-Wāqidī's Kitāb al-Maghāzī


Muhammad b. 'Umar al-Waqidi was a Muslim scholar, born in Medina in the 1st Century. Of his several writings the most significant is the Kitab al-Maghazi, one of the earliest standard histories of the life of the Prophet.

Translated into English for the first time, Rizwi Faizer makes available this key text to a new, English-speaking audience. It includes an "Introduction" authored jointly by Rizwi Faizer and Andrew Rippin and a carefully prepared index. The book deals with the events of the Prophet's life from the time of his emigration from Mecca to his death, and is generally considered to be biographical. Bringing together events in the Prophet's life with appropriate passages of Qur'an in a considered sequence, the author presents an interpretation of Islam that existed in his times. It includes citations from the Qur'ān, as well as poetry that appears to have been inspired by activities during his life.

This English translation of a seminal text on the life of Muhammad is an invaluable addition to the existing literature, and will be of great significance to students and scholars in the field of Islamic studies, Islamic history, Medieval history and Arabic literature.


This translation of al-Wāqidī’s Kitāb al-Maghāzī, based on manuscripts edited by Marsden Jones, began while I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation, “Ibn Isḥāq and al-Wāqidī Revisited: A case Study of Muhammad and the Jews in Biographical Literature” (McGill University 1995). Needless to say, I focused on those chapters that involved the Jews, such as the chapters on the Banū Qaynuqāʿ, Khandaq, the Murder of Ibn al-Ashraf, Khaybar and so forth. As a Sri Lankan who entered McGill with a limited knowledge of Arabic, I found the Medieval Arabic text extremely challenging, and the help of generous fellow students from Jordan and Sudan, who had enjoyed an Arabic education and were, for their own part, intrigued by the relatively unknown work of al-Wāqidī, was greatly appreciated.

The translation of al-Wāqidī’s entire Kitāb al-Maghāzī that is presented here, has been to a large extent a matter of sheer perseverance, but also the result of the good fortune of having met the right people at the right time. There was firstly Abdul Kader Tayob, who I met at a conference in Denver, Colorado, and who very willingly agreed to take the journey with me as I struggled through the text, dictionary in hand. Tayob lives in South Africa, and since I myself had just become a resident of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, we were fortunate to have the connectivity provided by the internet, which was, by this time, a well-understood feat of technology. E-mail played a huge part in enabling our communication and this translation; that truly was quite the opportunity. Of course, it was also a very slow process. When Tayob finally became too busy with his own lecturing and writing to stay with the translation, however, Amal Ismail appeared practically at my door-step. Her family had decided to immigrate to Canada from Egypt and they had purchased a home in my very neighbourhood. Besides being an engineer who has qualified in Egypt, Amal is deeply involved in the study of Islam as a personal quest, and, when I told her of my interest in al-Wāqidī, she happily became an enthusiastic participant in the translation, and helped me complete the work despite all the other neighbourhood distractions.

For an introduction to this work I have turned to Andrew Rippin, who I first came to know as an author of very fine textbooks on Islam while lecturing at Carleton University, Ottawa. Since then I have met him, read many more of his writings and come to respect his unorthodox views on the rise of Islam.

Essentially the overall translation has been my responsibility, and I am accountable for the mistakes that occur. I have used other translated material to guide me especially in two particular areas. Within the work, al-Wāqidī does include several passages from the Qurʾān and in translating these passages I have been guided by the published translations of Yusuf Ali and A. J. Arberry. Al-Wāqidī also cites many verses of . . .

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