The Reliability of ibn Is’haq and Tabari Books

Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah as a Book of Hadeeth?

Seerah‘, by definition, is a biography.  Imam Ibn Is`haq, of the late second/early third generation of Islam, collected the Prophet’s biography in a book popularly known as, Seerat Ibn Is`haq.  In his Seerah, Ibn Is`haq narrated the Prophet’s life-story starting from before his birth until after his death, peace be upon him. 

However, Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah is not a collection of Hadith or Sunnah, but an autobiography. 

Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah contains historical accounts, poems, genealogies, irrelevant stories, narrations of battles, as well as, some Quranic Verses –and sometimes their explanation, many Hadeeth narrations and statements collected from the Prophet’s companions. 

‘Sunnah’, exclusively pertains to the Prophet’s statements, actions, practices and traditions, and in general terms, includes statements and actions from the Prophet’s companions; Sunnah reports rely entirely on established chains of narration (Isnad) reporting them

Ibn Is`haq, for instance, mentioned various poems popular since before the Prophet was born, and this by no means qualifies as Sunnah or Hadeeth.  Sunnah collections do not emphasize the life-story of the Prophet before Islam except to a limited extent, as Imam ibn Taimiyyah stated in his Fatawa. 

 He also said (Fatawa: Vol. 13, Pg., 345), “Allah has provided evidence (i.e., Isnad) establishing the authenticity or lack thereof of the narrations that are necessary in matters of the religion.

It is well known that most of what was reported in aspects of Tafsir (meaning contained in the Quran) is similar to narrations reporting Maghazi (or Seerah) and battles, promoting Imam Ahmad [Ibn Hanbal] to state that three matters (or topics) do not have Isnad: 

Tafsir, Mala`him , and Maghazi (or Seerah). This is because most of their narrations are of the Maraseel (pl. for Mursal) type, such as narrations reported by Urwah Ibn az-Zubair, ash-Sha`bi, az-Zuhri, Musa Ibn Uqbah and [MuhammadIbn Is`haq.” Maraseel Hadeeths, wherein the chain of the narration is missing the name of the Prophet’s companion, are weak (not authentic) narrations.

Adh-Dhahabi listed some of the major scholars of Islam who refuted Ibn Is`haq’s reliability in Hadeeth narrations.  Imam Malik, for instance, called Ibn Is`haq a liar and Yahya Ibn Sa`eed al-Ansari, as well as, al-A`mash refuted one of Ibn Is`haq’s narrations by saying that he lied.  As a general statement, Yahya Ibn Sa`eed graded Ibn Ishaq as being weak in Hadeeth narration. 

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal discounted the reliability of Ibn Ishaq if he alone narrates a Hadeeth.  Also, Imams Yahya Ibn Ma`een (in another narration from him), an-Nasaii and ad-Daraqutni stated that Ibn Ishaq was weak in Hadeeth. 

The great Imam of Sunnah, Imam A`hmad Ibn Hanbal, also added that Ibn Is`haq’s narrations are not accepted if they are about the Sunan. Stating that even [in the rare occasions] where Ibn Is`haq clearly stated that he heard a Hadeeth from his teacher, he would often contradict other narrators. 

Therefore, and as Imam A`hmad stated, if Ibn Is`haq alone reports a Hadeeth, then that narration is not accepted.  Adh-Dhahabi also stated that if a narration that Ibn Is`haq reports contradicts other [more established] narrators, then Ibn Is`haq’s narration is rejected.

Adh-Dhahabi listed some of the reasons why Ibn Is`haq was considered weak regarding Hadeeth narration, as follows:

A – Imam A`hmad Ibn Hanbal stated that Ibn Is`haq was a Mudallis , and in another occasion, he said that Ibn Ishaq’s Tadlees (v. for Mudallis) was substantial.  Imam A`hmad also said that Ibn Is`haq did not care from whom he collected Hadeeth.

[Mudallis = Ibn Is`haq often started his narrations by saying, “Those whom I trust narrated to me”, or “Some men from this city told me”, etc.  He also would collect Hadeeths from unreliable narrators and hide the name of his teacher by saying, “So and So said”, meaning the teacher of his teacher, who may be trustworthy, so that the Hadeeth narration is not rejected if the name of his own teacher is specified.

B – Imam Ibn Numair said that Ibn Is`haq reported false Hadeeths from unknown narrators.

C – Adh-Dhahabi concluded by saying that among the worst errors made by Ibn Is`haq is that he used to record narrations he collected from anyone, and thus, did not have Wara` in this regard, may Allah forgive him.

How Ibn Is`haq’s narration should be treated is summarized in this statement from Imam Ibn Numair, “If he narrates a Hadeeth from teachers he directly heard from and who are known to be truthful, then his Hadeeth is from the grade Hasan because he is truthful.”  Yet, Imam A`hmad stated that if Ibn Is`haq is the only narrator of that Hadeeth, then his narration is discounted.

And the key words to look for here, for Ibn Ishaq’s narration not to be dismissed outright, are, “If Ibn Is`haq says, ‘So and so narrated to me’, then he did hear that narration.’ Otherwise, if he says, ‘So and so said’, then the narration is rejected.’”  Meaning, Ibn Is`haq would not lie; if he states that he heard the Hadeeth from his teacher, then his assertion is accepted.


Hadeeth is a narration that starts with the collector of Hadeeth narrations, such as al-Bukhari or Muslim, wherein the collector names the teacher from whom he heard the Hadeeth, who also names his teacher, and so forth, until the chain reaches the Prophet’s companion and then the Prophet, peace be upon him.

A Summary of How Muslim Scholars Treated ibn Is`haq’s Hadeeth Narration

For a Hadeeth reported by Ibn Is`haq to be accepted as a Hasan Hadeeth, which is the lesser grade of authentic Hadeeths, Ibn Is`haq must declare that he heard the narration directly from his teacher, provide a reliable chain of narrators throughout the chain of narration until it reaches the companion or the Prophet, and then his narration cannot contradict a narration reported by a more established narrator or group of narrators. 

Imam A`hmad added that Ibn Is`haq should not be the only narrator for a Hadeeth, otherwise, his narration is rejected.

It is now clear that Craig Winn (mister anti-islam who wrote lies about Islam) involved himself in a type of knowledge that is far more complicated for his limited intellect, and meager knowledge in Islam, to comprehend.

Status of at-Tabari’s Tarikh= historiography

Imam Muhammad Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (224-310/838-922) was a major scholar of Hadeeth, Tafsir (meaning contained in the Quran) and Islamic History, as Imam adh-Dhahabi stated.  At-Tabari started his book on Tarikh= historiography with creation and ended it with historical accounts that occurred during his time. 

But at-Tabari was not the first to write a book on Islamic history, as Winn claimed.  Al-Ya`qubi wrote a Tarikh= historiography before at-Tabari that also started with the story of creation.

However, and just like many other Muslim historians, Ibn Jarir relied heavily on Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah while reporting the Prophet’s biography.  This is why a good segment of at-Tabari’s Tarikh= historiography is almost identical to Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah; at-Tabari often quotes Ibn Is`haq even if to contradict him.  The Tarikh by at-Tabari is by no means a Hadeeth or Tafsir collection.

It is far larger than Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah=Biography of Prophet Muhammed, because it narrates the stories of Creation, earlier Prophets and nations, pre-Islamic history, the history of the Islamic era, until his time, and includes biographies of countless number of people. 

It also includes Quranic Verses and Prophetic Hadeeths relevant to the topics contained in the book.  It is a book on Tarikh= historiography, not on Tafsir=Clarification of the Quran or Hadeeth=Statements of the Prophet. 

At-Tabari compiled another book on Tafsir, popularly known as, Tafsir at-Tabari, dedicated to explaining the meaning contained in the Quran. At-Tabari’s Tafsir is one of the major books of Tafsir. Yet, it also contains many false Hadeeths and unreliable narrations that he collected from various resources

At-Tabari was a scholar, but neither he nor his book are divine.  In Islam, the only resources that are free from errors are the Quran and the authentic Sunnah as reported through reliable, established chains of narration. 

To summarize, at-Tabari’s book on history suffers from similar defects as Ibn Is`haq’s Seerah=Biography of Prophet Muhammed.  This is because when reporting history, Muslim scholars did not set a condition to only include authentic narrations reporting various incidents or statements. 

Thus, Seerah=Biography of Prophet Muhammed and Tarikh books are collections of stories that their authors collected from various sources, using authentic chains of narration, weak chains of narrations and even no chains of narration. 

Enjoying a book of stories about earlier nations and historical accounts is one thing.  Using these stories as a source for Islamic legislation is an entirely different matter. 

If Hadeeth Established Through Weak Isnad (Chain of Narration) is Rejected in Islam, Then What About Stories that Have No Isnad?

Craig Winn (mister anti-islam) agrees with Muslims that the collection of Hadeeth by Imam Muslim is among the most respected books in Islam.  In the introduction to his collection of authentic Hadeeths, Imam Muslim restated, and agreed with, the established methodology that scholars of Hadeeth use pertaining to rejecting weak and unsubstantiated Hadeeths and only accepting authentic, well known Hadeeths reported by reliable, trustworthy and truthful narrators. 

Imam Ibn Taimiyyah concurred, by saying (Fatawa 1:250), “It is not allowed to rely on weak Hadeeths, i.e. that are neither Sahih nor Hasan in grade, in matters pertaining to Sharee`ah.”  ‘Sharee`ah’, pertains to aspects of Sunnah and Islamic Law, which Imam Ahmad stated should not be taken from Ibn Is`haq, a known Mudallis.

The Jihad of the Prophet of Mercy Was Only Directed at Those Who Sought to Destroy Islam and Kill Muslims

The Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him, never committed unjustified aggression.  He only warred against those who sought to destroy Islam and kill Muslims, sometimes pre-emptying their treachery before aggression on Islam occurred.  Every one of the Ghazawat and Saraya had a reason behind it. Craig Winn (mister anti-islam) lies.  The Neos lie. 

Returning to the topic under discussion, we assert that Muslims should be exalted by this aspect of the Prophet’s legacy.  Had the Prophet, peace be upon him, not safeguarded the Islamic State against all enemies, internal and external, the Islamic State would never have come to existence and Islam would never have been established as a political entity. 

This is the mighty past of Islam and Muslims, and Muslims should never cease feeling delight at its glory and at the superior civilization it granted mankind.  They should never feel ashamed or become defensive towards their Prophet or any part of his Sunnah. 

Yet, Muslims should never condone acts of indiscriminate violence committed by some Muslims who disobey Muhammad, peace be upon him, and corrupt the true meaning, aim and methods of Jihad. 

Anger at the terrible crimes being committed against Muslims worldwide does not justify breaking Allah’s Law.  Allah grants victory only to those who aid His religion.  He does not grant victory to those who disobey His Law and transgress His Limits. 

I encourage the reader to acquire and read this book, Holy Wars…Crusades…Jihad, a 300 page, detailed evidence of almost every aspect of the Prophet’s Jihad, as well as, the true aims and methods of Jihad and aims not sanctioned by rightful Jihad. 

Undisputed Facts Universally Accepted by Muslims

 The Quran is Islam’s holy book, as Allah stated in the Quran, what transliterated means, {And We (Allah) have sent down to you (O, Muhammad) the Book (this Qur’ân) in truth}; [5:48]. 

The Prophet’s Sunnah is also a Divine Revelation inspired by Allah, but formed by the Prophet’s own words, actions and practices, {Nor does he (Muhammad) speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed}; [53:3-4]. 

The two most authentic books after the Quran are the Hadeeth Collections of al-Bukhari then Muslim. They are called “As-Sahihan” , meaning, “The Two Authentic Collections”.

Al-Bukhari and Muslim gained this status among Hadeeth collectors on account of their successful implementation of the tough conditions they set for  any Hadeeth to be included in their Books, not because they were the oldest, or the largest, or the ‘inspired’ or the ‘official’ collections.  As we said before the Hadeeth of Ibn Ishaq and Tabari are mostly based on weak (not authentic) narrations.

At-Tabari was a scholar, but neither he nor his book are divine.  In Islam, the only resources that are free from errors are the Quran and the authentic Sunnah as reported through reliable, established chains of narration. 

Allah knows Best

The Infallibility of Prophets between Islam and Christianity