Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $62.50
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 49%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (6) from $62.50   
  • New (3) from $99.88   
  • Used (3) from $62.50   


Thinking and writing about the past has always been of critical importance to the way that any culture or civilization views itself and its role in the world. In a work which surveys an entire tradition of historical thought and writing across a span of eight hundred years, Tarif Khalidi examines how Arabic-Islamic culture of the pre-modern period viewed the past, how it recorded it, and how it sought to answer the many complex questions associated with the discipline of history. The author combines a chronological with a topical approach to place the tradition within its wider intellectual context and socio-political environment, while quotations from historians across the period introduce the English-speaking reader to some of the principal intellectual texts of Arabic Islamic culture.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The extent of Khalidi's reading is daunting, the subtlety and elegance of his exposition enviable. This is a book which is enjoyable as well as informative." Times Literary Supplement

"In a work as deftly written as it is erudite, Khalidi explores the intellectual context of the development of the practice of history in the central lands of Islam between the seventh and 15th centuries. Khalidi includes substantial quotations from Arab historicans in each of these periods to exemplify their epistemological presuppositions. Such extensive quotations and the context provided for them afford the non-Arabist reader a quick introduction to the major historians in this tradition. Every reader will find, as well, solid reflections on such basic historiographical issues as the sources of history, the reliability of sacred and profane reports, and the purposes to which history is put. Few works offer such multiple rewards to students and scholars alike." Choice

"...[an&]grave;uxtensively and carefully researched study..." Islamic Thought

"Tarif Khalidi admirably traces the development of Muslim historiography. ... Khalidi has written an elegant, concise, perceptive, and artistically narrated account of the morphology of a tradition in the making." Middle East Journal

"This is a wide-ranging, excellently written book on a subject of major importance, based on a formidable wealth of knowledge expertly distilled." David Morgan, University of London

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Table of Contents

1 The birth of a tradition 1
2 History and Hadith 17
From Hadith to history 28
Sacred history 30
Muhammad ibn Ishaq 34
The isnad debate of the 3rd/9th century 39
Sacred history continued: the scholarly consensus of Waqidi and Ibn Sad 44
Tribal history: genealogy 49
Tribal history continued: genealogy reformulated 54
The genealogies of al-Baladhuri 58
Tribal history continued: the conquests 62
The conquests: three representative histories 65
The histories of prophets 68
Tabari, the 'imam' of Hadith historiography 73
Concluding observations 81
3 History and Adab 83
The rise of Adab 83
The Umayyad state secretaries 89
From Adab to History: 2nd-4th/8th-10th centuries 96
Adab, Hikma and history: Jahiz 104
Adab, Hadith and history: Ibn Qutayba 108
Intention, space, time and number 111
Intention 113
Space 115
Time 118
Number 122
Three aspects of historical thought: pattern, argument and style 124
4 History and Hikma 131
Masudi: Adab, Hikma, history 131
The khabar: jurists and theologians 137
The khabar: four formulations of the 5th/11th century 142
Abd al-Jabbar 143
Baghdadi 146
Basri 148
Ibn Hazm 149
The four formulations examined 150
Miracle and custom 151
Time and the philosophers 158
History and the philosophers 162
History as administrative experience: Miskawayhi 170
History and natural science: Biruni 176
5 History and Siyasa 182
The background 182
Images of a new age 184
Images of a new society 188
The institution of rank 189
Sultans and 'ulama' 191
Siyasa and sharia 193
History and self-Consciousness 200
Biographical dictionaries 204
Bezels of wisdom, glimpses of the Unseen 210
Patterns of change 215
The sense of place 219
Ibn Khaldun 222
Conclusion 232
Bibliography 235
Index 243
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)