Ibn Sa’ad (d.230 AH)
His name was Muhammad Ibn Sa’ad ibn Mani Az Zuhree and his kunya was Aboo Abdullah, more popularly known as Ibn Sa’ad. He was the mawla of Banu Hashim. He is one of the greatest authorities on Islamic history and Muslim biography. Ibn Sa’d is said to have been born in 148 AH in the city of Basra which is now in present day Iraq, and he died in 230 AH. He moved to Baghdad to further his Islamic knowledge and he resided there for the majority of his life. Among the scholars that he benefited from immensely was Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Al Waqidee (d. 211 AH). He is one of his strongest pupils and is also known popularly as the scribe or secretary of Al Waqidee. He also visited Kufa and Madeenah in his quest for knowledge and many authorities have testified to his reliability and scholarship in the field of history and biography.
The most popular of his works is the huge collection of biographies of noteworthy men and women from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to his time known as Kitaab at Tabaqaat al Kabeer (The Great Book of Generations). It is one of the most important and earliest surviving biographical collections of narrations, and has been used by Islamic scholars as a reference to present day. The work contains over 4000 biographies noteworthy Muslims, of which 600 are women. The book has been printed in 9 volumes by Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1957-1968 (more popular and widely encountered) under a slightly different name of At Tabaqaat Al Kubra and in 15 volumes in the edition by E. Sachau, Leiden, 1905-1940. The first 2 volumes are about the seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), which is considered by some the third most authoritative after the Seerat un Nabawi of Ibn Hisham (d. 213 AH or 218 AH) and Maghaazi Rasoolillah of al Waqidee (d. 21 AH). Volumes 3 and 4 contain biographic information on the companions of the Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), while 5, 6, and 7 contain that of later Islamic personalities. Volume 8 is completely dedicated to the women .
1. Not to be confused with Ibn Shihaab Az Zuhree who was a great scholar of hadeeth who died in 124 AH.
2. It is like a nick name, usually in the format Aboo so and so meaning father of so and so.
3. The scholars of the past would usually name their children Abdullah due to the statement of the Prophet (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), “The most beloved names to Allah are Abdullah and AbdurRahman….”.
4. mawla could mean either a slave that was set free or someone who is a non-Arab but is under the protection of an Arab tribe. This was done during the pre-Abbassid period, but died down thereafter. Ibn Sa’ad was under the protection of Banu Hashim.
5. The word banu means tribe, and Banu Hashim was a tribe from Quraysh.
6. There seems to be some confusion about the death and birth of Ibn Sa’ad. The date for the death given in the biographical appendix of Ash Shifa of Qadi Iyaad translated by A. A. Bewley has the date 204 AH while the book The Men of Madina Vol. 1 translated by A. A. Bewley has both dates of 230 AH and 236 AH. And some of the sources give 62 as his age at death and year of death at 230 AH 0r 236 AH, which would mean his birth would be 168 AH or 174 AH. If his age was 62 years and he died in 204 AH then his birth would be 144 AH. I used the dates given in The Men of Madina Vol. 1 by A. A. Bewley. I am confused about this issue, if anyone has knowledge regarding this please let me know, InshaAllah.
7. He narrated ahadeeth from Imaam Ash Shaafi (d. 204 AH) and Imaam Malik (d. 179 AH) but is considered to be weak.
8. I have seen this book printed by the title Al Waqidi: Kitab Al Maghazi, Edited by Marsden Jones, Printed in 3 Volumes by Oxford University Press, 1966.
9. Volumes 5, 7 and 8 have been lately translated by Aisha AbdurRahman Bewley and published under the titles of Men of Madina Vols. 1 & 2 and Women of Madina, respectively.