Sunnifying ʿAlī: Historiography and Notions of Rebellion in Ibn Kathīr’s Kitāb al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya

Aaron Hagler 1
  • 1 Troy University, Troy, AL, USA


In the era of the “Sunnī Revival” and the couple of centuries following, scholars engaged in a large historiographical project aimed at rehabilitating the reputation of the Umayyad dynasty and Syria’s role in the early Islamic narrative. One of Ibn Kathīr’s historiographical missions in his history Kitāb al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya was specifically the defense of the Companions of the Prophet. As such, the narrative of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib required some manipulation to answer Shīʿī narratives that cast some of the most important Companions (especially those associated with the Umayyads and Syria) in a rebellious light. This article explores the literary-narrative strategies Ibn Kathīr employs to alter the narrative so as to counteract the implications of the pro-ʿAlīd versions of the story he found in his sources, especially al-Ṭabarī’s Taʾrīkh al-Rusul wa-l-mulūk.

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Founded by Carl Heinrich Becker in 1910, the Journal Der Islam provides a forum for the study of the history and culture of the Middle East before the age of modernisation in the 19th century, from the Iberian Peninsula to Central Asia. Articles present the latest research in the humanities and social sciences based on literary traditions, and archival, material, and archaeological evidence.