Sayf ibn Umar

Sayf ibn Umar al-Usayyidi al-Tamimi (Arabic: سيف بن عمر) was an 8th-century Islamic historian and compiler of reports who lived in Kufa. He wrote the Kitāb al-futūh al-kabīr wa-l-ridda ('The Great book of Conquests and Apostasy Wars'),[1] which was the later historian al-Tabari's (839–923) main source for the Ridda wars and the early Islamic conquests. It also contains important information on the structure of early Muslim armies and government. According to al-Dhahabi, Sayf died during the reign of Harun al-Rashid (786–809).[2]

Sayf ibn Umar
BornUnknown date
Kufa, Iraq
Diedc. 786–809
EraEarly Abbasid period
Known forBeing a source for al-Tabari ({839–923)
Notable workThe Great book of Conquests and Apostasy Wars (Kitāb al-futūh al-kabīr wa-l-ridda)


Little is known about Sayf, except that he lived in Kufa and belonged to the tribe of Banu Tamim.[2]


The reliability of his hadiths has long been contested.[2]

Since he was the sole transmitter of many of his historical narrations, especially pertaining to the conquest of Iraq, some historians have accused him of fabrication or exaggeration, most notably Julius Wellhausen.[3] His narrations are said to be influenced by the tribal traditions of Banu Tamim.[2] However, he also collected accounts that highlight other tribes.[2]

Recent scholarship suggests that Sayf is more reliable than previously thought.[4][5] W. F. Tucker and Ella Landau-Tasseron note that although Sayf may have been an unscrupulous hadith collector, this should not detract from his general reliability as a transmitter of historical information (akhbārī).[5] Tucker adds that accusations of bias could equally be leveled at other akhbārīs contemporary to Sayf, including the Shi'a historian Abu Mikhnaf.[5] Fuat Sezgin, Albrecht Noth, and Martin Hinds have also challenged Wellhausen's views and placed Sayf on an equal footing with other traditionalists.[6]


  1. ^ Thomas, David. "Kitāb al-futūḥ al-kabīr wa-l-ridda". In Thomas, David; Mallett, Alex (eds.). Christian-Muslim Relations 600 - 1500. Brill.
  2. ^ a b c d e Donner, Fred (1995). "Sayf B. ʿUmar". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 9 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 102–103. ISBN 90-04-10422-4.
  3. ^ History of al-Tabari Vol. 11, The: The Challenge to the Empires A.D. 633-635/A.H. 12-13. SUNY Press. 2015-06-15. p. xvi. ISBN 978-0-7914-9684-8.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Hugh (2010-12-09). The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-0-297-86559-9. Medieval and modern historians have suspected that he fabricated some of his accounts, but the most recent scholarship suggests that he is more reliable than previous authors had imagined.
  5. ^ a b c Tucker, William Frederick (2008). Mahdis and millenarians: Shī'ite extremists in early Muslim Iraq. Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0-521-88384-9.
  6. ^ Landau-Tasseron, Ella (January 1990). "Sayf Ibn 'Umar in Medieval and Modern Scholarship". Der Islam. 67: 1–26. doi:10.1515/islm.1990.67.1.1. ISSN 1613-0928. S2CID 164155720.

Further readingEdit

  • Landau-Tasseron, Ella (January 1990). "Sayf Ibn 'Umar in Medieval and Modern Scholarship". Der Islam. 67: 1–26. doi:10.1515/islm.1990.67.1.1. ISSN 0021-1818. S2CID 164155720.
  • Linda D. Lau (1978). "Sayf b. 'Umar and the battle of the Camel". Islamic Quarterly. 20–23: 103–10.