Are classical books of History correct? Is everything true?



Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

It is certainly not the case that everything found in classical books of history is correct. Further, this is made very clear by scholars, including the scholars of history, that not all information found in classical history books is accurate. Likewise, this may even be the case with books of seerah (biographical works on the Prophet’s life).


This is the case because such a broad statement cannot even be made with regards to Hadith books which have far more rigour in authenticating narrations than books of history. Furthermore, the only book we will say is absolutely authentic is the Holy Quran. However, Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim come close because all of the Musnad narrations in them are authentic.

Classical scholars
فما يكن في كتابي هذا من خبر ذكرناه عن بعض الماضين مما يستنكره قارئه، أو يستشنعه سامعه، من أجل أنه لم يعرف له وجها في الصحة، ولا معنى في الحقيقة، فليعلم انه لم يؤت في ذلك من قبلنا، وإنما أتى من قبل بعض ناقليه إلينا، وإنا إنما أدينا ذلك على نحو ما أدي إلينا (تاريخ الطبري)

Regarding what is in this book of mine of narrations that I have mentioned from people of the past which causes the reader to feel it is baseless or its hearer to disapprove of it, because he does not know it to be sound or feels it does not reflect reality, let it be known that it was not invented by me. Rather, it was narrated to me by narrators and I have narrated it in the same way that it was narrated to me (meaning with its chain of narrators). (Imam Abu Ja’far al-Tabari, Tareekh al-Tabari).

The statement of Imam Tabari above summarises for us the general approach taken by scholars of Tareekh, especially early scholars. As such, these scholars would narrate information with the chain of narration (Sanad) and leave it to scholars who came after them to investigate the authenticity of the chains. Therefore, it is not surprising to find weak and even fabricated narrations in books of history.

And Allah Most High knows best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (04.01.2021)