Creation and History


Al-Badʼ wa-al-tārīkh (Creation and history) is a universal history from the Creation until the end of the reign of Abbasid caliph al-Muti in 974. It is not a particularly good example of historical scholarship. It is in large part a list of prophets and kings, leavened with stories derived from written sources, myths, scripture, and the personal thoughts of the author, as, for example, his reflection on the many religious traditions and practices of mankind. With the exception of a strongly worded introductory warning to the reader about those who undermine the faith of the weak-minded with controversy, the text is a straightforward, often bland narrative. The author simply catalogs controversial topics, such as the beliefs of the numerous Shia Imamiyah sects, with only a sentence or two describing their beliefs. Some scholars have suggested a strong Iranian bias in the work, but careful examination does not support this interpretation. Authorship is uncertain, with the possibilities including Ahmad ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (died 934) or the tenth-century scholar Mutahhar ibn Tahir al-Maqdisi. The work was edited and translated from a single manuscript by the prolific French orientalist Clement Huart (1854−1926). He was unable to identify the author with certainty, and even changed his mind about who the author was with the publication of volume three of the Arabic text in 1903. The puzzle remains a matter for further research. Both Arabic and French editions were produced in Paris by the well-known publisher Ernest Leroux.

Date Created

Publication Information

Ernest Leroux, Paris


Title in Original Language

كتاب البدء والتاريخ


Type of Item

Physical Description

3 volumes ; 25 centimeters


  1. Ashraf, Ahmad, “Iranian Identity iii. Medieval Islamic Period” in Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  2. Hraundal, Thorir Jonsson, The Rus in Arabic Sources: Cultural Contacts and Identity. Unpublished dissertation, University of Bergen, Center for Medieval Studies, 2013.

Last updated: February 18, 2015