When did the books on the Sirah begin to emerge as a separate genre?
Many books were authored on the Sirah [the life of the Prophet] which emerged as a separate genre in the second half of the 2nd century AH.
The following is a list of early Muslim scholars who wrote about the Prophet’s life and expeditions:
1- Abaan Ibn Uthman Ibn Affan
He is the son of the third Caliph, Uthman Ibn Affan, the third of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (may God be pleased with them all). His work on the Sirah was a compilation of hadiths on the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), his everyday dealings, and expeditions. His Sirah is no longer extant.
2- Urwa Ibn Al-Zubayr Ibn Al-Aawwam
Urwa, son of the renowned Companion Al Zubayr Ibn Al Awwam, is known as a trusted source for the Sirah. He devoted himself to the study of Islamic Jurisprudence and Prophetic traditions. He is mostly known for his unique knowledge of the hadiths narrated by his aunt, Lady Aisha (may God be pleased with her). He gained recognition because the hadiths he collected were related by many scholars known for their authentic collections of hadiths.
3- Imam Mohamed Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri
Al-Zuhri is a key figure amongst the early compilers of Sirah literature and was known as the scholar of Al-Hijaz and Syria. He is one of the trusted and authentic sources for the life of the noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). His work was the first biography of the Prophet in the history of Islam. He is considered one of the most authentic collectors of Sirah reports and the most accurate of them all. Ibn Is-haq depended heavily on the reprots he collected. He died in 120 AH.
Categories of Sirah scholars
1- This category comprises a group of Muslim scholars who wrote about the Sirah and followed the figures mentioned above, the most of famous of who are:
• Asim Ibn Umar Ibn Qatadah Ibn Al-Nu’man Al-Ansary.
• Abdullah Ibn Abi Bakr Ibn Mohamed Ibn Amr Ibn Hazm Al-Ansary.
2- This category comprises another group of scholars who lived at the time of the first Abbasid caliph. The most famous of them are:
i-Musa Ibn Uqbah: He was the leader of the Zubayris. Speaking of him, Imam Malik said: “Refer to Ibn Uqbah’s documentation of the Prophet’s expeditions as it is the most accurate of all.” His Sirah was relatively brief and only parts of it are still extant.
ii-Mohamed Ibn Is-haq Ibn Yasar Al-Matlaby. He is of Persian origin.
iii-Al Waqidi Mohamed Ibn Umar Ibn Waqed, leader of Banu Hashim. He is second to Ibn Is-haq in knowledge about the Prophet’s life, military expeditions, and historical documentation.
3-The aforementioned scholars were followed by another group of scholars, the most famous of which are:
i-Abu Mohamed Abdul Malek Ibn Hisham Ibn Ayyub Al-Humayry Al-Ma’afry who lived in Egypt but was originally from Basra in Iraq.
ii-Mohamed Ibn Sa’ad, the student of Al-Waqedy who wrote down his books and documented his life and this is how he came to be nicknamed “Al-Waqidi’s disciple”.