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The Battle of Ṣiffīn (36/657) is the flash point in the emergence of sects within Islam. The presentation of the Ṣiffīn story in Arabic historical writing therefore changed over time as the sectarian split among Sunnīs and Shīʿites became increasingly defined. This paper will trace the development of the presentation of the Ṣiffīn story in Arabic histories across developing Sunnī and Shīʿite identity crystallization and the region of origin of their authors, as well as literary and stylistic developments in the field of Arabic historical writing.

The specific historians examined have been chosen in part because they demonstrate a particular chronological progression of the Ṣiffīn story from a fundamentally pro-ʿAlid episode of the first fitna to something approaching an pro-Umayyad apologetic, but also in part because they represent a broad spectrum of historiographical styles. This article will demonstrate that in these successive generations of historians, small (or large) changes in the presentation of the story, the main characters, and the style of narration reflect the regionally diverse and evolving sectarian memories, of Ṣiffīn in particular and the first fitna in general.


Siffin, Ali, Mu'awiya, Sunni, Shi'ite, Islamic History, Fitna

Total Pages

27 pages


Copyright © 2013 by Aaron M. Hagler

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.