Abu-al-Mundhir Hisham ibn-Muhammad ibn-al-Sa'ib ibn Bishr al-Kalbi, better know as al-Kalbi, was one of the most prolific writers of early Islam, most notably in the fields of science and history. He produced over 150 titles, however, few have been preserved. Al-Kalbi was born into a scholarly family in al-Kufah, one of the two intellectual capitals of the early Muslim world, and was the son of the Arab philosopher and historian abu al-Nadr Muhammad.
Al-Kalbi lived during an age when most scholars were concerned with the "science" of the Hadith. The Hadith scholars believed, in the words of Muhammad, that "Islam destroys all that preceded it". Therefore, the majority of Muslim historians, who lived and wrote during a much later period, recorded the early history of Muslim community and ignored all that preceded Islam. Al-Kalbi was a notable exception to the intellectual trends of his day, concentrating much effort on the study of the pre-Islamic religion and history of Arabia. Al-Kalbi's writings made him the most controversial, and vilified, Arab historian of his day, and perhaps of all time. His critics attacked him, calling him "dishonest" and "only an historian". Despite many accusations and ad hominem attacks, none of these critics could refute Al-Kalbi's scholarship nor could they provide any evidence of his "dishonesty".
Al-Kalbi's most famous work is the Kitab al-Asnam, or the Book of Idols, which provides a detailed description of the pre-Islamic religion of Arabia, as well as recounting Muhammad's active participation in the faith of his ancestors.
Nabih Amin Faris' translation of al-Kalbi's The Book of Idols (Kitab al-Asnam).
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