Al-T.abarı-and Ibn Kathı-r, in their sı-ra and tafsı-r works, put forward their own interpretations of the story of Muh.ammad’s conception and the importance of the role of God in determining his genealogy. But the tales of attempted seduction are not the only reports that detail the story of Muh. ammad’s conception, as both authors include reports that indicate that ʿAbd Alla-h and A - mina are married due to the machinations of ʿAbd al-Mut.t.alib to provide both
himself and his son with wives from the Banu-Zuhra. It is in these reports that we see the widest divergence between the works of our two authors, and perhaps our best indication of their personal views regarding the signiﬁcance of this story and the role of the supernatural in it. Al-T.abarı-is here willing to include a number of reports wherein Muh.ammad’s
conception occurs without a supernatural element. Ibn Kathı-r, however, is incapable of seeing the story of Muh.ammad’s conception as anything other than supernaturally signiﬁcant, and so only relates reports that support this particular viewpoint. While al-T.abarı-allows for a variety of possibilities in his sı-ra in this regard, he restricts these possibilities in his tafsı-r of Qurʾa-n 6:124. In the latter genre, he claims that the unbelievers demanded a particular type of miracle from Muh.ammad as proof of his prophethood. But at no point in his treatment of this verse does he state that Muh.ammad does not perform any miracles – only that he does not have to repeat the kinds of miracles performed by prophets such as Moses and Jesus. Al-T.abarı-is thus placing the element of the supernatural at the core of his treatment of this verse. Not only does he focus on the fact that only God has the power to intervene in human aﬀairs in order to place the light of prophecy where He wills, but he also indirectly supports the argument that Muh. ammad performed miracles as part of his prophetic mission. Ibn Kathı-r’s control is more pronounced in his sı-ra account, as he only relates
reports that include a supernatural explanation for Muh.ammad’s conception – and thus his lineage – and this directly connects to his tafsı-r of Qurʾa-n 6:123-24 that focuses on the fact that the Meccans themselves accepted the superiority of Muh. ammad’s lineage and were forced to admit this during Abu-Sufya-n’s meeting with Heraclius. But Qurʾa-n 6:124 is quoted again in a later section of the sı-ra in which Heraclius directly recognizes that superiority of lineage is
one of the signs of prophethood, and Ibn Kathı-r expands his argument to include the fact that all of Muh.ammad’s forebears were the result of “true marriage” rather than fornication – indicating, again, an intervention by God.