The attempted assassination of Muh.ammad by ʿA - mir b. al-T.ufayl and Arbad

b. Qays is of relatively minor significance in both the sı-ra and tafsı-r accounts of al-T.abarı-and Ibn Kathı-r. And yet, it is this very insignificance that allows us to see the level of involvement of both authors in the formation of their works and in their perception of the supernatural. The story itself contains a maximum of three separate supernatural interventions, each of which is designed to protect Muh.ammad against his enemies. And while these are the only interventions mentioned in the sı-ra accounts of either al-T.abarı-or Ibn Kathı-r, the tafsı-r works of both men include other supernatural events; and yet, all of these, too, revolve around the theme of divine protection – whether it is protection of the Prophet himself, of the transcendent nature of God, or of regular believers. Both authors control the perception of their readers toward this event in their sı-ra and tafsı-r accounts, but each does so in a way that is unique to his personal style as well as to his particular time and place. Al-T.abarı-controls this event in his sı-ra by including only one report, that

from Ibn Ish. a-q, to relate this tale. In this way, his sı-ra account is rigidly fixed and leaves no room for question regarding its proper interpretation. Muh.ammad casts an illusion to thwart Arbad’s attempt to attack him from behind; God kills ʿA

- mir with a growth in his throat; and then God kills

Arbad and his camel with a lightning-strike. These last two events appear to be in response to Muh.ammad’s prayer for protection against ʿA

- mir, but this is

never spelled out. By controlling the version of the story his readers have access to, al-T.abarı-is able to reveal his own perception of the significance of this event without overt comment. Thus, for al-T.abarı-, Muh.ammad in the sı-ra is someone who can protect himself through supernatural means, and who is so confident of his connection with the divine that he needs no confirmation that his prayer has been answered and his enemies vanquished through divine wrath. And yet, al-T.abarı-, by allowing ʿA

- mir b. al-T.ufayl to relate his poetry,

not only reveals his attitude toward the supernatural abilities of the Prophet, but also reveals his admiration for the man who tried to kill him as an important pre-Islamic poet whose works were still being circulated in tenth-century Baghdad. Thus, al-T.abarı-can condemn ʿA

- mir’s attempted

assassination of the Prophet and his righteous execution by God, but he can

also appreciate ʿA - mir’s talent, revealing a certain distance between author

and subject. Al-T.abarı-held Muh.ammad in the same high esteem as did other scholars of his day, but could simultaneously appreciate the artistry of even so heinous a character as one who tried to kill the Prophet. And so, scholars in medieval Baghdad appear to have achieved a sense of balance between their devotion to Muh.ammad and their appreciation for the talents of unbelievers. Ibn Kathı-r’s sı-ra account reveals no such balance, and although his focus is

certainly on the chronology of the event itself, there is no question that ʿA - mir

should be remembered only as an unbeliever and a shayt.a-n, who either tried to kill Muh.ammad or who was responsible for the deaths of Muslims at Biʾr Maʿu-na – either way, he is killed by divine wrath. By leaving out ʿA

- mir’s

poetry and by focusing instead on the poetic talents of Arbad’s brother, Labı-d b. Rabı-ʿa, Ibn Kathı-r constricts ʿA

- mir to the role of villain, ignoring his

reputation as a poet entirely. And although Ibn Kathı-r includes Ibn Ish. a-q’s report (minus the poetry), he breaks it up in such a way that the attempted assassination and the death of ʿA

- mir are separated from the death of Arbad.

He does this in order to put forward his own interpretation of the story as belonging to the events surrounding Biʾr Maʿu-na, despite including this story in his section on the year of tribal delegations. The presence of Arbad would complicate this timeline since he is not mentioned in connection with the earlier incident, but is instead tied to the revelation of part of Su-rat al-Raʿd. Thus, even though Ibn Kathı-r allows a bit of chaos in his sı-ra, he still exhibits firm control by breaking the story into two parts, while maintaining his theme of the divine protection afforded to Muh.ammad by God. In his Tafsı-r, al-T.abarı-reveals the reasons behind his hesitation to include

the verses of the Qurʾa-n in his sı-ra account. There are numerous reports that relate a variety of historical contexts for the revelation of these verses, and so, in this genre, it is al-T.abarı-who relaxes his control over how the story is told. Instead, he appears to embrace the plurality of possibilities – the verses were revealed in relation to Muh. ammad’s reaction to hearing thunder, or they were revealed after God smote someone with lightning for implying that He was a material being made from a variety of precious metals or gems, or they were revealed in relation to the story of ʿA