Whenever I refer to Wikipedia to read about history of early Islam and later caliphates, many articles cite Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung in some controversial statements that he make. I will list below some statements :

Battle of Camel :

  1. "While there is no record of any violence according to Madelung, they both later broke their oaths, claiming that they had pledged their allegiance to Ali under public pressure."

  2. "The negotiations failed after three days and the two sides readied for battle. According to Madelung, the popular story about successful negotiations is pure fiction. This story alleges that it was Uthman's murderers who sabotaged the negotiations and provoked the battle."

  3. "Talha was killed by the Umayyad's Marwan, another notable rebel, who later told Uthman's son that he had taken care of one of the murderers of Uthman for him."

  4. "While Talha had indeed led the opposition to Uthman, it has been suggested that Marwan's motive in killing Talha was to rid Muawiya of a serious contender for the caliphate. After the battle, Marwan joined the court of Muawiya in Damascus as a senior advisor."

  5. "When the news of Zubayr's death reached Ali, he commented that Zubayr had many times fought valiantly in front of Muhammad but that he had come to an evil end. According to Madelung, the popular story of Ali cursing the killers of Zubayr is fiction."

Batte of Siffin :

  1. "When his proposal was rejected, Muawiya declared war on Ali in a letter on behalf of the Syrians, with the objectives of killing the murderers of Uthman, deposing Ali, and establishing a Syrian council (shura) to appoint the next caliph, presumably Muawiya. Regarding this letter, Madelung observes that : Uthman had meant little to him [Muawiya], he [Muawiya] had done nothing to aid him [Uthman], and felt no personal obligation to seek revenge. Yet he [Muawiya] immediately sensed the political utility of a claim of revenge for the blood of the wronged caliph, as long as he, Muawiya, could decide on whom to pin the blame."

  2. "Amr, a political strategist, was widely believed to be the illegitimate son of Muawiya's father, Abu Sufyan."

  3. "Amr was also a prime instigator in the murder of Uthman and had publicly taken some credit for it."

Wikipedia cited him in almost every statement mentioned in the entire article :

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    Seeing as his views go against all mainstream Sunni understandings, it should be obvious what we would think of him.
    – The Z
    Jan 1, 2022 at 21:43
  • Wilfred Madlung is considered as a specialist among the orientalists when it comes to the history of early Islam and Shi'a related topics (especially Zaidis and IsmaiIits). So one could say his perspective is anti mainstream and is hardly align with the Sunni views. Islam doesn't reject non-Muslim sources or authors by default, but in Islam we are asked to check, as Allah always says in the qur'an words such as: bring up your proof if you are truthful!
    – Medi1Saif
    Jan 4, 2022 at 10:04

2 Answers 2


Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung is an Islam scientist. Islamic Science is a sub-subject of Science of History, regarding the history of Islam and the Islamic world.

As a scientist in history, he tries to use all documents available from the time. However, in particular for the first two centuries Hidjra, contemporary documents are scarce, and almost every document, contemporary or written by a later author, is written by a particular with particular interests. The job of a scientist is to try to get a picture of what happened.

Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung has written a lot on the history of Shia Islam. Of course, most documents he can use are written by Shia authors, and it is difficult to distill a "neutral" view out of it.

Anyway, in science, as historical science, a thesis papers has always to be founded on something but are always subject to revision.

As to Wilferd Ferdinand Madelung, we can trust him as a scientist trying to do his work properly, but we are not requested to think that his writings are "true" in the sense that there is no doubt in it.


He is respected in Shia and his views are used, though not as a completely correct source. Sample interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkTcKnM4PXE&list=PLjl7RVGSUlLHLY7wqQ4v-jIGUrFK9bS0W

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .