Biography of Hafiz Ibn Kathir
By the Honored Shaykh `Abdul-Qadir Al-Arna’ut, may Allah protect him.
He is the respected Imam, Abu Al-Fida’, `Imad Ad-Din Isma il bin ‘Umar bin Kathir Al- Qurashi Al-Busrawi – Busraian in origin; Dimashqi in training, learning and residence.
Ibn Kathir was born in the city of Busra in 701 H. His father was the Friday speaker of the village, but he died while Ibn Kathir was only four years old. Ibn Kathir’s brother, Shaykh Abdul-Wahhab, reared him and taught him until he moved to Damascus in 706 H., when he was five years old.
Ibn Kathir’s Teachers
Ibn Kathir studied Fiqh – Islamic jurisprudence – with Burhan Ad-Din, Ibrahim bin `Abdur- Rahman Al-Fizari, known as Ibn Al-Firkah (who died in 729 H). Ibn Kathir heard Hadiths from `Isa bin Al-Mutim, Ahmad bin Abi Talib, (Ibn Ash-Shahnah) (who died in 730 H), Ibn Al-Hajjar, (who died in 730 H), and the Hadith narrator of Ash-Sham (modern day Syria and surrounding areas); Baha Ad-Din Al-Qasim bin Muzaffar bin `Asakir (who died in 723 H), and Ibn Ash-Shirdzi, Ishaq bin Yahya Al-Ammuddi, also known as `Afif Ad-Din, the Zahiriyyah Shaykh who died in 725 H, and Muhammad bin Zarrad. He remained with Jamal Ad-Din, Yusuf bin Az-Zaki AlMizzi who died in 724 H, he benefited from his knowledge and also married his daughter. He also read with Shaykh Al-Islam, Taqi Ad-Din Ahmad bin `Abdul-Halim bin `Abdus-Salam bin Taymiyyah who died in 728 H. He also read with the Imam Hafiz and historian Shams Ad-Din, Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Uthman bin Qaymaz Adh-Dhahabi, who died in 748 H. Also, Abu Musa Al-Qarafai, Abu Al-Fath Ad-Dabbusi and ‘Ali bin `Umar As-Suwani and others who gave him permission to transmit the knowledge he learned with them in Egypt.
In his book, Al-Mu jam Al-Mukhtas, Al-Hafiz Adh-Dhaliabi wrote that Ibn Kathir was, “The Imam, scholar of jurisprudence, skillful scholar of Hadith, renowned Fagih and scholar of Tafsfr who wrote several beneficial books.”
Further, in Ad-Durar Al-Kdminah, Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar AlAsqalani said, “Ibn Kathir worked on the subject of the Hadith in the areas of texts and chains of narrators. He had a good memory, his books became popular during his lifetime, and people benefited from them after his death.”
Also, the renowned historian Abu Al-Mahasin, Jamal Ad-Din Yusuf bin Sayf Ad-Din (Ibn Taghri Bardi), said in his book, AlManhal As-Safi, “He is the Shaykh, the Imam, the great scholar `Imad Ad-Din Abu Al-Fida’. He learned extensively and was very active in collecting knowledge and writing. He was excellent in the areas of Fiqh, Tafsfr and Hadith. He collected knowledge, authored (books), taught, narrated Hadiths and wrote. He had immense knowledge in the fields of Hadith, Tafsir, Fiqh, the Arabic language, and so forth. He gave Fatwds (religious verdicts) and taught until he died, may Allah grant him mercy. He was known for his precision and vast knowledge, and as a scholar of history, Hadith and Tafsir.”
Ibn Kathir’s Students
Ibn Hajji was one of Ibn Kathir’s students, and he described Ibn Kathir: “He had the best memory of the Hadith texts. He also had the most knowledge concerning the narrators and authenticity, his contemporaries and teachers admitted to these qualities. Every time I met him I gained some benefit from him.”
Also, Ibn Al-`Imad Al-Hanbali said in his book, Shadhardt Adh-Dhahab, “He is the renowned Hafiz `Imad Ad-Din, whose memory was excellent, whose forgetfulness was miniscule, whose understanding was adequate, and who had good knowledge in the Arabic language.”
Also, Ibn Habib said about Ibn Kathir, “He heard knowledge and collected it and wrote various books. He brought comfort to the ears with his Fatwds and narrated Hadiths and brought benefit to other people. The papers that contained his Fatwds were transmitted to the various (Islamic) provinces. Further, he was known for his precision and encompassing knowledge.”
Ibn Kathir’s Books
1 – One of the greatest books that Ibn Kathir wrote was his Tafsir of the Noble Qur’an, which is one of the best Tafsirs that rely on narrations [of Hadiths, the Tafsir of the Companions, etc.]. The Tafsfr by Ibn Kathir was printed many times and several scholars have summarized it.
2- The History Collection known as Al-Biddyah, which was printed in 14 volumes under the name Al-Bidayah wanNihdyah, and contained the stories of the Prophets and previous nations, the Prophet’s Sfrah (life story) and Islamic history until his time. He also added a book Al-Fitan, about the Signs of the Last Hour.
3- At-Takmil ft Ma`rifat Ath-Thiqat wa Ad-Du’afa wal Majdhil which Ibn Kathir collected from the books of his two Shaykhs Al-Mizzi and Adh-Dhahabi; Al-Kdmal and Mizan Al-Ftiddl. He added several benefits regarding the subject of Al-Jarh and AtT’adil.
4- Al-Hadi was-Sunan ft Ahadfth Al-Masdnfd was-Sunan which is also known by, Jami` Al-Masdnfd. In this book, Ibn Kathir collected the narrations of Imams Ahmad bin Hanbal, Al-Bazzar, Abu Ya`la Al-Mawsili, Ibn Abi Shaybah and from the six collections of Hadith: the Two Sahihs [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] and the Four Sunan [Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa i and Ibn Majah]. Ibn Kathir divided this book according to areas of Fiqh.
5-Tabaqat Ash-Shaf iyah which also contains the virtues of Imam Ash-Shafi.
6- Ibn Kathir wrote references for the Hadiths of Adillat AtTanbfh, from the Shafi school of Fiqh.
7- Ibn Kathir began an explanation of Sahih Al-Bukhdri, but he did not finish it.
8- He started writing a large volume on the Ahkam (Laws), but finished only up to the Hajj rituals.
9- He summarized Al-Bayhaqi’s ‘Al-Madkhal. Many of these books were not printed.
10- He summarized `Ulum Al-Hadith, by Abu `Amr bin AsSalah and called it Mukhtasar `Ulum Al-Hadith. Shaykh Ahmad Shakir, the Egyptian Muhaddith, printed this book along with his commentary on it and called it Al-Ba’th Al-Hathfth fi Sharh Mukhtasar `Ulum Al-Hadith.
11- As-Sfrah An-Nabawiyyah, which is contained in his book Al-Biddyah, and both of these books are in print.
12- A research on Jihad called Al-Ijtihad ft Talabi Al-Jihad, which was printed several times.
Ibn Kathir’s Death
Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asgalani said, “Ibn Kathir lost his sight just before his life ended. He died in Damascus in 774 H.” May Allah grant mercy upon Ibn Kathir and make him among the residents of His Paradise.