Imaaduddeen Abul-Fidaa· Ismaa
eel ibn Umar ibn Katheer ibn Daw· ibn Katheer ibn Zar`, al-Qurashee; al-Busrawee, then ad-Dimashqee, was a distinguished figure in the Islamic world. He excelled in various fields of Islamic knowledge and left a lasting impact through his extensive contributions. This article delves into the life, accomplishments, and recognition of Ibn Kathir, shedding light on his scholarly endeavors.
Early Life and Education
Ibn Kathir was born in the year 701 H in Mijdal, a village east of Busraa in the province of Damascus. His father held the position of a Khateeb. Following his father’s demise, Ibn Kathir, along with his brother Kamaaluddeen `AbdulWahhaab, moved to Damascus in 707 H. At the age of ten, he memorized the entire Qur’an, excelling in various recitations and displaying exceptional skills in Tafseer (exegesis).
Notable Teachers and Accompaniments
Ibn Kathir’s pursuit of knowledge led him to study under renowned scholars of his time. He married Zaynab, the daughter of al-Haafiz Abul-Hajjaaj al-Mizzee, and closely accompanied and learned from him. He dedicated himself to the science of Hadeeth, qualifying under his tutelage. He also had the privilege of accompanying and being a special student of Shaikhul-Islam Taqiyyuddeen Ibn Taimiyyah, defending him and adopting many of his viewpoints. However, his stance on the question of the three simultaneous divorces, considering them as a single divorce, brought him trials and hardships.
Areas of Expertise
Ibn Kathir displayed exceptional proficiency in various areas of Islamic knowledge. His dedication to memorization, chain of narrations, hidden defects in narrations, history, and other subjects allowed him to excel at a young age. He was not only a scholar but also actively delivered verdicts, taught, and engaged in debates. His expertise encompassed Fiqh (jurisprudence), Tafseer, and Arabic Grammar, with a keen focus on scrutinizing narrators and identifying hidden defects in narrations.
Positions Held and Influence
Ibn Kathir held prominent positions in various institutions of knowledge, taught in renowned mosques, and authored numerous significant works in Tafseer, History, and Hadeeth. He became the Shaikh of the Saalihiyyah School after the death of adh-Dhahabee and briefly held the position of Shaikh of Daarul-Hadeeth al-Ashrafiyyah until it was seized by Kamaaluddeen al-Ma`arree.
Praise from Scholars
Esteemed scholars of the time highly praised Ibn Kathir for his knowledge and contributions. Adh-Dhahabee described him as a jurist, muhaddith, and proficient in Fiqh, noting his ability to explain and produce beneficial works. Other scholars, such as Ibn Hajjee, Ibn Habeeb, and al-Haafiz Ibn Hajr, recognized his comprehensive knowledge, sharp memory, and the widespread impact of his writings.
Aqeedah (Creed and Belief)
Ibn Kathir adhered to the Aqeedah (creed) of the Salafus-Saalih (Pious Predecessors). His tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’an greatly reflected this belief, emphasizing the avoidance of declaring resemblance to creation or negating the attributes of Allah. He followed the approach of scholars like Maalik, al-Awzaa
ee, ath-Thawree, al-Layth ibn Sad, ash-Shaafi`ee, Ahmad, Ishaaq ibn Raahawaih, and others who maintained a balanced understanding without delving into matters of how Allah’s attributes are or resembling Him to the creation.
Ibn Kathir had the privilege of studying under several notable scholars. The most influential among them were:
- Shaikhul-Islam Taqiyyuddeen Ahmad ibn
Abdil-Haleem ibnAbdisSalaam ibn Taimiyyah: Ibn Kathir was a close student of Shaikh Ibn Taimiyyah, defending him and adopting many of his views.
- Al-Haafiz Abul-Hajjaaj Yoosuf ibn az-Zakee `Abdir-Rahmaan al-Mizzee: Ibn Kathir closely accompanied him and married his daughter, benefiting greatly from his knowledge.
- Al-Haafiz Shamsuddeen Aboo
Abdillaah Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibnUthmaan adh-Dhahabee: Ibn Kathir learned from him and held him in high regard. Adh-Dhahabee was a distinguished historian of Islam.
Abbaas Ahmad ibn Abee Taalib ibn Nimah ibn Hasan ibn `Alee an-Najjaar: Also known as “Ibnush-Shahnah,” he was a highly respected scholar who greatly influenced Ibn Kathir’s knowledge.
Ibn Kathir’s knowledge and teachings attracted numerous students, some of whom went on to become notable scholars themselves. Three of his prominent students were:
- Shihaabuddeen Abul-
Abbaas Ahmad ibn Hajjee as-Sadee: Known for his historical works, including his explanation of “al-Muharrar” by Ibn `Abdil-Haadee.
- Shihaabuddeen Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Hareeree: Became a Qaadee (judge) in different regions, including Ba`labek and al-Madeenah.
- Abul-Mahaasin al-Husaynee, Muhammad ibn `Alee ibn al-Hasan ibn Hamzah ibn Hamd ad-Dimashqee: Another prominent student of Ibn Kathir, he contributed to Islamic knowledge.
Ibn Kathir’s immense contributions to Islamic literature enriched the Islamic library with invaluable works. Some of his notable published works include:
- “Tafseerul-Qur’anil-`Azeem” (The Exegesis of the Great Qur’an): A comprehensive tafsir of the Qur’an that is highly regarded.
- “al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah” (The Beginning and the End): A historical account starting from the creation of the universe until the author’s time.
- “Ikhtisaar `Uloomil-Hadeeth” (Summary of the Sciences of Hadeeth): A concise overview of the field of Hadeeth.
- “Fadaa·ilul-Qur’an” (The Virtues of the Qur’an): A compilation highlighting the virtues and merits of the Qur’an.
- “Tuhfatut-Taalib bimukhtasar Ibnil-Haajib” (The Student’s Gift: A Summary of Ibnil-Haajib’s Book): A concise summary of the book by Ibnil-Haajib, a renowned scholar of Arabic grammar.
- Ahaadeethut-Tawheed war-radd `alaa Ahlish-Shirk” (The Prophetic Narrations on Monotheism and Refuting Polytheism): A compilation of hadiths emphasizing the concept of Tawheed (monotheism) and refuting polytheism.
- “al-Fusool fee Seeratir-Rasool” (Chapters on the Biography of the Prophet): A comprehensive work that delves into the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Umar ibnAbdil-`Azeez” (The Biography of Umar ibn Abdil-Azeez): A biography of the prominent Umayyad caliph known for his just rule and reforms.
- These works, among many others, have left an indelible mark on Islamic scholarship and have been widely studied and appreciated.
- Legacy and Passing: Ibn Kathir’s contribution to Islamic knowledge and scholarship was immense. His works continue to be studied and referenced by scholars, students, and researchers across the globe. On the 26th of Sha`baan, 774 H, Ibn Kathir passed away in Damascus, where he was buried, leaving behind a rich legacy that continues to inspire and educate generations of Muslims.
Imaaduddeen Abul-Fidaa· Ismaa
eel ibn Umar ibn Katheer ibn Daw· ibn Katheer ibn Zar` was an exceptional scholar of Islam. With his comprehensive knowledge, dedication to learning, and numerous accomplishments, he played a significant role in the preservation and dissemination of Islamic knowledge. Ibn Kathir’s extensive writings, his mastery of various fields, and the praise he received from his contemporaries solidify his place as one of the most distinguished scholars in Islamic history. His legacy lives on through his enduring works, which continue to enlighten and educate generations of Muslims.