Ibn Asakir (499-571 A.H)

`Ali ibn al-Hasan ibn Hibat Allah ibn `Abd Allah, Thiqat al-Din, Abu al-Qasim, known as Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari (499-571), the imam of hadith masters in his time and historian of Damascus.

Born in a family imbued with knowledge, he began his scholarly training at the age of six, attending the fiqh gatherings of his older brother Sa'in al-Din Hibat Allah ibn al-Hasan (d. 563) and learned Arabic and grammar at the hand of his maternal grandfather Abu al-Mufaddal al-Qurashi.

At age twenty, after his father died, he travelled around the Islamic world in pursuit of hadith narrations and performed pilgrimage, returning to Damascus and travelling again on and off between 519 and 533, "alone but for the Godwariness he took as his companion," hearing hadith from 1,300 male shaykhs and 80-odd female shaykhas in Baghdad, Mecca, Madina, Asbahan, Naysabur, Marw, Tibriz, Mihana, Bayhaq, Khusrujird, Bistam, Herat, Azerbaijan, Kufa, Hamadhan, Ray, Zanjan, Bushanj, Sarkhas, Simnan, Jarbadhqan, Mawsil and elsewhere.

After 533 he sat teaching hadith in a corner of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, then in the Dar al-Sunna school (subsequenty renamed Dar al-Hadith) built for him by al-Malik al-`Adil Nur al-Din Mahmud ibn Zanki.

His most famous student was the sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, who attended his funeral behind the imam al-Qutb al-Naysaburi.

Ibn `Asakir authored over a hundred books and epistles and narrated under five hundred hadith lessons.

Ibn `Asakir's son, Baha' al-Din al-Qasim ibn `Ali, said:

My father was assiduous in congregational prayer and recitation of the Qur'an. He used to recite it once a week, concluding it on the day of Jum`a, and once a day in Ramadan at which time he entered seclusion (i`tikaf) at the Eastern minaret. He performed many supererogatory prayers, devotions, and invocations. He would spend the nights before the two `ids awake in prayer and supplications. He used to take account of himself for every passing moment.

Al-Dhahabi said: "I do not believe that Ibn `Asakir ever met anyone of his level in his entire life." Ibn al-Subki added: "Nor anyone near his level."

Ibn `Asakir was buried at the Bab al-Saghir cemetary, next to his father, near the grave of the Caliph Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan.