‘Alī ibn Yūsuf al-Qifṭī or Ali Ibn Yusuf the Copt (علي بن يوسف القفطي), he was Jamāl al-Dīn Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid al-Shaybānī (جمال الدين أبو الحسن علي بن يوسف بن ٳبراهي بن عبد الواحد الشيباني) (ca. 1172–1248); an Egyptian historian, biographer-encyclopedist, patron, and administrator-scholar under the Ayyubid rulers of Aleppo. His biographical dictionary Kitāb Ikhbār al-‘Ulamā’ bi Akhbār al-Ḥukamā (إخبار العلماء بأخبار الحكماء), tr. 'History of Learned Men'; is an important source of Islamic biography. Much of his vast literary output is lost, including his histories of the Seljuks, Buyids and the Maghreb, and biographical dictionaries of philosophers and philologists. See below.
‘Alī al-Qifṭī, known as Ibn al-Qifṭī, was a native of Qift, Upper Egypt, the son of al-Qāḍī al-Ashraf, Yūsuf al-Qifṭī (b.548/1153), and the grandson of Ibrāhīm ibn ‘Abd al-Wāḥid, al-Qāḍī al-Awḥad in the Ayyūbid court. Alī succeeded his father and grandfather into court administration but displayed scholarly inclinations. When the family left Qift in 1177, following the rising of a Fāṭimid Pretender, his father, Yūsuf, took up official posts in Upper Egypt and ‘Alī completed his early education in Cairo.
In 583/1187 Yūsuf al-Qifṭī was appointed deputy to al-Qāḍī al-Fāḍil, chancellor and adviser to Ṣalāh al-Dīn at Jerusalem, and patron and benefactor of Maimonides, Al-Qifṭī spent many years studying and collecting material for his later works. When Ṣalāh al-Dīn died in 598/1201 and his brother, Malik al-‘Ādil, usurped his nephew’s position to occupy Jerusalem, Ibn al-Qifṭī’s father fled to Ḥarran into the service of Ṣalāh al-Dīn’s son Ashraf. Ibn al-Qifṭī sought patronage in Aleppo as secretary to the former governor of Jerusalem and Nablus, Fāris al-Din Maimūn al Qaṣrī, the then vizier to the Ayyubid emir Ṣalāh al-Dīn’s third son, Malik aẓ-Ẓāhir Ghāzi. He was recognised as an effective administrator of the fiefs and when the vizier died in 610/1214 aẓ-Ẓāhir appointed him ‘’khāzin’’, or Dīwān of Finance, despite his own preference for study. On aẓ-Ẓāhir’s death in 613/1216 al-Qifti retired but was re-appointed in 633/1236 by aẓ-Ẓāhir’s successor. He remained in office until 628/1231. According to his protégé and biographer, Yaqūt, writing before 624/1227  al-Qifti already held the honorific title "al-Qāḍī 'l-Akram al-Wazir" (most noble judge chief minister). After a five year sabbatical al-Qifṭī again resumed the office and held it up to his death in 646/1248.
Throughout his life al-Qifṭī advocated scholarship and sought to pursue a literary career despite heavy constraints of high office. When Yaqūt had fled Mongol invasion to Aleppo, he had received shelter from al-Qifti, who had assisted him in the compilation of his great geographical and biographical encyclopedia, known as Irshad. Yaqut lists al-Qifṭī's pre-620 works (some were then incomplete). Al-Ṣafadī copied this list in his Wāfī fi ‘l-Wafayāt and Al-Kutubī's Fawāt al-Wafayat (1196) borrowed from it, but his copy is corrupted by many errors.
Al-Qifṭī wrote mainly historical works and of 26 recorded titles just two survive:
- Kitāb Ikhbār al-‘Ulamā’ bi Akhbār al-Ḥukamā (إخبار العلماء بأخبار الحكماء); abbrev. Ta'rikh al-Ḥukama (تاريخ الحكماء), 'The biographies and the books of the great philosophers'; a biographical dictionary of 414 physicians, philosophers and astronomers; the most important source of exact sciences and Hellenistic tradition in Islām and sole literary witness of many accounts by ancient Greek scholars.
- Inbā ar-Rawat ‘alā 'Anbā an-Nuhat (3 vol.); synopsis (647/1249) by Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī az-Zawanī.
- Precious Pearls of the Account of the Master (Ad-Dur ath-Thamin fi 'Akhbar al-Mutīmīn) (الدر الثمين في أخبار المتيمين)
- Report of the Muhammad Poets, (Akhbar al-Muhammadin min al-Shuara), (posthumous); only fragments
- History of Maḥmūd b. Sübüktigin (Sabuktakin) and His Sons'(wabanīhi, in al-Kubutī wabakīyat)
- History of the Seljuks, from the Beginning to the End of the Dynasty (Baqiat Tārīkh as-Siljūqīa) (بقية تاريخ السلجوقية)
- Apostles of Poets; arranged by al-Aba’ up to Muḥammad bin Sa’īd; posthumous work written by al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham; History of the Poets; only poets named Muḥammad extant) (Kitāb al-Muhmidīn min ash-Shu’ra'i; ratibah ‘alā al-Ābā' wa balagh bīhī Muḥammad bin Sa’id.) (كتاب المحمدين من الشعراء. رتبه على الآباء وبلغ به محمد بن سعيد) (wa Katab ‘an al-Hasan bin al-Haythm) (وكتب عن الحسن بن الهيثم)
- History of the Mirdasids (Akhbar al-Mirdas) (أخبار آلمرداس)
- The Biographies and Books of the Great Philosophers (Akhbar al-Alama bi Akhyar al-Hukama)(إخبار العلماء بأخيار الحكماء)
- Account of the Grammarians (Akhbar an-Nahwiyyin) (إخبار النحوين); survives only in abstract by Muh. b. Ahmad al-Dhahabi.
- Account of the Writers and their Writings (Akhbar al-Musanafin wa ma Sanafuh) (أخبار المصنفين وما صنفوه)
- History of the Yemen (Tarikh al-Yemen) (تاريخ اليمن)
- Egypt; in six parts ('Akhbār Misr, fi sitta 'Ajza') (أخبار مصر، في ستة أجزاء):: including
- History of Cairo until the reign of Salah al-Din; identical to Comprehensive Tarikh al-Qifti contained in the epitome of Ibn Maktum (d. 749/1348)
- History of the Buyids
- History of the Maghreb
- Correction of Errors by al-Jawhari (Islāh Khilal as-Sahāhi, lil-Jawhrī) (إصلاح خلل الصحاح، للجوهري،)
- Nahza al-Khater in Literature (Nahazat al-Khāṭr >> fi-l-Adab) (نهزة الخاطر» في الأدب); History of Scholarship (the Shaykhs of al-Kindi), a supplement to the Ansab of al-Baladhuri, etc.
- Biographies of Ibn Rashiq, Abu Sa'id al-Sirafi
- Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong; Mr. Steven J. Niven (2 February 2012). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. pp. 105–106. ISBN 978-0-19-538207-5.
- Thomas, David (24 Mar 2010). "Al-Qifti". Brill Reference. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
- Bernard Lewis (15 April 2011). Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East. Open Court. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-8126-9757-5.
- Yaqūt, Mu’jam al-Buldān, iv p.152
- Lippert, Ibn al-Qifṭīs Ta’rikh al-Ḥukamā, 1903
- Al-Qifṭī, ‘Alī ibn Yūsuf (2005). Shams al-Dīn, Ibrāhīm (ed.). Ikhbār al-‘Ulamā’ bi-akhbār al-ḥukamā’ (tr. The biographies and the books of the great philosophers) (in Arabic) (1st ed.). Lebanon: Dar al-kotob al-Ilmiyah. p. 328.
- ed. Abu 'l-Fadl Ibrahim
- MS. Paris arab. 3335
- al-Qifti ed. Shams-ad-Din, The Biographies and Books of the Great Philosophers
- ed. De Goeje &. Juynboll
- Lippert, J, ed. (1326) , Ibn al-Qifṭīs Ta’rikh al-Ḥukamā’, auf Grund der Arbeiten Aug. Müllers, Leipzig, Cairo
- Al-Qifti (2005), Shams-ad-Din, Ibrahim (ed.), The Biographies and the Books of the Great Philosophers (1 ed.), Lebanon: Dar al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah
- De Goeje; Juynboll, Th. W. (eds.), "History of the Grammarians (synopsis in al-Dhahabi's autograph)", Cat. Codd. Ar. Bibl. Acad. Lugduno-Batavae (26 ed.), iii (xlviii)
- Abū 'l-Fadl Ibrāhīm, Muḥammad, ed. (1374) , Inbah al-Ruwat 'ala Anbah al-Nuhat, iii, Cairo
- al-Hamawi, Yāqūt, Margoliouth (ed.), Irshād al-Arīb, vi, G.M.S., pp. 447–494
- aṣ-Ṣafadī, Wāfī fi ‘l-Wafayāt, pp. 233–234
- al-Kutubī (1299), Fawāt al-Wafayāt, Cairo, p. 1197
- as-Suyūṭī, Bughyat al-Wu’āt, p. 358
- ibid., Ḥusn al-Muḥāḍara, i, p. 319
- Leclerc (ed.), Hist. de la méd. ar., ii, pp. 193–198
- Steinschneider (1877), "Polemische und apologetische Literatur", Ab für die Kunde des Morg. (111): 129
- Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand, Geschichtsschreiber der Araber, p. 331
- Brockelmann, Carl (ed.), Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur (G.A.L.), i, p. 325
- Müller, A, ed. (1891), "Über das sogenannte Tar'ikh al-ḥukamā' des Ibn al-Qifṭī", Actes du 8e congrès internat. Des orient., Leyden, i: 15–36
- Dérenbourg, H (1905), "L'histoire des philosophes attribuée à Ibn al-Kifti", Opuscule, Paris: 37–48
- Houtsma, M. Th.; Wensinck, A. J.; Arnold, T. W.; Heffening, W.; Lévi-Provençal, E., eds. (1927), Encyclopaedia of Islam, Dictionary of the Geography, Ethnography & Biography of the Muhammadan Peoples, E-K, ii, Leyden
- al-Kutubī (1951), Dietrich, A (ed.), Fawat, ii, Cairo, pp. 191–3
- Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Udaba', xv, Cairo, pp. 175–204
- Yaqūt, Margoliouth (ed.), Irshad, v, pp. 477–94
- ibid, Mu'jam al-Buldan, iv, p. 152
- Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun al-anba', (index)
- Barhebraeus, ‘Alhani (ed.), Tarikh Mukhtasar ad-Duwal, p. 476
- Suyutī (1326), Bughya, Cairo, p. 358
- idem (1321), Husn al-Muhadara, i, Cairo, p. 265
- Ibn al-'Imad, Shadharat, v, p. 236
- Adfawi (1333), al-Tali' as-Sa'id, Cairo, p. 237 f.
- Ibn Taghribirdi (1355), Nujum, vi, Cairo, p. 361
- Müller, A., ed. (1890), Actes du 8e Congres Internat. des Orientalistes, Leiden, pp. 15–36
- Brockelmann, Carl (ed.), "S I", Ibn al-Ḳifṭī, I2, p. 559
- Sellheim, R, ed. (1955), Oriens, pp. 348–352
|Wikisource has the text of a 1905 New International Encyclopedia article about "Al-Qifti".|
- English translation of a portion of Al-Qifti's Tarikh al-hukama - dealing with the destruction of the library of Alexandria.