Ibn Kathir

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Ismail Ibn Kathir
ابن كثير.png
Born c. 1300 / 701 H
Bosra, Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) now in Syria
Died 18 February 1373 / 774 H
Damascus, Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo), now in Syria
Era Bahri Mamluk Sultanate Mameluke Flag.svg
Region Sham
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni
Jurisprudence Shafi'i[1]
Creed Athari[2][3] or Ash'ari[4]
Notable work(s) - Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿaẓīm aka Tafsir Ibn Kathir, an exegesis of the Quran;
- Al-Bidāya wan Nihāya (“The Beginning and the End”) 14-volume history of Islam;
- Kitāb al-jāmiʿ, a grand collection of Hadith.[5]
Arabic name
Personal (Ism) Ismāʿīl
Patronymic (Nasab) ibn ʿUmar ibn Kaṯīr
بن عمر بن كثير
Teknonymic (Kunya) Abū l-Fidāʾ
أبو الفداء
Epithet (Laqab) ʿImād ud-Dīn
عماد الدين
"pillar of the faith"
Toponymic (Nisba) Ad-Dimashqi

Ismail ibn Kathir (Arabic: ابن كثير‎‎, born c. 1300, died 1373) was a highly influential Sunni scholar of the Shafi'i school during the Mamluk rule of Syria, an expert on tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and faqīh (jurisprudence) as well as a historian.[8][9] Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani said about him, “Ibn Kathir worked on the subject of the Hadith in the texts (متون) and chains of narrators (رجال). He had a good memory, his books became popular during his lifetime, and people benefited from them after his death.”[10][page needed]


His full name : Abū l-Fidāʾ Ismāʿīl ibn ʿUmar ibn Kaṯīr (أبو الفداء إسماعيل بن عمر بن كثير), with the honorary title of ʿImād ad-Dīn (عماد الدين "pillar of the faith"). He was born in Mijdal, a village on the outskirts of the city of Busra, to the east of Damascus, Syria, around about AH 701 (AD 1300/1)[citation needed]. He was taught by Ibn Taymiyya and Al-Dhahabi.

Upon completion of his studies he obtained his first official appointment in 1341, when he joined an inquisitorial commission formed to determine certain questions of heresy.[5] He married the daughter of Al-Mizzi, one of the foremost Syrian scholars of the period, which gave him access to the scholarly elite. In 1345 he was made preacher (khatib) at a newly built mosque in Mizza, the home town of his father-in-law. In 1366, he rose to a professorial position at the Great Mosque of Damascus.[5][11]

In later life, he became blind.[9][11] He attributes his blindness to working late at night on the Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal in an attempt to rearrange it topically rather than by narrator. He died in February 1373 (AH 774) in Damascus. He was buried next to his teacher Ibn Taymiyya.[12]


Ibn Kathir did not interpret the mutashabihat, or 'unapparent in meaning' verses and hadiths in a literal anthropomorphic way. He states that:

People have said a great deal on this topic and this is not the place to expound on what they have said. On this matter, we follow the early Muslims (salaf): Malik, Awza'i, Thawri, Layth ibn Sa'd, Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh, and others among the Imams of the Muslims, both ancient and modern that is, to let (the verse in question) pass as it has come, without saying how it is meant (min ghayr takyif), without likening it to created things (wa la tashbih), and without nullifying it (wa la ta'til): The literal meaning (zahir) that occurs to the minds of anthropomorphists (al-mushabbihin) is negated of Allah, for nothing from His creation resembles Him: "There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing" (Qur'an 42:11)[13][14]



Ibn Kathir wrote a famous commentary on the Qur'an named Tafseer al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓeem which linked certain Hadith, or sayings of Muhammad, and sayings of the sahaba (R) to verses of the Qur'an, in explanation. It is considered to be a summary of the earlier tafseer by at-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari. It is especially popular because it uses the hadith to explain each verse and chapter of the Qur'an.

Egyptian scholar Ahmad Muhammad Shakir (1892–1958) edited Ibn Kathir's Tafsir as ʿUmdat at-Tafsīr in five volumes published during 1956–1958.

Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān (فضائل القرآن) was intended as an annex to the Tafsir. It is a brief textual history of the Qur'an and its collection after the death of Muhammad.

Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (DB) wrote about the Tafseer in his An Approach to the Qura'nic Sciences:

This book may be regarded as a summary of Tafseer Ibn Jareer. The method adopted by lbn Kathir is Exegesis by narrations, that is, under every verse he has first described a summary of its exegesis, then he mentions whatever narrations and reports are available from the Prophet (S), or the Companions or their followers to explain its various words or sentences. But the earlier commentators viz. Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari, Ibn Mardawayh, Ibn Majah, etc who had followed this method only undertook the compiling of those narrations but they did not scrutinise them. Since Ibn Kathir was also an eminent Traditionist apart from being a commentator, and was well versed in the art of criticism and review, he has done away with those weak and Mawdoo narrations that were being transmitted by earlier commentators and, he has warned about relying on weak narrations. For instance, see volume l, page 77, 213, volume 3, pages 17 to 21, 24 to 89, volume 4, page 508, 519, 520, etc. The books on Exegesis by Narrations are mostly full of Isra'iliyyats. Ibn Kathir is extremely cautious in treating these citations and his approach is clean and based on the Qur'an and Traditions. Its detail has already been given under the heading Isra'iliyyats in his own words. Hence, his first approach is that he has not cited many Isra'ili narrations, and if he has done so, he has defined them as Isra'ili narrations. For instance, in Surah as Sawffat he has quoted some reports that indicate that the sacrifice offered related to Sayyiddna Ibraheem ('A)'s son Sayyidina Is'haq ('A) but he has immediately, clarified: Allah knows better, but apparently all these narrations have been reported by Ka'bu-l-Ahbar in these reports all sorts of things, good and bad, were collected and this Ummah does not need a single word of all those things. (volume 4. page 17) Anyhow, from the narrative point of view Tafsir Ibn Kathir is the most cautious and reliable exegesis. But this does not mean that every narration quoted in this exegesis is correct. At some places Ibn Kathir has also quoted weak reports without indicating their weakness. For example, while explaining the verse of surah at-Tawbah, he has quoted a report from Tha'labah which according to Traditionists is weak. (volume 2, page 374) Apart from this, he has also cited many sayings of 'weak' commentators, namely Muqatil. Kalbi, 'Atiyyah 'Aufi, etc. But generally he has quoted without comment only those sayings which are not against any Islamic tenet. Hence, they are not of an authentic nature but only a commentator's own statement.

Mawlana Sayyid Yoosuf Binnoree (R'A) wrote in his Yateematu-l-Bayaan Muqaddamah (preface) Mushkilaatu-l-Qur'an, (page 23):

One is, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, about which our teacher ('Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri (R'A)) used to say, "If any book can make one independent of another book, it is Tafsir Ibn kathir which removes the need for Tafsir Ibn Jareer."


Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya (Ibn Kathir).jpg

Al-Jāmi (الجامع) is a grand collection of Hadith texts intended for encyclopedic use. It is an alphabetical listing of the Companions of the Prophet and the sayings that each transmitted, thus reconstructing the chain of authority for each hadith.[5]

Al-Baa'ith al-Hatheeth is an abridgement of the Muqaddimah by Ibn al-Salah in Hadith terminology

At-Takmil fi 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-Kamal and Mizan Al-Ftiddl. He added several benefits regarding the subject of Al-Jarh and At-Ta'dil.

Ibn Kathir wrote references for the Ahadith of Adillat At-Tanbih, from the Shafi'i school of Fiqh.


Ibn Kathir's Al-Bidāya wa-n-nihāya (البداية والنهاية) "the beginning and the end" is one of the best-known works of Islamic historiography. While it covers "universal" history, from the creation of the world until the end of the world and Islamic eschatology. It contained the stories of the Prophets and previous nations, the Prophet's Seerah (life story) and Islamic history until his time. He also added a book Al-Fitan, about the Signs of the Last Hour. Its primary value is in the details of the politics of Ibn Kathir's own day. It has been edited several times, first in Cairo during 1932–1939.

Ibn Kathir also wrote Al-Sira Al-Nabawiyya, about the life of Muhammad and Qisas Al-Anbiya ("Stories of the Prophets") a collection of tales on the various Prophets of Islam and other Old Testament characters.

Tabaqat Ash-Shafi'i yyah .


Al-ijtihād fī ṭalab al-jihād (الاجتهاد في طلب الجهاد), written by commission of the Mamluk governor of Damascus, is a defense of armed jihad and ribat against the neighboring Christian powers (remnants of the crusader states, such as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia) based on the evidence of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.


Al-Hadi was-Sunan ft Ahadith Al-Masanid was-Sunan which is also known by, Jami` Al-Masanid. 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-Nasai and Ibn Majah]. Ibn Kathir divided this book according to areas of Fiqh. Tabaqat Ash-Shafi'iyah (The levels of the Shafi'i scholars) Ibn Kathir began an explanation of Sahih Al-Bukhari, but he did not finish it. He started writing a large volume on the Ahkam (Laws), but finished only up to the Hajj rituals. He also summarized Al-Baihaqi's 'Al-Madkhal. Many of these books were not printed. He also authored a book named Mawlid on celebrating birth anniversary of Holy Prophet.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Was Ibn Kathīr the ‘Spokesperson’ for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 3. 2014-02-01. ISSN 1465-3591. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. 
  2. ^ Halverson, Jeffry R. (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 89. Faraj also made frequent references to the Athari works of Ibn Taymiyyah's student Ibn Kathir... 
  3. ^ Spevack, Aaron (2014). The Archetypal Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of Al-Bajuri. State University of New York Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-4384-5370-5. 
  4. ^ Hamad al-Sanan, Fawziy al-'Anjariy, Ahl al-Sunnah al-Asha'irah, pp.248-258. Dar al-Diya'.
  5. ^ a b c d "Ibn Kathir - Muslim scholar". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  6. ^ a b http://www.arabnews.com/node/219573
  7. ^ "Was Ibn Kathīr the ‘Spokesperson’ for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 3. 2014-02-01. ISSN 1465-3591. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. Jane McAullife remarks that ‘certainly the most famous of Ibn Kathīr’s teachers, and perhaps the one who influenced him the most, was the Ḥanbalī theologian and jurisconsult Ibn Taymiyyah’. 
  8. ^ "Was Ibn Kathīr the ‘Spokesperson’ for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 1. 2014-02-01. ISSN 1465-3591. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. 
  9. ^ a b Ludwig W. Adamec (2009), Historical Dictionary of Islam, p.138. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810861615.
  10. ^ Ad-Durar Al-Kaminah (الدرر الكامنة) by Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani
  11. ^ a b Ibn Kathir I, Le Gassick T (translator), Fareed M (reviewer) (2000). The Life of the Prophet Muhammad : English translation of Ibn Kathir's Al Sira Al Nabawiyya. 
  12. ^ "Was Ibn Kathīr the ‘Spokesperson’ for Ibn Taymiyya? Jonah as a Prophet of Obedience". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 16 (1): 2. 2014-02-01. ISSN 1465-3591. doi:10.3366/jqs.2014.0130. Ibn Qāḍī al-Shuhba concludes mentioning that Ibn Kathīr was buried ‘next to his teacher (shaykhihi) Ibn Taymiyya’. 
  13. ^ Spevack, Aaron (2014-09-09). The Archetypal Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of al-Bajuri. SUNY Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 9781438453712. 
  14. ^ Ibn Kathir, Ismail (2000). Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim. Cairo: Maktabat Awlad al-Shaykh l'il Turath. pp. 6:320. 


  • Norman Calder, 'Tafsir from Tabari to Ibn Kathir, Problems in the description of a genre, illustrated with reference to the story of Abraham', in: G. R. Hawting / Abdul-Kader A. Shareef (eds.): Approaches to the Qur'an, London 1993, pp. 101–140.
  • Jane Dammen-McAuliffe, 'Quranic Hermeneutics, The views of al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir', in: Andrew Rippin (ed.): Approaches to the history of the interpretation of the Qur'an, Oxford 1988, pp.&nbs al hafid ibn kathir is not ash,ai

External links[edit]