Imām Hāfiz Abul Qāsim Áli Ibn Hasan Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله)

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He was a very pious ‘Alim, who gathered the mutūn (texts of the Ahādith) and the Asānīd (the chains of narrators). He was a master in the analysis of Hadith and he wrote many books, one of which is ‘Tārīkh Dimashq’ in 80 volumes in which he has included some very amazing and rare facts. It is a biography of all the ‘Ulamā who lived in or came to Damascus.

Once my (Ibn Khallikān) Ustādh , Hāfiz Abū Muhammad Al-Munzhirī (رحمه الله), while discussing the book of Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir

(رحمه الله) said: “I am certain that he (Ibn Ásākir) intended compiling this work of his from the time he reached the age of understanding and from that time he must have begun gathering substance for it. Otherwise, life is too short for one to commence such a work after reaching fame.”

Hāfiz Dhahabī (رحمه الله) states that Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله) started his journey for the search of knowledge in the year 520 A.H. He returned to his home in Damascus in the year 533 A.H. He traveled to more than 40 cities and thus he was able to write a book by the name: ‘Al-Arba’īn Al-Buldāniyyah’ which is a collection of 40 Ahādīth on 40 different topics which he narrates from 40 different Ustāds who lived in 40 different cities at that time. Furthermore, each Hadith was reported by a different Sahābī (رحمه الله)! This shows the extent of his travel. The number of his ustāds totals more than 1380!

Hāfiz Abul-‘Alā Al-Hamazhānī (رحمه الله) says: “Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir used to be called a “fire spark” in Baghdad because of his intelligence and sharpness.”

Imām Abul Mawāhib Ibn Sarsarī (رحمه الله) says: “I once asked him if he had seen anyone else like himself? He humbly said: “Do not say such a thing for verily Almighty Allah has said: “And do not

hold yourself as purified.” (Surah Najm) So I said to him: “But Allah has also said: “And mention the bounty of your Lord.” (Surah Duhā)

He then replied: “If anyone claimed that my eye did not see anyone similar to me, he would not be a liar!”

Then Abul Mawāhib said: “And I also say that I didn’t see anyone equal to him nor anyone who had the knowledge he had, including his steadfastness. For 40 years he performed salāh in the first saff except if he had any valid excuse, and he made I’tikaf in Ramadān and the first 10 days of Zhul Hijjah for 40 years!

He also refused to accept any major post despite being fully eligible for it. And he maintained upon himself the quality of enjoining good and forbidding evil.”

Sheikh Abdul-Wahāb Ibnul-Amīn (رحمه الله) says: “I was once walking with Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir and Hāfiz Al-Sam’āni (رحمه الله) in search of knowledge and Mashāyikh (tutors) when we met a certain Shaikh. Hāfiz Sam’āni (رحمه الله) stopped that Shaikh so that he could hear a certain book of Hadith from him. When he searched his bag for that particular book, he could not find it and this saddened him. Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله) asked him which book it was. He replied: “Kitābul Ba’thi Wanushūr of Ibn Abi

Dawūd (رحمه الله).” So Hāfiz Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله) said to him: “Do not fear,” and he then recited the entire book from memory!

Now it may be understood why the scholars praised Hafiz Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله) to such an extent. His Ustādh, Imām Abul Fadl Al-Tusi (رحمه الله) says: “I don’t know of any other person entitled to be called a “Hāfiz” of Hadith. Imām Ibn Najjār (رحمه الله) says: “He was the Imām (leader) of all the Muhaddithīn of his time.”

Imām Nawawi (رحمه الله) describes him as :

” حافظ الشام ، بل حافظ الدنيا “

“The Hāfiz of Syria, nay, the Hāfiz of the entire world!”

May Allah fill his grave with nūr and may He grant him a lofty status in the ākhirah. And may Allah grant us the ability to follow in the footsteps of such ‘Ulamā. Āmīn.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the life of Hafiz Ibn Ásākir (رحمه الله) such as:

Ø his extreme love for knowledge and his steadfastness in acts of worship.

This proves to us that a student of Dīn should also devote his time and effort towards the other acts of worship. This, in fact, brings nūr and barakah into the knowledge and life of such a person.

Imagine only one of this great Imām’s books, namely, ‘Tarīkh Dimashq’, is in 80 volumes. It was recently published. It was prepared and written by him together with his other compilations. Today we are even unable read it!

إذا كان يؤذيك حر المصيف ويبس الخريف و برد الشتا

ويلهيك حسن زمان الربيع فأخذك للعلم قل لي: متي؟!