Bio: Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari

Bio: Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari

Ibn `Asakir al-Dimashqi al-Shafi`i al-Ash`ari

b. 499 – d. 571 in Damascus
radiya Allah anhu

The famous historian and greatest hadith scholar of his time. He travelled and heard hadith from over 1000 narrators. Authored several encyclopedic works, among them Tarikh Dimashq.


By Dr. G.F. Haddad

`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.

Ibn al-Najjar said: “He is the imam of hadith scholars in his time and the chief leader in memorization, meticulous verification, thorough knowledge in the sciences of hadith, trustworthiness, nobility, and excellence in writing and beautiful recitation. He is the seal of this science.”

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. Two of his uncles and one of his brothers were successively in charge of the head judgeship in Damascus, Abu al-Ma`ali Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn `Ali al-Qurashi (d. 537), Abu al-Makarim Sultan ibn Yahya (d. 530), and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan.

By the time Ibn `Asakir reached puberty he already possessed hadith certifications from the scholars of Damascus, Baghdad, and Khurasan. 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. He shunned all kinds of material possessions and turned down the office of head preacher, concentrating on teaching, writing, and worshipping. 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 was buried at the Bab al-Saghir cemetary, next to his father, near the grave of the Caliph Mu`awiya ibn Abi Sufyan.

Ibn `Asakir authored over a hundred books and epistles and narrated under five hundred hadith lessons. Among his larger works:

  1. Tarikh Dimasqh in eighty volumes.1 Ibn Khallikan said that it contains, like al-Tabari’s Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk, several books that can be read independently.
  2. Al-Muwafaqat `ala Shuyukh al-A’imma al-Thiqat in seventy-two volumes.
  3. `Awali Malik ibn Anas and its Dhayl in fifty volumes.
  4. Ghara’ib Malik in ten volumes.
  5. Al-Mu`jam listing only the names of his shaykhs, in twelve volumes.
  6. Manaqib al-Shubban in fifteen volumes.
  7. Books of “Immense Merits”: Fada’il Ashab al-Hadith in eleven volumes, Fadl al-Jumu`a, Fadl Quraysh, Fada’il al-Siddiq, Fada’il Makka, Fada’il al-Madina, Fada’il Bayt al-Muqaddas, Fada’il `Ashura’, Fada’il al-Muharram, Fada’il Sha`ban.
  8. Al-Ishraf `ala Ma`rifa al-Atraf.
  9. Akhbar al-Awza`i.
  10. Al-Musalsalat.
  11. Al-Suba`iyyat in seven volumes, listing narrations with chains containing only seven narrators up to the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him –.
  12. Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari Fima Nusiba ila Abi al-Hasan al-Ash`ari, a defense of al-Ash`ari and his school which he divided into the following sections:
    a) Genealogy of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari
    b) Prophetic hadiths that pertain to him
    c) Al-Ash`ari’s renown for knowledge
    d) His renown for piety and worship
    e) His struggle against innovations and their proponents
    f) Dreams that indicate his high standing
    g) Five generations of his students [2] h) Those who attacked al-Ash`ari and his students

    He concluded the book with the following lines of poetry:I have chosen a doctrine that in no way resembles innovation But which successors faithfully took from predecessors. Those who are impartial declare my doctrine sound While those who criticize it have abandoned impartiality.

  13. Yawm al-Mazid in three volumes.
  14. Bayan al-Wahm wa al-Takhlit fi Hadith al-Atit (“The Exposition of Error and Confusion in the Narration of the [Throne’s] Groaning”).[3]
  15. Arba`un Hadithan fi al-Jihad.
  16. Arba`un Hadithan `an Arba`ina Shaykhan min Arba`ina Madina.


Ibn `Asakir defined hadith in the following verse of poetry:

It explains the Book, and the Prophet only spoke on behalf of His Lord.

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.

Ibn al-Subki relates that the hadith master al-Mundhiri asked his shaykh Abu al-Hasan `Ali ibn al-Mufaddal al-Maqdisi: “Which of these four contemporary hadith masters is the greatest?” He said: “Name them.” Al-Mundhiri said: “Ibn `Asakir and Ibn Nasir?” He replied: “Ibn `Asakir.” Al-Mundhiri went on: “Ibn `Asakir and Abu al-`Ala’ [al-Hasan ibn Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hamadhani]?” He said: “Ibn `Asakir.” Al-Mundhiri went on: “Ibn `Asakir and al-Silafi?” Al-Maqdisi said: “Al-Silafi (is) our shaykh. Al-Silafi (is) our shaykh.”[4]

Ibn Sasra narrated: “I used to rehearse with him the names of the masters he had met. One day I said to him: ‘I believe that our master never saw anyone like himself?’ He replied: ‘Do not say that. Allah said: {Therefore justify not yourselves} (53:32).’ I replied: ‘He also said: {Therefore of the bounty of your Lord be your discourse} (93:11).’ He replied: ‘In that case yes, if someone were to say that my eyes never saw my like, he would be correct.'” Al-Khatib Abu al-Fadl ibn Abi Nasr al-Tusi said: “We do not know anyone who truly deserves the title of hadith master in our time other than him.” 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.”

Main sources: al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 15:254-262 #5129; Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 7:215-223 #918.

[1] Dar al-Fikr in Damascus has published seventy of them to date in mid-1999.
[2] Translated at
[3] See section entitled The “Groaning of the Throne” (p. 248).
[4] This could mean either that he considered al-Silafi the greater master, or that he implicitly admitted Ibn `Asakir’s superiority but expressed it in terms of the student’s requisite adab with his teacher. Ibn al-Subki noted that Ibn al-Sam`ani was superior to all of them except Ibn `Asakir, but that he was in far-off Merv, whereas the rest were in or near Egypt and Sham.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions.

copyright As-Sunna Foundation of America




تاريخ مدينة دمشق
Online database


Burial Place

Buried in Bab Saghir in an enclosure opposite the entrance to the burial place of Sayyiduna Mu`awiya (radyaAllah ‘anhu).


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