|Born||c. 1300 / 701 H|
|Died||18 February 1373 / 774 H|
Damascus, Mamluk Sultanate, (Present-day Syria)
|Era||Bahri Mamluk Sultanate |
|Notable work(s)||- Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿaẓīm (Tafsir Ibn Kathir), a Quranic exegesis;|
- Al-Bidāya wan Nihāya ("The Beginning and the End"), a 14-volume history of Islam;
- Kitāb al-jāmiʿ, a hadith collection.
|Patronymic (Nasab)||ibn ʿUmar ibn Kaṯīr |
بن عمر بن كثير
|Teknonymic (Kunya)||Abū l-Fidāʾ|
|Epithet (Laqab)||ʿImād ud-Dīn|
"pillar of the faith"
Abū al-Fiḍā’ ‘Imād ad-Dīn Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Umar ibn Kathīr al-Qurashī al-Damishqī (Arabic: إسماعيل بن عمر بن كثير القرشي الدمشقي أبو الفداء عماد; c. 1300 – 1373), known as Ibn Kathīr (ابن كثير, was a highly influential Arab historian, exegete and scholar during the Mamluk era in Syria. An expert on tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and fiqh (jurisprudence), he wrote several books, including a fourteen-volume universal history titled Al-Bidaya wa'l-Nihaya.
His tafsir is recognized for its critical approach to Israʼiliyyat, especially among Western Muslims and Wahhabi scholars. His methodology largely derives from his teacher Ibn Taymiyyah, and differs from that of other earlier renowned exegetes such as Tabari. For that reason, he is mostly considered an Athari, despite being a Shafi'i jurist.
His full name was Abū l-Fidāʾ Ismāʿīl ibn ʿUmar ibn Kaṯīr (أبو الفداء إسماعيل بن عمر بن كثير) and had the laqab (epithet) of ʿImād ad-Dīn (عماد الدين "pillar of the faith"). His family trace its lineage back to the tribe of Quraysh. He was born in Mijdal, a village on the outskirts of the city of Busra, in the east of Damascus, Syria, around about AH 701 (AD 1300/1). 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.
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 hometown of his father-in-law. In 1366, he rose to a professorial position at the Great Mosque of Damascus.
In later life, he became blind. 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.
Further information: Ahl al-Hadith and Zubayr_ibn_al-Awwam § Hadith_&_Legals
The records from modern researchers such as Taha Jabir Alalwani, Yazid Abdu al Qadir al-Jawas, and Barbara Stowasser has demonstrated important similarities between Ibn Kathir and his influential master Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, such as rejecting logical exegesis of Qur'an, advocating a militant jihad and adhering to the renewal of one singular Islamic ummah. Furthermore, these scholars assert that like Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir is to be categorised as an anti-rationalistic, traditionalistic and hadith oriented scholar. According to Jane McAuliffe in regards of Qur'anic exegesis, Ibn Kathir uses methods contrary to former Sunni scholars, and followed largely the methodology of Ibn Taymiyyah. Barbara Freyer contends that this anti-rationalistic, traditionalistic and hadith oriented approaches held by Ibn Kathir were shared not only by Ibn Taymiyyah, but also by Ibn Hazm, Bukhari independent Madhhab, and also scholars from Jariri, and Zahiri Maddhabs. According to Christian Lange, although he was a Shafi, he was closely aligned with Damascene Hanbalism.: 86 David L. Johnston described him as "the traditionist and Ash'arite Ibn Kathir".
Taha Jabir Alalwani, Professor and President of Cordoba University in Ashburn, Virginia maintains that these traditionalistic views of Ibn Kathir claimed by Salafists were rooted further to the generation of Sahaba Salaf, where Zubayr ibn al-Awwam, one of The ten to whom Paradise was promised also taught this view. Contemporary researchers notes that these anti rationalistic, anti Ash'arite methods of Ibn Kathir shared with his teacher Ibn Taimiyyah; were proven in his tafseer regarding the Day of Resurrection and Hypocrisy in Qur'an.
Ibn Kathir states:
"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" Rather this affair is like what the Grand Shaykh of Imam Bukhari Shaykh Naeem ibn Hamaad Khazaa'i said "Whosoever likens Allah to his Creation has done Kufr (disbelieved) and whosoever negates what Allah describes Himself with has also done Kufr (Disbelieved) There is nothing with what Allah describes Himself with nor his Prophet describes Allah with from likening Allah to his Creation (tashbeeh). Whosoever affirms for Allah what has reached Us from the Truthful Ayahs (verses) and Correct Hadeeth (Prophetic narrations) on the way that is befitting the Majesty of Allah while negating from Allah all defects indeed He has traveled the way of guidance." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir 7:54)
These words from Ibn Kathir were argued by Athari scholarship as proof of Ibn Kathir not being Ash'arite. According to Salafi Muslims, since Ibn Kathir does not use logical rationale to reject anthropomorphism, he believed the attributes of God cannot be likened to creatures, while simultaneously affirming the verses and hadith about God's Atttributes such as residence above His Throne and His Exaltation above all creatures.: 205–207 Salafis rebut Ash'arite claims as Formal fallacy regarding Ibn Kathir tafsir, and other claims such as four madhhab schools as supporting Ash'ari and Maturidites are fabrications. For this, they employ the reports from Ahmad ibn Hanbal who rejected the views of those who were allegedly deemed as proto Asharites and Maturidites, the Mutakallim, and deems them as not in Ahl as Sunnah teaching.: 43 According to Livnat Holtzman, historically the school of Ahl al-Hadith championed by none other than Ibn Kathir's master, Ibn Taymiyyah, had successfully crushed the interrogation and accusation from Ash'arite rational (Kalam) argumentations during the 13th AD century. while modern scholars such as Marzuq at Tarifi, and Sa'id Musfir al-Qahtani further posited that Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari, the eponym of Asharite school, himself was not fond of his "Asharite followers" and pointed out on his book, al-ibāna, that Abu al Hasan was teaching the method similar to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir, and rejected the Ahl al Kalam and Maturidites such as Al-Razi.
In summary, Jon Hoover outlined that Ibn Kathir stance according to scholars were orthodox traditionists and rejected the view of Mutakallims, just like the view of Salafi Muslims and their predecessor Ahl al-Hadith school.
See also: Ash'ari and Ahl al-Ra'y
In the modern times, Ibn Kathir's creed have sometimes been raised as a subject of disagreement between the Ash'arites, successor of Ahl al-Ra'y rationalist school and the Salafis, theorized by Jon Hoover as successor of Ahl al-Hadith traditionist school. Some Ash'arite theologians have claimed Ibn Kathir as an Ash'ari, pointing out some of his beliefs and sayings reported from his works, and to the fact that:
Main article: Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Ibn Kathir wrote a famous commentary on the Qur'an named Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm better known as Tafsir Ibn Kathir which linked certain Hadith, or sayings of Muhammad, and sayings of the sahaba to verses of the Qur'an, in explanation and avoided the use of Isra'iliyyats. Many Sunni Muslims hold his commentary as the best after Tafsir al-Tabari and Tafsir al-Qurtubi and it is highly regarded especially among Salafi school of thought. Although Ibn Kathir claimed to rely on at-Tabari, he introduced new methods and differs in content, in attempt to clear Islam from that he evaluates as Isra'iliyyat. His suspicion on Isra'iliyyat possibly derived from Ibn Taimiyya's influence, who discounted much of the exegetical tradition since then.
His Tafsir has gained widespread popularity in modern times, especially among Western Muslims, probably due to his straightforward approach, but also due to lack of alternative translations of traditional tafsirs. Ibn Kathir's Tafsir work has played major impact in the contemporary movements of Islamic reform. Salafi reformer Jamal al-Din Qasimi's Qurʾānic exegsis Maḥāsin al-taʾwīl was greatly influenced by Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Kathīr, which is evident from its emphasis on ḥadīth, Scripturalist approaches, the rejection of Isrāʾīliyyāt, and a polemical attitudes against the Ahl al-raʾy. From the 1920s onwards, Wahhabi scholars also contributed immensely to popularisation of ḥadīth-oriented hermeneutics and exegeses, such as Ibn Kathīr's and al-Baghawī’s Qurʾān commentaries and Ibn Taymiyya’s al-Muqaddima fī uṣūl al-tafsīr, through printing press. The Wahhābī promotion of Ibn Taymiyya’s and Ibn Kathīr’s works through print publishing during the early twentieth century emerged instrumental in making these two scholars popular in the contemporary period and imparted a robust impact on modern exegetical works.
Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAẓīm is controversial in western academic circles. Henri Laoust regards it primary as a philological work and "very elementary". Norman Calder describes it as narrow-minded, dogmatic, and skeptical against the intellectual achievements of former exegetes. His concern is limited to rate the Quran by the corpus of Hadith and is the first, who flatly rates Jewish sources as unreliable, while simultaneously using them, just as prophetic hadith, selectively to support his prefabricated opinion. Otherwise, Jane Dammen McAuliffe regards this tafsir as "deliberately and carefully selected, whose interpretation is unique to his own judgment to preserve, that he regards as best among his traditions."
the methodology proposed by Ibn Taymiyya (d.728/1328) and adopted by Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373), which ultimately resulted in the dismissal of philology in favour of hadith and of the doctrines of Sunnī traditionalism.
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IBN KATHIR, 'IMAD AL-DIN ISMA'IL IBN 'UMAR (AD 1300–73)... His reliance is totally upon hadith material; the era of Ibn Kathir, in fact, marks the triumph of traditionalism over the powers of rationalism.
Born in Bosra in 1300, Ibn Kathīr was a historian and traditionalist of Mamlūk, Syria.
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Philips is a follower of traditional literalist interpretation of the Qur'ān.... This is a basic and conservative method of interpreting the Qur'ān, which is used by traditionalist Muslim scholars such as Ibn Kathīr (d.1373)...
Ibn Kathir is a scholar of Ahl al-Sunna who was of the Shafi'i school (according to the first volume of his main work, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, 1.2), while Ibn Taymiya was a scholar whose fiqh remained in the general framework of the Hanbali school.
Ibn Kathīr is often portrayed as the "spokesperson" for Ibn Taymiyya, one who promoted his work and implemented his theories. Ibn Kathīr is more accurately described as a Shāfi'ī traditionalists or a group of Shāfiʻī ḥadīth scholars who maintained a traditionalist creed.
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'.
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Ibn Qāḍī al-Shuhba concludes mentioning that Ibn Kathīr was buried 'next to his teacher (shaykhihi) Ibn Taymiyya'.
The traditionist and Ash'arite Ibn Kathir...
الإمام الحافظ المفسر أبو الفداء إسماعيل بن كثير رحمه الله تعالى، صاحب التفسير العظيم والبداية والنهاية وغيرها، فقد نُـقِـلَ عنه أنه صَـرَّحَ بأنه أشعري كما في الدرر الكامنة 1/58، والدارس في تاريخ المدارس للنعيمي 2/89، أضف إلى ذلك أنه ولي مشيخة دار الحديث الأشرفية التي كان شرط واقفها أن لا يلي مشيختها إلا أشعري، وزدْ عليه ما في تفسيره من التنزيه والتقديس والتشديد على من يقول بظواهر المتشابه كما مـرَّ من قوله عند تفسيره لقوله تعالى من سـورة الأعراف ( ثمّ استوي على العرش ) (تفسيره 2/220) إلى غير ذلك من الأمثلة الظاهرة الجلية في كونه من أهل السنة الأشاعـرة.
ومن نوادره أنه وقع بينه وبين عماد الدين بن كثير منازعة في تدريس الناس، فقال له ابن كثير: أنت تكرهني لأنني أشعري، فقال له: لو كان من رأسك إلى قدمك شعر ما صدقك الناس في قولك إنك أشعري، وشيخك ابن تيمية.
More conservative forms of revivalism continued to flourish.. for instance, al-Qāsimī's above mentioned extensive Qurʾān commentary Maḥāsin al-taʾwīl is influenced by scripturalist ideas and places great emphasis on ḥadīth.... The methodology of this commentary owes much to Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Kathīr, which is evident from its focus on ḥadīth, the rejection of isrāʾīliyyāt, and a polemical attitude against the so-called ahl al-raʾy,..
.. from the 1920s onwards invested in printing activities and contributed massively to the popularization of what the Saudi scholars considered to be legitimate, i.e. ḥadīth-based hermeneutics and exegesis, for example Ibn Kathīr's and al-Baghawī's Qurʾān commentaries and Ibn Taymiyya's al-Muqaddima fī uṣūl al-tafsīr. The Wahhābī promotion of Ibn Taymiyya's and Ibn Kathīr's works—especially by publishing them in print in the early twentieth century—was instrumental in making these two authors popular in the contemporary period and had a strong impact on modern exegetical activities.