29 Rajab '44 — Biography

Brief Biography of: al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī (رحمه الله)


His Name and Birth

He is the imām, the hafiz, the faqīh, the great speaker, the muḥaddith and historian: Abū Bakr Aḥmad ibn ʿAlī ibn Thābit ibn Aḥmad ibn Māhdī, who is better known as al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī. He was born in 392 AH.

His Upbringing

His father was the khaṭīb (lecturer) of his village (Baghdād), and this was how al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī acquired his name. His father had high aspirations for his son and set him upon the path that would make him a great scholar. He encouraged his son to begin sitting in the classes of ḥadīth from the age of eleven (in the sitting of ibn Rizqaway) and thus his journey in the pursuit of knowledge began, taking him to Nishapur, Asfahan, Hamadan, Basra, Damascus, Sur, Jerusalem, and the Haramain (Mecca and Madinah) at various points in his life.

His Works

al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī authored over one hundred books on various sciences of the religion, but most of his books were focused on the science of ḥadīth and its men. ibn Ḥajar (رحمه الله) said in his introduction to Sharḥ Nukhbah al-Fikar:

"There is hardly a single discipline among the sciences of ḥadīth in which al-Khaṭīb did not author a treatise."

Then he cited the great muḥaddith ibn Nuqta's praise:

"Whoever gives credit where credit is due knows that all ḥadīth scholars, after al-Khaṭīb, depend on his books."

The book that he is most known for is Taʾrīkh Baghdād (The History of Baghdād). This is a fourteen volume informative insight into the history of Baghdād with an emphasis on its men of knowledge and high esteem. It contains 7831 biographies of which approximately 5000 are of narrators of ḥadīth. It also contains over 4000 ḥadīth of which over half are not found in the six books of ḥadīth (the ḥadīth collections of Bukhārī, Muslim, Abū Dawud, at-Tirmidī, ibn Mājah and al-Nasāʾī), indicating al-Khaṭīb's high reputation in the field of ḥadīth.

ibn Khallikān (رحمه الله) mentions regarding al-Khaṭīb:

"He was a hafiz of exact knowledge and a scholar of profound learning. Had he written but his taʾrīkh, that production would have been sufficient for him due to its vastness of information and yet he has produced nearly one hundred works. His merit is too well known to require description. He was a scholar in fiqh until he became overwhelmed and engrossed with ḥadīth and taʾrīkh."

His Personal Qualities

Despite his vast knowledge, al-Khaṭīb possessed great humility. It is narrated by Abū Nasr Muḥammad ibn Saʽīd al-Muʾaddib on the authority of his father that he said:

"I said to Abū Bakr when I met him, 'Are you al-Hafiz Abū Bakr?' He replied, 'Memorization ended with al-Daraqutni. I am Aḥmad ibn ʿAlī al-Khaṭīb.'"

He had great interest in reading and would read books at excessive rates. He wrote in his Taʾrīkh Baghdād that once when he travelled for Hajj, he read the whole of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī to his sheikh in three sittings. Imām al-Dhahabī states:

"By Allah, this is a kind of reading faster than anyone has heard."

In light of this, it is evident that one with such a quality would not waste time. It is reported that al-Khaṭīb would read whilst walking and he himself narrated regarding multi-tasking that ʿUbaid ibn Ya’ish stated:

"For thirty years I never ate at night with my own hand. My sister would spoon feed me whilst I wrote ḥadīth."

Therefore, it is evident that this is from the manners of the muḥaddithīn. al-Khaṭīb would also not neglect the Qurʾān, giving it its due right through frequent recitation, as evidenced by various reports.

His Death

al-Khaṭīb died in his homeland of Baghdād in the year 463 AH.

ibn al-Najjār (رحمه الله) said:

"At the end of his life he gave away his wealth in charity to those devoted to ḥadīth and fiqh and to the poor. His wealth amounted to approximately two hundred dinars. He also gave away his clothes and left his books as a waqf, a legacy for the Muslims to benefit from."

al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī was known as the hafiz of the east and his contemporary ibn ʿAbd al-Barr was known as the hafiz of the west, and Allāh took their souls away during the same year.

May Allāh have abundunt mercy upon al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, accept the works from him, and may Allāh bless you, and shukran.

Source : Brief contents of the biography is extracted from the book, Traveling in the Pursuit of Knowledge by al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, with minor changes to the original wording.