His name is Ahmad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad ‘Ali Al-Kinaani Al-Asqalaani. His great grandparents lived in Asqalaan where they entered it in the year 583 Hijri. The word Hajar is the name of one of his grandfathers. His Kunya is Abul-Fadl and his Laqab is Shihaabuddin.
This city Asqalaan is found in Palestine in Ghazza. Ibn Hajar was born on the 12th of Sha’baan, 773 Hijri. Ibn Hajar was an orphan. His father who was a great scholar and merchant died in the year 777 Hijri, when Ibn Hajar was only four years old. His mother passed away before that and so he was an orphan from both of his parents. Ibn Hajar had an older brother who was very learned, but died before Ibn Hajar and due to this his father became very upset and saddened. One of the pious people saw a dream and gave glad tidings to Ibn Hajar’s father, and told him that he would be succeeded by a person who would be better than him and have a long life.
Ibn Hajar is regarded as a rarity in our beautiful history, as Shaykh al-Albaanee said, “Ibn Hajar was the strongest of those ‘Ulammaa who had memorised hadith” and so there was no one equal to him with regards to his memorization and his precision.
Ibn Hajar attended a school for the memorization of the Qur’ān when he was five years old, and completed the memorization of the Qur’ān when he was nine years old. He soon lead the people in Taraweeh prayer in Makkah in the year 785 Hijri, when he was only twelve years old.
In the year 786 Hijri, Ibn Hajar moved from Makkah to Egypt where he memorized a number of small summarised books like Al-‘Umda al-hadith and also Al-Haawee which is a book in Shaafi’ee Fiqh and also Mukhtasir Al-Haajib which is a book on Usool-ul-Fiqh and other books including Arabic grammar. Ibn Hajar left seeking knowledge for a short period of time until 790 Hijri, when he returned to learning the different sciences of knowledge. He became very fond of history, especially that which was related to battles and wars and he also acquired a great love for Arabic literature. He was encouraged by such scholars as Al-Badr Al-Bushtaki who encouraged him to read Al-Ghaani, which was one of the greatest books written in Arabic literature. Ibn Hajar was able to recognize the meaning and author of poetry, and even wrote poetry himself. Extensive reading and understanding of literature is very helpful to one who seeks to develop an understanding of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. He also began studying further into the sciences of hadith and Allāh subhanahu wa ta’ala blessed him with the love and desire to learn and memorize the sciences of hadith, which benefited himself and the Ummah greatly.
In 796 Hijri, Ibn Hajar started to turn to knowledge with even more enthusiasm and dedication then before. He stated, “The veil between me and knowledge was removed and the doors were opened for me to learn with great and strong resolve”. He was able to acquire much knowledge and was blessed by Allāh subhanahu wa ta’ala in this regard. He would travel extensively during his days of learning to seek knowledge from the scholars. Amongst the most famous of scholars that he learnt from were Al-Haafidh Al-Iraaqi and Ibn Al-Mulaqqin. He traveled to Alexandria, to Ash-Shaam, Syria, to Egypt and to other places as well, where he would learn and benefit others. Ibn Hajar once travelled to Ash-Shaam when he was 60 years old, and at this time he had already become a major scholar, yet continued his efforts to continue seeking and gaining beneficial knowledge.
Ibn Hajar was asked to take a position teaching the different Islāmic Sciences such as Tafseer, Kiraa-aat (recitations) etc. He was also granted the position of Mufti, he was a judge, and khateeb on the days of Jumu’ah. In those times, such positions were only given to the well-respected scholars.
Ibn Hajar had more than eight hundred teachers, and authored a book discussing his various teachers. He also had such an extensive number of students that some who benefited from him later sent their sons who also became students of Ibn Hajar. So both a father and son would take pride in having learned from Ibn Hajar, owing to the rank that Ibn Hajar held in his lifetime.
Ibn Hajar was well known for his piety and his being detached from worldly possessions (Zuhud). Al Buqaa’ee mentioned that Ibn Hajar would fast continuously and eat very little.
The scholars of Islām gave Ibn Hajar precedence and honored him. Al-Buqaa’ee said about him that he is the leader of the people and the imam of the Muslims. Ash-Shawkaanee said about him, that he is the great famous haafidh well knowledgeable about hadith. Ibn-Hajar reached such a rank that if the word al-Haafith is used alone, it is known to be in reference to him.
Another scholar said about him, that he was one of the great scholars our past, he was the Leader of The Believers in regards to hadith, and he was the most knowledgeable scholar of his time. His great book Fath Al-Bari, is known as a dictionary of the Sunnah, rather it is a dictionary of all the Islāmic Sciences, quenching the thirst of all seekers of knowledge.
Fath Al-Bari is Ibn Hajar’s most famous book, he also wrote books concerning the narrators mentioned in the six books (Kutub-us-Sitta). He has books in all the various Islāmic Sciences such as Hadith, Tafseer, Uloom-ul-Qur’ān. On Tuesday 14th of Dhul-Hijjah the year 852 Hijri, he became ill, such that Saturday 18th of the same month, he passed away in Cairo (may Allāh have mercy on his soul).