work at hand in its original Arabic is, in a sense, the product of two minds:the author himself, Abn d--Fi$a' qmad al-Din Isma'il b. Wmar h. Kathir,' and,to a lesser extent, its editor, Mugaf~Abd d-W&id. In his introduction to theArabic, 'Ahd al-Wshid points out that this work is in fact the culmination of asearch for a biography of the Prophet Muhammad to which Ibn Kathir makesreferenceinhis celebrated exegesis of the Qur'm. There is, however, no extantcopy of any such independent biographical study traceable to Ibn Kathir. Thatsuch a study did exist is questionable, notwithstanding Ibn Kathir's own allusionthereto. Given the unavailability of this particular work, 'Abd al-Wahid offersthe theory that the biographyin question is none other than that which appears
Ihn Kathir's chief work, his opus on history, the
Heargues that the
section of the latter work is so comprehensive in its analysisof the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad as to almost obviate the need forany independent study of the same topic. The biography at hand, therefore,
found in the
Nevertheless, 'Ahd al-W*id must
commendedfor the not inconsiderable task of editing and publishing this particular section asan independent unit, and appropriately titlimg it
al-Sira al-Nabamiyya li IbnKathir.
Ibn Kathir, whose ancestors are said to have been from Iraq, was himselfborn around the year
in the Boesra district of easternDamascus. He died 74 years later, shortly after suffering a total loss of vision.He counts as his tutors such illustrious personages as the eminent historianShams &Din al-Dhahahi, the Mdiki jurist Abn Mass al-Qarnfi, and the cele-brated Damascene polemicist and jurist Ibn Taymiyya al-Harrmi.Ibn Kathir's was an era of the great political and social upheavals that posedmany challenges to the Muslim world at large, and in particular, to its scholars.What with the scourge of the Tartars threatening the very existence of Islam
asocio-political entity from the outside and the sectarian and ethnic strife createdby the Mamluk revolution doing much the same from within, Ibn Kathir and his
Karhir's Tafdr al-Qu+& al-CA@m.
Unpublished dissertation. (Ann Arbor:University of Michigan, 1989) (21), classical bibliographers have cited Ibn Kathir's name in morethan one way. Al-Dhahabi for instance,
the supplement to his bibliography,
Dhayl Tadhkirat al-Huff&,
gives Ibn Kathir's name
IsmnW b. Umar
Kathir b. Daw
Otherversions have ken
(1: 320) and 'Umar Rid%Kahhnla's
(1: 28).2. According to
Brockelman in his
ii. 49, this historicalwork of Ibn Kathir is itself based on at-Bimli's chronicle. For more information see also, IbnHadjar at-Asqahi,
(Cod. Vienna, no. 1172).