His name was Ahmad bin Ali bin Thabit bin Ali bin Mahdi, he was given the nickname Abu Bakr but was famously known as Al Khateb Al Baghdadi. His origin was Arab and his father wasn’t from those who excelled in a specific science from the sciences of knowledge. Al Khateb describes his father in his book Tarekhu Baghdad (The History of Baghdad) as being someone who memorized the entire Noble Quran. He mentions,
“He was one of those who memorized the Quran, he read upon Abu Hafs Al Kinanee. He became the Imam and was entrusted with giving the Friday sermon on the minbar for some twenty years. It appears that Al Khateb was given this title due to his father being entrusted with preaching for an extended amount of time, then the title was passed down to him”.
Abu Bakr Al Khateb was born on Thursday in the month Jumadil Akhirah in the year 392h. He was raised in the protection of his father. He instilled in him the essence of knowledge and the Quran, knowledge and attending in the sittings of the scholars became beloved to him. His father encouraged him to listen to hadith while he was eleven years old. He sat in the gathering of Ibn Rizqaway, then he refrained from attending those lessons for a period of three years. It is possible that the reason for this was because he wanted to begin studying Jurisprudence (Fiqh). He sat with Abu Haamid Al Asfirayaan who was a renowned scholar in the Shafi school of thought in Baghdad wherein 700 students used to attend his lesson. Al Khateeb didn’t restrict himself to one scholar such that he because from among the major scholars of jurisprudence in the Shafi school of thought.
Ath-Thahabi said in his book At-Tathkirah (1137/3),
“And he (Al Khateb Al Baghdadi) was from the major scholars of the Shafi school of thought. He acquired his fiqh from Abul Hasan Al Hamili and Al Qadi Abu Tayyib”.
After studying Fiqh, he then inclined towards Hadith until he became engrossed with it just like Ibn Khalkan mentions,
“He (Al Khateb Al Baghdadi) was a scholar in Fiqh until he become overwhelmed and engrossed with Hadith and Tarekh (History).” Al Khateb took a decent portion from every science, he read the Quran and learned numerous recitations in his youth. He also studied Fiqh and it’s Usool until he became from the major scholars in Shafi Fiqh. He studied the sciences. He busied himself with Tarekh (History) specifically the history of traveling. Then he became engrossed and overwhelmed with Hadith and Tarekh (History). He dedicated and devoted all of himself, his time and he became a specialist in these two fields rightfully.”
He had splendid noble manners and was sincere in his actions and the works that he authored. Due to Al Khateb excessive knowledge, he was never amazed at the amount of knowledge he was able to attain, nor was he arrogant. Instead he was humble such that he didn’t approve of lofty names and titles being given to himself such as Hafidh or Muhaddith.
Abu Nasr Muhammad bin Sa’eed Al Muaddib narrated on the authority of his father that he said, “I said to Abu Bakr (Al Khateb Al Baghdadi) when I met him, “Are you Al Hafidh Abu Bakr”. He (Al Khateb Al Baghdadi) replied, “memorization ended with Ad-daruqutni. I am Ahmad bin Ali bin Thabit Al Khateb” At-Tathkirah (1141/3).
He died (May Allah have mercy upon him) after his illness became worse at forenoon on Monday 7th Dhul Hijjah in the year 463h. With his death, a page from the pages of knowledge had been folded with authenticating and authoring. The Muslims had indeed lost a flag from the flags of the scholars of hadith, those whom enriched the Islamic treasures with that which it required and the
Muslims with goodness.
ترجمة الشیخ أبي بكر أحمد بن علي بن ثابت بن أحمد بن مھدي، أشتھر بالخطیب البغدادي مأخوذ من كتاب مختصر نصیحة
(Translation by Ismaeel Beaumont for Markaz-us-Sunnah, Rabi Al Akhir, 1435)