His Name & Birth:
He is ʿAlī ibn ʿAqīl ibn Muḥammad ibn ʿAqīl al-Baghdādī al-Ḥanbalī, and is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of Islām. He was born in the year 431 AH, corresponding to 1039 CE.
His family members from his father’s side were all writers, chancery secretaries, poets, and humanists. As with many noble scholars of Islām, ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī began his quest for sacred knowledge at a very early stage in his life; he began to study law at the age of 15.
He was born into a Ḥanafī family. Following the traditions of his family, he initially studied under the instructions of a Ḥanafī jurist, known only as Abū ʾAmr al-Faqīh. ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī studied Ḥanafī law for about a year before he transferred to the study of Ḥanbalī law. He studied Ḥanbalī law under the instruction of al-Qāḍī Abū Yaʾlā (d. 458/1066), the chief of the Ḥanbalī law school of his era. This continued until his mentor and master passed away, both of them came from Ḥanafī families and it was probably al-Qāḍī Abū Yaʾlā’s influence that caused ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī to change his law school.
His Character & Personality:
Biographers of the past and present have praised ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī’s intelligence and his contributions towards Islāmic scholarship. ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 856/1452) said: “This man was from amongst the greatest of scholars. Yes, he was (temporarily) a Muʿtazilī, but he openly repented from having such beliefs, so his repentance is accepted. He went on to author works refuting the Muʿtazīlah. The scholars of his era and those after them praised ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī.“
Another scholar, as-Silafī, regarding ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī said: “My eyes have not witnessed anyone similar to him. No one was able to speak (i.e. argue) with him because of his immense knowledge, eloquence, appropriateness of his inclusions, and the strength of his arguments.“
Out of the many books he authored during his pursuit of knowledge, his most famous work was the overwhelmingy voluminous Kitāb al-Funūn (Book of Sciences), an encyclopaedia of information dealing with Islāmic scholarship and a large variety of subjects, fields, and specialties within the religion. This work is said to have included between 200 and 800 volumes, all but one of which have been lost, making it the largest produced work within Islāmic literature, & possibly in history, an opinion that Imām adh-Dhahabī holds. It is speculated that he wrote in detail discussing every science present within Islāmic studies.
The biographers generally agree that ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī passed away in the year 513 AH, corresponding to 1119 CE in Baghdād. His funeral was attended by a multitude of people.
May Allāh pardon & have mercy upon ibn ʿAqīl al-Ḥanbalī, & reward him for his great contributions to the religion of Islām.
[Extracted from Fuṣūl al-Adab, Dār al-Arqam Print with minor changes added, except for the 4th section]
Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
19th of Rabīʿ al-ʾAwwal 1443