When he died in February 1449, Ibn Hajar (1372-1449) ended a life of surprising contradictions. Six days short of his 78th birthday, his body was laid to rest in the tomb of his ancestors; and the lavish funeral of this orphaned son of a cloth merchant was attended by over 50,000 people, including religious leaders, military and government officials and even the Sultan of the Mamluk Empire. Who was the boy who rose from obscurity to become one of Egypt's most celebrated thinkers and prolific scholars of hadith, and who for 25 years as Shafi'i judge occupied the most powerful judicial position in the Empire? R Kevin Jaques describes the formative events in Ibn Hajar's life, from the early death of his parents and fostering to his preoccupations as student, teacher and author; his marriages; his survival of plague, civil war and foreign invasion; and his strategies for surviving and negotiating the fevered politics of the late Mamluk period.Discussing the most widely read of his subject's works, the author explains how Ibn Hajar creatively drew together the theories of preceding centuries of Islamic scholarship in order to develop a political and theological solution to the problems of his own time - one that has guaranteed his fame as an enduring and still inspiring spiritual authority.
R. Kevin Jaques is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Indiana University, and the author of Authority, Conflict and the Transmission of Diversity in Medieval Islamic Law (2006).