‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir (1105–1176) was one of the most renowned experts on Hadith and Islamic history in the medieval era. His was a tumultuous time: centuries of Shi‘i rule had not long ended in central Syria, rival warlords sought control of the capital, and Crusaders had captured Jerusalem.
Seeking the unification of Syria and Egypt, and the revival of Sunnism in both, Ibn ‘Asakir served successive Muslim rulers, including Nur al-Din and Saladin, and produced propaganda against both the Christian invaders and the Shi‘is. This, together with his influential writings and his advocacy of major texts, helped to lay the foundations for the eventual Sunni domination of the Levant – a domination which continues to this day.
‘Hyperbole notwithstanding, to understand the Levant’s sense of self and perception of history, one should look no further than Ibn ‘Asakir, whose intellectual efforts rehabilitated the past to canonise a blessed Sunni and Crusader-free Bilad al-Sham. Suleiman Mourad garners his intimate knowledge of the scholar, his numerous and voluminous works, and the contemporary intellectual and political context to expose the significance and extent of the phenomenon of Ibn ‘Asakir through to the end of twentieth century in the Syrian Republic.’
– Dana Sajdi, Associate Professor of History, Boston College