Sheikh Al Islam Ahmed ibn Ali Nurudeen ibn Hajar Al Asqalani as-Shafi’i was born and raised in Cairo.
His grandparents settled in Egypt after departing Asqalan in the Land of Palestine in the year 587 AH during the reign of the King Salahuddin Al Ayubi. He was born in the year 773 AH.
His father was Nurudeen Ali and was raised in Kanaf Athara and here he had the opportunity to learn. He was fond of Islamic jurisprudence, literature and poetry. He even produced several Diwans. He was pristine in his intellect and knowledge of God, had religious commitment, leadership and upright ethics. He was known for befriending only the righteous and always exaggerating in his praise of them. Nurredeen had the permission to issue religious edicts as in the recitation of the seven established recitations of the Quran.
But the father died when his son was still four years of age. Regarding this Ibn Hajar said, “He left me when I still had not completed four years of age. Now I think about him like the one who imagines something without experiencing it.” He remembered him saying “my son’s surname is Ahmed Abu Al Fadl” (In old Arab tradition it was a sign of affection for a father to give his son a surname). Soon after his mother also passed away making him an orphan to his father and mother. The pain of being orphaned became stronger with the loss of his mother since he was without a source of gentleness and emotions. His sister (Sit Al Rakbi) as Ibn Hajar put it, “was like my mother after my mother passed.”
His deceased father had put in his will that two men from the most prominent of the men of his time would become his foster fathers. He was admitted into the local Kuttab and memorized the Quran when he was only nine years old. God gifted him with an alert memory, a rare intelligence, and quick recollection. It was even said that he memorized the Chapter of Maryam in only one day. This strong memory helped him later in studying and memorizing Hadeeth.
When his first foster father went to the Hejaz (Western Arabia) and visited Mecca he brought Ibn Hajar with him. Ibn Hajar lead the Taraweeh prayer in Ramadan for it was the custom at the time to allow whom is skilled in the Quranic recitation to lead prayer. He was twelve years old at the time.
After his first foster father died, his second foster father cared for him and instructed him in jurisprudence, language, arts and mathematics. He was given special attention to learn the science of Hadeeth. He committed himself wholly to it for ten years and attended, throughout these years, his Sheikhs Al Balqeeny and Ibn Al Mulaqin.
Ibn Hajar worked on many important tasks relating to the Mamluk government. As such he was made responsible for many political and social matters which found their way into his book (Al Durar Al Kamina fee Ayan Al Mi’aaty Al Thamina).
He became responsible for teaching in the Shaykhukaneeya School. This was a job nobody is given except the great scholars of the empire. He also taught in the Mahmudiya School, the top school of both Egypt and the Levant, for its plentiful libraries, books and manuscripts.
He then took the position to give edicts and become the judge in the Shafi’i Legal School. His works surpassed one hundred and fifty in number but surely the first and greatest to be mentioned is (Fathu Al Baree fee Sharh Al Bukharee). His works are filled with colorful and various segments of Arabic culture. The reader shifts from history to philosophy to wisdom to literature. His works on biographies of past scholars of Hadeeth had been described leaving nobody of importance untouched. Ibn Hajar continued writing and authenticating works until his death (may God be pleased with him) in the year 852 AH.