Ibn Kathir is the highly influential Sunni Scholar of the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence. He was an expert in tafsir, fiqh, and history. He was born in a village east of Damascus, Syria called Busra in the year 701 Hijri and died in Damascus in 774 Hijri. His full name was Abul-Fidaa Ismail Abu Omar Ibn Kathir with an honorary title of ‘Imad Ad-din (pillar of faith).
A number of reasons influenced our choice of reviewing Tafsir Ibn Kathir rather than other famous books of tafsir.
First: it is the most widely circulated book of tafsir since it was completed by Ibn Kathir who was and is universally respected and acknowledged for his various contributions.
Second: it has been translated into many languages particularly for English readers.
Third: it is directly linked to the hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and narrations from the Sahaba (companions) of the Prophet. Tafsir Ibn Kathir is considered to be a summary of the earlier tafsir by At-Tabbari, which is also popular because At-Tabbari uses hadith to explain each verse and each chapter of the Quran. This undoubtedly provides authenticity to his work.
Fourth: it is written in simple language rather than the complex, poetic, Arabic language – as noted in a famous Arab proverb: “The explanation requires an explanation.”
Fifth: in many Muslim educational institutions, like universities, colleges, and schools, Tafsir Ibn Kathir is used as the main text of tafsir. It is regarded as a book of authentic knowledge. There is also an abridged (mokhtasar) form of Ibn Kathir’s work which is recommended to be used as an easy reference for study circles, classes, and seekers of knowledge.
Sixth: it is easily accessible because it is available in print form and can be downloaded online for free.
Seventh: this tafsir is also supported by three major works of Ibn Kathir himself, namely: A Book in History (Al-Bidaya Wan-Nihaya), The Stories of the Prophet (Qassas Al-Anbiya), and The Signs of the Day of Judgement (‘Alamat As-Sa’a).
Generally speaking, we recommend seekers of knowledge to study at least one version of the various tafsirs available. This is important because the tafsir of the Qur’an provides a basis to understanding the Qur’an which is the foundation of Islamic principles, jurisprudence, and belief.