Also frequently referred to by his family name of Ibn al- ‘Adīm, Kamāl al-Dīn ‘Umar ibn Ahmad was a teacher, historian, and statesman.
Born in Aleppo into a celebrated family, which had supplied qadis (judges) to the city for several generations, Kamāl al-Dīn studied jurisprudence in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Damascus, and the Hijaz as well as in his home town. At the age of twenty-eight he became director of one of Aleppo’s madrasas (religious colleges). Ten years later he undertook the first of several diplomatic missions for the Ayyûbid rulers of the city. In 1237 he took a position at the Hallawiyya, a leading madrasa in Aleppo, then in 1250 he accompanied the Ayyûbid sultan al-Nāsir Yûsuf II (d. 1260) to Damascus, which had passed into the latter’s possession. When Aleppo was sacked by the Mongols in 1260, he fled to Palestine and eventually to Cairo. The Mongol Ilkhan Hülegü invited him to return to Syria as chief qādī, and he did indeed go to Aleppo after the Mongol withdrawal. However, the city was in ruins, so he soon returned to Cairo, where he died.
Kamāl al-Dīn is credited with a number of works, of which the best known are a chronicle of Aleppo, Zubdat al- Halab min Ta’rikh Halab ( The Crème de la Crème of the History of Aleppo), and a biographical dictionary, Bughyat al- Talab fi Ta’rikh Halab (The Object of Desire in the History of Aleppo).