by Dr. William Hanna
He was the genius and philosopher of his time. Aside from his duty as priest of Al Mu'allaqah (the Hanging Church in Cairo, Egypt,) he was one of the most acknowledged scientists and philosophers of the fourteenth century.
From childhood, Ibn Kabar was raised in an age where many Coptic scholars flourished in the areas of science, philosophy, and theology. Some said he was a physician who possessed intricate knowledge of diseases and their cures. His knowledge of the chemicals and ingredients that are used in the mixing of the Holy Myroun (Holy Oil) is proof of his medical knowledge. In addition, he knew detailed names and compositions of various herbs and medicine, as evidenced in his book, The Great Ladder.
Ibn Kabar received his preliminary education in Coptic elementary schools known as "katateeb" during that period of history. After his education, he joined the civil service and earned several promotions upwards through the ranks of the government until he became a scribe in the service of the Prince of Egypt. Throughout his service, he dedicated himself to the study of civil sciences, religion, and linguistics. He also study ancient church books in detail with the assistance of the Coptic Patriarchate, and particularly, Pope Yoannes VIII, the 80th Patriarch of Alexandria. Through his close ties with the Coptic patriarchs, he continued his education.
His Calling by the Lord
In 1283 A.D., after King Khalil Ibn Almalek Mansour Qualoon banned Copts from his administration, Coptic scribes were removed from the services of the rulers of Egypt. Ibn Kabar retired from government service and dedicated himself wholly to the study of religion, theology, philosophy, and history.
In 1300 AD (1016 Martyrs) “Arakhinaat alshaab” (the heads of the congregation) agreed to nominate him to become priest on the hanging Church. The hanging Church was the Cathedral for the Patriarchate in Cairo during that time. He was over thirty years of age at that time. He gave his first sermon after his elevation to the priesthood in the presence of Pope Yoanness the 8 th at the monastery of Shahraan (an old monastery outside Cairo) in 1300 AD (1016 Martyrs).
He flourished during the period in which many Copts were known for their knowledge in specific subjects or topics. He increased above all of them by being knowledgeable in a diversity of subjects and topics. He filled the gaps in many fields through his writings. He was not only fluent in both Coptic and Arabic, but he also excelled in Greek, Hebrew, Syrian (Aramic) and he also exceeded them in his knowledge of the rituals and beliefs of the Church and his great knowledge was recognized by Egyptian historians Coptic and Muslim alike. Family: History did not record in detail the lineage of this family except that we know from the little known about his father “elsheikh el-akmal el assaad” (the elder, the perfect, the joyful) that he was a philosopher that comes from a highly regarded family. He was not poor, but most likely well to do. He lived in what is now known as old Cairo in a large house he owned on a “daarb” small street that carried the family’s name. His neighbors were the most highly regarded people of his time like the head of the Jewish congregation, the governor of Guiza sharaaf eldeen ibn algossaqui, and the Judge taag eldeen abdelreheem elsanhoury who was in charge of the offices of the ruler “sultaan masr” of Egypt.
We do not know about his children except about abu albarkaat ibn Kabar who is mentioned in two ancient hand written documents still kept in the eastern documents library of St. Joseph College in Beirut, Lebanon. They are both mentioned in the large Index of the library.
Patriarchs of His Time
He lived during the times of: Pope Youanness 7th (78 Pope, 12711293 AD); Theodosus 2 nd (79 th Pope, 1294-1300 AD); Pope Youanness 8 th (80 th Pope, 13001320 AD); and Youanness 9 th (81 st Pope, 1320-1327).
The elder, the sun of leaders Ibn Kabar wrote an encyclopedia of knowledge in Church Sciences, Coptic Language, Religious-Christian Philosophy. This made him remembered forever more and made him a leader of all reformers and he did not waste his pen on worldly writings that could have been of financial profit but instead concentrated on what benefits the public (Church) service. His last writing was dated 1320 AD. Some of his most famous writings are:
The Lamp that Light the Darkness
In Clarifying the Service The book is a Church encyclopedia in 24 Parts, and many appendices and some other Parts about the Christian Faith, the acts of the Apostles, and we were able to find a copy of it in the Library of the Patriachate dated as late as 1684 AD (1400 Martys) and has an indication that it was read by Mr. Hanna-llah Ghattasswho was known to be in charge of the civil services of the ruler “Gawaalee” in 1714 AD (1430 Martyrs). This book was also made into a trust on the Church of St. George in “Kasser al Shamaa” (The Candles Palace) in 1744 AD (1460 Martyrs) and another copy without a date was found in the same Church. A copy was found in the library of the well-known scientist Girgis Philothaaous Awad dated 1343 AD (1059 Martyrs). An older copy was found in the Vatican library dated 1333 AD (1049 Martyrs). There are other copies in libraries of different monasteries and libraries in Egypt, Berlin, Paris, and Beirut. The library of the eastern fathers did publish the introduction and some chapter from this book.
Grieving, Sermons, Miscellanies, Epistles, and Letters
The book covers 51 topics in Arabic. 23 of these topics were published in the Book the Precious Jewel in the Sermons of the Church from the original hand written manuscript the oldest copy of the published portion is in the library of the house of the patriarch ate, and is dated 1433 AD (1148 Martyrs); it has the signature of the Deacon “maggd eldoulah”
Coptic Language Dictionary
Known as the proposed Great Ladder Book and is divided into 10 major Parts containing 32 sections. It contains agreed to Coptic phrases each properly translated to Arabic. Many copies of this book are in the library of the house of the patriarch ate, the oldest copy in the library is dated 1779 AD (1495 Martyrs) and has the signature of the teacher (leader) Ibrahim Gawhary (was a minister during the time of Mohammad Ali AlKabeer). Also copies exist in the libraries of the monasteries, for sale in book libraries, and one in the library of Girgis Philothaaous Awad, the Vatican library, was printed in Rome, and was of interest to many ‘mostashriquoon” specialist in middle eastern studies.
The Ascend of the Minds in the Knowledge of the Fundamentals
Is also known as the revelation of mysterious secrets in the reasons behind Christianity. The book is divided into 18 parts about Christian faith, beliefs in the One God and the trinity three manifestations (aquaneem); and the Incarnation of the Son; etc. One hand written copy is dated 1333 AD and is kept in the Vatican Library. A copy of this original is in the library of the Easter fathers in Beirut. Two other copies made while the author was alive are written and kept one in Damascus dated 1323 AD; and one in the House of Patruiachate Library in Cairo dated 1658 AD (1375 Martyrs). This one is given the name “Teriaque El-equool fi-elm el-oosool” numbered 231 Divinity and is credited to (another famous Coptic Scholar) Ibn el-assal sibt al-aab bottros el-sadamenty. No one knows if it is the same book under another name or another book on the same subject.
Redood ala El Yahood Wil Muslmeen (Replies to Jews and Moslems)
Hand written book in Rome (Vatican Library)
An Epistle Full of Clear Proof Against those Who Teach Against Freedom of Choice
In addition to these, he helped the price of Egypt papars in writing a book titled ”ketaab zobdat elfikrah fi tareekh elhigrah” (the crème of thinking in the history of the immigration (of the prophet of Islam Mohammad))
A massive persecution period did take place in the latter days of his life on earth, during that time they sent looking for Ibn Kabarr and were not able to find him. He isolated himself in his house for a long time and when he got very weak and when he felt that the time of departure is near, he wrote his own obituary and he departed in peace on May 1oth 1234 AD (Bashans 15 th 1040 Martyrs). In the days of Pope Youanness the 9 th and most likely was buried near the Hanging Church (where he served) in the cemeteries prepared for the highly regarded priests.