Born in Arbil, Iraq on September 22, 1211 (11 Rabī’ al-Thānī, 608), into a respectable family that claimed descent from Barmakids, Ibn Khallikan's studies began in Arbil, took him first to Aleppo, then Damascus, then Mosul to study jurisprudence, and finally Cairo, where he settled. He gained prominence as a jurist, theologian and grammarian. An early biographer described him as "a pious man, virtuous, and learned; amiable in temper, in conversation serious and instructive. His exterior was highly prepossessing, his countenance handsome and his manners engaging."
He married in 1252 and was assistant to the chief judge in Egypt until 1261, when he assumed the position of chief judge in Damascus. He lost this position in 1271 and returned to Egypt, where he taught until being reinstated as judge in Damascus in 1278. He retired in 1281 and died in Damascus on October 30, 1282 (Saturday, 26th of Rajab 681).