Muhammad bin Ahmad bin `Uthman al-Dhahabi al-Shafi`i (673-748 AH), the imam, Shaykh al-Islam, head of Hadith masters, critic and expert examiner of the Hadith, encyclopaedic historian and biographer, and foremost authority in the canonical readings of the Qur’an. Born in Damascus where his family lived from the time of his grandfather `Uthman, he sometimes identified himself as Ibn al-Dhahabi – son of the goldsmith – in reference to his father’s profession.
al-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) is considered one of the foremost authorities in critically scrutinizing the reporters of Hadith (ilm al-asma wa ‘l-rijal). He compiled many works in this regard such as Mizan al-I’tidal fi Naqd al-Rijal (The Scale of Justice in Critically Examining the Reporters), Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (The Lives of Noble Figures), Al-Mughni fi ‘l-Du’afa (an authoritative abridged manual of weak narrators) and Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (The Memoirs of the Hadith Masters). In his work, Mizan al-I’tidal, Imam Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) deals with a large number of reporters, both the authenticated/reliable and the criticized/unreliable, although he does mention in his introduction to the book that he will not include the biographies of the Companions (sahaba) and renowned authorities of Islam.