He was a Haafidh, an erudite scholar, if he didn’t write a book other than ‘Tareekh Baghdaad’ it would have been sufficient, for it illustrates his extensive knowledge. He authored more than a hundred books, his virtues need not be mentioned as they are well known, he was the most knowledgeable person of his time.
He studied under the scholars of Basrah, ar Ray, ad Deenoor and al Koofah. He travelled through Damascus on his way for Hajj and studied there and in as Soor. He read Saheeh al Bukhaaree in five days to Kareemah al Marwaseeyah in Makkah al Mukaramah before returning to Baghdad.
He used to say: ‘I drank Zamzam three times, and I asked Allaah for three things acting upon the saying of the Messenger - صلى الله عليه وسلم: “Zamzam is for what you drink it for.”
My first request was that I teach the history of Baghdad. The second was that I teach Hadeeth in Jaami’ [Masjid] al Mansoor. The third was that I be buried beside Bishr al Haafee when I die.’
When he returned to Baghdad he taught hid history book and he was permitted to teach at Masjid al Mansoor by the ‘Abbaasee Khalifah. After he passed away, they wanted to bury him beside Bishr al Haafee as he requested, but Abu Bakr, Ahmad ibn ‘Alee ibn Zahrah at Tareetheethee dug his own grave over there and used to read and complete the Qur-aan and supplicate to Allaah there. He did that for years and completed the Qur-aan there a number of times. So when they asked him for permission to bury al Khateeb there he said: ‘This is my grave, I dug it myself and completed the Qur-aan there a number of times, I will not allow anyone to be buried in it, that is impossible.’
The news reached Abu Sa’d who called upon Abu Bakr and said to him: ‘I am not asking you to give them your grave, but I say, If Bishr al Haafee was alive, and you were sitting next to him, and al Khateeb walked in to sit further than you, would it be proper that you sit in a better seat than him?’
Ibn Zahraa said: ‘No, rather I would get up and let him take my seat.’
Abu Sa’d then said: ‘Then likewise should be the case today during his death, for he is more deserving of it than you.’
So Ibn Zahraa heart softened and he accepted that al Khateeb be buried in his place.
Before he died, he gave all his wealth as Sadaqah, it was 200 Dirhams, he gave it to the students of Hadeeth, Fiqh and the poor. He also gave all his clothing and books to the Muslims, he did not have any children.
As Safdee stated: “He was the leader in memory and accuracy, in preserving the knowledge of Hadeeth and writing books.
Abu al Waleed al Baajee stated: ‘The Hufaadh in the lands of the Muslims are four: Abu Dhar ‘Abd ibn Ahmad, as Sooree, al Armawee and Abu Bakr al Khateeb. As for the Fuqahaa then they are many.’
Abu ‘Alee al Bardaanee stated: ‘It could be that al Khateeb never met the likes of himself.’