Abū Shāma was born in Damascus, where he passed his whole life save for one year in Egypt, a fortnight in Jerusalem and two pilgrimages to the Ḥijāz. He received a diverse Sunnī education and wrote on a variety of topics. In 1263, he became a professor in the Damascene madrasas of al-Rukniyya and al-Ashrafiyya. He died five years later in Damascus.
Five works by Abū Shāma survive. All the rest have been lost, some in a fire that destroyed his library. He is best known today for his three historical writings, especially his two volumes on Syria in the Zengid and Ayyubid periods:
- Kitāb al-rawḍatayn fī akhbār al-dawlatayn al-Nūriyya wa-l-Ṣalāḥiyya (The Book of the Two Gardens, Concerning Affairs of the Reigns of Nūr al-Dīn and Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn), a chronological account of the reigns of Nūr al-Dīn (1146–1174) and Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn (1174–1193). He is careful to cite his sources. His main ones are al-Barḳ al-Shāmī of ʿImād al-Dīn al-Iṣfahānī, Sīrat Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn of Ibn Abī Ṭayy and the Rasāʾil of al-Ḳāḍī al-Fāḍil. He usually quotes his sources verbatim, with the exception of ʿImād al-Dīn.
- al-Dhayl ʿalaʾl-rawḍatayn (Sequel to the Two Gardens), a continuation of the previous work down to contemporary events. His main source in the first part is the Mirʾāt al-Zamān of Sibṭ ibn al-Jawzī and in the second part himself as eyewitness.
- Taʾrīkh Dimashḳ (History of Damascus), a summary of the eponymous work of Ibn ʿAsākir (died 1175). It survives in two versions.
- Full name: Abū Shāma Shihāb al-Dīn Abuʾl-Ḳāsim ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Ibrāhīm ibn ʿUthmān ibn Abī Bakr ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Muḥammad al-Maḳdisī (or al-Maqdisī).
- Ahmad 1960 gives the Hijrī dates 23 Rabīʿ II 599 – 19 Ramaḍān 665, but gives the Gregorian year of his death as 1268.
- In Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Historiens Orientaux 4 (Paris, 1898).
- Ahmad, Hilmy (1960). "Abū Shāma". In Gibb, H. A. R.; Kramers, J. H.; Lévi-Provençal, E.; Schacht, J.; Lewis, B. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume I: A–B. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 150. OCLC 495469456.
- Antrim, Zayde (2009). "Abū Shāma Shihāb al-Dīn al-Maqdisī". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.