al-Zamakhshari

 — al-Zamakhshari —

-Name of the Mufassir:

He is Abu Qaasim, Mahmood ibn ‘Umar ibn Muhammad. He was also known by the honorific title “Jarullaah” [the Neighbor of Allah]. He was originally from Zamakhshar, Khwarezm, a region in Central Asia which sits at the borders of modern-day Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. He studied under the major scholars of Baghdad, and also frequented Khorasan. He was skilled and knowledgeable in a number of fields, including tafsir, hadeeth, grammar, linguistics, and literature. He was also one of the major scholars of the Mu’tazilah theological school, and his tafsir is inextricably associated with their beliefs. He died in the year 538AH/1143CE.

-Name of the Book:

al-Kashshaaf ‘an Haqaa’iq al-Tanzeel wa ‘Uyoon al-Aqaaweel fee Wujooh al-Ta’weel [ الكشاف عن حقائق التنزيل وعيون الأقاويل في وجوه التأويل].

It is most commonly referred to either as al-Khashshaaf or simply Tafsir al-Zamakhshari.

-General Description of the Book:

The book is distinguished by its attention to highlighting the beauty of the Qur’an and its eloquence, and the author excelled in this due to his intimate knowledge of the Arabic language and its poetry. However, it should be noted that he would also use his linguistic expertise and prowess to provide faulty interpretations which supported the beliefs of the Mu’tazilah, often giving more credence to the mutashaabihat (ambiguous) than to the muhkamaat (clear) verses in his explanations.

al-Subki described the work in light of these prominent features by writing, “You should know that al-Khashshaaf is a marvelous work in its field, and its author is a master in his trade, however he is an innovator who openly propagates his bid’ah.” [Ma’eed al-Ni’m pg. 66]. Thus many of the scholars have warned caution when approaching this book, especially for the beginning student.

‘Aqeedah:

al-Zamakhshari was one of the foremost leaders of the Mu’tazilah and he championed the beliefs of the Mu’tazilah in his writings by all means at his disposal.

Imam al-Dhahabi described him in his book al-Meezaan by writing, “He was righteous, however he was a caller to the beliefs of the Mu’tazilah – may Allah protect us -, so beware of his book al-Khashshaaf” [4/78]

Ibn Taymiyah briefly mentioned some of the theological issues in this tafsir by writing, “And as for al-Zamakhshari, then his tafsir is filled with bid’ah and it is on the way of the Mu’tazilah in terms of denial of the sifaat (Allah’s attributes) and the ru’yah (i.e. that the believers will see Allah in the Hereafter), and saying that the Qur’an is created, and denying that Allah wills all created things or that He is the Creator of the actions of the slaves, and other than that from the fundamental principles of the Mu’tazilah.” [Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa 13/386]

-Stance regarding Fiqh (legal) Rulings:

He would enter into discussions of fiqh without going into extensive detail. Although he himself was a Hanafi, he was balanced in his view of fiqh-related issues and not fanatically attached to the views of his madhhab.

-Stance regarding Israa’eeliyyaat (Judaeo-Christian traditions):

He was very sparse in mentioning Israa’eeliyyaat narrations, and he would follow up those which he did mentioning by saying, “and Allah knows best.” In light of this, it is surprising that he would close his tafsir of each surah by mentioning fabricated ahaadeeth regarding the virtues the surah.

-Stance regarding poetry, linguistic analysis, grammar, etc.:

He gave great importance to explaining the linguistic issues of the Qur’an and devoted much ink to discussions of its linguistic eloquence and beauty. That being said, when he came across wordings which were at odds with his theological school of thought, then he would expend every effort at his disposal to invalidate its apparent meaning and to affirm some other meaning for it – either by means of some alternative obscure linguistic explanation, or by interpreting it as a metaphorical passage. However, he was an expert in the fields of linguistics, grammar, poetry, literature and related fields, and his tafsir remains a valuable reference work for the grounded scholars due to its largely unmatched treatment of these areas in many respects.

Bibliography:

القول المختصر المبين في مناهج المفسرين لمحمد بن حمد الحمود النجدي

التفسير والمفسرين لمحمد حسين الدهبي

التيسير لمعرفة المشهور من أسانيد وكتب التفسير  لعلي بن أحمد الرازحي


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See also: Advice Regarding the Books of Tafsir with Distorted ‘Aqeedah