Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


You can't tell a book by its author: A study of Muʿtazilite theology in al-Zamakhsharī's (d. 538/1144) Kashshāf

Andrew J. Lanea1 c1

a1 University of Toronto


This article examines the Kashshāf, the Quran commentary of the Muʿtazilite al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538/1144). This involves: (1) the continuous reading of the commentary on two sūras; (2) the study of al-Zamakhsharī's commentary in the Kashshāf on Quranic passages used by him or his teacher Ibn al-Malāḥimī (d. 536/1141) in their theological treatises; and (3) an analysis of a report claiming that al-Zamakhsharī had begun his commentary with the blatantly Muʿtazilite statement: “Praise be to God who created the Quran”. The conclusion is that the results of the study of the commentary on the two sūras reflect the overall theological content of the Kashshāf and that to consider the Kashshāf to be a Muʿtazilite Quran commentary amounts more to looking at the theological school of its author and to accepting medieval hearsay than it does to drawing conclusions based on a detailed examination of the relevant sources.


  • Qur'an exegesis;
  • Muʿtazilite theology;
  • Al-Zamakhsharī;
  • Creation of the Quran;
  • Kashshāf;
  • theological treatises


This article is based on sections of my PhD thesis, “Al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538/1144) and his Qur’ān commentary al-Kashshāf: a late Muʿtazilite scholar at work” (University of Toronto, 2003), some of which did not make it into my A Traditional Muʿtazilite Qur’ān Commentary. The Kashshāf of Jār Allāh al-ZamakhsharĪ (d. 538/1144) (Texts and Studies on the Qur’ān, 2, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006).