Al-Zamakhshari was a highly admired philologist of Islam and a celebrated theologian of his time whose book al-Mufassal is acclaimed as a great work of grammar and philology.
Abu Qasim Mahmud ibn Umar al-Zamakhshari of Iranian origin was born in 467 AH/1075 CE at Khwarizm in Central Asia.
After the completion of his studies at his birthplace, he travelled to different parts of the Islamic world for acquiring higher studies.
By the time he left for his native city, he had achieved a considerable degree of fame for his knowledge. As a result, when he reached Baghdad he was given a good reception by a scholar there. At Mecca he studied under Ibn Wahhas.
Although Persian was his mother tongue, yet he believed in the superiority of the Arabic language and he wrote most of the books in that language.
He spent his life in reading, writing and teaching. He was patronised by the superscalar of Khwarizm to whom he dedicated his book Muqaddimat.
He fell seriously ill in 512 AH /1118 AD. After recovering from the illness, he wrote a series of moral discourses. He also wrote poems, including an elegy (marthia) on the death of his teacher Abu Muzar.
He died at al-Jurjaniya, near Khwarizm in 538 AH/1144 AD at the age of seventy-one lunar years. The great traveller, Ibn Batuta visited his grave in Khwarizm two hundred years later.
Al-Zamakhshari possessed a remarkably rich knowledge of Arabic language which he masterly presented in his books. He wrote on grammar, philology, proverbs, syntax, dictionaries, etc. He also wrote a tafsir (commentary) of the Quran popularly known as al-Kashshaf.
He compiled a geographical dictionary called Kitab al amkina wal jibal which was published in Germany in 1856.
He wrote a series of books on proverbs. Asas al-balagha was written in two volumes, is a dictionary of classical Arabic. It is noted for its systematic arrangement of material.
Kitab al-faiq is devoted to the peculiar expressions of the language of the Hadith. To make Arabic language and literature available in Persian, he composed Muqaddimat al adab with explanations in Persian.
He wrote his famous commentary on the Quran al-Kashshaf an haqaiq al tanzil when he was 61 years of age. In this tafseer he also highlighted the linguistic aspects of the Quran, like philology, grammar and rhetorical beauty.
He believed in the aijaz (miracle) of the Quran. The book was widely read in the Islamic world. Ibn Khaldun ranked it above other commentaries of the Quran.
He wrote his major grammatical work al-Mufassal in 515 AH / 1121 AD.
It has been highly admired for its brevity and masterly analysis. During the recent two centuries, it was published in Christiania (1851,1879) Delhi, Alexandria and Cairo with several commentaries.
Al-Zamakhshari also wrote a book on grammatical puzzles. Taftazani, another great grammarian and scholar of Islam wrote a commentary on his works.