BAYŻĀWĪ, NĀṢER-AL-DĪN ABU’L-ḴAYR (or ABŪ SAʿĪD) ʿABD-ALLĀH B. ʿOMAR B. MOḤAMMAD, Shafeʿite jurist, Asḥʿarite theologian, and renowned Koran commentator. Information about his life is scanty and at times contradictory. He was born at a date unknown in Bayżā north of Shiraz to a family of jurists. His father Emām-al-Dīn (d. 673/1274-75) was qāżi ’l-qożāt in Shiraz and, during the reign of the Salghurid Abū Bakr b. Saʿd (623-58/1226-60), also held the post of qāżi ’l-­mamālek of Fārs province. Bayżāwī studied with his father, as well as with Šaraf-al-Dīn ʿOmar b. Zakī Būškānī (d. 680/1281). In about 678/1279 he was ap­pointed by the il-khan Abaqa as qāżi ’l-mamālek of Fārs. After Abaqa’s death (in 680/1281) he gained the post of qāżī of Shiraz. It is not clear how long he held this position; according to some reports he lost it after six months to Majd-al-Dīn Esmāʿīl b. Yaḥyā (d. 756/1355) of the influential Fālī (or Bālī) family. During the reign of Arḡūn (683-90/1284-91) Bayżāwī was appointed judge of his hometown, allegedly after sending Arḡūn a copy of his Tafsīr. He later moved to Tabrīz, but once again it is not clear what official position, if any, he held there.

The year of Bayżāwī’s death in Tabrīz is variously given as 685/1286, 691/1292, 692/1293, 708/1308-09, some time after 710/1310-11, and 716/1316. R. Sellheim (Materialien zur arabischen Literaturgeschichte, Verzeichnis der orientalichen Handschriften in Deutschland XVII A 1, Wiesbaden, 1976, pp. 289-91) and J. van Ess (“Biobibliographische Notizen zur islamischen Theologie,” Welt des Orients 9, 1978, pp. 261-70) have adduced convincing evidence in support of the later dates. In particular, van Ess cites a letter of the vizier Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh to his son Amīr ʿAlī, in which Bayżāwī is mentioned among 51 renowned scholars to whom gifts should be presented. For reasons discussed by van Ess, the letter could not have been written before 702-03/1302-03, and may possibly be as late as the end of 712/1312-13. Two further points are worth mention­ing in support of the later date. First, we possess the text of correspondence (mokātaba) between Bayżāwī and the celebrated Imami scholar Ebn Moṭahhar Ḥellī (d. 726/1325), in which Bayżāwī comments on a legal point that Ḥellī makes in his Ketāb qawāʿed al-aḥkām (ʿAbd-Allāh Efendī, Rīāż al-ʿolamāʾ, Qom, 1401/1980-81, I, pp. 382-93; Aʿyān al-šīʿa XXIV, pp. 300-02). The correspondence probably took place after 699/1299-1300, since this is the most likely date for the completion of the Qawāʿed (ibid., p. 314). Second, according to a passage in Ḵᵛānsārī’s Rawżāt al-jannāt (ed. A. Esmāʿīlīān, Qom, 1390-92/1970-72, II, p. 281), the il-khan Öljeytü (Ūljāytū, 703-16/1304-16) raised Ḥellī’s position above that of all other scholars in his retinue, among whom are mentioned Bayżāwī and ʿAżod-al-Dīn Ījī (d. 756/1355). This must have occurred after Öljeytü’s adoption of Shiʿism in 710/1310. We can also infer from this passage that for some time at least Bayżāwī lived in Öljeytü’s capital Solṭānīya, vying for a position of influence in the court. There is one item of information which would appear to run counter to a post-710 date. It is that the mystic Qoṭb-al-Dīn Šīrāzī asked to be buried next to Bayżāwī in the Čarandāb cemetery of Tabrīz (Ebn Rāfeʿ, Montaḵab al-moḵtār, Baghdad, 1357/1958, pp, 227-28; cf. Ebn Kaṯīr, al-­Bedāya wa’l-nehāya, Cairo, 1351-58/1932-39, XIII, p. 309; Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-jannāt VI, p. 47; Bayżāwī’s grave was destroyed by the Safavids some time before 984/1576). The traditional date of Šīrāzī’s death is 710/1310. There is some evidence, however, that he only died in 716/1316 (van Ess, art. cit., p. 268; cf. H. Corbin, En Islam iranien, Paris, 1971-72, II, p. 20). Should this be correct, it might then be suggested that Bayżāwī and Šīrāzī both died in 716, within weeks or months of each other.

Bayżāwī’s writings attest to his broad interests and encyclopedic knowledge. The following works have been published: (1) Anwār al-tanzīl wa asrār al-taʾwīl, Bayżāwī’s famous Koran commentary. It is also known as Tafsīr al-qāżī and as Moḵtaṣar al-kaššāf. The latter title suggests the extent of Bayżāwī’s indebtedness to Zamaḵšārī’s magnum opus; it is, however, slightly misleading: Rather than abridging Zamaḵšārī’s Muʿtazilite argumentations Bayżāwī on occasion at­tempts to refute them, and he also relies on other exegetes, such as Rāḡeb Eṣfahānī (d. 502/1108) and Faḵr-al-Dīn Rāzī (d. 606/1209). The Anwār al-tanzīl seems to have been slow gaining widespread recog­nition; eventually, however, it eclipsed all of Bayżāwī’s other writings. Its popularity, as reflected in the numer­ous supercommentaries written on it, derives from its relative brevity, coupled with a successful combination of grammatical, legal, theological, and historical material. Its fame reached Europe early. In the seven­teenth century it was used by (among others) E. Pococke and L. Marracci (C. A. Nallino, “Le fonti arabe manoscritte dell’opera di Ludovico Marracci sul Corano,” Rendiconti R. Accademia dei Lincei, set. VI, 7, 1932, pp. 322-23 = Raccolta di scritti II, Rome, 1940, p. 109) and, in the eighteenth century, by G. Sale for his English translation of the Koran. It was edited by Heinrich O. Fleischer (2 vols., Leipzig, 1846-48; for a critical assessment of this edition see J. Fück, Die arabischen Studien in Europa, Leipzig, 1955, p. 171) and was repeatedly printed in the Muslim world. (2) Ṭawāleʿ al-anwār, a short compendium of kalām, characterized by a strict logical structure and the use of philosophical terminology. This work, particularly with the commentary of Maḥmūd b. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Eṣfahānī (d. 749/1348) entitled Maṭāleʿ al-anẓār (Cairo, 1323), exercised considerable influence on the development of later kalām. An English translation of the Maṭāleʿ was prepared (E. F. Calverley, Muslim World 53, 1963, pp. 293-97) but has apparently remained un­published. (3) Menhāj al-woṣūl elā ʿelm al-oṣūl (Cairo, 1326), a work on oṣūl al-feqh, for which Bayżāwī also composed a commentary (not extant). Bayżāwī is at times referred to as Ṣāḥeb al-menhāj in recognition of this work’s importance. (4) Al-Ḡāya al-qoṣwā fī-derāyat al-fatwā, an abridgment of al-Wasīṭ, Ḡazālī’s manual of Shafeʿite law (2 vols., ed. ʿAlī Qaradāḡī, Cairo, 1982). (5) Lobb al-lobāb fī ʿelm al-eʿrāb, an abridgment of the treatise on grammar known as al-Kāfīa of ʿOṯmān b. ʿOmar Ebn Ḥājeb (d. 646/1249). It was published with the commentary of Moḥammad b. Pīr ʿAlī Berkawī (or Bergelī; d. 981/1573) entitled Emteḥān al-aḏkīāʾ (Istan­bul, 1303). (6) Neẓām al-tawārīḵ, a short world history and Bayżāwī’s only known Persian work. Much of it was written about 674/1275-76; it has a continuation up to the year 694/1294-95 (Elliot and Dowson, The History of India, London, 1867-77, II, p. 253), which, however, may not be by Bayżāwī. The work is already cited in Ḥamd-Allāh Mostawfī’s Tārīḵ-egozīda (pp. 8, 811). Doubts concerning its authenticity (Tabrīzī, Ray­ḥānat al-adab, Tehran, 1324-32 Š./1945-54, I, p. 191) appear to be unfounded. The Neẓām was published with explanatory notes in Urdu by Sayyed Manṣūr (Hyderabad, 1930). Works extant only in manuscript include: (1) Meṣbāḥ al-arwāḥ, a treatise on theology. (2) Montaha ’l-monā, on the divine names. (3) Resāla fī mawżūʿāt al-ʿolūm wa taʿārīfehā. (4) Resālat manāzel al-­qamar, which may have formed part of Bayżāwī’s lost astronomical work Moḵtaṣar fi’l-hayʾa. (5) Šarḥ maṣābīḥ al-sonna (also known as Toḥfat al-abrār), a commentary on Baḡawī’s (d. 510/1117 or 516/1122) famous collection of traditions. The following works of Bayżāwī are known at present by their titles only: (1) al­-ʿAyn, a work on tafsīr. (2) Al-Maṭāleʿ, a work on logic, for which Bayżāwī also composed a commentary. (3) Merṣād al-afhām fī mabādeʾ al-aḥkām, a commen­tary on Ebn al-Ḥājeb’s work on oṣūl al-feqh entitled Montaha ’l-soʾūl wa’l-amal fī ʿelm al-oṣūl wa’l-jadal. (4) Al-Meṣbāḥ fī oṣūl al-dīn. This work is possibly identical with (5) al-Īżāḥ fī oṣūl al-dīn, as well as with the Meṣbāḥ al-arwāḥ. (6) Šarḥ al-foṣūl, a commentary on a theological treatise of Naṣīr-al-Dīn Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274). (7) Šarḥ al-montaḵab fi’l-oṣūl, a commen­tary on Faḵr-al-Dīn Rāzī’s abridgment of his own Maḥṣūl. This work may be identical with the Menhāj. (8) Šarḥ al-tanbīh, said to have comprised four volumes. It is a commentary on the legal textbook al-Tanbīh of the Shafeʿite scholar Ebrāhīm b. ʿAlī Šīrāzī, (d. 476/1083). (9) Tahḏīb al-aḵlāq fi’l-taṣawwof. This title attests to Bayżāwī’s interest in mysticism, which he may have acquired from his father. Indeed, during at least one period of his life he is said to have followed a Ṣūfī shaikh and to have abandoned all worldly pursuits.



See also Ṣafadī, al-Wāfī be’l-wafayāt XVII, ed. D. Krawulsky, Wiesbaden, 1982, p. 379.

Yāfeʿī, Merʾāt al-janān, Hyderabad, 1337-­39/1918-21, IV, p. 220.

Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt V, p. 59.

Esnawī, Ṭabaqāt al-šāfeʿīya, ed. A. Jobūrī, Baghdad, 1390-91/1970-72, I, pp. 283-84.

Zarkūb Šīrāzī, Šīrāz-­nāma, Tehran, 1310 Š./1931-32, p. 136.

Ebn Qāżī Šohba, Ṭabaqātal-šāfeʿīya, Hyderabad, 1398-­1400/1978-80, II, pp. 220-22.

Soyūṭī, Boḡyat al-woʿāt, ed. Moḥammad Abu’l-Fażl Ebrāhīm, Cairo, 1384/1965, II, pp. 50-51.

Ḵᵛāndamīr, Ḥabīb al-sīar (Tehran) III, p. 134.

Dāʾūdī, Ṭabaqāt al-mofasserīn, ed. A. M. ʿOmar, Cairo, 1392/1972, I, pp. 242-43.

Kašf al-ẓonūn (Istanbul) I, pp. 186-94, II, pp. 1116-17, 1192-93, 1546, 1704-05, 1854, 1878-80, 1959.

Ebn al-ʿEmād, Šaḏarāt al-ḏahab, Cairo, 1350-51/1931-33, V, pp. 392-93.

Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżāt al-jannāt, V, pp. 134-­37. Baḡdādī, Hadīyat al-ʿārefīn, Istanbul, 1951-55, I, pp. 462-63.

D. S. Margoliouth, Chrestomathia Baida­wiana: The Commentary of el-Baiḍāwī on Sura III, London, 1894. Brockelmann, GAL2 I, pp. 530-34, S. I, pp. 738-43.

Storey, I/2, pp. 70-71.

L. Gardet and G. Anawati, Introduction à la théologie musulmane, Paris, 1948, pp. 164-65.

E. F. F. Bishop and M. Kaddal, The Light of Inspiration and Secret of Interpretation, Glasgow, 1957 (Chrestomathia Baida­wiana).

Moḥammad Ḥosayn Ḏahabī, al-Tafsīr wa’l-mofasserūn I, Cairo, 1381/1961, pp. 296-303.

A. F. L. Beeston, Baiḍāwī’s Commentary on Sūrah 12 of the Qurʾān, Oxford, 1963.

J. van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre des ʿAḍudaddīn al-Īcī, Wiesbaden, 1966, index.

J. Robson, “al-Bayḍāwī,” in EI2 I, p. 1129.

R. Mach, Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts in the Garrett Col­lection, Princeton, 1977, index.

Lutpi Ibrahim, “al-­Bayḍāwī’s Life and Works,” Islamic Studies 18, 1979, pp. 311-21 (to be used with caution).

Qaradāḡī’s introduction to his edition of al-Ḡāya al-qoṣwā I, pp. 51-96.

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Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

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