A 15th-century manuscript of al-Zamakhshari’s important Qur’an commentary.
What is a tafsir?
A tafsir is an explanatory commentary on the Qur’an, in which the author elucidates the meaning of the holy text by explaining individual words or verses. The author of this tafsir is Mahmud ibn ‘Umar al-Zamakhshari (1075–1144), a Persian scholar from Zamakhshar, in the Khwarazm region of Iran (now Turkmenistan). One of the most important commentaries on the Qur’an, al-Zamakhshari’s al-Kashshaf ‘an haqa’iq al-tanzil (sometimes translated as The Discoverer of Revealed Truths) is still widely studied in Islamic religious institutions. Although it was not his first language, al-Zamakhshari was an expert in Arabic. His tafsir analyses the meaning of each verse of the Qur’an, providing philosophical, philological and lexicographical explanations of the text.
How is the text and commentary presented in the manuscript?
The page layout of this manuscript is influenced by Qur’ans of the Timurid dynasty in Iran (1370–1506), exhibiting delicacy and refinement in its illumination and calligraphy, while incorporating within the page a commentary on the Qur’an text. Different coloured scripts are used to differentiate the commentary from the sacred text. The Qur’anic verses are in gold thuluth, and al-Zamakhshari’s commentary is in black naskhi script.