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Prozorov S.M. Intellectual Elite of Mawarannahr and Khurasan on the Eve of the Mongolian Invasion (Based on the al-Andarasbani’s Biographical Dictionary) / International Conference on Islamic Civilization in Central Asia / 4-7 September 2007/ Astana, Kazakhstan. 2007.

The drawing up of al-Andarasbani’s biographical dictionary dates from the period of spirititual and cultural flourish of Khwarizm. At the last quarter of the 12th century Khwarizm and its main city Gurgandj were the regional centers of scholarship with their libraries, schools, and mosques. However, soon this flourishing land was to suffer the devastating invasion of Mongols: Khwarizm was destroyed, the libraries burnt, the scholars, who couldn’t flee for safety were exterminated. The great written heritage created by many generations of scholars was gone forever. In this context we need to study the remaining part of the biographical dictionary of the Khwarizmian scholar as a splinter of the destroyed culture, as an informatory memorial of Arabic-language literature of the pre-Mongolian Khwarizm.

Al-Andarasbani’s creative activity was been taking place in Gurgandj in communication with al-Zamakhshari’s (the author of the famous mu‘tazili commentary on the Qur’an) disciples, who had high position in the society to which fact their titles testify. One of his teachers-instructors was a beloved and devoted disciple of al-Zamakhshari – Abu-l-Mu’ayyad Muwaffaq b. Ahmad al-Makki (d. 1172), references to which in the manuscript are followed by the list of his honorable titles – as-sadr al-khatib, akhtab al-khutaba’ (“the main preacher”), sadr al-shari‘a (“the stronghold of the shari‘a”). This was a well-known orator, a person supervised the preaching services in the city mosque, a faqih, a writer, a poet. The large part of the biographical information about the “Pride of Khwarizm”, as al-Zamakhshari was gloriously called, is cited with the reference to Muwaffaq b. Ahmad or taken directly from his eulogy on al-Zamahshari’s death.

The author of the dictionary also had close relationship with another high titled disciple of al-Zamakhshari – Abu Salih al-Tarjumani, who for seven years studied under al-Zamakhshari’s own guidance his famous mu‘tazili commentary to the Qur’an – Al-Kashshaf and other subjects.

The author of the dictionary names among his “friends” Abu-l-Ma‘ali al-Hakimi al-Khwarizmi, from whose words he cites unknown author’s poems about al-Zamakhshari, and Muhammad al-Hajj, who was al-Zamakhshari’s companion for his whole life and later became a disciple of al-Andarasbani himself.

Of much interest is Ta’rikh Khwarizm (“History of Khwarizm”) by Mahmud al-Khwarizmi, which the author of the dictionary listened directly under the latter’s guidance and to which he repeatedly refers. He is a Khwarizmi faqih-shafi‘i, muhaddith, historian, sufi, he listened to the hadiths in Khwarizm, Marw, Bukhara, Samarqand, Baghdad and preached in the famous madrasa al-Nizamiyya in Baghdad. For his deep knowledge of the “science of hadiths” he got an honorable title al-hafiz al-mutlaq. Al-Sam‘ani also mentioned Mahmud al-Khwarizmi’s deep knowledge in the field of law methodology and divergences between the different faqih schools. His treatise Al-Kafi fi-l-fiqh had a high reputation not only among the shafi‘is.

The “History of Khwarizm” consisted of eight huge volumes or parts. The autograph of this treatise was used by the author of the famous geographical dictionary Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 1229), in particular he took from there the data about the well-known ash‘ari-theologian and philosopher al-Shahrastani (d. 1153), as well as the information about al-Zamakhshari’s disciple – Abu-l-Hasan al-‘Umrani (d. 1165) and etc. The “History of Khwarizm” has come to us in a the reduced edition of al-Dhahabi. Al-Subki who saw the first volume of “Ta’rikh Khwarizm” cites its “Introduction” (al-Muqaddima).

Al-Andarasbani’s dictionary has absorbed the information from the wide range of Arabic-language sources, as well as those currently lost or survived in a shorter version in the later Farsi translations. The special attention should be paid to the biographies of the persons, whose activity took place in the religious-cultural centers of Central Asia – Khwarizm, Marw, Bukhara, Samarqand and etc. In these biographies the local historic-biographical traditions were reflected, as well as the real mode of life and customs, the specifics of Islam in the concrete social-historical conditions, the forming of an estate of the local spiritual authorities, their role in the propagation and transmission of the religious knowledge, in creating close and mutually profitable spiritual connections with near and distant regions of the Muslim world. To this testify in particular the biographies of the outstanding Muslim scholars, well-known far beyond Mawarannahr – al-Bukhari and al-Zamakhshari. Besides that, they contain the facts which other sources lack.

The materials of the dictionary prove that the Central-Asian region was a part of a general cultural space in the Muslim world, that the cities of Mawarannahr and Khurasan had their own scientific schools founded, local dynasties of scholars, that the natives of this region not only studied from the authoritative scholars in the capital, but also taught at the famous madrasas of Baghdad and Naysabur, so that their treatises were known in the whole Muslim world. It is sufficient to mention such names as al-Khwarizmi, al-Maturidi, al-Tirmidhi, al-Sam‘ani and others. The works of these scholars became the golden fund of the Muslim science. The biographical dictionary of the Khwarizmian scholar al-Andarasbani has also found its niche in the history of the Muslim culture.




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