ABŪ YŪSOF QAZVĪNĪ, ʿABD-AL-SALĀM B. MOḤAMMAD B. YŪSOF B. BONDĀR, Muʿtazilite scholar and author of an immense Koran commentary, born Šaʿbān, 393/June, 1003 (according to another report 391) in Qazvīn. His family appears to have been wealthy. His father was lettered, transmitting poetry of Qāżī ʿAlī b. ʿAbd-al- ʿAzīz Jorǰānī to his son. Abū Yūsof claimed to have begun hearing Hadith at the age of four. If Sobkī’s statement that he studied with the Shafeʿite jurist Abu’l-Qāsem b. Kaǰǰ (d. 405/1015) is correct, he must have traveled to Dīnavar before the age of twelve. Sobkī is, however, mistaken in considering him a Shafeʿite; and his report may rest on a confusion. It is certain that Abū Yūsof transmitted Hadith from Abū ʿOmar b. Mahdī al-Fāresī (d. 410/1019); thus he must have visited Baghdad before that year.

In Ray Abū Yūsof studied Muʿtazilite theology with the qāżī-al-qożāt, ʿAbd-al-Jabbār (d. 415/1024-25), from whom he also heard Hadith. He also studied in Hamadān and in Isfahan, where he heard Traditions from Abū Noʿaym Eṣfahānī (d. 430/ 1038). In Baghdad he studied Hanafite law with the famous Hanafite scholar Qodūrī (d. 428/1027). Later he traveled to Syria and met the poet Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ Maʿarrī in Maʿarra. He stayed for some time in Ṭarāboloṣ, where he had debates with the prominent Imamite scholar and qāżī, Ebn al-Barrāǰ. From there he went on to Egypt, where he reportedly lived for forty years. He was on familiar terms with the Fatimid vizier Yāzūrī (442-50/1050-58) and was asked by some people to intercede with him on their behalf. During the great famine in Egypt in 459-64/1067-72, he was able to buy numerous invaluable books of the royal library; and when he later returned to Baghdad, his library was carried by ten camels. Back in Baghdad he gained access to the highest level of society despite his open espousal of Muʿtazilism. The chief judge Abū ʿAbdallāh Dāmḡānī would rise in honor of him. Students of Hadith eagerly sought his transmission, because he held some Traditions with a particularly short chain of transmitters. With the Muʿtazilite scholar Abū ʿAlī b. al-Walīd (d. 478/1086) he debated theological questions. He had close relations with the Banū al-Jahīr, the family of viziers of the ʿAbbasid caliphs, and was later, presumably after their fall in 476/1083, pressed by “the Turks” for deposits which he was accused of holding for them. The Saljuq vizier Neẓām-al-molk (d. 485/1092), though a vigorous supporter of Asḥʿarite theology, received him well during his first visit to Baghdad in 479/1086 or later. Abū Yūsof let himself be introduced to him as “Abū Yūsof al-Qazvīnī al-Moʿtazelī” and presented him with several unique manuscripts, among them the letter of appointment of Qāżī-al-qożāt ʿAbd-al-Jabbār in the handwriting of the Buyid vizier Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād. He died on 14 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 488/15 November 1095 and was buried in the al-Ḵayzorān cemetery near the shrine of Abū Ḥanīfa.

Abū Yūsof’s Koran commentary Ḥadāʾeq ḏāt al-bahīa is described as having comprised 300, 400, or even 700 volumes, seven of them being devoted to the Fāteḥa alone. It supported Muʿtazilite theological doctrine and evidently made use of the earlier tradition of Muʿtazilite Koran exegesis represented by the commentaries of al-Aṣamm, Abū Moslem b. Baḥr, Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī, Abū ʿAlī and Abū Hāšem Jobbāʾī, and ʿAbd-al-Jabbār. The original manuscript was left by the author as a waqf in the shrine of Abū Ḥanīfa. No parts of the work seem to be preserved. Abū Yūsof is occasionally qualified in the sources as a Zaidite. In view of the definite evidence for his Hanafite Muʿtazilite convictions, this characterization can not be accepted, although it may reflect pro-ʿAlid tendencies in his views concerning the imamate, similar to those apparent in the doctrine of his teacher ʿAbd-al-Jabbār. He is reported to have composed Arabic poetry of good quality and was noted for his sharp-witted jokes, some of which are quoted in the sources.


Ebn al-Jawzī, al-Montaẓam, Hyderabad, 1357-59/1938-41, V, p. 172; VI, p. 358; VII, p. 221; VIII, pp. 183f.; IX, pp. 21f., 89f.

Ḏahabī, Ḥoffāẓ IV, p. 8. Yāqūt, Odabāʾ I, p. 171.

Idem, Moʿǰam II, p. 381.

Ebn al-Aṯīr, X, p. 173.

Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt2, pp. 97f.

Ebn Abi’l-Wafāʾ Qorašī, al-Jawāher al-możīʾa, Hyderabad, 1332/1914, I, p. 315f.

Lesān al-mīzān IV, p. 11f. Ebn Taḡrīberdī, V, p. 156.

Soyūṭī, Ṭabaqātal-mofasserīn, ed. A. Meursinge, Leiden, 1834, p. 19.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 21, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, pp. 398-399

Cite this entry:

W. Madelung, “ABŪ YŪSOF QAZVINI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, pp. 398-399; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-yusof-qazvini-mutazilite-scholar-and-author (accessed on 31 January 2014).