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Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was an
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
in scholar and
polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific prob ...

polymath
during the
Islamic Golden Age The Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural, economic, and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam The history of Islam concerns the political, social, economic, and cultural developments of Muslim world, Islamic civilization. M ...
. He has been variously called as the "founder of
Indology Indology or Indian studies is the academic study of the history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country locat ...
", "Father of
Comparative Religion Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices, themes and impacts (including migration) of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religi ...
", "Father of modern
geodesy Geodesy ( ) is the Earth science of accurately measuring and understanding Earth's geometric shape, orientation in space, and gravitational field. The field also incorporates studies of how these properties change over time and equivalent measu ...
", and the first
anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Society, societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology and philosophical anthropology study the norm ...

anthropologist
. Al-Biruni was well versed in
physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of eve ...

physics
, mathematics,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
, and
natural science Natural science is a Branches of science, branch of science concerned with the description, understanding and prediction of Phenomenon, natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer r ...

natural science
s, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and
linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...
. He studied almost all fields of science and was compensated for his research and strenuous work. Royalty and powerful members of society sought out Al-Biruni to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings. In addition to this type of influence, Al-Biruni was also influenced by other nations, such as the Greeks, who he took inspiration from when he turned to studies of philosophy. He was conversant in Khwarezmian,
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
, Arabic,
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
, and also knew
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
and
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...

Syriac
. He spent much of his life in
Ghazni Ghazni ( prs, غزنی, ps, غزني), historically known as Ghaznin () or Ghazna () and also transliterated as Ghuznee, is a city in southeastern Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari language, Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the ...

Ghazni
, then capital of the
Ghaznavids The Ghaznavid dynasty ( fa, غزنویان ''ġaznaviyān'') was a Persianate Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam, a Monotheism, monotheistic Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic religion. The derivation of "Muslim" is fro ...
, in modern-day central-eastern Afghanistan. In 1017 he travelled to the Indian subcontinent and authored a study of Indian culture ''Tārīkh al-Hind'' (History of India) after exploring the
Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism.Jeffery D. Long (2007), A Vision for Hinduism, IB Tauris, , pages 35–37 Historically, the term has also been used as ...
faith practiced in
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
. He was an impartial writer on customs and creeds of various nations, and was given the title ''al-Ustadh'' ("The Master") for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India. In Iran, Abu Rayhan Biruni's birthday is celebrated as the day of the surveying engineer.


Name

Al-Biruni, which means "from Birun", is known as ''Biruni'' ( fa, بیرونی) in Persian and as ''Al-Biruni'' ( ar, البيروني) in Arabic. His full name in Arabic is ''Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī'', and in Persian fa, ابوریحان محمد بن احمد البیرونی ''Abū Rayḥān Bērōnī'';
New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or re ...
: ''Abū Rayḥān Bīrūnī'')


Life

He was born in the outer district ( Bīrūn) of
KathKath or KATH may refer to: * Kath (city) Beruniy ( uz, Beruniy/Беруний; kaa, Biruniy/Бируний; russian: Беруни) is a small city in the Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (, ; uz, Ozbekiston, ), officially the Republic of ...
, the capital of the
Afrighid The Afrighids (from 305 to 995 AD) ( fa, آفریغیان - آل آفریغ) were a native Khwarezmian Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, ...
dynasty of
Khwarezm Khwarazm , or Chorasmia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other ...
(Chorasmia) in Central Asia Al-Biruni spent the first twenty-five years of his life in Khwarezm where he studied
Islamic jurisprudence ''Fiqh'' (; ar} ) is Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", "ah gawd"; see interjecti ...
, theology, grammar, mathematics,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
, medicine, philosophy and also dabbled in the field of physics and most other sciences as well. The
Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia ...
Khwarezmian language Khwārezmian (Khwarezmian: , ''zβ'k 'y xw'rzm''; also transliterated Khwarazmian, Chorasmian, Khorezmian) is an extinct East Iranian language closely related to Sogdian. The language was spoken in the area of Khwarezm Khwarazm , or Cho ...
, which was the language of Biruni, survived for several centuries after
Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission
o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", "ah gawd"; see interjection An interjection is a word or expression that occurs as an utterance on its own and expresses a spontaneous feeling ...
) is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a Muhammad in Islam, messenger of God.Peters, F. E. 2009. "Allāh." In , ed ...
until the Turkification of the region, and so must some at least of the culture and lore of ancient
Khwarezm Khwarazm , or Chorasmia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other ...
, for it is hard to see the commanding figure of Biruni, a repository of so much knowledge, appearing in a cultural vacuum. He was sympathetic to the
Afrighids The Afrighids (from 305 to 995 AD) ( fa, آفریغیان - آل آفریغ) were a native Khwarezmian Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, ...
, who were overthrown by the rival dynasty of
Ma'munids The Maʾmunids ( fa, مأمونیان) were an independent dynasty of Iranian rulers in Chorasmia.Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual, Columbia University, 1996. Their reign was short-lived ...
in 995. He left his homeland for
Bukhara Bukhara (; Uzbek language, Uzbek: /; Tajik language, Tajik: Бухоро, ) is the List of cities in Uzbekistan, fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, with a population of 247,644 , and the capital of Bukhara Region. People have inhabited the region ...

Bukhara
, then under the
Samanid The Samanid Empire ( fa, سامانیان, Sāmāniyān) also known as the Samanian Empire, Samanid dynasty, Samanid amirate, or simply Samanids) was a Sunni Islam, Sunni Iranian peoples, Iranian empire, from 819 to 999. The empire was centred in G ...

Samanid
ruler Mansur II the son of Nuh. There he corresponded with
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
and there are extant exchanges of views between these two scholars. In 998, he went to the court of the
Ziyarid The Ziyarid dynasty ( fa, زیاریان) was an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country ...
amir of Tabaristan,
Shams al-Mo'ali Abol-hasan Ghaboos ibn Wushmgir Qabus ibn Wushmagir (full name: ''Abol-Hasan Qābūs ibn Wušmagīr ibn Ziyar Sams al-maʿālī'', ; (died 1012) (r. 977–981; 997–1012) was the Ziyarid ruler of Gurgan and Tabaristan . The borders represent the traditional geographical boundar ...
. There he wrote his first important work, ''al-Athar al-Baqqiya 'an al-Qorun al-Khaliyya'' (literally: "The remaining traces of past centuries" and translated as "Chronology of ancient nations" or "Vestiges of the Past") on historical and scientific chronology, probably around 1000 A.D., though he later made some amendments to the book. He also visited the court of the
Bavandid The Bavand dynasty () (also spelled Bavend), or simply the Bavandids, was an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ...
ruler
Al-MarzubanAl-Marzuban or Marzuban bin Rustam of Parim ( fa, مرزبان بن رستم پریمی), was the thirteenth ruler of the Bavand dynasty The Bavand dynasty () (also spelled Bavend), or simply the Bavandids, was an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * ...
. Accepting the definite demise of the Afrighids at the hands of the Ma'munids, he made peace with the latter who then ruled
Khwarezm Khwarazm , or Chorasmia (Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other ...
. Their court at Gorganj (also in Khwarezm) was gaining fame for its gathering of brilliant scientists. In 1017,
Mahmud of Ghazni Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn ( fa, یمین‌الدوله ابوالقاسم محمود بن سبکتگین; 2 November 971 – 30 April 1030), usually known as Mahmud of Ghazni ( fa, ) or Mahmud Ghaznavi was the fo ...

Mahmud of Ghazni
took Rey. Most scholars, including al-Biruni, were taken to Ghazni, the capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty. Biruni was made court astrologer and accompanied Mahmud on his invasions into India, living there for a few years. He was forty-four years old when he went on the journeys with Mahmud of Ghazni. Biruni became acquainted with all things related to India. During this time he wrote his study of India, finishing it around 1030. Along with his writing, Al-Biruni also made sure to extend his study to science while on the expeditions. He sought to find a method to measure the height of the sun, and created a makeshift
quadrant Quadrant may refer to: Companies * Quadrant Cycle Company, 1899 manufacturers in Britain of the Quadrant motorcar * Quadrant (motorcycles), one of the earliest British motorcycle manufacturers, established in Birmingham in 1901 * Quadrant Private ...
for that purpose. Al-Biruni was able to make much progress in his study over the frequent travels that he went on throughout the lands of India. Belonging to the
Sunni Sunni Islam () is by far the largest branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part o ...
Ash'ari Ash'arism or Ashʿari theology (; ar, أشعرية ''al-ʾAšʿarīyah'' or ''al-ʾAšāʿirah'') is the foremost Schools of Islamic theology#Sunni schools of theology, theological school of Sunni Islam which established an orthodox dogmatic g ...
school, al-Biruni nevertheless also associated with
Maturidi Māturīdī theology or Māturīdism ( ar, الماتريدية: ''al-Māturīdiyyah'') is one of the main Sunni Sunni Islam () is by far the largest branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) ...
theologians. He was however, very critical of the Mu'tazila, particularly criticising
al-Jahiz Abū ʿUthman ʿAmr ibn Baḥr al-Kinānī al-Baṣrī ( ar, أبو عثمان عمرو بن بحر الكناني البصري), commonly known as al-Jāḥiẓ ( ar, links=no, الجاحظ, ''The Bug Eyed'', born 776; died December 868/Januar ...

al-Jahiz
and Zurqan. He also repudiated
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
for his views on the eternality of the universe.


Mathematics, astronomy and invention of minutes and seconds

Ninety-five of 146 books known to have been written by Bīrūnī were devoted to astronomy, mathematics, and related subjects like mathematical geography. He lived during the Islamic Golden Age, when the Abbasid Caliphs promoted the research of astronomy. This contributed to his research of astronomy, since in Islam worship and prayer require knowing the precise directions of sacred locations, which can only be accurately found using astronomical data. To conduct research, Al-Biruni used different methods to tackle the various fields he studied. Biruni's major work on astrology is primarily an astronomical and mathematical text; he states: "I have begun with Geometry and proceeded to Arithmetic and the Science of Numbers, then to the structure of the Universe and finally to Judicial Astrology, for no one who is worthy of the style and title of Astrologer who is not thoroughly conversant with these for sciences." In these earlier chapters he lays the foundations for the final chapter, on astrological prognostication, which he criticises. He made the first semantic distinction between astronomy and astrology. In a later work, he wrote a refutation of astrology, as opposed to astronomy which he supports. Some suggest that his reasons for refuting astrology were due to the methods used by astrologers being based on
pseudoscience Pseudoscience consists of statements, belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology include ...
rather than
empiricism In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all th ...
and also due to the views of astrologers conflicting with
Sunni Islam Sunni Islam () is by far the largest Islamic schools and branches, branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word ''Sunnah'', referring to the behaviour of Muhammad. The differences between Sunni ...
. He wrote an extensive commentary on Indian astronomy in the ''Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind'' mostly translation of Aryabhatta's work, in which he claims to have resolved the matter of Earth's rotation in a work on astronomy that is no longer extant, his ''Miftah-ilm-alhai'a (Key to Astronomy)'':
e rotation of the earth does in no way impair the value of astronomy, as all appearances of an astronomic character can quite as well be explained according to this theory as to the other. There are, however, other reasons which make it impossible. This question is most difficult to solve. The most prominent of both modern and ancient astronomers have deeply studied the question of the moving of the earth, and tried to refute it. We, too, have composed a book on the subject called ''Miftah-ilm-alhai'a (Key to Astronomy)'', in which we think we have surpassed our predecessors, if not in the words, at all events in the matter.
In his description of Sijzi's astrolabe he hints at contemporary debates over the movement of the earth. He carried on a lengthy correspondence and sometimes heated debate with
Ibn Sina Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' ...
, in which Biruni repeatedly attacks Aristotle's celestial physics: he argues by simple experiment that vacuum must exist; he is "amazed" by the weakness of Aristotle's argument against elliptical orbits on the basis that they would create vacuum; he attacks the immutability of the celestial spheres. In his major astronomical work, the ''Mas'ud Canon'', Biruni observed that, contrary to
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
, the sun's
apogee Apsis ( el, ἀψίς; plural apsides , Greek: ἀψῖδες; "orbit") denotes either of the two extreme points (i.e., the farthest or nearest point) in the of a about its (or simply, "the primary"). The plural term, "apsides," usuall ...

apogee
(highest point in the heavens) was mobile, not fixed. He wrote a treatise on the
astrolabe An astrolabe ( grc, ἀστρολάβος ; ar, ٱلأَسْطُرلاب ; persian, ستاره‌یاب ) is an ancient astronomical instrument that was a handheld model of the universe. Its various functions also make it an elaborate inclinom ...

astrolabe
, describing how to use it to tell the time and as a quadrant for surveying. One particular diagram of an eight geared device could be considered an ancestor of later Muslim astrolabes and clocks. More recently, Biruni's eclipse data was used by Dunthorne in 1749 to help determine the acceleration of the moon, and his data on equinox times and eclipses was used as part of a study of Earth's past rotation. Al-Biruni was the person who first subdivided the hour
sexagesimal Sexagesimal, also known as base 60 or sexagenary, is a numeral system A numeral system (or system of numeration) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ...
ly into minutes, seconds, thirds and fourths in 1000 while discussing Jewish months.


Refutation of Eternal Universe

Similar to later Asharis, such as
al-Ghazali Al-Ghazali (, ; full name or , ; Latinized Algazelus or Algazel; – 19 December 1111) was a Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the ...

al-Ghazali
, al-Biruni is famous for vehemently defending the majority
Sunni Sunni Islam () is by far the largest branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part o ...
position that the universe has a beginning, being a strong supporter of
creatio ex nihilo (Latin for "creation out of nothing") is the doctrine that matter is not eternal but had to be created by some divine creative act. It is a theistic answer to the question of how the universe comes to exist. It is in contrast to ''Ex nihilo nih ...
, specifically refuting the philosopher
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
in a multiple letter correspondence.Berjak R. ''The Medieval Arabic Era: Ibn Sina-Al-Biruni Correspondence.'' Trans by Rafik Berjak, (2005)Ahmed, Sulaiman. ''The Disagreement between Avicenna and al-Ghazali on the Issue of the Pre-eternity of the Universe, how their Arguments Originated from Greek Philosophers and their Effect on Muslim Philosophers.'' Diss. University of Wales Trinity Saint David, 2017. Al-Biruni stated the following,Sachau, C. Eduard, ed. ''The Chronology of Ancient Nations: An English Version of the Arabic Text of the Athâr-ul-Bâkiya of Albîrûni Or'Vestiges of the Past'' William H. Allen & Company, 1879. He further stated that
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
, whose arguments
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
uses, contradicted himself when he stated that the universe and matter has a start whilst holding on to the idea that matter is pre-eternal. In his letters to
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
, he stated the argument of
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
, that there is a change in the creator. He further argued that stating there is a change in the creator would mean there is a change in the effect (meaning the universe has change) and that the universe coming into being after not being is such a change (and so arguing there is no change – no beginning – means
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental quest ...

Aristotle
believes the creator is negated). Al-Biruni was proud of the fact that he followed the textual evidence of the religion without being influenced by Greek philosophers such as Aristotle.


Physics

Al-Biruni contributed to the introduction of the
scientific method The scientific method is an empirical Empirical evidence for a proposition is evidence, i.e. what supports or counters this proposition, that is constituted by or accessible to sense experience or experimental procedure. Empirical evidence ...

scientific method
to medieval
mechanics Mechanics (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...

mechanics
. He developed experimental methods to determine density, using a particular type of
hydrostatic balance In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient Greek, Greek: ) is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, more specifically the relationships among fo ...
.


Geography and Geodesy

Bīrūnī devised a novel method of determining the earth's radius by means of the observation of the height of a mountain. He carried it out at
Nandana Nandana or Nandna was a fort A fortification is a military construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. '' ...
in
Pind Dadan Khan Pind Dadan Khan (P.D. Khan), a city in Jhelum District Jhelum District ( pnb, ), is in Pothohar Plateau of the Punjab (Pakistani province), Punjab province of Pakistan. Jhelum is one of the oldest districts of Punjab. It was established on 23 ...
(present-day Pakistan). He used trigonometry to calculate the radius of the Earth using measurements of the height of a hill and measurement of the dip in the horizon from the top of that hill. His calculated radius for the Earth of 3928.77 miles was 2% higher than the actual mean radius of 3847.80 miles. His estimate was given as 12,803,337
cubits The cubit was an ancient unit Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who'' * Unit of action, ...
, so the accuracy of his estimate compared to the modern value depends on what conversion is used for cubits. The exact length of a cubit is not clear; with an 18-inch cubit his estimate would be 3,600 miles, whereas with a 22-inch cubit his estimate would be 4,200 miles. One significant problem with this approach is that Al-Biruni was not aware of
atmospheric refraction Atmospheric refraction is the deviation of or other from a straight line as it passes through the due to the variation in as a function of . This refraction is due to the velocity of light through , decreasing (the increases) with increased ...

atmospheric refraction
and made no allowance for it. He used a dip angle of 34 arc minutes in his calculations, but refraction can typically alter the measured dip angle by about 1/6, making his calculation only accurate to within about 20% of the true value. In his ''Codex Masudicus'' (1037), Al-Biruni theorized the existence of a landmass along the vast ocean between Asia and Europe, or what is today known as the Americas. He argued for its existence on the basis of his accurate estimations of the
Earth's circumference Earth's circumference is the distance Distance is a numerical measurement of how far apart objects or points are. In physics or everyday usage, distance may refer to a physical length or an estimation based on other criteria (e.g. "two coun ...
and
Afro-Eurasia Afro-Eurasia (or Afroeurasia, Field, Henry.The University of California African Expedition: I, Egypt, ''American Anthropologist,'' New Series Vol. 50, No. 3, Part 1 (Jul. - Sep., 1948), pp. 479-493. or Eurafrasia), nicknamed the World Island, ...

Afro-Eurasia
's size, which he found spanned only two-fifths of the Earth's circumference, reasoning that the geological processes that gave rise to
Eurasia Eurasia () is the largest continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a ...

Eurasia
must surely have given rise to lands in the vast ocean between Asia and Europe. He also theorized that at least some of the unknown landmass would lie within the known latitudes which humans could inhabit, and therefore would be inhabited.


Pharmacology and mineralogy

Biruni wrote a
pharmacopoeia A pharmacopoeia, pharmacopeia, or pharmacopoea (from the obsolete typography ''pharmacopœia'', literally, "drug-making"), in its modern technical sense, is a book containing directions for the identification of compound medicine Medicine is t ...
, the "Kitab al-saydala fi al-tibb" (Book on the Pharmacopoeia of Medicine). It lists synonyms for drug names in Syriac, Persian, Greek, Baluchi, Afghan, Kurdi, and some Indian languages. He used a
hydrostatic balance In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient Greek, Greek: ) is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, more specifically the relationships among fo ...
to determine the density and purity of metals and precious stones. He classified gems by what he considered their primary physical properties, such as specific gravity and hardness, rather than the common practice of the time of classifying them by colour.


History and chronology

Biruni's main essay on political history, ''Kitāb al-musāmara fī aḵbār Ḵᵛārazm'' (Book of nightly conversation concerning the affairs of Ḵᵛārazm) is now known only from quotations in Bayhaqī's Tārīkh-e Masʿūdī. In addition to this various discussions of historical events and methodology are found in connection with the lists of kings in his al-Āthār al-bāqiya and in the Qānūn as well as elsewhere in the Āthār, in India, and scattered throughout his other works. Al-Biruni's "Chronology of Ancient Nations" attempted to accurately establish the length of various historical eras.


History of religions

Bīrūnī is one of the most important Muslim authorities on the history of religion. Al-Biruni was a pioneer in the study of comparative religion. He studied
Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religions, Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian peoples, Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster (also known as ''Za ...
, Judaism,
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic religions, are the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent. These religions, which include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, ...

Hinduism
, Christianity,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
,
Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission
o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", "ah gawd"; see interjection An interjection is a word or expression that occurs as an utterance on its own and expresses a spontaneous feeling ...
) is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a Muhammad in Islam, messenger of God.Peters, F. E. 2009. "Allāh." In , ed ...
, and other religions. He assumed the superiority of Islam: "We have here given an account of these things in order that the reader may learn by the comparative treatment of the subject how much superior the institutions of Islam are, and how more plainly this contrast brings out all customs and usages, differing from those of Islam, in their essential foulness." However he was happy on occasion to express admiration for other cultures, and quoted directly from other religions' sacred texts when reaching his conclusions. He strived to understand them on their own terms rather than trying to prove them wrong. His underlying concept was that all cultures are at least distant relatives of all other cultures because they are all human constructs. "Rather, what Al-Biruni seems to be arguing is that there is a common human element in every culture that makes all cultures distant relatives, however foreign they might seem to one another." Al-Biruni divides
Hindus Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion Indian religions, sometimes also termed Dharmic religions or Indic re ...
into an educated and an uneducated class. He describes the educated as monotheistic, believing that God is one, eternal, and omnipotent and eschewing all forms of idol worship. He recognizes that uneducated Hindus worshiped a multiplicity of idols yet points out that even some Muslims (such as the
Jabriyah Jabriyah was an early islamic philosophy, early islamic philosophical school based on the belief that humans are controlled by predestination, without having choice or free will. The Jabriya school originated during the Umayyad dynasty in Basra. Th ...
) have adopted
anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics t ...
concepts of God.


Anthropology

Al-Biruni wrote about the peoples, customs and religions of the Indian subcontinent. According to Akbar S. Ahmed, like modern anthropologists, he engaged in extensive participant observation with a given group of people, learnt their language and studied their primary texts, presenting his findings with objectivity and neutrality using cross-cultural comparisons. Akhbar S. Ahmed concluded that Al-Biruni can be considered as the first Anthropologist, however, others argue that he hardly can be considered an anthropologist in the conventional sense.


Indology

Al-Biruni's fame as an Indologist rests primarily on two texts. Al-Biruni wrote an encyclopedic work on India called ''Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind min maqūlah maqbūlah fī al-ʿaql aw mardhūlah'' (variously translated as "Verifying All That the Indians Recount, the Reasonable and the Unreasonable" or "The book confirming what pertains to India, whether rational or despicable") in which he explored nearly every aspect of Indian life, including religion, history, geography, geology, science, and mathematics. During his journey through India, military and political histories were not of Al-Biruni's main focus. Instead, he decided to document the more civilian and scholarly areas of Hindu life such as culture, science, and religion. He explores religion within a rich cultural context. He expresses his objective with simple eloquence: He also translated the works of Indian sage
Patanjali ( sa, पतञ्जलि) was a sage in ancient India, thought to be the author of a number of Sanskrit works. The greatest of these are the '' Yoga Sutras'', a classical yoga text. There is doubt as to whether the sage Patañjali is the a ...

Patanjali
with the title ''Tarjamat ketāb Bātanjalī fi’l-ḵalāṣ men al-ertebāk''. An example of Al-Biruni's analysis is his summary of why many Hindus hate Muslims. Biruni notes in the beginning of his book how the Muslims had a hard time learning about Hindu knowledge and culture. He explains that Hinduism and Islam are totally different from each other. Moreover, Hindus in 11th century India had suffered waves of destructive attacks on many of its cities, and Islamic armies had taken numerous Hindu slaves to Persia, which – claimed Al-Biruni – contributed to Hindus becoming suspicious of all foreigners, not just Muslims. Hindus considered Muslims violent and impure, and did not want to share anything with them. Over time, Al-Biruni won the welcome of Hindu scholars. Al-Biruni collected books and studied with these Hindu scholars to become fluent in Sanskrit, discover and translate into Arabic the mathematics, science, medicine, astronomy and other fields of arts as practiced in 11th-century India. He was inspired by the arguments offered by Indian scholars who believed earth must be globular in shape, which they felt was the only way to fully explain the difference in daylight hours by latitude, seasons and earth's relative positions with moon and stars. At the same time, Al-Biruni was also critical of Indian scribes, whom he believed carelessly corrupted Indian documents while making copies of older documents. He also criticized the Hindus on what he saw them do and not do, for example finding them deficient in curiosity about history and religion. One of the specific aspects of Hindu life that Al-Biruni studied was the Hindu calendar. His scholarship on the topic exhibited great determination and focus, not to mention the excellence in his approach of the in-depth research he performed. He developed a method for converting the dates of the Hindu calendar to the dates of the three different calendars that were common in the Islamic countries of his time period, the Greek, the Arab/Muslim, and the Persian. Biruni also employed astronomy in the determination of his theories, which were complex mathematical equations and scientific calculation that allows one to convert dates and years between the different calendars. The book does not limit itself to tedious records of battle because Al-Biruni found the social culture to be more important. The work includes research on a vast array of topics of Indian culture, including descriptions of their traditions and customs. Although he tried to stay away from political and military history, Biruni did indeed record important dates and noted actual sites of where significant battles occurred. Additionally, he chronicled stories of Indian rulers and told of how they ruled over their people with their beneficial actions and acted in the interests of the nation. But, his details are brief and mostly just list rulers without referring to their real names. He did not go on about deeds that each one carried out during their reign, which keeps in line with Al-Biruni's mission to try to stay away from political histories. Al-Biruni also described the geography of India in his work. He documented different bodies of water and other natural phenomena. These descriptions are useful to today's modern historians because they are able to use Biruni's scholarship to locate certain destinations in modern-day India. Historians are able to make some matches while also concluding that certain areas seem to have disappeared and been replaced with different cities. Different forts and landmarks were able to be located, legitimizing Al-Biruni's contributions with their usefulness to even modern history and archeology. The dispassionate account of Hinduism given by Al-Biruni was remarkable for its time. He stated that he was fully objective in his writings, remaining unbiased like a proper historian should. Biruni documented everything about India just as it happened. But, he did note how some of the accounts of information that he was given by natives of the land may not have been reliable in terms of complete accuracy, however, he did try to be as honest as possible in his writing. Dr. Edward C. Sachau compares it to "a magic island of quiet, impartial research in the midst of a world of clashing swords, burning towns, and plundered temples." Biruni's writing was very poetic, which may diminish some of the historical value of the work for modern times. The lack of description of battle and politics makes those parts of the picture completely lost. However, Many have used Al-Biruni's work to check facts of history in other works that may have been ambiguous or had their validity questioned.


Works

Most of the works of Al-Biruni are in
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
although he seemingly wrote the ''Kitab al-Tafhim'' in both
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
and Arabic, showing his mastery over both languages.S.H. Nasr, "An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines: conceptions of nature and methods used for its study by the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, al-Bīrūnī, and Ibn Sīnā", 2nd edition, Revised. SUNY press, 1993. pp 111: "Al-Biruni wrote one of the masterpieces of medieval science, Kitab al-Tafhim, apparently in both Arabic and Persian, demonstrating how conversant he was in both tongues. The Kitab al-Tafhim is without doubt the most important of the early works of science in Persian and serves as a rich source for Persian prose and lexicography as well as for the knowledge of the Quadrivium whose subjects it covers in a masterly fashion" Bīrūnī's catalogue of his own literary production up to his 65th lunar/63rd solar year (the end of 427/1036) lists 103 titles divided into 12 categories: astronomy, mathematical geography, mathematics, astrological aspects and transits, astronomical instruments, chronology, comets, an untitled category, astrology, anecdotes, religion, and books he no longer possesses.


Selection of extant works

* A Critical Study of What India Says, Whether Accepted by Reason or Refused (); or ''Indica''; or ''Kitāb al-Hind''; ''Kitab al-Bīrūnī fī Taḥqīq mā li-al-Hind''.; or ''Alberuni's India'' (Translation) – compendium of India's religion and philosophy. * Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology (''Kitab al-tafhim li-awa’il sina‘at al-tanjim''); in
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
*
The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries ''The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries'' ( ar, کتاب الآثار الباقية عن القرون الخالية ', also known as ''Chronology of Ancient Nations'' or ''Vestiges of the Past'', after the translation published by Eduard Sachau ...
() – a comparative study of calendars of cultures and civilizations, (including several chapters on Christian cults) with mathematical, astronomical, and historical information. *
Melkite The term Melkite (), also written Melchite, refers to various Eastern Christianity, Eastern Christian churches of the Byzantine Rite and their members originating in the Middle East. The term comes from the common Central Semitic Semitic root, roo ...
Calendar, or ''Les Fetes des Melchites'' – Arabic text with French translation extract from ''The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries''. * The Mas'udi Law () – encyclopedia of astronomy, geography, and engineering, dedicated to Mas'ud, son of
Mahmud of Ghazni Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn ( fa, یمین‌الدوله ابوالقاسم محمود بن سبکتگین; 2 November 971 – 30 April 1030), usually known as Mahmud of Ghazni ( fa, ) or Mahmud Ghaznavi was the fo ...

Mahmud of Ghazni
of the eponymous title. * Understanding Astrology () – a question and answer style book about mathematics and astronomy, in Arabic and Persian. * Pharmacy – on drugs and medicines. * Gems () – geology manual of minerals and gems. Dedicated to Mawdud son of Mas'ud. * Astrolabe * A Short History * History of Mahmud of Ghazni and his father * History of Khawarezm * ''Kitab al-Āthār al-Bāqīyah ‘an al-Qurūn al-Khālīyah''. * ''Risālah li-al-Bīrūnī'' (Epître de Berūnī)


Persian work

Biruni wrote most of his works in
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
, as the scientific language of his age, however, his Persian version of the Al-Tafhim is one of the most important of the early works of science in the
Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europ ...
, and is a rich source for Persian prose and lexicography. The book covers the
Quadrivium In liberal arts education Liberal arts education (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, know ...
in a detailed and skilled fashion.


Legacy

After Al-Biruni's death, in the
Ghaznavid dynasty The Ghaznavid dynasty ( fa, غزنویان ''Ġaznaviyān'') was a Persianate society, Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic peoples, Turkic ''mamluk'' origin, ruling, at its greatest extent, large parts of Iran, Afghanistan, much of Transoxiana ...
and following centuries his work was not built on, nor referenced. It was only hundreds of years later in the West, that his books became read and referenced again, especially his book on India which became relevant to the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
's A film about his life, ''Abu Raykhan Beruni'', was released in the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
in 1974. The lunar crater ''
Al-Biruni Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was an Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a co ...
'' and the asteroid
9936 Al-Biruni 9936 Al-Biruni, provisional designation , is a carbonaceous asteroid An asteroid is a minor planet of the Solar System#Inner solar system, inner Solar System. Historically, these terms have been applied to any astronomical object orbiting the ...
were named in his honour. In June 2009,
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
donated a pavilion to the
United Nations Office in Vienna The United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) is one of the four major office sites of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, securi ...
—placed in the central Memorial Plaza of the
Vienna International Center ). The Austria Center Vienna can be seen at the far left in the middle distance. Kaisermühlen/VIC station of the Vienna U-Bahn The Vienna U-Bahn (german: U-Bahn Wien), where ''U-Bahn'' is an abbreviation of the German term ''Untergrundbahn'' ( ...

Vienna International Center
. Named the
Scholars Pavilion Scholars Pavilion or Scholars Chartagi is a monument donated by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Office at Vienna. The monument architecture is claimed by the Islamic Republic News Agency of Iran to be a combination of Islamic arc ...
, it features the statues of four prominent Iranian scholars:
Avicenna Ibn Sina ( fa, ابن سینا), also known as Abu Ali Sina (), Pur Sina (), and often known in the West as Avicenna (;  – June 1037), was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, t ...

Avicenna
, Abu Rayhan Biruni, Zakariya Razi (Rhazes) and
Omar Khayyam Omar Khayyam (; fa, عمر خیّام ; 18 May 1048 – 4 December 1131) was a Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethni ...
.


Notes and references


Notes


Citations


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ,
PDF
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* *
At Packard Institute
* *


External links

* *
Abu Rayhan al- Biruni
at '' Encyclopedia.com''
The works of al-Bīrūnī – manuscripts, critical editions, and translations
{{DEFAULTSORT:Biruni, Abu Rayhan al- 973 births People from Karakalpakstan Medieval Persian astrologers Medieval Persian astronomers Medieval Persian geographers Persian philosophers Pharmacologists of medieval Iran 10th-century Persian mathematicians 11th-century Persian mathematicians 11th-century historians 11th-century geographers Astronomers of medieval Islam Geographers of medieval Islam Astrologers of medieval Islam Alchemists of medieval Islam Explorers of Asia Explorers of India Mathematicians of medieval Islam Islamic philosophers Scientists who worked on qibla determination Indologists Iranian anthropologists Historians of India 11th-century astronomers 10th-century Iranian people Ghaznavid scholars Samanid scholars Muslim inventors Inventors of medieval Islam 10th-century Muslims 11th-century Muslims Year of death unknown Persian chemists Asharis