Who was Al Biruni? And why did he come to India with Mahmud of Ghazni? This article explores some of the fascinating facts about Al Biruni and his contributions; from his thorough observations of Indian sciences and culture made by him to the motivations that drove him to settle on the Indian mainland.
You will get to learn some key facts about Al Biruni’s works and his life in the Indian subcontinent. They will help you understand the fascinating life of this Arab traveler and his geniuses.
In this article, we will also discuss why Al Biruni (also called Alberuni) visited India, what he did, and how well-learned he was. This post will be beneficial for all the candidates who are preparing for the UPSC exam as it is a vital part of the History syllabus.
- Al Biruni – A Brief Introduction
- Al Biruni’s life before his visit to India
- Al Biruni's India visit as the First Muslim Intellectual
- What are the works of Al Biruni?
- How well-educated was Al Biruni?
- FAQs related to Al Biruni
Al Biruni – A Brief Introduction
Alberuni was an important figure in Persian culture. He was born in Central Asia in present-day Uzbekistan in 973 AD. His birthplace was in Kath’s Khiza region. Kath, now part of Uzbekistan in Central Asia, was the capital of Khwarezm’s Afrighid dynasty.
Recognized as Al Biruni, his full name was Abu Al-Rayhan Muhammad. He was a famous Muslim scholar, polymath, and prolific author in the 11th Century. He is recognized as the first anthropologist and the father of Indology. His life contributed greatly to the fields of mathematical methods, astronomy, cultural history topics, and earth sciences.
He spent his life’s major part in Ghazni, the Ghaznavids’ capital in central-eastern Afghanistan, and visited India in 1017.
Al Biruni’s life before his visit to India
- He was born and lived in Khwarezm for 25 years. He studied Islamic law, linguistics, astronomy, theology, Islamic mathematics, medicine, philosophy, and the majority of other scientific methods here.
- Alberuni and many other intellectuals were brought to Ghaznavid’s capital city- Ghazni under the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni in AD 1017.
- Abu Al-Rayhan Muhammad was a royal astrologer who accompanied his emperor Mahmud of Ghazni on his 11th-century forays into India’s Punjab, where he stayed for several years.
Al Biruni’s India visit as the First Muslim Intellectual
- Al Biruni’s trip to India inspired him to learn more about India’s Brahmanical legacy. He was in his 44th year when he first visited the nation and became the first Muslim intellectual to do so.
- He was captivated by Indian culture.
- During his time in India, he became well-versed in many aspects of Indian culture and Hindu life. He studied Indian philosophy, Sanskrit, and the country’s socioeconomic status.
- He was a Shia Muslim who had a rational mindset. His lyrical compositions try to unite Greek and Islamic ideas.
- His book Tahqiq-i-Hind describes India’s condition in societal, geopolitical, religious, and financial aspects.
- In his argument, he references key passages from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, Patanjali, the Vedas-Puranas, and scientific literature written by the likes of Aryabhata, Nagarjuna, and others. He also relied heavily on tales from Indian mythology.
- He admired Indian philosophy without limitation.
- The Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads had a big impact on him.
- At times, along with Sufi teachings, he discovered parallels between Indian philosophy and Greek philosophy. Pythagoras, Galen, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc. were some of the Greek Philosophers he studied about.
- He wrote a book as a survey of Indian life between the period 1017 AD to 1030 AD. The analysis, investigation, and findings by Al Biruni in India served as the foundation for this book.
- His journey to India began with him observing Hindus and the civilization of the land, following a thorough absorption of Brahmanical literature and culture. Alberuni went into great detail about India, the country, its people, religion, philosophy, science, literature, and other forms of art.
What are the works of Al Biruni?
Al Biruni’s works include his experimental methods and contributions to science and mathematics spanning many disciplines, including astronomy, physics, medicine, natural sciences, and history. His work is prominent in the fields of history and astrology, in addition to being a notable character in Islamic history.
Here, we take a closer look at some of his most notable works.
- Alberuni is also well-known for his contributions to Islamic studies. Tarikh al-Hind(History of India) was written by him.
- He had been an objective and impartial guy who wrote about many civilizations’ practices and beliefs, largely in Arabic.
- Two works were translated into Arabic by him:
- Samkhya of Kapila
- Translation of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra into Arabic, known as Kitab al-Hind
- Al Biruni’s book contains details on the mathematical contributions he made to Islamic mathematics. These include the Summation of Series, Al Biruni’s Masudic Canon, the Rule of Three, and the Trisection of Angles. His contributions also include the Sine Theorem in the plane and Solving Spherical Triangles.
- Al Biruni created experimental methods for calculating the density of matter. Some of these experiments and calculations were based on balance and weighing theory and others on fluid volume.
- Al Biruni’s works were instrumental in introducing the scientific approach to medieval mechanics. He evaluated precious stones and metals using a hydrostatic balance. This helped him determine the purity and density of precious stones and metals. He also began classifying precious stones by their basic physical attributes, such as hardness and specific gravity, rather than their color, which was typical at the time.
- In addition, he developed the first known scientific method for calculating the angle and radius of an octagon.
- He collaborated with Abu al-Wafa to determine the longitudinal difference between the two cities. They did it when Al Biruni and Abu al-Wafa saw the same lunar eclipse from two different cities.
- He also wrote about Hindu life, religion, and spirituality. Military and Political history topics were not his primary interests.
- The Tahqiq-i-Hind is perhaps the best-known book written by Al Beruni.
- He wrote several books on history, mineralogy, pharmacology, philology, and astronomy. His works also contain many other topics. Al Biruni maintained correspondence with other famous minds of his time, including al-Khujandi and Abu l-Wafa’ al-Buzajani.
- Comparative religion studies were Alberuni’s field of expertise. He had a keen interest in different faiths such as Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and others, and thoroughly studied them.
- He researched several aspects of Hindu culture, including the Hindu calendar. He devised a mechanism for converting Hindu calendar dates to the three Islamic calendars in use at the time: Greek, Arab/Muslim, and Persian.
- “Chronology of Ancient Nations” by Alberuni aims to determine the length of several periods of history.
- Al Biruni wrote “Book on the Pharmacopoeia” of Medicine which contains synonyms of various drug names synonyms in various languages. It covers Syriac, Baluchi, Kurdi, Persian, Greek, Afghan, and other Indian languages.
- An experimental technique was used by him for the first time that was used for creating a simple formula to estimate the Earth’s radius. Furthermore, he postulated the notion of geological periods following one another using astronomical equipment and believed the Earth may orbit the sun.
Al Biruni took pride in adhering to the religion’s scriptural evidence rather than being swayed by the likes of Aristotle and other Greek scholars.
How well-educated was Al Biruni?
- Throughout his life, Al Biruni showed an extraordinary curiosity in many fields, including astronomy, mathematical science, history, natural sciences, and pharmacology.
- He started his life in Khwarezm and lived there for 25 years studying Islamic law, language, and astronomy.
- He was a scholar with vast knowledge. He was fluent in Turkish, Hebrew, Persian, Sanskrit, and Syriac as well as Arabic (Armenian).
- Because of his extensive study of Indian heritage and the local quintessence of the time, some researchers consider him to be the “first Anthropologist.”
Al Biruni, an Islamic astronomer, is a key person in the evolution of mathematics. His contributions to science and mathematics span many disciplines, including astronomy, physics, medicine, and cultural history.
While many people have made a name for themselves by studying the Quran, Alberuni was an Islamic studies pioneer.
FAQs related to Al Biruni
What does “Al Biruni” mean?
The name Al-Biruni comes from the Persian word bērūn or bīrūn, which means “outskirts.” This is because he was born in a district that was located on the outskirts of Kath, which was the capital of the Afrighid kingdom of Khwarazm.
Name some of Al Biruni’s notable works.
The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, Gems, Indica, The Mas’udi Canon, and Understanding Astrology are some of his notable works.
What was Al Biruni’s impact on the world?
Al Biruni’s contributions to various fields of study had a profound impact on the world. His works were highly regarded in his time and were widely read and studied for centuries after his death. He is considered one of the most important scholars of the medieval Islamic world and his works have influenced the development of science and scholarship in many fields.