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Al-Biruni (973–1048)

Syed Farid Alatas


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Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni was born in the city of Khw¯razm (modern Khiva) in what is today known as Uzbekistan, but during his youth was part of the Iranian Samanid Empire. He spent his early years under the patronage of various rulers until finally becoming part of the court of Mahmud Ghaznavi (979–1030), the ruler of an empire that included parts of what is now known as Afghanistan, Iran, and northern India. Al-Biruni went to India with the troops of Mahmud and remained there for many years. During this time, he studied Sanskrit, translated a number of Indian religious texts, and conducted research on Indian religions and their doctrines. Al-Biruni was the first Muslim and probably the first scholar to provide a systematic account of the religions of India from a sociological point of view. Furthermore, his work is considered to be a vital source of knowledge of Indian history and society in the eleventh century, providing details of the religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology, astronomy, customs, laws, and astrology of India. Typical of the great scholars of his period, al-Biruni was multitalented, being well versed in physics, metaphysics, mathematics, geography, and history. He wrote a number of books and treatises. Apart from his Kitab ma li al-hind ( The Book of What Constitutes India ), he also wrote Al-Qanun al-Masudi (on astronomy and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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