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Remembering 1,046 Years of Al-Biruni’s Contributions

You will definitely find his contributions in many fields; in astronomy, astrology, physics, anthropology, biology, chemistry, comparative sociology, history, geography, geology, mathematics, psychology, philosophy, and theology.

He’s Abu Raihan Al-Biruni who’s often regarded as one of the greatest Muslim scientists of the medieval ages.

The Pakistani scholar Hakeem Mohammed Saeed wrote in his Al-Biruni: Commemorative Volume, “he had an open, universal mind and a keen desire to drink deep from the Fountain of Truth, whatever its source.”

Al-Biruni is the embodiment of the Qur’anic injunction to seek knowledge, and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had exhorted Muslims to acquire knowledge even if it meant going as far as China.

While referring to the Qur’an to back his statements-his faith in Islam is strong as is his relief to be born a Muslim-he reflects on the essential oneness of man. When Al-Biruni wrote, Islam was on the ascendant in world affairs. Yet neither condescension nor contempt mar his work.

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Father of Indology

The medieval Muslim scientist starred in science at an early age, publishing his first book on cartography when he was 22. He’s most credited for bringing the Indian scientific heritage to the Islamic World – often given the title of “founder of Indology”.

Al-Biruni traveled to the Indian subcontinent where he became an expert on everything Indian and wrote some of his most encyclopedic works that documented the region’s knowledge, myths, science, and culture.

The modern Pakistani professor Akbar Salahuddin Ahmed believes that “Al-Biruni was perhaps the first Muslim to study the Puranas, the Hindu classical texts. In addition, secondary sources-translations by Arab and Persian scholars-are consulted. He travels extensively in India and associates with Hindus.”

As the Australian scholar Arthur Jeffery wrote of Al-Biruni, “It’s rare until modern times to find so fair and unprejudiced a statement of the views of other religions, so earnest an attempt to study them in the best sources, and such care to find a method which for this branch of study would be both rigorous and just.”

Lost Encyclopedias

According to Nature, about 65% of Al-Biruni’s 146 discovered books are about mathematics and astronomy, making them the fields he was most prolific in. Unfortunately, less than one-fifth of his books survived, the others lost along the years.

The lunar studies of the Persian medieval scientist facilitated Richard Dunthorne in the 18th century to determine the acceleration of the moon. Al-Biruni developed many new mathematical techniques to improve the measurements of previous astronomers.

Furthermore, he detailed the longitudes and latitudes of Earth and discussed the formation of mountains. He also unified statistics and dynamics in the field of mechanics. He was also an avid scholar of religions and studied several different ones objectively.

About Islam Mitsraym
Islam is the Assistant Editor of the Science Section since 2010. He studied Biology as a major and he's an Administrative Member in the Astronomical Society of Mahmoud Mosque (ASMM), Giza, Egypt. He achieved a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology from The Institute of African Researches & Studies, Cairo University.