51 Facts About Al-Biruni


Al-Biruni has been called variously the "founder of Indology", "Father of Comparative Religion", "Father of modern geodesy", and the first anthropologist.

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Al-Biruni was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist, and linguist.

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Al-Biruni studied almost all the sciences of his day and was rewarded abundantly for his tireless research in many fields of knowledge.

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Influential in his own right, Al-Biruni was himself influenced by the scholars of other nations, such as the Greeks, from whom he took inspiration when he turned to the study of philosophy.

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Al-Biruni spent much of his life in Ghazni, then capital of the Ghaznavids, in modern-day central-eastern Afghanistan.

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Al-Biruni was, for his time, an admirably impartial writer on the customs and creeds of various nations, his scholarly objectivity earning him the title al-Ustadh in recognition of his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.

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Al-Biruni was born in the outer district of Kath, the capital of the Afrighid dynasty of Khwarezm (Chorasmia) in Central Asia – now part of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan in the northwest of Uzbekistan.

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Al-Biruni spent the first twenty-five years of his life in Khwarezm where he studied Islamic jurisprudence, theology, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy and dabbled not only in the field of physics, but in those of most of the other sciences.

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Al-Biruni was sympathetic to the Afrighids, who were overthrown by the rival dynasty of Ma'munids in 995.

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Al-Biruni left his homeland for Bukhara, then under the Samanid ruler Mansur II the son of Nuh II.

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Al-Biruni was forty-four years old when he went on the journeys with Mahmud of Ghazni.

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Al-Biruni sought to find a method to measure the height of the sun, and created a makeshift quadrant for that purpose.

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Al-Biruni was able to make much progress in his study over the frequent travels that he went on throughout the lands of India.

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Al-Biruni was however, very critical of the Mu'tazila, particularly criticising al-Jahiz and Zurqan.

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Al-Biruni repudiated Avicenna for his views on the eternality of the universe.

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Al-Biruni lived during the Islamic Golden Age, when the Abbasid Caliphs promoted astronomical research, because such research possessed not only a scientific but a religious dimension: in Islam worship and prayer require a knowledge of the precise directions of sacred locations, which can be determined accurately only through the use of astronomical data.

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In carrying out his research, Al-Biruni used a variety of different techniques dependent upon the particular field of study involved.

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Al-Biruni was the first to make the semantic distinction between astronomy and astrology and, in a later work, wrote a refutation of astrology, in contradistinction to the legitimate science of astronomy, for which he expresses wholehearted support.

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Al-Biruni wrote an extensive commentary on Indian astronomy in the Tahqiq ma 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:.

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Al-Biruni carried on a lengthy correspondence and sometimes heated debate with Ibn Sina, in which Biruni repeatedly attacks Aristotle's celestial physics: he argues by simple experiment that the vacuum state must exist; he is "amazed" by the weakness of Aristotle's argument against elliptical orbits on the basis that they would create a vacuum; he attacks the immutability of the celestial spheres.

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Al-Biruni wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, describing how to use it to tell the time and as a quadrant for surveying.

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Al-Biruni further stated that Aristotle, whose arguments 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.

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Al-Biruni further argued that stating there is a change in the creator would mean there is a change in the effect 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 believes the creator is negated).

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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.

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Al-Biruni contributed to the introduction of the scientific method to medieval mechanics.

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Al-Biruni developed experimental methods to determine density, using a particular type of hydrostatic balance.

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Al-Biruni 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.

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Al-Biruni's estimate was given as 12, 803, 337 cubits, so the accuracy of his estimate compared to the modern value depends on what conversion is used for cubits.

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One significant problem with this approach is that Al-Biruni was not aware of atmospheric refraction and made no allowance for it.

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Al-Biruni argued for its existence on the basis of his accurate estimations of the Earth's circumference and 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 must surely have given rise to lands in the vast ocean between Asia and Europe.

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Al-Biruni theorized that at least some of the unknown landmass would lie within the known latitudes which humans could inhabit, and therefore would be inhabited.

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Al-Biruni used a hydrostatic balance to determine the density and purity of metals and precious stones.

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Al-Biruni 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.

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Al-Biruni is known as a pioneer in the field of comparative religion in his study of, among other creeds, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam.

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Al-Biruni strove to understand them on their own terms rather than trying to prove them wrong.

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Al-Biruni's underlying concept was that all cultures are at least distant relatives of all other cultures because they are all human constructs.

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Al-Biruni describes the educated as monotheistic, believing that God is one, eternal, and omnipotent and eschewing all forms of idol worship.

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Al-Biruni recognizes that uneducated Hindus worshiped a multiplicity of idols yet points out that even some Muslims have adopted anthropomorphic concepts of God.

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Al-Biruni wrote about the peoples, customs and religions of the Indian subcontinent.

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Akhbar S Ahmed concluded that Al-Biruni can be considered as the first Anthropologist, others, however, have argued that he can hardly be considered an anthropologist in the conventional sense.

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Al-Biruni wrote an encyclopedic work on India called Tahqiq ma li-l-Hind min maqulah maqbulah fi al-?aql aw mardhulah in which he explored nearly every aspect of Indian life, including religion, history, geography, geology, science, and mathematics.

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Al-Biruni expresses his objective with simple eloquence: Al-Biruni translated the Yoga sutras of Indian sage Patanjali with the title Tarjamat ketab Batanjali fi'l-kalas men al-ertebak.

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An example of Al-Biruni's analysis is his summary of why many Hindus hate Muslims.

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Al-Biruni explains that Hinduism and Islam are totally different from each other.

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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.

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Al-Biruni 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.

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Al-Biruni criticized the Hindus on what he saw them do and not do, for example finding them deficient in curiosity about history and religion.

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Al-Biruni's details are brief and mostly just list rulers without referring to their real names, and 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.

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Al-Biruni documented different bodies of water and other natural phenomena.

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Al-Biruni'storians are able to make some matches while concluding that certain areas seem to have disappeared and been replaced with different cities.

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Al-Biruni stated that he was fully objective in his writings, remaining unbiased like a proper historian should.

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