Shamil Sabah

History of Khorasan Zamin


(980-1037 A.D.).


Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina was born in 980 A.D. at Afshana near Bukhara. The young Bu Ali received his early education in Bukhara, and by the age of ten had become well versed in the study of the Qur'an and various sciences. He started studying philosophy by reading various Greek, Muslim and other books on this subject and learnt logic and some other subjects from Abu Abdallah Natili, a famous philosopher of the time. While still young, he attained such a degree of expertise in medicine that his renown spread far and wide. At the age of 17, he was fortunate in curing Nooh Ibn Mansoor, the King of Bukhhara, of an illness in which all the well-known physicians had given up hope. On his recovery, the King wished to reward him, but the young physician only desired permission to use his uniquely stocked library.

On his father's death, Bu Ali left Bukhara and travelled to Jurjan where Khawarizm Shah welcomed him. There, he met his famous contemporary Abu Raihan al-Biruni. Later he moved to Ray and then to Hamadan, where he wrote his famous book Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb. Here he treated Shams al-Daulah, the King of Hamadan, for severe colic. From Hamadan, he moved to Isphahan, where he completed many of his monumental writings. Nevertheless, he continued travelling and the excessive mental exertion as well as political turmoil spoilt his health. Finally, he returned to Hamadan where he died in 1037 A.D.

He was the most famous physician, philosopher, encyclopaedist, mathematician and astronomer of his time. His major contribution to medical science was his famous book al-Qanun, known as the "Canon" in the West. The Qanun fi al-Tibb is an immense encyclo- paedia of medicine extending over a million words. It surveyed the entire medical knowledge available from ancient and Muslim sources. Due to its systematic approach, "formal perfection as well as its intrinsic value, the Qanun superseded Razi's Hawi, Ali Ibn Abbas's Maliki, and even the works of Galen, and remained supreme for six centuries". In addition to bringing together the then available knowledge, the book is rich with the author's original eontribution. His important original contribution includes such advances as recognition of the contagious nature of phthisis and tuberculosis; distribution of diseases by water and soil, and interaction between psychology and health. In addition to describing pharmacological methods, the book described 760 drugs and became the most authentic materia medica of the era. He was also the first to describe meningitis and made rich contributions to anatomy, gynaecology and child health.

His philosophical encyclopaedia Kitab al-Shifa was a monu- mental work, embodying a vast field of knowledge from philosophy to science. He classified the entire field as follows: theoretical knowledge: physics, mathematics and metaphysics; and practical knowledge: ethics, economics and politics. His philosophy synthesises Aristotelian tradition, Neoplatonic influences and Muslim theology.

Ibn Sina also contributed to mathematics, physics, music and other fields. He explained the "casting out of nines" and its applica- tion to the verification of squares and cubes. He made several astronomical observations, and devised a contrivance similar to the vernier, to increase the precision of instrumental readings. In physics, his contribution comprised the study of different forms of energy, heat, light and mechanical, and such concepts as force, vacuum and infinity. He made the important observation that if the perception of light is due to the emission of some sort of particles by the luminous source, the speed of light must be finite. He propounded an interconnection between time and motion, and also made investigations on specific gravity and used an air thermo- meter.

In the field of music, his contribution was an improvement over Farabi's work and was far ahead of knowledge prevailing else- where on the subject. Doubling with the fourth and fifth was a 'great' step towards the harmonic system and doubling with the third seems to have also been allowed. Ibn Sina observed that in the series of consonances represented by (n + 1)/n, the ear is unable to distinguish them when n = 45. In the field of chemistry, he did not believe in the possibility of chemical transmutation because, in his opinion, the metals differed in a fundamental sense. These views were radically opposed to those prevailing at the time. His treatise on minerals was one of the "main" sources of geology of the Christian encyclopaedists of the thirteenth century. Besides Shifa his well-known treatises in philosophy are al-Najat and Isharat.

Abu Raihan Biruni
Philosopher, Physicist, Mathematician and Astronomer


Abu Raihan Biruni

Abu Raihan Mohammad Ibn Ahmad Biruni was one of the well-known figures associated with the court of King Mahmoud Ghaznavid, who was one of the famous Muslim kings of the 11th century A.D. Biruni was a versatile scholar and scientist who had equal facility in physics, metaphysics, mathematics, geography and history. Born in the city of Kheva (then was a part of Afghnaistan) in 973 A.D., he was a contemporary of the well-known physician Ibn Sina. At an early age, the fame of his scholarship went around and when Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi          conquered his homeland, he took Biruni along with him in his journeys to India several times and thus he had the opportunity to travel all over India during a period of 20 years. He learnt Hindu philosophy, mathematics, geography and religion from thre Pandits to whom he taught Greek and Arabic science and philosophy. He died in 1048 A.D. at the age of 75, after having spent 40 years in thus gathering knowledge and making his own original contributions to it.

He recorded observations of his travels through India in his well-known book Kitab al-Hind which gives a graphic account of the historical and social conditions of the sub-continent. At the end of this book he makes a mention of having translated two Sanskrit books into Arabic, one called Sakaya, which deals with the creation of things and their types, and the second, Patanjal dealing with what happens after the spirit leaves the body. His descriptions of India were so complete that even the Aein-i-Akbari written by Abu-al- Fadal during the reign of Akbar, 600 years later, owes a great deal to Biruni's book. He observed that the Indus valley must be considered as an ancient sea basin filled up with alluvials.

On his return from India, Biruni wrote his famous book Qanun-i Masoodi (al-Qanun al-Masudi, fi al-Hai'a wa al-Nujum), which he dedicated to Sultan Masood. The book discusses several theorems of astronomy, trigonometry, solar, lunar, and planetary motions and relative topics. In another well-known book al-Athar al-Baqia, he has attempted a connected account of ancient history of nations and the related geographical knowledge. In this book, he has discussed the rotation of the earth and has given correct values of latitudes and longitudes of various places. He has also made considerable contribution to several aspects of physical and economic geography in this book.

His other scientific contributions include the accurate determination of the densities of 18 different stones. He also wrote the Kitab-al-Saidana, which is an extensive materia medica that combines the then existing Arabic knowledge on the subject with the Indian medicine. His book the Kitab-al-Jamahir deals with the properties of various precious stones. He was also an astrologer and is reputed to have astonished people by the accuracy of his predictions. He gave a clear account of Hindu numerals, elaborating the principle of position. Summation of a geometric progression appropos of the chess game led to the number:

1616° - 1 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,619.

He developed a method for trisection of angle and other problems which cannot be solved with a ruler and a compass alone. Biruni discussed, centuries before the rest of the world, the question whether the earth rotates around its axis or not. He was the first to undertake experiments related to astronomical phenomena. His scientific method, taken together with that of other Muslim scien- tists, such as Ibn al-Haitham, laid down the early foundation of modern science. He ascertained that as compared with the speed of sound the speed of light is immense. He explained the working of natural springs and artesian wells by the hydrostatic principle of communicating vessels. His investigations included description of various monstrosities, including that known as "Siamese" twins. He observed that flowers have 3,4,5,6, or 18 petals, but never 7 or 9.

He wrote a number of books and treatises. Apart from Kitab-al- Hind (History and Geography of India), al-Qanun al-Masudi (Astronomy, Trigonometry), al-Athar al-Baqia (Ancient History and Geography), Kitab al-Saidana (Materia Medica) and Kitab al-Jawahir (Precious Stones) as mentioned above, his book al-Tafhim-li-Awail Sina'at al-Tanjim gives a summary of mathematics and astronomy.

He has been considered as one of the very greatest scientists of Islam, and, all considered, one of the greatest of all times. His critical spirit, love of truth, and scientific approach were combined with a sense of toleration. His enthusiasm for knowledge may be judged from his claim that the phrase Allah is Omniscient does not justify ignorance.


More information:

Al-Biruni was an outstanding astronomer, mathematician, physicist, Physician, geographer, geologist and historian. According to Max Meyerhoff, Al-Biruni is perhaps the most prominent figure in the phalanx of those universally learned Muslim scholars who characterize the Golden Age of Islamic Science. His great contributions in so many diverse fields earned him the title "al-Ustadh," the Master or Professor par excellence. Some historians have called the period of his activity as "The Age of Al-Biruni."

 Abu Raihan Muhammad Al-Biruni was born in Afghanistan in 973 C.E. He studied Arabic, Islamic Law, and several branches of knowledge. Later, he learnt Greek, Syriac and Sanskrit. His knowledge of several languages helped him in understanding the available work and brings together a fresh and original approach in his work. Al-Biruni was of the view that whatever the subject one should use every available source in its original form, investigate the available work with objective scrutiny, and carry out research through direct observation and experimentation.

He was a contemporary of the famous physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and is known to have corresponded with him. Al-Biruni's contributions are so extensive that an index of his written works covers more than sixty pages. His scientific work combined with contributions of Al Haitham (Al-Hazen) and other Muslim scientists laid down the early foundation of modern science. Al-Biruni died in 1048 C.E. in Ghazna (Afghanistan) after a forty-year illustrious career.


Al-Biruni made original and important contributions to science. He discovered seven different ways of finding the direction of the north and south, and discovered mathematical techniques to determine exactly the beginnings of the season. He also wrote about the sun and its movements and the eclipse. In addition, he invented few astronomical instruments. Many centuries before the rest of the world, Al-Biruni discussed that the earth rotated on its axis and made accurate calculations of latitude and longitude. These observations are contained in his book "Al-Athar Al-Baqia." He wrote a treatise on timekeeping in 1000 C.E.


Al-Biruni was the first to conduct elaborate experiments related to astronomical phenomena. He stated that the speed of light is immense as compared with the speed of sound. He described the Milky Way as a collection of countless fragments of the nature of nebulous stars. Al-Biruni described his observation of the solar eclipse of April 8, 1019 and the lunar eclipse of September 17, 1019. On the solar eclipse which he observed at Lamghan, a valley surrounded by mountains between the towns of Qandahar and Kabul, he wrote: ... at sunrise we saw that approximately one-third of the sun was eclipsed and that the eclipse was waning. He observed the lunar eclipse at Ghazna and gave precise details of the exact altitude of various well-known stars at the moment of first contact. Al-Biruni's book "Al-Tafhim-li-Awail Sina'at al-Tanjim" summarizes work on Mathematics and Astronomy. It was translated by Ramsay Wright in 1934, Luzac.


Al-Biruni contributions in Physics include work on springs and accurate determination of the specific weight of eighteen elements and compounds including many metals and precious stones. His book "Kitab-al-Jamahir" discusses the properties of various precious stones. He was a pioneer in the study of the angles and trigonometry. He worked on shadows and chords of circles and developed a method for trisection of an angle. He elaborated on the principle of position and discussed the Indian numerals.

In the fields of geology and geography, al-Biruni contributed on geological eruptions and metallurgy, to the measurement of the longitudes and latitudes and methods of determining the relative position of one place to another. He explained the working of natural springs and artesian wells by the hydrostatic principle of communicating vessels. His book Al-Athar Al-Baqiyah fi Qanun al-Khaliyah deals with ancient history and geography, and it was translated by Edward Sachau. Al-Biruni observed that flowers have 3, 4, 5, 6, or 18 petals, but never seven or nine.

 Al-Biruni is most commonly known by his association with Mahmood Ghaznavi, a famous Muslim king who also ruled India, and his son Sultan Masood. Impressed by his scholarship and fame, Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi took al-Biruni along with him in his journeys to India several times. Al-Biruni traveled many places in India for about 20 years and studied Hindu philosophy, mathematics, geography and religion from the Pundits. In return, he taught them Greek and Muslim sciences and philosophy.

 Al-Biruni's book "Kitab al-Hind" provides a detailed account of Indian life, religions, languages, and cultures and includes many observations on geography. He stated that the Indus valley must be considered as an ancient sea basin filled with alluvials. In this book, he mentions two books Patanjal and Sakaya. He translated these two Sanskrit books into Arabic. The former book deals with after death accounts, and the latter with the creation of things and their types. Abu-al-Fadal's book "Aein-i-Akbari," written six centuries later during the reign of Akbar, was influenced by Al-Biruni's book.


Al-Biruni wrote his famous book "Al-Qanun Al-Masudi Fi Al-Hai'a Wa Al-Nujum," in 1030 C.E. This book was written after he returned from India and was dedicated to Sultan Masood. It discusses several theorems of trigonometry, astronomy, solar, lunar and planetary motions, and contains a collection of twenty-three observations of equinoxes. His other well-known books are Al-Athar Al-Baqia and Kitab-al-Saidana. The former book gives an account of ancient history of nations and the latter is an extensive materia medica that synthesizes the Arabic Medicine with the Indian medicine. His investigations included description of Siamese twins. He also wrote on the astrolabe and a mechanical calendar.


Al-Biruni was a true Muslim Scientist who benefitted from both the Islamic guidance and scientific investigations. He said: "My experience in the study of astronomy and geometry and experiments in physics revealed to me that there must be a Planning Mind of Unlimited Power. My discoveries in Astronomy showed that there are fantastic intricacies in the universe which prove that there is a creative system and a meticulous control that cannot be explained through sheer physical and material causes." He never exploited his work as a means to fame, authority or material gains. When Sultan Masood sent him three camel-loads of silver coins in appreciation of his encyclopedic work "Al-Qanoon al-Masoodi," (The Mas'udi Canon), Al-Biruni politely returned the royal gift saying, "I serve knowledge for the sake of knowledge and not for money."

Al-Biruni is considered as one of the greatest scientists of all times.

Omar Khayyam

The first scholarly of Afghanistan that discover the calendar.
The first human that could prove Year, Week, day, and time in the history of universe.

The Astronomer- Mathematician- Poet of Khorasan

The palace where Jamshid held his cup
The doe and the fox now rest and sup
Bahram who hunted game non-stop
Was hunted by death when his time was up.

Statue of Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam lived between 1044 and 1123 CE and his full name was Ghiyath al-Din Abul Fateh Omar Ibn Ibrahim Khayyam. Omar Khayyam was an outstanding mathematician and astronomer. He was also well known as a poet, philosopher, and physician. In the "History of Western Philosophy", Bertrand Russell remarks that Omar Khayyam was the only man known to him who was both a poet and a mathematician. Omar Khayyam reformed the solar calendar in 1079 CE. His work on Algebra was highly valued throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.Apart from being a scientist, Khayyam was also a well-known poet. In this capacity, he has become more popularly known in the Western world since 1839, when Edward Fitzgerald published an English translation of his 'Rubaiyat' (quatrains). This has since become one of the most popular classics of world literature. It should be appreciated that it is practically impossible to exactly translate any literary work into another language, what to talk of poetry, especially when it involves mystical and philosophical messages of deep complexity. Despite this, the popularity of the translation of Rubaiyat would indicate the wealth of his rich thought.

Omar Khayyam was born in 1044 CE at Nishapur (or Nishabur), the provincial capital of Khorasan. He is generally known as a Persian (Dari). However, it has been suggested that his ancestors (from the Arab Khayyami tribe) migrated and settled in Khorasan. Omar Khayyam was educated at Nishapur. He also traveled to several reputed institutions of learning, including those at Bukhara, Balkh, Samarqand and Isphahan. He lived in Nishapur and Samarqand (Central Asia) for most of his life. Omar Khayyam was a contemporary of Nizam al-Mulk Tusi. He died in 1123 CE in Nishapur.

Khayyam made major contributions in Mathematics, particularly in Algebra. His book 'Maqalat fi al-Jabr wa al-Muqabila' on Algebra provided great advancement in the field. He classified many algebraic equations based on their complexity and recognized thirteen different forms of cubic equation. Omar Khayyam developed a geometrical approach to solving equations, which involved an ingenious selection of proper conics. He solved cubic equations by intersecting a parabola with a circle. Omar Khayyam was the first to develop the binomial theorem and determine binomial coefficients. He developed the binomial expansion for the case when the exponent is a positive integer. Omar Khayyam refers in his Algebra book to another work on what we now know as Pascal's triangle. This work is now lost. He extended Euclid's work giving a new definition of ratios and included the multiplication of ratios. He contributed to the theory of parallel lines.

Omar Khayyam is famous for another work which he contributed when he worked for Saljuq Sultan, Malikshah Jalal al-Din. He was asked to develop an accurate solar calendar to be used for revenue collections and various administrative matters. To accomplish this task, Omar Khayyam began his work at the new observatory at Ray in 1074 A.D. His calendar 'Al-Tarikh-al-Jalali' is superior to the Gregorian calendar and is accurate to within one day in 3770 years. Specifically, he measured the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days. It shows that he recognized the importance of accuracy by giving his result to eleven decimal places. As a comparison, the length of the year in our time is 365.242190 days. This number changes slightly in the sixth decimal place, e.g., in the nineteenth century it was 365.242196 days.

Khayyam contributed also to other fields of science. He developed a method for accurate determination of the specific gravity. He wrote two books in metaphysics, 'Risala Dar Wujud' and 'Norooz Namah'. As a poet, Omar Khayyam is well known for his 'Rubaiyat' (quatrains). His themes involved complex mystical and philosophical thoughts.

Omar Khayyam's ten books and thirty monographs have survived. These include four books on mathematics, one on algebra, one on geometry, three on physics, and three books on metaphysics. He made great contributions in the development of mathematics and analytical geometry, which benefited Europe several centuries later.

His fame as a mathematician has been partially eclipsed by his popularity as a poet; nonetheless his contribution as a philosopher and scientist has been of significant value in furthering the frontiers of human knowledge.