The Inspiring Life of Al-Biruni
All over the globe, it is widely accepted that the Islamic Golden Age remains one of the most wonderful moments in history for science and technology. In that period, Muslims were outstanding in so many fields of knowledge. They did not just dominate these fields, they also innovated and revolutionised entire areas. One of the Muslim scholars who did such was none other than Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni. Better known as Al-Biruni, he was born in what is now modern-day Uzbekistan and this piece is going to focus on his inspiring life.
One of those that Allah (SWT) gifted with immense intellectual powers, Al-Biruni was not just a scholar, he was a polymath meaning he was a genius in different areas of knowledge. Hence, he was excellent in mathematics, linguistics, physics, astronomy, history, natural sciences, and even chronology. He did not even limit himself to these areas but thrust himself into virtually all the fields known to science. As a result, he was able to not only understand a lot but also influenced the thinking of scholars of his age and even in the present time.
As a result of his prodigious mental abilities, Al-Biruni has been called by several names. For example, he is known as the father of comparative religion, pioneer of anthropology, founder of Indology, and even father of modern geodesy.
When he was alive, he spent much of his time in the city of Ghazni (which is now in modern-day Afghanistan). Later on, he would embark on a bold journey across the subcontinent of India and he had an extensive study of the culture of the Indians. All these he summed up in his book Tarikh Al-Hind (translated as History of India).
You get to start appreciating the scope of Al-Biruni’s immense mental gifts when you realise that he wrote 146 books and a vast proportion of these books were focused on mathematics, astronomy, and even mathematical geography. One thing that Al-Biruni did, which was common with scholars of that period, was that his works reflected the fact that he was a devoted Muslim.
For example, his works on astronomy were done having the various prayers and acts of worship in Islam in mind, such as the location of the Ka’aba and other holy sites of the faith. As a Muslim, Al-Biruni also carefully avoided any study that could affect his faith or make him sin. Hence, he did not dwell on certain types of astrology that Islam had already denounced as being sorcery.
Of all the works he did in astronomy, his most famous one remains the Masud Canon. In this book, he stated that the highest point of the sun in the heavens (referred to as the apogee) was not fixed to one place but remained mobile. This changed the thinking of everyone and challenged the long-held observation by Ptolemy that the sun’s apogee was fixed. Even though Al-Biruni is no longer with us, his exemplary life as a Muslim and scholar is one that will keep inspiring humanity for ages to come. May Allah ease our affairs, aameen.