Al Biruni


Abu Rehan Al-Biruni was born in 973 in a village called Barun in Khwarizm (modern Khiva). He spent his early life under the patronage of Khwarizm Shah. He then moved to the court of Qabus in Tabaristan and finally became a part and parcel of the court of Mahmud Ghaznavi. He came to South Asia along with the troops of Mahmud and stayed in the area for a long time.

The great Muslim traveler is known for his scholarship in the fields of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Mathematics, Geography and Astronomy. He wrote 14 books amongst which ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ gained the most popularity. Other important books are the ‘Chronology of the Ancient Nations’, ‘Tafhim’, ‘Qanun-ul-Masudi’ (astronomy) etc. During his stay in South Asia he learned Sanskrit and studied the Hindu society and religion from a sociological point of view. He was the first Muslim to write about the Hindu society. His book ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ is considered an important source of knowledge concerning the history and society of South Asia during the early eleventh century. In the book he has given a detailed account of the geography, literature, philosophy, customs, laws and religious believes of Hindus. His research convinced him that there is a marked difference between Hindus and Muslims and that they are two different nations that have almost nothing in common.

He compared the equality and brotherhood of the Muslim society with the inequality of the Hindu caste system and deprecated the filthy customs of the Hindus in contrast to decency and cleanliness of the Muslims. In ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’ he wrote, “In all manners and usage they differ from us to such a degree as to frighten their children with us, with our dress, and our ways and customs. They declare us to be the devil’s breed, and our doings as the very opposite of all that is good and proper”. Al-Biruni, to many, is the real founder of the two-nation theory in South Asia.

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003