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al-Biruni

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 10 June 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Central Asian polymath al-Biruni and his eleventh-century book the India.

Born in around 973 in the central Asian region of Chorasmia, al-Biruni became an itinerant scholar of immense learning, a master of mathematics, medicine, astronomy and many languages. He corresponded with the age's greatest scientist, Avicenna, and made significant contributions to many fields of knowledge.

In 1017 al-Biruni became a member of the court of the ruler Mahmud of Ghazna. Over the course of the next thirteen years he wrote the India, a comprehensive account of Hindu culture which was the first book about India by a Muslim scholar. It contains detailed information about Hindu religion, science and everyday life which have caused some to call it the first work of anthropology.

With:

James Montgomery
Professor of Classical Arabic at the University of Cambridge

Hugh Kennedy
Professor of Arabic in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London

Amira Bennison
Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Sachau, Edward (trans), ‘Alberuni’s India’ (London, 1910)

    Pines, Shlomo and Gelblum, Tuvia, ‘Al-Biruni’s Arabic version of Patanjali’s Yogsutra’, in ‘Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ 29/2 (1966), pp. 302-325; 40/3 (1977), pp. 522-549; 46/2 (1983), pp. 258-304

    Boilot, D.J., entry on ‘Al-Biruni’, in ‘The Encyclopaedia of Islam’, Volume 1, (New Edition, Leiden, 1960), pp. 1236-1238

    Bosworth, C.E., Pingree, David, Saliba, George, Anawati, Georges, de Blois, Francois and Lawrence, Bruce, entry on ‘Al-Biruni’, in ‘Encyclopaedia Iranica’, Volume 4, (London and New York 1990), pp. 274-287

    Kozah, Mario, ‘The Epilogue of al-Biruni’s Kitab Batanjal’, in ‘Abbasid Studies. Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies. Cambridge 6-10, July 2002’, ed. by James E. Montgomery, (Leuven, 2004), pp. 263-273

    Lawrence, Bruce, ‘Al-Biruni’s Approach to the Comparative Study of Indian Religion,’ in ‘Biruni Symposium’, ed. D. Bishop and Ehsan Yarshater (New York, 1976), pp. 27-47

    Nasr, S.H., ‘An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines: Conceptions of Nature and Methods used for its Study by the Ikhwan al-Safa, al-Biruni and Ibn Sina’ (London, 1978)

    Rosenthal, Franz, ‘Al-Biruni between Greece and India’, in ‘Biruni Symposium’, ed. D. Bishop and Ehsan Yarshater (New York, 1976), pp. 1-12

    Rosenthal, Franz, ‘On Some Epistemological and Methodological Presuppositions of al-Biruni’, in his ‘Science and Medicine in Islam’ (Aldershot, 1990), Article XII

    Said, Hakim Mohammed (ed.), ‘Al-Biruni Commemorative Volume’ (Karachi, 1979)

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