Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

al-Bīrūnī, Abū Rayḥān

  • Gotthard Strohmaier
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_86


Al-Bīrūnī, Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad was one of the most original minds of the Muslim world, and by the encyclopedic scope of his interests, perhaps of the whole Middle Ages. In contrast to many less important scientists of the Muslim world, he left no impact on western scholasticism. The titles of his works amount to 148, but only a part of them is still extant. They deal with astronomy and astrology, geography and geodesy, mathematics and calendar reckoning, mechanics, mineralogy and pharmacognosy, and history of religions and culture. Being a committed Muslim, he was at the same time an enthusiastic admirer of the Greek thinkers. His Arabic style is sometimes sarcastic, especially when dealing with Muslim theologians who rejected obvious facts. Remarkable is also a cautious use of experiments, which are not to prove some preconceived ideas but to falsify them. From his native region at the Amu Darya river, he did not travel further westward than to the Caspian Sea, but he had the opportunity, when accompanying military excursions, to become acquainted with the religion and customs of the Hindus, whose beliefs and sciences he censures from the standpoint of both his Muslim conviction and Greek science.

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Primary Sources (in Translation)

  1. Kennedy Edward S (1976) al-Bīrūnī. The exhaustive treatise on shadows, 2 vols. Institute for the History of Arabic Science, AleppoGoogle Scholar
  2. Sachau Edward (1879) al-Bīrūnī. The chronology of ancient nations. Allen, LondonGoogle Scholar
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Secondary Sources

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gotthard Strohmaier
    • 1
  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany