Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī (born 5 September 973 in Kath, Khwarezm, now region in Uzbekistan, died 13 December 1048 in Ghazni), known as Alberonius in Latin and Al-Biruni in English, was a Persian Muslim scholar and polymath of the 11th century.
Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist.
He was conversantin Chorasmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. He spent a large part of his life in Ghazni in modern-day Afghanistan, capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty which ruled eastern Iranian lands and the northwestern Indian subcontinent. In 1017 he traveled to the Indian subcontinent and became the most important interpreter of Indian science to the Islamic world. He is given the titles the “founder of Indology” and the “first anthropologist”. He was an impartial writer on custom and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustdadh (“The Master”) for his remarkable description of early 11th-centuryIndia. He also made contributions to Earth sciences, and is regarded as the “father of geodesy” for his important contributions to that field, along with his significant contributions to geography.
Bīrūnī is one of the most important Muslim authorities on the history of religion. Al-Biruni was a pioneer in the study of comparative religion. He studied Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and other religions. He treated religions objectively, striving to understand them on their own terms rather than trying to prove them wrong. His underlying concept was that all cultures are at least distant relatives of all other cultures because they are all human constructs. “What al-Biruni seems to be arguing is that there is a common human element in every culture that makes all cultures distant relatives, however foreign they might seem to one another.” Al-Biruni was disgusted by scholars who failed to engage primary sources in their treatment of Hindu religion. He found existing sources on Hinduism to be both insufficient and dishonest. Guided by a sense of ethics and a desire to learn, he sought to explain the religious behavior of different groups.
Al-Biruni divides Hindus into an educated and an uneducated class. He describes the educated as monotheistic, believing that God is one, eternal, and omnipotent and eschewing all forms of idol worship. He recognizes that uneducated Hindus worshipped a multiplicity of idols yet points out that even some Muslims (such as the Jabiriyya) have adopted anthropomorphic concepts of God.
Most of the works of Al-Biruni are in Arabic although he wrote one of his masterpieces, the Kitab al-Tafhim apparently in both Persian and Arabic, showing his mastery over both languages.\Bīrūnī’s catalogue of his own literary production up to his 65th lunar/63rd solar year (the end of 427/1036) lists 103 titles divided into 12 categories: astronomy, mathematical geography, mathematics, astrological aspects and transits, astronomical instruments, chronology, comets, an untitled category, astrology, anecdotes, religion, and books of which he no longer possesses copies.