Alberuni - First Muslim scholar to Travel India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 30, 2022, 9:23

Al Biruni, also known as Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni, was a notable theorist, mathematician, philosopher, chronologist, and historian who was well acquainted with mathematics, physics, astronomy, and natural sciences.

Alberuni was an excellently objective writer on the customs and creeds of many cultures, earning him the label al-Ustadh ("The Master") in honour of his extraordinary account of early 11th-century India.

Alberuni (AD 973- AD 1048)

  • Al-Biruni was born in 973 AD at Kath, the capital of Khwarezm's Afrighid dynasty, in the Khiza region of Central Asia (Uzbekistan).
  • He lived much of his time in Ghazni, the Ghaznavids' capital in modern-day central-eastern Afghanistan, and travelled to India in 1017.
  • During his first twenty-five years in Khwarezm, he studied Islamic jurisprudence, theology, linguistics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and other sciences.
  • In AD 1017, when Mahmud of Ghazni was the ruler, most scholars, including Alberuni, were taken to Ghazni, the capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty.
  • He was a royal astrologer in the 11th century, and he escorted Mahmud of Ghazni on his invasions into India, where he stayed for a few years.
  • The Alberuni book 'Tahqiq-i-Hind' described India's societal, political, religious, and economic standings.
  • He references the Gita, the Upanishads, Patanjali, Puranas, the four Vedas, scientific works (by Nagarjuna, Aryabhata, and others), and Indian mythology to prove his point through his works.
  • He also tried bridging Indian philosophy with Greek intellectuals such as Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, and others, as well as Sufi doctrine at times. His book provides an account of Indian life based on his studies and experiences in India between 1017 and 1030.
  • Following a deep engagement in Brahmanical books and society, Al-Biruni began his exploration of India with a few broad reflections about Hindus and their society.
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India as Described by Alberuni

  • According to Alberuni, "Mahmud put an end to India's prosperity and mercilessly exploited and punished the country's people, particularly Hindus".
  • According to Alberuni, the entire nation was divided into little states that would occasionally enter into conflict. Among them were the states of Malwa, Sindh, Kannauj, and Kashmir.
  • The caste system was in place, and there was a sense of isolation and inequality.
  • According to Alberuni, Hindus in rural areas worshipped several gods and goddesses. However, educated Hindus regarded God as "Eternal, beyond origin or end, all-powerful and all-knowing."
  • He states, "To get justice, it was essential to writing applications in which the points against the convicted were outlined," when describing the tasks of the judiciary.

Al-Biruni was a mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer who also studied physics and natural sciences. He was the first to discover a simple formula for calculating the radius of the Earth. The people of the Indian subcontinent, according to the Alberuni, were brilliant thinkers, mathematicians, and astronomers.

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FAQs on Alberuni

Q.1. Who is Al-Biruni?

Abu Rayhan Beruni was an 11th-century Persian scholar and polymath. He assisted Mahmud's conquests in South Asia. Alberuni was the first Muslim scholar to travel to India to explore the Brahmanical heritage.

Q.2. When did Alberuni travel to India?

He arrived in India in the 11th century and spent a few years in the Punjab region. Alberuni was 44 years old when he travelled to India, accompanying Mahmud of Ghazni.

Q.3. Who is known as the "Father of Indology"?

Al-Biruni is often referred to as the "Father of Indology." He was an impartial author about the practises and beliefs of different cultures.

Q.4. What is the title of Alberuni's book about India?

He authored the book called Kitab-ul-hind or Tahqiq-i-Hind (History of India), in which he describes the social, political, religious, and economic conditions of India at the time.