ABÚ RÍHÁN* MUHAMMAD BIN AHMAD AL BÍRÚNÍ AL KHWÁR-IZMÍ, was born* about A.H. 360, A.D. 970-1. He was an astronomer, geometrician, historian, and logician. He was so studious that Shamsu-d dín Muhammad Shahrazúrí, his earliest biographer, tells us “he never had a pen out of his hand, nor his eye ever off a book, and his thoughts were always directed to his studies, with the exception of two days in the year, namely Nauroz [New Year's day at the vernal equinox], and Mihrján [the autumnal equinox], when he was occupied, according to the com­mand of the Prophet, in procuring the necessaries of life on such a moderate scale as to afford him bare sustenance and clothing.” [As a logician he obtained the sobriquet of “Muhakkik” or “the exact,” on account of the rigorous precision of his deductions].*

[Abú-l Fazl Baihakí who lived about half a century after Al Bírúní, says, “Bú Ríhán was beyond comparison, superior to every man of his time in the art of composition, in scholarlike accomplishments, and in knowledge of geometry and philosophy. He had, moreover, a most rigid regard for truth;” and Rashídu-d dín, in referring to the great writer from whom he has borrowed so much, says “The Master Abú Ríhán al Bírúní excelled all his cotemporaries in the sciences of philosophy, mathematics, and geometry. He entered the service of Mahmúd bin Subuktigín, and in the course of his service he spent a long time in Hindus-tán and learned the language of the country. Several of the provinces of India were visited by him. He was on friendly terms with many of the great and noble of that country, and so acquired an intimate knowledge of their books of philosophy, religion, and belief. The best and most excellent of all their books upon the arts and sciences is one resembling the work of Shaikh Raís Abú 'Alí ibn Siná (Avicenna). It is called Bátakal, or in Arabic Bátajal; this book he translated into Arabic. From this work also he extracted a great deal which he made use of in his Kánún Mas'údi, a work upon mathematics and geome­try, named after the Sultán Mas'úd. All that the sages of India have said about numbers, ages, and eras (tawáríkh), has been exactly given by Abú Rihán in his translation of the Bátakal.”]

He was indebted to the Sultán of Khwárizm for the oppor­tunity of visiting India, for he was appointed by him to accompany the embassies which he sent to Mahmúd of Ghazní. Al Farábí and Abú-l Khair joined one of these embassies, but the famous Avicenna, who was invited to accompany them, refused to go, being, as it is hinted, averse to enter into controversy with Abú Ríhán, with whom he differed on many points of science, and whose logical powers he feared to encounter. [On the invitation of Mahmúd, Abú Ríhán entered into his service, an invitation which Avicenna declined. It was in the suite of Mahmúd and of his son Mas'úd that] Abú Ríhán travelled into India, and he is reported to have staid forty years there; but if we may judge from some errors that he has committed in his geographical description of the country, such as placing Thánesar in the Doáb, it would appear that he never travelled to the east of Lahore.* Abú Ríhán died in A.H. 430, A.D. 1038-9.

He wrote many works, and is said to have executed several translations from the Greek, and to have epitomised the Almagest of Ptolemy. His works are stated to have exceeded a camel-load, insomuch that it was supposed by devout Muhammadans that he received divine aid in his compositions. Those most spoken of are astronomical tables, a treatise on precious stones, one on Materia Medica, an introduction to astrology, a treatise on chronology, and the famous Kánúnu-l Mas'údí, an astronomical and geographical work frequently cited by Abú-l Fidá, especially in his tables of Lat. and Long. For this last work he received from the Emperor Mas'úd an elephant-load of silver, which, how­ever, he returned to the Royal Treasury, “a proceeding contrary to human nature,” according to the testimony of Shahrazúrí.

[An accomplished writer in a late number of the “Quarterly Review,” observes: “Abú Ríhán a native of the country (of Khwárizm) was the only early Arab writer who investigated the antiquities of the East in a true spirit of historical criticism,” and he proceeds to give some examples of his knowledge of ancient technical chronology which are of the highest importance in establishing the early civilization of the Arian race. According to this reviewer, Abú Ríhán says, “the solar calendar of Khwár-izm, was the most perfect scheme for measuring time with which he was acquainted, and it was maintained by the astronomers of that country, that both the solar and the lunar zodiacs had originated with them; the divisions of the signs in their systems being far more regular than those adopted by the Greeks or Arabs. * * * Another statement of Abú Ríhán's asserts that the Khwárizmians dated originally from an epoch anterior by 980 years to the era of the Seleucidæ (equal to B.C. 1304), a date which agrees pretty accurately with the period assigned by our best scholars to the invention of the Jyotisha or Indian calendar.”* This most curious and interesting information, for which we are indebted to the writer in the “Quarterly,” raises higher than ever the reputation of Abú Ríhán, and must inten­sify the desire so long felt for a complete translation of his extant works.]

The names of his writings are given in full by Reiske in the Supplement to the Bibl. Or. on the authority of Abú Ussaibiah. The work by which he is best known, and which to the cultivator of Indian history is the most important, of all his works is the Táríkhu-l Hind in Arabic. A manuscript of this work, or of a portion of it, is in the Imperial Library, Paris (Fonds Ducaurroy, No. 22), and from this MS. M. Reinaud extracted two chapters which he published in the Journal Asiatique, and separately in his “Fragments Arabes et Persans inédits relatifs a l' Inde antérieure-ment au xi. siècle de l'ère Chrètienne.” [The work, according to M. Reinaud, was written in India in 1031 A.D., and he observes upon it—“Cet écrit est un tableau de l'état littéraire et scienti-fique de la presqu'île, au moment ou les armées musulmanes y pénétrèrent pour la première fois. On y voit successivement apparaître les principaux travaux littéraires, philosophiques et astronomiques des Indiens, le tableau de leurs ères, la manière dont ils comptaient les jours, les mois, les années et les cycles.”* Sir H. Rawlinson possesses a MS. of a part of Al Bírúní's works,]* and there is a manuscript of some portions thereof mentioned by M. Hænel as existing in the Library of the Arsenal at Paris. This MS. appears to be the one noticed by D'Herbelot in the article Athar, [and to be the same as that “which was formerly much referred to by M. Quatremère under the title ‘Athár el Bákieh.’”*] The Táríkhu-l Hind is not known at all in India, and M. Reinaud states that it is not mentioned in any of the bibliographical works in Arabic which have come under his observation. It will be seen hereafter that Abú-l Fazl Baihakí attributes to him another work, “A History of Khwár-izm,” which is noticed by M. Fraehn in his catalogue.*

The Táríkhu-l Hind treats of the literature and science of the Indians at the commencement of the eleventh century, It does not bear the name of the author, but we learn from it, that he accompanied Mahmúd of Ghazní; that he resided many years in India, chiefly, in all probability, in the Panjáb, studied the Sanskrit language, translated into it some works from the Arabic, and translated from it two treatises into Arabic. This state­ment is confirmed by Abú-l Faraj, in his “Catalogue of Ancient and Modern Authors.” Bírúní says, towards the end of his preface, “I have translated into Arabic two Indian works, one discusses the origin and quality of things which exist, and is entitled Sankhya, the other is known under the title of Patan-jali, * which treats of the deliverance of the soul from the trammels of the body. These two works contain the chief principles of the Indian creed.”*

Neither the original nor the translation of this work [presumed to be that] of Patanjali has descended to us; but as M. Reinaud observes, the declaration quoted in the preceding paragraph serves to indicate the author of the Táríkhu-l Hind, which other circum­stances would have rendered extremely probable. Rashídu-d dín, in his history, quotes as one of the works to which he is indebted for his information, an Arabic version of “the Bátakal,” made by Al-Bírúní.* Binákití also mentions this translation of the work, and says that Bírúní included the translation in the Kánúnu-l Mas'údí,* but a close examination of the Kánún does not confirm this, for there is nothing special about India in the work.

The two chapters of his work, edited by M. Reinaud, relate to the eras and geography of India. Like the Chinese travels of Fa-hian and Hwen Tsang, they establish another fixed epoch to which we can refer for the determination of several points re­lating to the chronology of this country. We learn from them that the Harivansa Purána, which the most accomplished orientalists have hitherto ascribed to a period not anterior to the eleventh century, was already quoted in Bírúní's time as a standard authority, and that the epoch of the composition of the five Siddhántas no longer admits of question, and thus the theories of Anquetil du Perron and Bentley are demolished for ever.*

The extract from the Táríkhu-l Hind given below is of great historical interest. The succession of the last princes of Kábul given there, though not in accordance with the statements of Mírkhond and other Persian historians, yet, being dependent on the contemporary testimony of Bírúní, is of course more trust­worthy than that of subsequent compilers, and is moreover con­firmed by the Jámi'u-t Tawáríkh. With respect to this table of succession, the ingenuity of the French editor induced him to surmise that it probably represented a series of Bráhman princes who succeeded in subverting a Buddhist dynasty of Turks, and to whom should be attributed certain coins of a peculiar type which numismatists had previously some difficulty in assigning to their true masters. M. A. Longpérier has confirmed this opinion by certain arguments, which have been printed as an appendix to M. Reinaud's work, and he has been ably followed by Mr. E. Thomas, B.C.S., who has published a paper in the “Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,”* respecting the proper attribution of this series. The result is that we are able to trace Bráhman kings of Kábul to the beginnning of the tenth century, about A.D. 920, and thus clear up the mist which enveloped a whole century of the Indian annals previous to Mahmúd's invasion.*