Primary Source

Travel writing of al-Biruni, 11th century Persian scholar

Page from al-Biruni's writing. Description in annotation.


This image is taken from a page of al-Biruni work called Chronology of an Ancient Nations. al-Biruni was a native of Iran. He was a prolific Persian scholar. While he published works in a wide variety of subjects, the majority of those works were on the subject of astronomy. He was also a pioneer in the study of comparative religion. As a traveler, he was able to immerse himself in many different cultures and to learn first-hand about these religions. i al-Biruni was born near Kath, then capital of the Afrighid dynasty of Khwarezm (now located in Uzbekistan). He spent his first twenty-five years in Khwarezmian were he studied theology, grammar, mathematics, astronomy, medicine among other sciences. He spoke the Iranian dialect of Khwarezmian, but also wrote in Arabic, and was conversant in languages such as Persian, Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Berber. As a court astrologer he accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni on his invasions into India and lived there for a few years. While in India he wrote Kitab ta’rikh al-Hind (The Book of Indian History).  The page of the book shown in this image is from the Chronology of an Ancient Nation which he completed around 1000 A.D. It includes any calendars and chronological systems of different cultural, ethnic and religious groups from the late antique Hellenistic world and the ancient medieval Near East and Central Asia, as well as their festivals and liturgical practices.  This manuscript shows cultural and religious diversity in the Islamic world during that time and also was a milestone in the standardization of time in the medieval period. 

This source is a part of the Analyzing Travel Records methods module.


Chronology of Ancient Nations, f.92v, Centre for Research Collections/Main Library, University of Edinburgh 

Work Record ID: 0010567


How to Cite This Source

"Travel writing of al-Biruni, 11th century Persian scholar," in World History Commons, [accessed December 9, 2023]