The historical legacy of scholars and thinkers of the medieval East

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The historical legacy of scholars and thinkers of the medieval East, its role and importance for modern civilization



By Muhammad Abbas Khan, Tashkent

Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad Beruni, Abu Ali ibn Sina and Yusuf Khas Hajib Balasaguni
Topic itself shows that it has a lot to say and write. Rich history of Central Asia tells us that world’s top scientists had been working, doing research, inventing and opening new things for mankind in this part of the world. Sure, modern world have translated, published, reprinted their works, used their inventions and brought civilization at today’s stage. No doubt, if those scholars & scientists had not done their important job, we today have not been able to get such a comfortable, highly developed technical and technological life. We have not been able to go beyond the stars-as said poet of the East, philosopher, thinker of Pakistan Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal. “Sitarun se aage Jehan aur bhi hein “
I would like to emphasize on two most famous scholars and scientists of the period 10th-11th century—Abu Reyhan Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Beruni and Abu Ali al-Huseyn ibn Abdullah ibn Sina, mostly called Avicenna in Europe and in non-Muslim world. It is interesting that Encyclopaedist, astronomer, mathematician, geographer, physicist, geologist, Pharmacologist, historian, linguist and founder of geodesy, Al-Beruni was born in 973 in Kyat, ancient capital of Khorezm, whereas after seven years, a new scientist and a man of medicine, philosophy, logic, psychology, physics, astronomy, math, music, chemistry, ethics, literature and linguistics, Ibn-Sina was born in the village of Afshana near Bukhara.
Al-Beruni is the author of about 150 scientific works, including such fundamental manuscripts written in the Arabic language as al-Asar al-baqiya min-qurun al-haliya («The Memoirs of past Generations» – «Chronology»), Kitab fi-tahrir ma lil-Hind min maqala maqbula fi-l-aql aw ma’ruza(India) , Al-Qanun al-Mas’udi («The Cannon of Mas’ud»), Kitab at-tafhim fi-awail Sino’t at-tanjim («A Book of Elementary Knowledge in the Science of Stars» – «Tafhim»), Maqaka fi istiradj al-awtar fi-d-daira bi-khawas al-hatt al-munhani fikha («Defining Borders of Locations for Specifying the Distance between Settlements» – «Geodesy») , Kitab tahdid nihayat al-amakin li-taskhih masafat al-masakin («Collection of knowledge for understanding precious things – Mineralogy»), Kitab as-Saydana fi-t-tib» ( Pharmacognosy in medicine ) etc
Ibn-Sina generally known for his works in medicine & surgery was the real encyclopedia-scientist successfully worked almost all kinds of subjects of knowledge of his times. There are more than 450 works, and about 240 of them saved till our days, like Al-Beruni’s writings, they are also written mainly in Arabic. Some of them are Al-kanun fi-t-tibb (Canons of Medicine) – medical encyclopedia, in which he organized all the questions of theoretical and practical medicine of that period of time. It consists of 5 volumes. Kitab ash-shifa (the book of healing) – philosophical encyclopedia, which contains 4 parts: logic, extact sciences, mathematic sciences, metaphysics (theology). Kitab an-najat (the book of saving) – the short version of book on healing. Danish-name (the book of knowledge) , Risala al-iksir (tract of elixir), al-Aydviyat al-kalbiya (medicine for heart), Salaman va Ibsal (Salaman and Ibsal), Alive son of Awake – Correspondence of Ibn-sina and Al-Beruni on physics and philosophy etc
All above said works of Al-Beruni are well known and can be said as foundation of today’s world knowledge. Simply one can remember, one side he was first to introduce a circumference with a single radius to scientific circulation in trigonometry, on the other side he could generalize the famous Indian mathematical problem on calculating of the sum of geometric sequence of 64-degree with the base of 2 to any degree, invented new ways of projecting, triangulation. At the same time he used to assert a similar fiery nature of the sun and stars, which is different to the dark celestial bodies – planets, mobility of stars and their huge size compared to the size of the Earth, as well as he suggested the idea of gravitation. As a Pakistani, for me it is important that he did not forget this part of the world were now my country Pakistan is located. In his manuscript “India” he opened mysteries of India for the western world in terms of its language, ethnic, cultural and historical aspects. In mineralogy Al-Beruni was first to measure the specific gravities of solid bodies and liquids using his own instrument. It is difficult to cover up services of genius ibn-e-sina and Al-Beroni in this sitting.
Regarding contribution of Ibn-Sina to the world science, he has taken an active part in many kinds of science, offering very modern scientific ideas of his period of time. In one of his works, quoting by Beruni, Ibn Sina gives his specific way of calculating of length of a city. Ibn-Sina also made some theories in natural knowledge about the origin of earthquakes, volcanoes, appearance of mountains, which were later set in modern geology. In medicine he made new and effective methods of diagnosis, therapeutical and surgeon healing, most of which were secondly discovered in Europe. Also Ibn- Sina brought much new in anatomy. For example he fixed prescription of the eye and its functions, gave a new explanation of viewing process, close to the modern imagination. Ibn-Sina was a good diagnosis. Some of his methods of diagnosis doesn’t lose its meaning even nowadays. He also made a lot in developing of surgery. He prescripts the methods, which nowadays are using in modern surgery. Ibn-Sina took a big part in developing of pharmacy. He ended the formation of new pharmacy, which appeared in the Muslim East based on formation of ancient scientists. His methods of taking, keeping, processing of medical plants are very close to the modern days. Today many medicines, used by Ibn-Sina are bein used in modern pharmacopeia.
When in Mamun academy of Khorezm Al-Beruni and Ibn-Sina were high at their research works, on the other part, in the East of today’s Central Asia, a new scholar, lexicographer, philosopher and poet Yusuf Khas Hajib was born in the capital city of Karakhanids Balasagun, later known as Hajib Balasaguni.
Balasaguni at age 50 completed his poem ”Kutadgu bilig” (”Knowledge of Grace” or “The Science of Happiness“), introduced her to the ruler of Kashgar, and was awarded the title ”Has Hajib” – Minister of tsarist yard.
Poem ”Kutadgu bilig” – is the only extant work of Balasaguni and is currently stored at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan. This Poem contains 6520 bayts , divided into 85 chapters; moreover, it has three applications containing 124 bayts, divided into three chapters. It is a philosophical work, which examines the meaning and value of human life, outlining the responsibilities and standards of behavior in society. It shows how to be not only good rulers, but also good common people.
We, in 21st century cannot live without fruits of research works and inventions of Al-Beruni, Ibn-Cina and Hajib Balasaguni. Al-Beruni’s 31 works have been translated into German, English, Russian and Uzbek, 24 of the works have been researched and 3 of the manuscripts have been published in the original Arabic language. Beruni was recognized in the history of sciences as the founder of the new field – geodesy (the science of measuring the relief and surface of land using due instruments. His name was immortalized in the name of the lunar crater. One of the minor planets of the solar system, discovered in 1986 and registered in Harvard Center under the Ref.N0 9936, was named after him.
Ibn-Sina’s name is associated with one of the most demand at all times a branch of science medicine: his works since the 12th century were translated into Latin and from the 15thcentury were published about 40 times. Until the 18th century in all the universities of Europe medicine were taught by “canon” and the name of the scientist became famous in Western Europe in the Latinized form as “Avicenna”. Writings of Ibn Sino on various sciences translated and published repeatedly in many western and eastern languages, including Russian and Uzbek.
According to researchers “Kudatgu Bilik” widespread and was well recognised during the life of the author. That is why Balasaguni writes that Iranians call it – ”Shakhname and Turks” (”Turkic Shakhname”), residents of the East – ‘Umar al- Ziynat“(”Decoration of rulers). There are several translations and editions of the poem ”Kutadgu bilig”,in particular, the Uzbek language, as well as English, Turkish, Uyghur, German, Azeri and some other languages.
It is clear and open reality that if such scholars, scientists and philosphers did not born and worked at that era, we today were not be able to even fly and gather in such type of conferences. Our society has not been able to enter in 21st century with such high achievments of mankind not only in technical and medical fields but also with the understandings of high human values.