Author:
Noémie Verdon
Search for other papers by Noémie Verdon in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Open Access

I have translated two books into Arabic: the first of them is on fundamental elements and a description of what exists, named Sānk; the second on the liberation of the soul from the fetters of the body, known as Pātanğal. These two [books] contain most principles around which their (i.e., the Indians) faith revolves, without the subdivisions of their religious laws.1

A diverse body of evidence in the historical interactions between the Indian and Islamic worlds reflects the desire of ancient thinkers to share ideas and science across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Two periods of texts’ transmission well illustrate these intercultural and intellectual exchanges. The second quarter of the eighth century CE saw the transfer of several Sanskrit works, primarily related to medicine and astronomy, to Muslim intellectuals. The Abbasid rulers in Baghdad, the capital of the Islamic territory at the time, encouraged these translations, notably through the impulse of administrators such as Yaḥyā al-Barmakī (d. 805), Ibrāhīm al-Fazārī (d. 777) or Yaʿqūb Ibn Ṭāriq (d. 796).2 Thanks to the initiation of the latter two thinkers, portions of the Sanskrit Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta, a text on astronomy written by Brahmagupta in 628 in Bhillamāla,3 were, for instance, available to Arab Muslims as early as the eighth century CE. Other examples include the medical treatise Carakasaṃhitā and the Pañcatantra, a collection of Sanskrit fables translated into Arabic around the eighth century under the title Kalīla wa Dimna.4

The second broad movement of translation of Sanskrit texts started in the late thirteenth century. The context in which it occurred differed considerably from the preceding project. Works covering a large range of topics, from epics to treatises on medicine and science to Indian religious literature, were translated into Persian. The phenomenon was taking place at the courts of Muslim rulers established in north-western India. These translations include the Ṭūṭī-nāma, composed between the years 1313 and 1315 in Persian by ʿImād Ibn Muḥammad Ṯaġarī, a book, based on the Sanskrit Śukasaptati, which was dedicated to a sultan of Delhi, ʿAlā al-Dīn Ḵalği.5 A few centuries later the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542–1605) also played a significant role in the transmission of Sanskrit literature into the Perso-Muslim cultural sphere. Notably, he had the Mahābhārata, known in Persian as the Razmnama, translated.6

Amid these two periods, al-Bīrūnī (973–ca. 1050) embodies the cross-cultural and intellectual interactions between the Indian and Islamic cultural spheres thanks to his work on al-Hind7 and his Arabic interpretations of Sanskrit literature.8 His contributions, however, contrast with the two aforementioned translation projects which were large-scale undertakings occurring in relatively stable political contexts. Al-Bīrūnī, on his part, lived in a context of regular political change and therefore worked for several patrons. Despite an early interest in Indian mathematics and astronomy, his comprehensive studies of the Sanskrit language and Indian sciences commenced when he came in contact with Maḥmūd of Ghazna (971–1030).

The present book focuses on al-Bīrūnī’s transmission of Sanskrit texts into Arabic. As an introductory remark to his work, it must be noted that the Arabic verb naqala (‮نقل‬‎) signifies “to transfer”, “to transmit” or “to translate.” It does not necessarily convey the meaning of a literal translation in the modern sense of the term. If anything, early medieval Muslim thinkers generally carried out their work of translations by emphasizing the transmission of ideas found in their source-texts rather than the words themselves.9 As I show in this study, al-Bīrūnī’s contributions are to be counted within this intellectual tradition. Thus, I use the English words “translations” or “interpretations” in the sense of “free translations” to designate al-Bīrūnī’s productions.

Al-Bīrūnī conducted thorough and extensive research about India, which he communicates in his monograph on India, i.e., Fī taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind min maqūla maqbūla fī l-ʿaql aw marḏūla (‮في تحقيق ما للهند من مقولة مقبولة في العقل او مرذولة‬‎; True Account on What the Indians Say, Both What is Accepted by Reason and What is Not). This work composed approximately in 103010 is referred to hereafter as the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind. Al-Bīrūnī interpreted numerous portions of Sanskrit works on astronomy into Arabic, such as the aforementioned Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta, which he referred to as Brāhmasiddhānta,11 the Pauliśasiddhānta by Puliśa, the Bṛhatsaṃhitā by Varāhamihira, the Karaṇatilaka by Vijayanandin,12 as well as purāṇic and epic literature, such as the Viṣṇupurāṇa, the Ādityapurāṇa and the Bhagavadgītā, entitled by him Kitāb Gītā.13 He also quoted a few portions of the Arabic translation of the Carakasaṃhitā, referring to it as the Kitāb Čaraka.14 The Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind contains quotations of al-Bīrūnī’s interpretations of these works.

In 1036, al-Bīrūnī composed a bibliography informing his readers of his writing up until this year. Boilot (1955) edited, translated and annotated this bibliography, and also updated it with additional works composed by al-Bīrūnī after 1036. This list reveals that al-Bīrūnī also translated Varāhamihira’s Laghujātaka into Arabic, under the title Translation of the Small [Book] of the Births by Varāhamihira (‮براهيمهر‬‎),15 as well as a medical treatise, which he entitled Translation of the ‘Kalab Yārah,’ Indian Treatise on the Disease Which Behaves like Putrefaction.16 In addition, al-Bīrūnī mentions in his bibliography several works which he translated from Arabic “into the Indian language” (‮إلى لغة الهند‬‎).17

In the domain of Indian philosophy, al-Bīrūnī produced two works, the Kitāb Sānk and the Kitāb Pātanğal, which are free translations based on classical Sāṅkhya and Yoga texts. Of these two, only the text of the Kitāb Pātanğal (The Book by Pātanğal the Indian, on the Liberation from the Burdens, [being] a Translation into Arabic by Abū l-Rayḥān Muḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Bīrūnī; ‮كتاب باتنجل الهندى فى الخلاص من الاثقال نقل ابى الريحان محمد بن احمد البيرونى الى العربى‬‎) is extant. The Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind includes scattered passages of the Kitāb Sānk.18 These quotations, together with the extant Kitāb Pātanğal, constitute the earliest known instance of Indian philosophical texts rendered into Arabic. The many references to al-Bīrūnī in modern secondary literature attest to the significance of this figure for the history of South Asia and history of sciences. The following review focuses on a few key authors who have discussed al-Bīrūnī in their work. Numerous researchers of Indian and Islamic history or culture refer to him, including Alain Daniélou (1983), Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (1986), Wilhelm Halbfass (1988), André Wink (1990 and 1997), Mohammed Hassan Syed (2003), Akhilesh K. Dubey (2005) and Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya (2006). In addition, three commemorative volumes, gathering contributions by experts in various fields, were published in English in 1951, 1976 and 1979 subsequent to international conferences.19

Most publications on al-Bīrūnī, however, pertain to the natural and exact sciences. Important authors who examined his input in the field of mathematics and astronomy are S.E. Kennedy, David Pingree and Michio Yano. Several scholars edited and/or translated several of al-Bīrūnī’s writings—or parts of them, namely Carl Edward Sachau (1878, 1879, 1887 and 1910), Hellmut Ritter (1956), Jamil Ali (1967), Shlomo Pines and Tuvia Gelblum (1966, 1977, 1983 and 1989), Mohammed Hakim Said (1973 and 2001), N.A. Baloch (1973), Gotthard Strohmaier (1991), and Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mehdi Mohaghegh (2005). The valuable works of Jacques-Dominique Boilot (1955) and of Jan Hogendijk (http://www.jphogendijk.nl/biruni.html [accessed October 2023]) provide information regarding editions and translations of al-Bīrūnī’s books. Al-Bīrūnī’s significant treatise on mathematics, Al-qānūn al-Masʿūdī (1030), has not yet been translated in its entirety into a modern Western language.20

Several well-grounded and useful biographies include those by Kennedy (1970), F.A. Shamsi (1979), Mohammed Hakim Said and Ansar Zahid Khan (1981), and Michio Yano (EI). Studies on the Ghaznavid rulers, the patrons of al-Bīrūnī, comprise works by Muhammad Nazim (1931), Clifford Edmund Bosworth (1963 and 1977), Minoru Inaba (2013) and Sarah Cappelletti (2015), while the Late Shahi kings whom the Ghaznavids encountered in their military campaigns to the East are dealt with by Yogendra Mishra (1972), Dinabandhu Pandey (1973), Abdur Rehman (1979) and Michel Alram (2016: 151–153). A forthcoming volume edited in the context of the international project Cultural Formation and Transformation: Shahi Buddhist Art and Architecture shall include new research and outcome about the history of the Shahi kingdoms.21

Several academic works examine al-Bīrūnī’s methods of investigation and highlight his scientific objectivity when interacting with Indian society and culture. Their authors are M.S. Khan (1976), Bruce B. Lawrence (1978), G. Kaur (1982), Akbar S. Ahmed (1984), Vincent-Mansour Monteil (1996), M.A. Saleem Khan (2001), Floréal Sanagustin (2003), Kemal Ataman (2005) and Mario Kozah (2016). Only a few surveys, however, explore how al-Bīrūnī dealt with Sanskrit literature. Jan Gonda (1951) analyses passages from the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind ascribed to the Purāṇas by al-Bīrūnī. Arvind Sharma (1983) provides a study comparing al-Bīrūnī’s quotations from the Kitāb Gītā found in the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind to the Sanskrit Bhagavadgītā. Pingree (1969 and 1983) examines al-Bīrūnī’s quotations from Sanskrit astronomical works. Judith Stareček (2003) compares quotations from the Kitāb Pātanğal and Kitāb Gītā found in al-Bīrūnī’s Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind.

Between the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries, there have been various attempts to identify al-Bīrūnī’s Sanskrit sources of his translations of Sāṅkhya and Yoga philosophical texts, respectively the Kitāb Sānk and the Kitāb Pātanğal. Sachau (1910), Richard Garbe (1894, 1896 and 1917), Junjiro Takakusu (1904a) and Surendranath Dasgupta (1922, 1930), as well as Pines and Gelblum (1966 to 1989), are among those who examined the relationship between al-Bīrūnī’s Arabic works and Sanskrit literature. However, they were unable to find conclusive answers concerning the Sanskrit sources he may have used. Recently, a book chapter by Maas & Verdon (2018) examined the question of al- al-Bīrūnī’s sources for composing the Kitāb Pātanğal in light of his hermeneutics, while Kozah (2020) provides us with a new edition and English translation of this work.These are the sole studies of al-Bīrūnī’s renderings of Sāṅkhya and Yoga texts into Arabic.

In addition, in-depth research on the context in which al-Bīrūnī encountered the South Asian subcontinent is still missing, despite a considerable number of academic publications dedicated to him and his work. Historical sources associated with al-Bīrūnī’s time, as well as with the area he visited in South Asia, namely Gandhāra and northern Panjab, are missing or hardly documented.22 Perhaps this is the reason why his life is relatively unknown and often mixed with legendary elements. Moreover, information regarding the larger historical context of al-Bīrūnī’s translation project is fragmentary.

Al-Bīrūnī’s studies of Indian culture and science, as well as his interpretations of Sanskrit literature, however, occurred in specific geographical, political, social and intellectual contexts. In order to use his work as a source for the study of South Asian history, these contexts need to be understood. Therefore, in the present book, I investigate several aspects of al-Bīrūnī’s life: the geographical context, specifically the places he visited in early medieval India and the cultural boundaries between the Islamic and Indian spheres at the time; the political situation, or how al-Bīrūnī’s work was connected to the rulers’ interests; the social and intellectual environments, addressing the questions of whom he met when pursuing his research on India, what were his sources of information, how he learned about Indian sciences, literature and philosophy, and what types of intellectual exchange took place at the rulers’ courts.

In order to tackle these questions, this book focuses on his Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Pātanğal and on how al-Bīrūnī was able to produce such works. Based on various pieces of evidence, archaeological and textual, this research situates al-Bīrūnī’s global work on al-Hind in its geographical and socio-cultural contexts. More specifically, it results in an updated biography of al-Bīrūnī. It localizes places where al-Bīrūnī travelled in the north-western subcontinent and determines the nature of his various sources of information alongside that of his interactions with Indian locals. The book further identifies and categorizes reasons for the many adaptations al-Bīrūnī made in his translations; this makes it possible to analyse at a deep level the relationship between his Arabic interpretations and their possible Sanskrit originals. Finally, it enables to point to his possible Sanskrit sources with some confidence.

The present research takes two main approaches: historical and textual. The first two chapters of this book serve to fill in some gaps in our knowledge of al-Bīrūnī’s life and to lay the foundation for the textual analysis which follows. Chapter 1 discusses geographical and cultural boundaries in relationship to al-Bīrūnī’s descriptions of Indian culture. During his life, the scholar moved between modern Uzbekistan (Kāṯ), Turkmenistan (Ğūrğānīya), Iran (Ğūrğān and Ray), Afghanistan (Ghazna and Kābul) which belonged to the Islamic territory, and to Pakistan (Gandhāra and Panjab) in al-Hind, which had just been penetrated by the Ghaznavid rulers at the time.23 The historical contexts of Kāṯ, Ğūrğānīya, Ğūrğān, Ray, Ghazna and Kābul are dealt with together in Section 1.1 which also presents preliminary remarks on the Late Shahi kings, also known as the Hindu Śāhis.24

Section 1.2 first delimits the geographical boundaries between Islamic and non-Islamic eastern lands as conceptualised by al-Bīrūnī who refers to the latter as al-Hind. Based on an analysis of the evidence, I then argue that his travels to al-Hind were chiefly confined to Gandhāra and Panjab. From the year 1017 onward, when al-Bīrūnī became a scholar at the Ghaznavid court, his freedom of movement was owed to the rulers, and notably to Maḥmūd of Ghazna, who had military and mercantile interest in al-Hind. With his role as a scholar appointed to work for this sultan, al-Bīrūnī was given the opportunity to travel eastward. In addition, while his sources of information were various, they consisted more in oral reports and written documents, and less in his own direct observations.25 Section 1.3 discusses archaeological data and primary literary sources related to five locales which he visited in Gandhāra and Panjab and to the Late Shahis. Sections 1.2 and 1.3 also highlight the overlap between the regions al-Bīrūnī visited in al-Hind and the territory of the Late Shahi kingdom.

Chapter 2 is dedicated to the social and intellectual contexts which fashioned al-Bīrūnī’s intellectual horizon before and during the composition of his book on India. From his birth in Khwarezm (Uzbekistan) up to his travels to the East, al-Bīrūnī had several opportunities to encounter and study al-Hind. As underlined above, Arabic translations of Indian works were available to him before he came into contact with Indian culture when working at the Ghaznavid court.26 Section 2.1 treats al-Bīrūnī’s preliminary knowledge of the Sanskrit language and Indian sciences based on these pre-existing translations. By the time he wrote the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind, his understanding of Sanskrit, Indian religion and sciences had grown significantly, enabling him to translate, among others, two works related to Sāṅkhya and Yoga.

Taking into account al-Bīrūnī’s reliance on the Ghaznavids for coming in close contact with Sanskrit literature and Indian sciences, Section 2.2 explores the role of this royal court in providing favourable conditions for intellectual exchange, and Section 2.3 examines the nature of this exchange as well as the identity of al-Bīrūnī’s informants. Lastly, Section 2.4 discusses the possibility that the Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Pātanğal were popular teachings among al-Bīrūnī’s informants and points out the significance of his visits to Gandhāra and Panjab for his Arabic renderings of Sāṅkhya-Yoga works. More generally, Chapters 1 and 2 highlight the fertility of the period in terms of intellectual exchanges which accompanied martial and commercial interests of the rulers.

In the first part of this book (Chapters 1 and 2), I chiefly draw from al-Bīrūnī’s own works, namely, Al-āṯār al-bāqiya (1000), the Taḥdīd al-amākin (1025), the Tafhīm (1029) and the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind (ca. 1030), in order to determine which places he visited in al-Hind, the circumstances of his exchanges with Indians, and his knowledge of Indian culture. Al-ʿUtbī was an official secretary at the Ghaznavid court. His account of the Ghaznavid dynasty and its military conquests is, however, not completely reliable because the available English translation by Reynolds (1858) used in this research is not based on the original Arabic text, entitled here al-Yamīnī (ca. 1021 CE), but on a later Persian translation of it, known as the Kitāb-i-Yamīnī.27 Nevertheless, I occasionally make use of this source in the present book for recounting information about Maḥmūd’s conquests, the life at the royal courts and the social contexts of regions in al-Hind visited by al-Bīrūnī. The accounts by Gardīzī and Bayhaqī, two historians at the Ghaznavid court, help reconstructing the structure of the administration and general policies of the Ghaznavids. Other sources providing information related to al-Hind are the anonymous Ḥudūd al-ʿālam (982/983) and the historical chronicle Rājataraṅgiṇī (mid-12th c.) by Kalhaṇa.

The second approach taken in this book consists in an in-depth textual examination of al-Bīrūnī’s Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Pātanğal in relationship to philological studies in Indology. Chapter 3 contextualizes these two Arabic works within the history of Indian philosophy. Sections 3.1 and 3.2 provide outlines of the Sāṅkhya-Yoga literature composed prior to al-Bīrūnī’s time and of the philosophical tenets developed in two of their fundamental texts, the Sāṅkhyakārikā and the Pātañjalayogaśāstra. Section 3.3 discusses philological data, such as the authorships and titles of the Arabic texts in relation to their possible Sanskrit sources. Section 3.4 analyses how al-Bīrūnī regarded his two translations and made connections between the subjects developed in each book.

On the whole, Chapter 3 shows the intellectual and philosophical contexts to which al-Bīrūnī’s interpretations belonged. They thus provide the background for the analysis of the subsequent chapters by addressing the question of their connection to the textual tradition in Sanskrit.

In Chapter 3, I also demonstrate that al-Bīrūnī’s interpretations reflect the philosophical systems of the Sāṅkhyakārikā and Pātañjalayogaśāstra traditions. In this way, this outcome anticipates and corroborates the results of the further examinations conducted in Chapters 5 and 6, which investigate into the contents of the Arabic translations and their possible Sanskrit originals. As pointed out above, earlier attempts to identify al-Bīrūnī’s sources were mostly unsuccessful in finding final answers. Several reasons may explain these difficulties. First, Louis Massignon discovered the manuscript of the Kitāb Pātanğal in 1922,28 while Hellmut Ritter critically edited in 1956. Prior to these years, the academic world only benefited from extracts of the Kitāb Pātanğal scattered throughout the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind. The discovery of this manuscript, now kept in the Koprülü Library of Istanbul, enables a comprehensive analysis of its text. Research in Indology has also considerably developed since the time of Sachau, Garbe and Takakusu, who first undertook to identify the Sanskrit sources of al-Bīrūnī’s Arabic Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Pātanğal. Sanskrit manuscripts containing new Sāṅkhya commentaries have been discovered and edited. Recent philological research on the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and its commentaries also have produced fresh perspectives on its dating and authorship. This development in Indology makes it possible to deliver a more refined comparative analysis of the relation between the Sanskrit texts and the Arabic translations.

Furthermore, modern researchers generally noticed that al-Bīrūnī’s translations and the Sanskrit works to which they compared them presented both important parallels and crucial differences. The problem, however, naturally disappears if al-Bīrūnī’s hermeneutics are appropriately addressed. Many discrepancies can indeed be accounted for by al-Bīrūnī’s interpretative choices. I thus argue that the actual implications of al-Bīrūnī’s transformations for determining his sources have been generally overlooked so far.

Therefore, Chapter 4 suggests a new approach to examining this issue and resolves some problems that earlier scholarship faced. Section 4.2 demonstrates that al-Bīrūnī consciously transformed the original Sanskrit texts when he prepared his Arabic translations. Section 4.3 discusses his intentions behind these transformations and Section 4.4 considers his choices of interpretation in the light of the findings of Translation Studies. This method made it possible to identify several reasons for al-Bīrūnī’s adaptations: his desire to transmit a message; his idiosyncratic understanding of Indian philosophical terms and concepts; his religious and intellectual backgrounds; his pre-existing knowledge of India; and his interactions with Indian thinkers.

In Chapter 4, I posit that investigating al-Bīrūnī’s hermeneutics is a necessary step in the quest to determine the Sanskrit sources he may have used. This approach allows us to move beyond a pure philological and literal comparison between al-Bīrūnī’s translations and their possible Sanskrit originals, while it offers interesting analytical tools for further research. Chapters 5 and 6, thus, building upon these observations, examine passages of the Kitāb Pātanğal and the Kitāb Sānk in relation to Sanskrit works related to Yoga and Sāṅkhya, respectively.

The main sources of this textual study are al-Bīrūnī’s Kitāb Sānk, Kitāb Pātanğal, Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind, the Sanskrit commentaries on the Pātañjalayogaśāstra and on the Sāṅkhyakārikā, as well as secondary literature on Sāṅkhya and Yoga philosophies. Rather than presenting comparisons between the Arabic translations and their sources as a whole, the analysis focuses on specific passages of the Kitāb Pātanğal and the Kitāb Sānk.29

Whereas in the present book I do not examine the question of the recipients of al-Bīrūnī’s translations and works on al-Hind,30 I thoroughly explore the contexts from which his works originated, with the aim to bring out the intimate connections between the translator’s life, his intellectual career and his understanding of al-Hind and Indian philosophy.

Furthermore, the present book stands as a contribution to the discussion on the intercultural dialogue between two complex and lively cultural and intellectual spheres. There is no perfect coherent way of designating these two civilisations, considering that much of the terminology is external to them and created by Western thinkers. As such, commonly accepted designations are often too equivocal and general, while they also involve categorising elements of cultures in theory, whose limits are however permeable in practice.

In this book, the term “Indian” stands for ideas or traits relating to early medieval India and to its people or its culture in general. As is known, the Arabic terms al-hind (‮الهند‬‎) and al-hindiyya (‮الهندية‬‎) primarily referred to a territory and to the populations living in that territory. Accordingly, I generally deviate from Sachau’s translation of al-hindiyya as “Hindu” and render it as “Indian.” I make use of the terms “Brahminical” and “Brahminism” to qualify a society that follows the precepts of the caste system and acknowledges the Brahmins as supreme authorities, whereas I employ the words “Hindu” and “Hinduism” to specifically refer to religious activities and to a system of beliefs in which the cult of Hindu deities is dominant.

As for the terminology belonging to the second culture dealt with here, I resort to “Islamic” and “Muslim” in their sense of including different ethnic groups and political entities, referring to a whole characterised by its adherence to Islam. It may thus look inconsistent, at times, to see the adjective as “Indian” alongside the religious designation of “Islamic”. I, however, understand them both as two wholes constituted by their respective—yet not homogeneous—sets of cultural traits. In this way, I chiefly employ this terminology as functional tools and I do hope that my usages shall not entail more misunderstanding or misinterpretation of this terminology.

Lastly, out of the main spotlight of this book, I bring forward several general topics of interest to historians of South Asia. First, this study reveals the vitality of the past in which two cultures, that is, the Indian and Islamic ones, meet as two permeable and moving spheres in terms of territory, cultures and ideology. Second, it shows the territorial conquests of Islam as a process, in which warring concerns intermingled with commercial, cultural and intellectual exchanges. Lastly, al-Hind, and in this case parts of Gandhāra and Panjab, appears much connected to its outside world. Thanks to this research, overall, I foreground aspects of the dynamic dialogue of these two cultural spheres and how this dialogue may have taken place.31

1

Taḥqīq (1958), p. 6.1–4. Sachau 1910: I/8. On this quotation, see below p. .

2

On the Barmakids, see Elverskog 2010: 59–61 and Van Bladel 2011: 74–86 and 2012. Baloch (1973: 24–33) focuses on the roles of Ibrāhīm al-Fazārī and Yaʿqūb Ibn Ṭāriq in this process and highlights the connections between this intellectual development and the Islamic spread in Sind. See also Pingree 2012a. On al-Bīrūnī’s knowledge of some of these translations, see below pp. .

3

On Brahmagupta and his works, see Pingree 1981: 254–257 and 1983.

4

In the ninth century CE, ʿAlī Ibn Sahl Rabbān al-Ṭabarī incorporated elements drawn from the Carakasaṃhitā, the Suśrutasaṃhitā or the Aṣṭaṅgahṛdayasaṃhitā in his Firdaws al-ḥikma fī l-ṭibb (Paradise of Wisdom) (Elverskog 2010: 61). Knowledge of the transmission of the Carakasaṃhitā into Arabic, however, remains limited, as there exists today no extant Arabic manuscript of the work. The Pañcatantra had been first translated into Pahlavi in the sixth century CE (Brockelmann 2012). ʿAbd Allah Ibn al-Muqaffaʾ (ca. 720–756), for instance, is among those who played a part in the transmission of the Pañcatantra into Arabic (Gabrieli 2012). Al-Bīrūnī mentions this author (Taḥqīq [1958], p. 123.10–15; Sachau 1910: I/159).

5

Beelaert 2008.

6

Athar 1992; Rice 2010.

7

The present book makes use of the term al-Hind to refer to the territory of India as al-Bīrūnī defined it in terms of cultural borders in the early eleventh century (see below Section 1.2.1).

8

See also Ernst 2003: 174–177.

9

On the early medieval tradition of translations see for instance Wisnovsky et al. 2011.

10

The Scheffer manuscript (BNF no. 6080), dated to Ğumādā al-ūla 4, 554 A.H. (May 5, 1159 CE), bears a note indicating that al-Bīrūnī completed the autograph in Ghazna, Muḥarram 1, 423 A.H., i.e., December 19, 1031 CE. Sachau discusses this note and other pieces of evidence in order to accurately date the composition of the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind. He concludes that al-Bīrūnī composed his monograph on India between April 30 and October 30, 1030 CE. Sachau’s reasons for such dating are convincing (Sachau 1887: ix–x; see also Mishra 1985: 9). Therefore, in this book I adopt his dating.

11

In addition, al-Bīrūnī referred to parts of the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta in a text entitled Translation of the Calculation Methods found in the Brāhmasiddhānta (Boilot 1955: 189, no. 40) and expressed his intention to translate the whole work in the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind, a task, however, which he could not perform (Taḥqīq [1958], p. 119.8–9; Sachau 1910: I/154; Yano 2013). On al-Bīrūnī’s Brāhmasiddhānta and his account of astronomical literature, see Verdon & Yano 2020.

12

N.A. Baloch (1973) edited the Arabic translation entitled Ġurra al-zīğ.

13

Sachau provides us with a complete list of Sanskrit works quoted and/or referred to in the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind (1910: I/xxxix–xl). See also Baloch 1973: 11–12 and Shastri 1975.

14

Al-Bīrūnī states that he only had access to a poor translation of the original Sanskrit medical work prepared for the house of the Barmakids (Taḥqīq [1958], pp. 123.3–9, 126.4–7and 321.16–17; Sachau 1910: I/159, 162 and 382; see also Verdon & Yano 2020: 66).

15

Taḥqīq (1958), p. 122.5–6; Sachau 1910: I/158. Boilot 1955: 202, no. 79.

16

Boilot 1955: 206, no. 92.

17

Three non-extant books are listed in Boilot 1955: 238–239: nos. 175–177.

18

Taḥqīq (1958), p. 6.2; Sachau 1910: I/8. The Kitāb Sānk and the Kitāb Pātanğal respectively correspond to numbers 97 and 98 in Boilot 1955: 208. Al-Bīrūnī entitled number 97 Translation of a General Book on the Sensitive and Rational Existents (‮ترجمة كتاب شامل فى الموجودات المحسوسة والمعقولة‬‎). The title of this book and its place in the list immediately before the Kitāb Pātanğal strongly suggest that it corresponds to the Kitāb Sānk, as Boilot hypothesised, despite his addition in the bibliography of the Kitāb Sānk under number 174 (1955: 238).

19

The present book refers to these edited volumes by the individual authors’ names. In 2022 and 2023, al-Bīrūnī’s 1050th birthday was celebrated in different countries of Central Asia, notably in Iran and Uzbekistan.

20

See Boilot 1955: 210–212 and Hogendjik’s website.

21

See fn. 56 of Chapter 1.

22

To the extent possible, this book adopts the geographical terminology used in early medieval Arabic and Sanskrit literature.

23

This analytical method was inspired by a discussion with Prof. Najaf Haider (JNU, New Delhi).

24

The several designations commonly in use for the two lineages of the Shahi rulers are in my view not satisfactory solutions. Turki Śāhis and Kābulšāh for the Early Shahis (from the mid-7th to the early 9th c.) and Hindu Śāhis for the Late Shahis (from the early 9th to early 11th c.) can be all misleading in terms of religious and political history of the region. Therefore, in the present book, I designate them as Early and Late Shahis respectively, a terminology that is more inclusive and neutral, and at the same time that shows the distinction between the two ruling dynasties. See also Filigenzi 2015: 36.

25

Touati 2000: 13–14. Similarly, early Persian and Arabic geographical accounts of lands lying beyond the boundaries of the Islamic world were often based on oral and written sources of information rather than direct observation. See Bosworth 1970: xlviii and 26, Touati 2000: 154–156, and Zadeh 2011: 131, 154–155 and 172.

26

In the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind, al-Bīrūnī mentions the Kalīla wa Dimna and its versions in several languages (Taḥqīq [1958], p. 123.10–13; Sachau 1910: I/159).

27

See Anooshahr 2005 for an historiographical study on al-ʿUtbī’s Kitāb-i-Yamīnī.

28

Ritter 1956: 165–166.

29

For a comprehensive understanding of the Kitāb Pātanğal, readers may consult Ritter’s edition (1956), as well as its English translation by Pines and Gelblum (1966, 1977, 1983 and 1989). Extracts of the Kitāb Sānk, or references to it, drawn from the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind are gathered in the Appendix to the present book.

30

Sachau broached this question in the preface to his edition of the Taḥqīq mā li-l-Hind (Sachau 1887: xxxi).

31

In this context, observations made in this book converge with the perspectives taken in Eaton 2003 and 2020, as well as Flood 2009.

  • Collapse
  • Expand