The Birth of Indology as an Islamic Science

Al-Bīrūnī’s Treatise on Yoga Psychology


In The Birth of Indology as an Islamic Science Mario Kozah closely examines the pioneering contribution by Bīrūnī (d. ca. 1048) to the study of comparative religion in his major work on India. Kozah concludes that a process of Islamisation is employed through a meticulous systematization of Hindu beliefs into one “Indian religion”, preceding by almost a millennium the earliest definitions of Hinduism by nineteenth-century European Orientalists. This formulation of Hinduism draws on Bīrūnī’s interpretation of Yoga psychology articulated in the Kitāb Bātanjal, his Arabic translation of the Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali. Bīrūnī’s Islamic reading of Hinduism relies on certain common denominators that he identifies as being of fundamental importance. In the case of Hinduism he identifies metempsychosis as its unifying banner.
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Biographical Note

Mario Kozah, Ph.D. (2002), University of Cambridge, is Assistant Professor of Syriac and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut. He has published extensively on comparative religion and literature including The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century (Gorgias Press, 2014).

Review Quotes

"... ein auch für die Indologie interessantes und lehrreiges Buch."
Axel Michaels in Theologische Literaturzeitung, 141 (2016).

Table of contents

Acknowledgements ix
Introduction 1
1 Al-Bīrūnī: A Brief Summary of His Life and Major Works 7
1 Al-Bīrūnī: Prologues and Method 11
1 Al-Asʾila waʾl-Ajwiba 11
2 Al-Āthār ʾl-bāqiya ʿan ʾl-qurūn ʾl-khāliya 12
3 Al-Qānūn al-masʿūdī fiʾl-hayʾa waʾl-nujūm 18
4 Kitāb taḥqīq mā liʾl-Hind 23
5 Al-Bīrūnī, Hindu Cosmology, and Atomism 32
2 Hindu Metaphysics According to the Hind 34
1 Mediaeval Arabic Texts on Hinduism and Their Sources 34
2 Al-Bīrūnī’s Sanskrit Sources: Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Bātanjal 37
3 The Differentiation of Kitāb Sānk and Kitāb Bātanjal 41
4 Theology from Kitāb Bātanjal to the Hind 43
5 Passage 1: The Theological Interface between Kitāb Bātanjal and the
Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali 45
6 Passage 2: The Theological Interface between Kitāb Bātanjal and the
Citations from the Book Referred to as gītā 55
7 Passage 3: Kitāb Sānk and the Discussion of Human and Divine
Action in the Hind 65
8 Kitāb Sānk as Conclusion to the Comparative Triptych 71
3 Al-Nafs: the Soul in Kitāb Bātanjal 73
1 Introduction 73
2 From Kitāb Bātanjal to the Hind 74
3 The Soul and Spiritual Liberation 75
4 Al-Bīrūnī and Western Scholarship 76
5 The Yoga-Sūtra and the Psychology of Kitāb Bātanjal 80
4 Kitāb Bātanjal: the Preface and Sections i–iii 85
1 The Tripartite Preface of Kitāb Bātanjal 85
2 Section i: Concentration of the Heart (Mind) 96
3 Section ii: Guidance towards Praxis 106
4 Section iii: The Manner of Recompense 118
5 Conclusion 120
5 Section iv of Kitāb Bātanjal: Liberation and Unification, a Reading 125
1 Introduction 125
2 Section iv and the Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali: Liberation, the Soul and
the Intellect 126
3 The Soul, Matter and Unification 132
4 Liberation: The Intellect, Intellected and Intellector 139
5 Ibn Sīnā’s Treatment of the Soul and Intellect in Aḥwāl al-Nafs and
His De Anima 146
6 Conclusion: Kitāb Bātanjal, Knowledge and Language 149
6 Al-Nafs: the Soul in the Hind 151
1 Introduction 151
2 The Body/Soul Relationship in the Hind 153
3 Chapter Seven of the Hind: On the Manner of Liberation from the
World and the Description of the Path That Leads to It 154
4 The Part of Worship 155
5 Islamic Characteristics Attributed to the Hindu “God” 157
6 Liberation, Divine Unification, and Knowledge 159
7 The Nature of Liberation According to Kitāb Bātanjal and Kitāb
Sānk 167
8 Conclusion: Liberation, Metempsychosis and al-Bīrūnī’s Islamic
Reading of Hinduism 184
Conclusion 189
Appendix. Translation of Section iv of Kitāb Bātanjal 195
Glossary of Terms 206
Bibliography 209
Index of Subjects 221
Index of Modern Authors 224
Index of Names 225
Index of Ancient and Mediaeval Sources 227


All interested in comparative religion, interfaith studies, comparative studies, Islamic studies, Yoga studies, Hinduism, mediaeval India, Middle Eastern studies, South-East Asian studies, theology and philosophy.