Nasir Khusraw: A traveller from a Thousand Years Ago

Nāsir Khusraw Qubādiyānī was a Persian poet, philosopher, scholar, traveller, mathematician, and scientist. He was born in 1004 AD, in Qubadyan, a village in the eastern Iranian province of Khorasan (located in present-day Afghanistan) near the city of Balkh. What we know as Islamic Civilization was at its peak with philosophers and thinkers debating a wide variety of topics and issues. Nasir Khusraw is considered one of the seven great Persian poets alongside Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Anvari, Rumi, Sa’adi, and Hafiz. At the time of his birth, Avicenna (a polymath and father of modern medicine) was 24 years old and Ferdowsi was about to finish the “Shahnameh” (Book of Kings). He started his travels in 1046 at the age of 42 and he returned on 1052 covering much of the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa. Two years before his return, Abu Rayhyan Biruni (Astronomer & mathematician) had passed away and Khayyam, the famous Persian poet, and the mathematician were four years old. Nasir Khusraw passed away in 1081.

Nasir Khusraw, like his contemporaries, was familiar with several branches of science. As a mathematician, he wrote a book on equations, as a theologian and a scholar of Ismaili thoughts he drafted a thesis on the concept of Imamate, as an astronomer and philosopher he searched for a unifying theme. He studied philosophers such as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, who was inspired by the Greek philosophers and read Avicenna’s work. He mentions them in his own writings. Like many other theologians of his era, he was proficient in Arabic, although his prose shines when he writes in Persian style of his era. As a linguist, he was familiar with Greek, and vernacular of languages of India and Sindh. He had visited India (Multan and Lahore which are now located in Pakistan) and as a member of the Ismaili hierarchy, he travelled to Cairo to meet the ruling Fatimid Caliph. His “Safarnameh” is the vivid description of his travels and encounters with different communities and characters. It is still popular and well-read among Persian speaking populace. In his book of mathematics, he deals with equations which only centuries later mathematicians began to understand and solve.

The rest of this article is published in the 3rd number of Gilgamesh international edition

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