Monday, July 01, 2013

About Omar Khayam

About Omar Khayam

Omar Khayyam's full name was Ghiyath al-Din Abu'l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami. A literal translation of the name al-Khayyami (or al-Khayyam) means 'tent maker' and this was the trade of Ibrahim his father. Khayyam played on the meaning of his own name when he wrote:-

Khayyam, who stitched the tents of science,
Has fallen in grief's furnace and been suddenly burned,
The shears of Fate have cut the tent ropes of his life,
And the broker of Hope has sold him for nothing

He was tutored by Sheik Muhammad Mansuri, one of the most well-known scholars of the time. In his youth, Omar Khayyám studied under Imam Mowaffak of Nishapore, who was considered to be one of the greatest teachers of the Khorassan region. According to one account, two other exceptional students began studying under the same teacher at about the same time. One of these rose to become the Vizier to the Seljukid Empire and was famous as Nizam-ul-Mulk Tussi. The other was Hassan-ibn-Sabah, who went on to become the leader of the Hashshashin and created his "janat"(paradise) in Killa al Mout.

Omar Khayyam was an outstanding mathematician, astronomer and poet. He wrote several works including "Problems of Arithmetic", before he was 25 years old. In 1070 he moved to Samarkand in Uzbekistan which was at that time one of the most culturally advanced and intellectually stimulating cities of Central Asia. There Khayyam wrote his most famous algebra work, "Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra".

Omar Khayyám was a brilliant astronomer as well. He estimated and proved to an audience that included the then-prestigious and most respected scholar Imam Ghazali that the universe is not moving around earth as was believed by all at that time. By constructing a revolving platform and simple arrangement of the star charts lit by candles around the circular walls of the room, he demonstrated that earth revolves on its axis, bringing into view different constellations through out the night and day (completing a one-day cycle).

All these theories were adopted by later day astronomers. He also came up with a star map (now lost). Khayyam measured, in eleventh century,the length of the year as 365.24219858156 days which is outstandingly accurate.

Outside the world of mathematics and astronomy, Omar Khayyam is best known as a result of Edward Fitzgerald's popular translation in 1859 of nearly 600 short four line poems the Rubaiyat. Khayyam's fame as a poet has caused some to forget his scientific achievements which were much more substantial. Versions of the forms and verses used in the Rubaiyat existed in Persian literature before Khayyam, and only about 120 of the verses can be attributed to him with certainty. Of all the verses, the best known is the following:-

The Moving Finger writes, and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

He had some unorthodox ideas and non-conventional views about religion, which is a natural outcome of intellectual curiosity and searching for answers. It is also said that he converted to Christianity. The myth of his supposed Christian faith was spread by some Orientalists after Fitzgerald's translations. He is buried in Nishapore according to the Muslim custom.

Sources:-Britannica and some other material

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