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Al Beruni : Secular Muslim anthropologist

Al Beruni (973-1048), a many-sided genius and the contemporary of Firdousi, Avicenna and Ibn Haitham was the first Muslim to study the Hindu scripture, being a renowned anthropologist and genius of Islamic texts. He was in the court of Mahmud of Ghazni, Afghanistan and accompanied him during his military expedition to India, besides staying back for study of Indian culture/custom/scripts/texts/languages through travelling extensively and interacting with the people especially Brahmins/yogis.

He was studying the people not from the eyes of an alien Muslim but established contacts with them to know the inner values of Hindustani culture. He was also avid learner of Sufi/Hindu/Buddhist mystics, besides commenting dispassionately over contemporary scientific standard of Indian society, thus termed as ‘keen drinker from the fountain of truth whatever it source’. He exhorted Muslim to acquire knowledge rather than sticking to their traditional/religious edicts as God is universally ‘one’. Al-Beruni’s exhaustive work had opened the door for methodological study for other Islamic research scholars, travelled India afterward.

Al-Beruni’s findings about assimilation among the people in a syncretic cultural scenario are still relevant in present era of crisis and turmoil in the Islamic world/ Muslim community, reeling in conflict, ignorance and misunderstandings.

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