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Monday, 27 October 2014 07:33

Iranian Notables, Sources of Global Honor (21)

Iranian Notables, Sources of Global Honor (21)

Today, we continue our last week’s discussion on the famed Iranian philosopher, theologian, mathematician, astronomer, and poet of 7th Century AH, Khaje Nasir Ed-Din Tousi. We said that Mohammad Ibn Hassan Jahroudi Tousi, popularly known as Khaje Nasir Ed-Din Tousi, was born in the northeastern Iranian city of Tous in the year 1201 AD.

He learned preliminary sciences, Holy Quran, and theology under his father. Thereafter he studied the science of Hadith and preliminary principles of logic and philosophy under his uncle, Nour Ed-Din Mohammad Ibn Ali. At a young age, he left his hometown for Nayshapour to complete his studies in this city, which was considered as one of the scientific hubs of the Muslim world. After a while, he highly excelled in the common sciences of his era. Concurrent with the Mongol raids on Khorasan, Khaje went to Ismaili castles and penned many of his compilations over there. The Mongol commander, Holagu Khan, after his army’s attack on Iran and ouster of Ismailis, urged Khaje to serve his court.

After the suppression of Ismailis, this Mongol commander decided to seize Baghdad and to topple the Abbasid Dynasty. He consulted with Khaje over this matter. Khaje contemplated on this issue and foresaw that the Abbasid caliph was bound to grapple with many difficulties in future and Iraq would easily fall into the hands of Mongols. Holagu Khan trusted Khaje and was destined to seize Baghdad. Finally, in the year 656 AH, the then Abbasid caliph, in the company of his three sons and leading figures were driven out of the city and Baghdad fell into the hands of Mongols. Caliph was killed upon the order of Holagu Khan.

After the conquest of Baghdad by Mongols, Tousi was instructed to establish Maraqeh Observatory in northwestern Iran. A number of historians believe that construction of this observatory took place upon the initiative of Khaje. They believe that Khaje managed to persuade Holagu Khan on the benefits and advantages of establishment of an observatory in this city. Holagu Khan, who was touched by Khaje’s remarks, allowed the construction of the related observatory under the guidance of Khaje, despite its huge costs.

Meanwhile, a number of other historians opine that the idea of establishment of an observatory was presented by the then Mongol ruler, Manku Qaa-Aan, who had ordered Holagu Khan to attack Iran. They say that the Mongol ruler was a patron of science and had even partly mastered Euclidean geometry. Upon realizing Khaje’s vast knowledge, he urged Holagu Khan to send Khaje to Mongolia for construction of an observatory. However, given that the Mongol ruler intended to seize southern China and Holagu Khan maintained a positive outlook on the vast knowledge of Khaje, the Mongol king found it appropriate to construct an observatory in Iran.

The location chosen for construction of the related observatory was over a hill, northwest of the city of Maraqeh. Upon the instruction of Khaje, the famous architect of that era, Abul-Sadat Ahmad Ibn Ottoman Maraqhi, was obligated to construct this observatory. The development of this observatory was financed by the government’s treasury. It is said that Khaje went on three journeys to supervise the process of construction of this observatory; throughout which he collected several books and observatory tools for Maraqeh observatory. He also penned the related astronomical tables in his visits to this observatory.

The astronomical tables penned by Khaje were unique. Countless mathematicians and astronomers worked at Maraqeh Observatory. One of the main advantages of this observatory was its large library, which held over 400,000 book titles and maintained educational aspects, as well. Khaje invited philosophers and scientists to this major scientific institute from different parts of the world. In this scientific center, focus was on the theoretical sciences and mathematics, which formed the basis of astronomy. Khaje paid three dirhams to students of philosophy, two dirhams to medics, one dirham to students of theology, and half a dirham to students of the science of Hadith on a daily basis. These activities lasted for thirteen years. Holagu Khan died prior to completion of construction of the observatory, while his crown prince ascended the throne. It is said that the crown prince at first abdicated the throne. However, later on, upon the efforts and advices of Khaje, the crown prince was persuaded to ascend the throne. In the meantime, Khaje and his colleagues continued the construction of the observatory.

Khaje, until the waning moments of his life, made every effort to prevent any disruption in the activities of this Observatory.

The majority of Khaje’s treatises and letters have been written in Arabic language. The vastness and extent of Khaje’s scientific knowledge is comparable to that of Iranian-Islamic genius Avicenna. Meanwhile, between the two, Avicenna was more skilled in medicine, while Khaje manifested further abilities in mathematics, to the extent that the latter has penned several valuable books on this science. The German orientalist, Carl Brockelmann, in his book, has mentioned the major achievements of Khaje in mathematics and astronomy, adding that this Iranian scientist translated many scientific books, and was the first to recognize trigonometry as an independent science.  Khaje has several unique compilations on astronomy. His mathematical books have been included in the curriculum of Islamic scholars, and some of his valuable books have been translated into other languages, benefiting European scientists.


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