Amid the growing wave of pessimism regarding the so called ‘official story’ that has for centuries attempted to convince the world that Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the Americas, an article which claims that central Asian Muslim scholar Abu Raihan al-Biruni discovered the continent centuries before Columbus has come to light.
Writing in History Today, S. Frederick Starr explained that the Muslim scholar had indeed discovered the Americas long before Columbus set sail in 1498. According to the article, Abu Raihan al-Biruni, who was born in the year 973 in what is today known as Uzbekistan, was the first person to officially suggest that an undiscovered landmass in the ocean between the Europe and Asia actually existed.
Although al-Biruni, who made the claim in the early eleventh century, never himself laid eyes on the Americas, his unmatched expertise on geography and mapping led him to the conclusion that the known world – which spanned from the west coasts of Europe and Africa to the east coasts of Asia – only accounted for two-fifths of the world.
His knowledge of both Middle-Eastern and Indian languages, as well as being trained in mathematics, astronomy, mineralogy, geography, cartography, geometry and trigonometry under great scholars like Ahmad al-Farghani, gave him deep insight into the sciences of various fields and civilizations. Al-Biruni began by working out the latitudinal and longitudinal locations of various cities in central Asia, India, the Middle-East and the Mediterranean.
Having studied the works of Ancient Greek scholars like Claudius Ptolemy and Pythagoras, al-Biruni was of the few people in that time that actually accurately estimated that the earth was round. His teacher al-Farghani had also estimated that the earth was indeed round, and did surprisingly well to provide a near-accurate measurement of the earth’s circumference, which Columbus himself also used as a basis for his own explorations. However, Columbus failed to note that al-Farghani had given the measurement in Arab miles rather than Roman miles, leading him to grossly underestimate the distance of his journey. Furthermore, Columbus had no intention of discovering the Americas when he set sail, as he assumed that his travels would take him directly from Europe to Asia.
Al-Biruni, like his teacher, also provided an estimation of the earth’s circumference, which happened to be a lot more accurate, skipping only 10.44 miles from modern measurements. As well as proposing that the earth orbited the sun rather than the more commonly accepted opposite notion of that time, in his book Codex Masudicus, Biruni also hypothesized the existence of the Americas.
This theory was proposed in around 1037, by which point al-Biruni would have been 70 years old. For this reason, due to not having the energy nor the means to make the trek himself, al-Biruni’s belief remained a mere theory. That is not the say that the Americas had not already been discovered, because there are also records citing that Norsemen from Scandinavia scouring across Iceland and Greenland, eventually accidently landing on Canada only to be chased away by natives who were already living there also exist from the late tenth century. However, al-Biruni was the first person from the known world to officially claim the so called ‘new world’ existed.