Some Scholastic Families of Afghanistan


Abdul Hai Habibi


The political foundation of the Abasi caliphate was founded by the people of Khorasan and these people were also active participants in the scientific movement of the Islamic caliphate which took place after 748 CE to the extent that the principal founders of Islamic sciences were people from Khorasan.

With the rise of Islam in the 7th century CE the citizen of Khorasan were endowed with and old scientific and cultural heritage. As an example, Ratbel, a king of Zabul, sent an astrologist to the court of Harun from his kingdom and, according to Al-Biruni, a scholar by the name of Augraboth, lived in the court of Kabulshah Anand, who wrote a book on astrology by the name of Shakhat Prat.

There used to be several large libraries in Khorasan and it is said that the Merv and Neshapur libraries were so famous that people visited them from far away lands to study there. These libraries had been built before the advent of Islam. It has been recorded that Autabi, the Arabic poet, came to Khorasan three times to study rare books and when he saw these rare treasures he wrote: “Even though Arabic is a profound language but real knowledge is in the books of non-Arabs.” These words indicate that a scholastic movement was underway in our country and when Islam reached this land the people were ready to embrace the knowledge of the Arabs also. They took a major role in the preservation of Islamic sciences. Here I will introduce some scholastic families from Khorasan.



Musa, son of Shaker, was a resident of Khorasan. In his youth he was a brave and famous warrior. He studied geometry and became an expert in the field. His three sons, known as Bani Shaker were named Mohammad, Ahmed and Hasan. They were trained in the House of Sagacity of Mamun, the Abasi caliph.

The first son, Abu Jafar Mohammad, who died in 873 CE, was a famous scholar of geometry, astrology, mathematics and astronomy. These three brothers were teachers of famous learned men and they spent a lot of money in the establishment of sciences which amounted to 500 dinars in a month. They wrote a number of books on geometry, mathematics, astronomy and the movement of objects. Ahmed was so skilled in mechanics that he had no match and the third brother, Hasan, was a genius in geometry who discovered a number of geometrical principals such as the division of an angle in three equal parts and parallel lines between two lines by means of which he solved many related problems. Ibn Nadim writes that the brothers authored 15 books in mathematics and geometry and, according to Gustav Lebon, Caliph Mamun, ordered Mohammad bin Musa to write a simple but scholarly book on the principles of algebra and it was the brothers, who for the first time integrated algebra and geometry.

They invented special instruments to solve global trigonometry which are in use up to this day. They figured the movement of planets and calculated the latitude of Baghdad so precisely that it is only 10 cm. different from the currently calculated latitude of the city. The three brothers were so famous in mechanics that people called it the mechanics of Bani Musa. There is a book in the Vatican library named: The Book of Mechanics of the Astrologer, Bani Musa bin Shaker.

According to the author of Fawat-al-Wafat, the Al-Shaker built a second observatory in Baghdad near the Baghdad bridge and they were engaged in studying stars and managed to discover the pattern of movement of the sun and the moon.



Another scholastic family belonged to the Al-Fereigoun of Jouzjan. Their father, named Amajor, was from Herat. His son, Abu-al-Qasem Abdullah bin Amajor Herawi, was a famous scholar of his time and author of several important and beneficial books and his astronomical tables have been mentioned by Ibn Nadim and Al-Qazti. He lived around 816 CE. His son, Abu-al-Hasan, was also an astrologer and a scholar of observing celestial objects. He is the author of several books and conducted his research around 913 CE. He concluded that Ptolmey’s observations, regarding the moon and sun, were incorrect and proved that the distance of the moon from the sun differs in accordance to their movement.

In 919 CE, Abdullah Amajor calculated the movement of Jupiter, Mars and the Moon and came to the conclusion that the sun’s width does not stay in one state.

According to Ibn Adami, Ali was engaged in celestial observations for 30 years. He calculated the variance in the latitude and longitude of the planets and established a difference of 16 minutes in the longitude of the moon. It is said he also studied the oscillatory movement of the moon but was unable to solve this problem completely. The father of this scholastic family, Abdullah, wrote the following books most of which deal with astronomy: Zeij-e Khalis, Zaad-al-Musafir, Zeij-e Maznar, Zeij Badie, Zeij-a-Sind Hind, Zeij-e Mamrat, and Zeij-al-Mereekh.


Khaled Marwazi’s Family

This is another famous family and Khaled min Abdul Malik was from Mervrud, which is the valley between Herat and Maimana now called the Murghab Valley. There were a large number of cities in this region in former times and the people of Mervrud are famous in Islamic history. Khaled was a famous astronomer in the Islamic world, who lived around 816 CE, and when Caliph Mamun of Baghdad gathered astronomers in 829 CE, to start working on astronomical instruments and sent them to the Shamasia area of Baghdad and Jebel Qayun near Damascus to study the stars, one of the scholars was Khaled Marvazi who prepared an astronomical table. He was the only Khorasani astronomer in the Baghdad court among a number of other scholars in the field. We are not aware about the year of his death but he was alive until Mamun’s death in 833 CE.

It was as a result of the observations he made that the circumference and diameter of the earth was calculated for the first time in the Islamic world. The length of each degree was determined to be 56 miles and in this way he came to the conclusion that the circumference of the earth was 25,0009 miles, which is only 151 miles different from present day calculations. This is considered to be an important find in the Islamic scientific world since former estimates deviated considerably from recent findings.

Khalid had a son by the name of Mohammad, who according to the author of Akhbar-al-Hukama, was a keen astrologist. Mohammad’s son was named Omer who was also a famous astrologist and like his grandfather, Khalid, wrote a short astronomical table. He was an astute celestial observer and astronomer  and is the author of Ta’del-al-Kawayeb and Sanat-al-Israab-al-Musatah.

From this research you can see that the sciences were widely developed in Khorasan during the Islamic period and most of the scholars, hakims, and researchers were from this land. Here I will mention the names of a few of them:

Meishi Khorasani, who was from Merv, and the Arabs called him Mashaullah. He has authored 25 books in celestial sciences.

Rabin, an esteemed teacher and translator of scientific books who died in 861 CE.

 Abu Ma’shar, famous astrologer from Balkh, twelve of his books exist until the present time.

Habash Haseb was also from Mervrud and died in 835 CE. He has written several books on mathematics and astrology.

Jaber Khorasani is the author of 232 books. He is the discoverer of caustic soda and Gustav Lebon considers him to be the founder of chemistry.

Abu-al-Khars, is from the Sarkhas area of Khorasan and is the author of 23 scientific treatises. He was a teacher of mathematics, logic, music and medicine.

Here I mention a few celebrated personalities from Khorasan. There are many other scientists who were nurtured in Khorasan and are considered to be the originators of certain sciences. [1]






[1]Kabul Magazine, Vol. 3, pp 1-5. 1983.