Khaiyyam- the poet

Al Imam Abu Hafs Umar b Ibrahim al Khaiyyam

Renowned Persian scholar and poet of the Seldjuk period-1048 to 1123AD. He is named in the “nizam al Hikma ” , which Abd al Rahman al Khazini composed in 1121 AD, often mentioning Khaiyyam for his scientific works .

Abu Hafs is a   ” Kunya ” customarily associated with the name ” Umar “, and al Khaiyyam is the form which would be expected in an Arabic work , it would be pointless to speculate on the origin of this name, as to whether , this was a man belonging to a family of tent makers, just as someone with the surname al Attar is not necessarily associated with the manufacture of perfume.

In Persian the name naturally becomes Khaiyyam. Al Khazini definitely had personal links with Khaiyyam. Also thanks to other contemporaries – Nizam i Arudi i Samarkandi and Ali b Zayd al bayhaki some dates and biographical records are available.

In 1112 ( AD) , Nizami who was then in the service of Khaiyyam heard his master predicting his death in circumstances which subsequently came about.

Nizami at Marw in 1114AD  stated that the reputation of Khiayyam exceeded that of all the astronomers and astrologers at the Court of the Sultan. In 1135 AD Nizami described a moving experience when he visited the Tomb of his former master.

Al Bayhaki ( 1105-1169 AD ) presents the first biography of Khaiyyam and who states after having met Khaiyyam at a Majlis ” he was a man expert in philosophy all i

ts forms , and in medicine.” Khaiyyam was influenced by the doctrine of Ibn Sina.

The year 1074 AD is important in the life of Khaiyyam – when a congress of scholars was organised by Malik Shah from 1072 AD onwards for the purpose of reforming the calender , setting the date for the Nowruz festivals, and planning the construction of the observatory at Isfahan.

The Quatrain is a term used inaccurately to denote the Persian rubai.  It consists, as is well known, of two distiches ( bayt ) , composed of two hemistichs ( misra ).

The history of the Quatrains of Khaiyyam has been marked by a particular event , that is the free translation of these poems into English and which enjoyed un paralleled success. The name Umar Khaiyyam was mentioned in Basel in 1583 AD.

In 1816 AD , H.G.Greene produced the first English translation of the Quatrains revived in German by Von Hammer Purgstall. But EB Cowell , who taught Persian to Edward Fitzgerald , and was Professor at Cambridge discovered in the Bodleian library at Oxford , a manuscript from the Ouseley collection dating from 15th century AD and containing 158 quatrains explicitly attributed to Khaiyyam.

There was also a copy in India of 510 quatrains.

Fitzgeralds 5th version appeared in 1889. In total the English poetical work ran into 310 editions and millions of copies. For a translation it was a phenomenal success.


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