Page:Quatrains of Omar Khayyam (tr. Whinfield, 1883).djvu/38

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xiv

INTRODUCTION.

unorthodox views. On his arrival at Baghdad the men who prosecuted the same ancient studies as he flocked to meet him, but he shut the door in their faces, as one who had renounced those studies and cultivated them no longer. On his return to his native city he made a practice of attending the morning and evening prayers, and of disguising his private opinions, but for all that they were no secret. In astronomy and in philosophy he was without a rival, and his eminence in those sciences would have passed into a proverb had I he only possessed self-control."

Shahrastáni's view of Omar's character appears to have been the one generally accepted by the literary men of Islam, as Abul Feda, who lived about 200 years later, writes much in the same strain, lamenting his being so much addicted to poetry and pleasure.

In an essay by the celebrated Ghazzáli of Tús, who was, like Shahrastáni, a contemporary of Omar's, there is a passage in which Omar is not improbably referred to as an example of the sceptical habit of mind induced by scientific pursuits.[1]

The following story of Omar in his old age is given in the preface to the Calcutta MS. on the authority of Nizámi of Samarkand, one of his disciples:—

"I chanced to meet Maulana Omar in a garden, and in course of conversation he said, 'My tomb shall be in a certain place where each breath of the north wind shall shower down roses upon it.' I marvelled at

  1. See Schmölders, Essai sur les ecoles philosophiques chez les Arabes, p. 115. Ghazzáli was born in 450.