Omar Khayyam was a Persian astronomer, writer, poet and mathematician renowned in Iran for his scientific achievements.
English-speaking readers know of his extraordinary work through the translation of his collection of hundreds of quatrains (or rubais) in Rubaiyat, an 1859 work on the “the Astronomer-Poet of Persia”.
He was a philosopher, mathematician, inventor, astronomer, scholar, faqīh (Islamic jurist), historian, and omniscient in his time. Although he was more a scientist than a literary person, he is world-famous because of his Rubáiyát (quatrains). This poetry became widely known in an English translation by Edward FitzGerald. There is no enough information about Khayyam’s life. The remained documents said he was born in 439 AH., he corrected what is known as Jalali calendar. His scientific works include the correction of the solar calendar by Sultan Malik-Shah’s decree, setting up an observatory in Isfahan, inventing a balance to estimate the specific weight of the objects, and doing some researches in mathematics.
According to his contemporary historian, Bayhaqi, Khayyam and his ancestors were from Nishapur. In philosophy, Khayyam is considered intellectually to be a follower of Avicenna. He mastered philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and also linguistics, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), and history. Khayyam lived in an era where the socio-political situation was chaotic and disordered. Not being capable to rule their country, the rulers were obliged to choose the viziers and to give them executive affairs authority. But these unfortunate viziers were sentenced to death due to the simplest excuses and in this chaos, the determinism advanced and freethought lost the power. There was a huge group of fanatics during this time, who disagreed to all sciences, even mathematics, medicine, astronomy, music, and so on, and they considered the persons who studied such science as zindiq and atheist.
Khayyam sometimes represented dissatisfaction and objection in his Rubáiyát:
“We saner are, O strictest Jud! than you!
With all the fill yet leave the flood to you!
We shed the gore of vines and you of veins:
Now are we keener on the blood or you?!”
“If drink you not, do not the drunk deprave!
Put forward no deception, hoax, and rave!
Do not go vain that you deal not in wine:
To what you knead poor wine is just a knave!“
Each of Omar’s quatrains forms a complete poem in itself. It was FitzGerald who conceived the idea of combining a series of these robāʿīyāt into a continuous elegy that had an intellectual unity and consistency. FitzGerald’s ingenious and felicitous paraphrasing gave his translations a memorable verve and succinctness. They are, however, extremely free translations, and more recently several more faithful renderings of the quatrains have been published.
Khayyam died in Nishapur at the age of 83, on December 4, 1131. His mausoleum is a modern monument of white marble erected over Omar Khayyam’s tomb located in Nishapur. Although the tomb witnessed many calamities, it is not ruined and can host avid tourists from around the world.
In 1934, the reconstruction of the mausoleum was commissioned and Hooshang Seyhoun, who was the supervisor of national monuments constructions with Hossein Jodat, transferred the place of the tomb, and this process continued till 1962. The triangular parts of around the tomb are associated with a tent that implies Khayyam’s name.
The Mausoleum of Khayyam is one of the most important buildings of that period in terms of creativity, construction, and architecture. This monument was registered in the list of National Heritage in 1963.
Ordibehesht 28 in the Persian calendar corresponding with May 17 or 18 is the commemoration day of the world-renowned Persian poet, astronomer, and mathematician Omar Khayyam. Every year, a number of literati and scholars from around the world convene at the mausoleum of Khayyam to mark his National Day.
A ceremony is traditionally held on this day in his mausoleum in Nishapur, as well as in many other locations across the country and worldwide.