Abu Raihan al-Biruni (973-1048) was an Iranian scholar and polymath from Khwarezm — a region which encompasses modern-day western Uzbekistan, and northern Turkmenistan.
Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was an expert in mathematics, astronomy, mineralogy, geography, cartography, geometry, and trigonometry, as well as studying the ancient Greeks, Indians, medieval Arabs and fellow Central Asians.
TODAY 95 of 146 books known to have been written by Al-Biruni were devoted to astronomy, mathematics, and related subjects like mathematical geography which were important to the Islamic world as many Muslim customs require knowing the directions of certain sacred locations, which can actually be found through this type of scientific study. Subsequently, unlike many other academic scholars of the era, Islam accepted his biblical scholarship and Al-Biruni was known as a foremost expert on religious history.
In his book, ‘Codex Masudicus’ (1037), Al-Biruni theorized the existence of a landmass along the vast ocean between Asia and Europe, or what we know today as the continents of north and south America.
He deduced its existence on the basis of his accurate estimations of the Earth’s circumference; amazingly his measurements were just 10.44 miles less than the modernly accepted circumference, and Afro-Eurasia’s size, which he found spanned only two-fifths of the Earth’s circumference, and his discovery of the concept of specific gravity, from which he deduced that the geological processes that gave rise to Europe and Asia must’ve also given rise to lands in the vast ocean between Asia and Europe.
Not only did he predict the existence of the Americas, but he also submitted that this landmass must be inhabited by human beings, which he deduced from his knowledge of humans inhabiting the broad north-south band stretching from Russia to South India and Sub-Saharan Africa, assuming that the landmass would most likely lie along the same band.
Also in ‘Codex Masudicus’, which was probably the most complete record of his life’s work, he discussed the possibility that the sun is stationary and that the earth revolves around it.
It wouldn’t be until 1543 that Nicolaus Copernicus published the Copernican theory, which is commonly regarded as a definitive work on heliocentric theory and at the time was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, although the ancient Greeks had been credited with being the first to discuss the possibilities of a sun-centric universe.
Had the inquisitive minds of ancient mariners, armed with Al-Biruni’s knowledge decided to sail west, modern religious distribution might have been totally different to what it is today, but with Native Indian religion having broad but striking similarities to the Abrahamic religions, who could say with absolute certainty that travellers from the east didn’t arrive in the Americas long before Columbus?