The last lesson at Nalanda
Why Muslims burnt the library?
P N (full name withheld)-- a poster wrote
I had to attend a wedding at Patna and managed a side trip to Nalanda. As
I walked into the ruins, a huge dark sadness descended on me. Nalanda, the
greatest ever Buddhist university, with its hundreds of monks and thousands
of books, was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khalji's Turki troops around 1200 AD.
As I looked at walls still blackened by the bonfires of books, I began my
search for answers. The museum nearby gives you a glimpse of Nalanda's
sanctity and fame across the Buddhist world: Tibet, China, Japan and most of
Southeast Asia. While inside, I saw a group of Tibetan monks walking
through, placing sacred white scarves on some statues.
Why Muslims burn the books of the "jahilayat" age?
In Islam, after the "Prophet" the first four Caliphs are regarded as the
rightful Caliphs. And of these four the first two are the most right of the
four. Abu Bakr and Umar.
Bakr was one of the first few converts to Islam. Both were fathers-in-laws of
Prophet himself ordered wrote Shah Wali-Allah to give "precedence to Abu Bakr
and Umar over Ali, despite his own preference and love for Ali." and "the
Prophet himself loved Abu Bakr and Umar more as "they had dedicated themselves
fully to matters relating to Prophethood." (Shah Wali-Allah and his times by
Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, pp. 217)
Why am I stating this? To show what decisions Omar had taken regards to the
books of the infidels.
When Egypt was conquered by the Islamic forces, there was "a vast collection of
books or manuscripts, since renowned in history as the Alexandrian Library." The
whole description in some details is given in Washington Irving's Mahomet and
his Successors. Let me just relate the relevant part.
An intimacy had developed between Amru, the commander of the Muslim forces and
John the Grammarian. After all the looting was done, and anything worthwhile had
already been taken, the library and its treasure escaped the notice of Amru.
John, for his love books, solicited Amru that they might be given to him.
"Unfortunately, the learned zeal of the Grammarian gave a consequence to the
books in the eyes of Amru, and made him scrupulous of giving them away without
permission of the Caliph. He forthwith wrote to Omar, stating the merits of
John, and requesting to know whether the books might be given to him."
Now the million dollar question -- why the Muslims burn the books of the
"The reply of Omar was laconic, but fatal. "The contents of those books," said
he, "are in conformity with the Koran, or they are not. If they are, the Koran
is sufficient without them; if they are not, they are pernicious. Let them be,
therefore, be destroyed." (pp. 327-328)
This is the decision of the Second Caliph of Islam, a companion of the Prophet.
His command is second only to that of the Prophet.
So is it any wonder that the books at Nalanda were burnt down. It would be a
wonder if they were not.
The above gives the reason why they were. Muslims regard to Koran everything
that is worth knowing in this world. The rest is jahiliyat.
Sept 18, 2003
Also read Destruction of Buddha Statues --
Islamic or unIslamic?