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The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam

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The intoxicating message of Khayyam’s famous Ruba‘iyyat created an image of exotic Orientalism in the West but, as author Mehdi Aminrazavi reveals, Khayyam’s achievements went far beyond the intoxicating message within these verses. Philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and mystic – his many different identities are examined here in detail, creating a coherent picture of The intoxicating message of Khayyam’s famous Ruba‘iyyat created an image of exotic Orientalism in the West but, as author Mehdi Aminrazavi reveals, Khayyam’s achievements went far beyond the intoxicating message within these verses. Philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and mystic – his many different identities are examined here in detail, creating a coherent picture of this complex and often misunderstood figure.


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The intoxicating message of Khayyam’s famous Ruba‘iyyat created an image of exotic Orientalism in the West but, as author Mehdi Aminrazavi reveals, Khayyam’s achievements went far beyond the intoxicating message within these verses. Philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and mystic – his many different identities are examined here in detail, creating a coherent picture of The intoxicating message of Khayyam’s famous Ruba‘iyyat created an image of exotic Orientalism in the West but, as author Mehdi Aminrazavi reveals, Khayyam’s achievements went far beyond the intoxicating message within these verses. Philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and mystic – his many different identities are examined here in detail, creating a coherent picture of this complex and often misunderstood figure.

30 review for The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jibran

    A perfect introduction to the life and works of Omar Khayyam of Neshapur. Although today he is known solely for his wonderful quatrains (rubaiyat), he was also a great mathematician, inventor and a philosopher who furthered the knowledge of his times and passed it on to posterity. Recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mahshid

    Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits--and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    This is a dense, thoughtful, nourishing book. This book focuses not on the life of Khayyam, but on his work. Aminrazavi sets out to create a unified portrait of the mathematical, workaholic savant whose expertise rulers fought over; the Muslim philosopher-theologian who penned works reconciling rationalism and Islamic theology; and the delightfully witty, artfully careless poet who completely captivated Victorian England, Europe and the USA with his odes to not-caring and drinking-wine. Although This is a dense, thoughtful, nourishing book. This book focuses not on the life of Khayyam, but on his work. Aminrazavi sets out to create a unified portrait of the mathematical, workaholic savant whose expertise rulers fought over; the Muslim philosopher-theologian who penned works reconciling rationalism and Islamic theology; and the delightfully witty, artfully careless poet who completely captivated Victorian England, Europe and the USA with his odes to not-caring and drinking-wine. Although he is never this crude, Aminrazavi wants to bring together the Khayyam of the West, the hedonist without a care in the world, with the revered polymath and devout Muslim known in Iran and Central Asia. It is no wonder everyone wants to claim Khayyam. His poetry is at turns disarming, raging, despairing and so joyful you can smell the cypress trees. It is poetry of emotion, and appreciation for simplicity. My Grandfather kept a copy of Fitzgerald's translated/inspired quatrains in his pocket in the hospital when my Grandmother was dying, and he is far from the only British-born navy man to have done so. There is humanity in the poems that makes the distance fall away, which touches our bleakest and best moments, and yet never takes itself seriously. On the whole, I think he succeeds. I had a stack of books on Islam to read, and decided to read this first because, after all, it wasn't likely to be full of theology, right? Wrong. Very wrong. So anyway, I struggled with some of the Islamic concepts/ideas at times, and found myself cross-referencing some old Plato and so on, but at no point was I any less than fascinated. Partly what drew me to Khayyam is the tensions: between the seriousness with which he approached his work, and the levity, the insistence in his poetry, that nothing be taken too seriously. As Aminrazavi puts it: "What lies at the heart of the Khayyamian message is the notion of impermanence. Life is in a state of flux; it is changing like the sands of the desert and clouds in the sky, and only a fool can take this game seriously." But to me, this has never felt like a contradiction: rather it is a necessary part of staying sane, an acknowledgement that caring deeply must be balanced by contextualising what matters and what does not. Much of Khayyam's poetry is an ode to doubt, to wonder and the importance of living in the here and now. Aminrazavi locates this in the realms of Sufi thought, while carefully explaining that there is no evidence that Khayyam was a member of a Sufi tradition. He argues: "This may well have been Khayyam’s project, to belittle life and all that we hold so sacred in order to transcend the form and see the formless." Aminrazavi succeeds well at connecting Khayyam's poetry to Sufi ideas (given that this reviewer knows little about Sufism). He succeeds perhaps less well in convincing the reader that wine in the poems is a metaphor, and he doesn't really explore the tension between Al-Ghazali and Khayyam, which might provide important context for Khayyam's philosophical treatise. Khayyam's work here reinforces that of Ibn Sina, whose Aristotelian basis for monotheism was under sustained attack by Al-Ghazali. This attack threatened the rational approach which had provided for a rich intellectual milieu in early Islam, and, similar to debates in the West a few centuries later over scholarly debate vs faith, had more at stake than just abstract ideas. That is not to imply that Khayyam's painstaking (and oft painful to read!) Platonic arguments for God were not heartfelt, it would be astonishing if that were so, but rather that his intervention here was probably more motivated by the need to show that intellectual enquiry could support faith, just as internal experience does. It is a shame that much of the current debate around Khayyam revolves around his faith. His poetry challenges not only the justice of a God which allows evil, but also the worth of scholarship, and no-one consequently argues that he wasn't a scholar. It seems likely that the West simply want to forget that much of Western culture is indebted to Muslim achievements.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Geoffreyjen

    Fabulous book about Omar Khayyam. I am doing research about his life and the city of Isfahan in 11th century Persia where he resided for a time and this book was invaluable. I actually drew from it an argument that goes beyond what the author suggested. The book was sufficiently strong that one may use the arguments he raised to think further about some of the ideas - I love when that happens. Recommended to anyone interested in that part of history, in Khayyam’s life, or, indeed, in understandi Fabulous book about Omar Khayyam. I am doing research about his life and the city of Isfahan in 11th century Persia where he resided for a time and this book was invaluable. I actually drew from it an argument that goes beyond what the author suggested. The book was sufficiently strong that one may use the arguments he raised to think further about some of the ideas - I love when that happens. Recommended to anyone interested in that part of history, in Khayyam’s life, or, indeed, in understanding more about one of the great thinkers of our world history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Firoozeh

    The Wine of Wisdom book consists of 8 chapters: Khayyam’s life and works, reconstructing a tarnished image, Khayyam within the intellectual context of his time, the Ruba’iyyat, Khayyam and Sufism, Khayyam’s Philosophical thought, Khayyam the scientist, and Khayyam in the west. The author describes his book as: “This is a comprehensive introductory work on the life, works, philosophy, science and poetry of Omar Khayyam for the western reader”. In this book the author introduces the different theo The Wine of Wisdom book consists of 8 chapters: Khayyam’s life and works, reconstructing a tarnished image, Khayyam within the intellectual context of his time, the Ruba’iyyat, Khayyam and Sufism, Khayyam’s Philosophical thought, Khayyam the scientist, and Khayyam in the west. The author describes his book as: “This is a comprehensive introductory work on the life, works, philosophy, science and poetry of Omar Khayyam for the western reader”. In this book the author introduces the different theories about Khayyam’s Ruba’iyyat and presents several reasons to ensure there is no solid evidence to prove any of them. The author’s theory about Khayyam is that while the ambiguities about Khayyam’s Roba’iyyat will always be a mystery, one thing about him cannot be denied and that is he “believed in the existence of one Truth which he identified with Allah and no other truth.” While I found this book very comprehensive and informative, I can’t say it is flawless. First of all, the author has repeated same sentences (context-wise) in different parts of the book. These repetitions were redundant and could be simply omitted. Second, author’s view about Khayyam is biased. He is trying to prove Khayyam was a devoted Muslim. He wants to reconstruct Khayyam’s “tarnished” image in the west! What I didn’t like about this is that the author sees the agnostic, hedonist, and atheist interpretations of Khayyam’s poems as degradation of Khayyam! Finally, what I conclude was we cannot decode Khayyam’s complex thoughts and beliefs by the unreliable evidence we have in our hands. However, no matter what Khayyam really meant by his Ruba’iyyat, we can read and enjoy them with our own perspective and interpretations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Securityreads

    this book redpilled me

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    This is a very comprehensive Biography on Omar Khayyam, one of my favorite poets. I found Khayyam by mistake. A friend of mine shared a beautiful album with me, Dorothy Ashby's "The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby." I was blown away with the amazing lyrics and innovate production (drums by her husband I believe). One day while I was bored, I went to the Iliad Bookstore in North Hollywood (one of the best used book stores I've been to, go there now). I was getting lost in their poetry section, and foun This is a very comprehensive Biography on Omar Khayyam, one of my favorite poets. I found Khayyam by mistake. A friend of mine shared a beautiful album with me, Dorothy Ashby's "The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby." I was blown away with the amazing lyrics and innovate production (drums by her husband I believe). One day while I was bored, I went to the Iliad Bookstore in North Hollywood (one of the best used book stores I've been to, go there now). I was getting lost in their poetry section, and found Omar Khayyam's "Rubaiyat." I don't know why I opened the book, I think it was the tattered, yellowed paged and musty smell more than anything. I started reading it, and it seemed so familiar, like when you meet someone you know you've met before, but can't quite decide where or when. Eventually, after a few more pages, it clicked, the poem was used for the lyrics in Dorothy Ashby's album! That night I decided to cook a fine meal with Ashby's album in the background, and then for desert, finished off a bottle of wine, and read the Rubaiyat out-loud to myself. I shared this story with my friend who originally shared Ashby's album with me, and the next week he gave me "The Wine of Wisdom." I'm about 3/4 through "The Wind of Wisdom," and I must say, this book is intense. It's not so much intellectually boring, as overly apologetic and endlessly repetitive. The main thesis seems to be: Omar Khayyam was alive so long ago we don't know what he actually wrote, who he actually was, or what his belief actually were. Nevertheless, Aminrazavi throughly unravels the mystery of Khayyam and provides pertinent backstory to the politics and religion of Khayyam's time. Since there is no history of Islam in public school, I had no reference to Khayyam's words during my first readings. The more I read "The Wine of Wisdom", the more appreciation I have for Khayyam as an intellectual in his time and his challenging words. Anyone truly interested in exploring Omar Khayyam's "Rubaiyat" indepth should pick up "The Wine of Wisdom." You'll gain so much more knowledge, respect, and even more questions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Martin Kimeldorf

    Like me Aminrazavi was first introduced to Omar Khayyam and his Ruba’iyyat in childhood. Like me, he drew nourishment from the poet’s great work. I am a simple man, whereas the author is a learned scholar and philosopher. That explains why I had to read the book 3 times to soak up all the juice. Aminrazavi provides a detailed and comprehensive biography of Khayyam and his greatest translator FitzGerald. This work represents years of research and deep thought. I personally did not need to read ab Like me Aminrazavi was first introduced to Omar Khayyam and his Ruba’iyyat in childhood. Like me, he drew nourishment from the poet’s great work. I am a simple man, whereas the author is a learned scholar and philosopher. That explains why I had to read the book 3 times to soak up all the juice. Aminrazavi provides a detailed and comprehensive biography of Khayyam and his greatest translator FitzGerald. This work represents years of research and deep thought. I personally did not need to read about Khayyam’s math, astronomy and philosophy texts, yet still book remains the pre-eminent one-stop-source for everything Rubaiyyat-ish. I have a more generous interpretation of the use of the wine symbology than the author. I give the author high marks for covering the rise of the Omarian clubs in the 1880s-1920s and all the global adulation that followed this poem, even before we had a facebook or amazon or goodreads. He also points out how the fascists, probitionists, and fundamentals attacked unfairly Omar as the thinker-drinker. Similarly I enjoyed reading about all the great writers and leaders who took inspiration and solace in the Persian poem was inspiring. Some of the names included as fans were TS Elliot, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Jack Korouack, Isadore Duncan, and progressive leaders like Jack Kennedy and Martin Luther King…and so many many more Knowing who his admirers and enemies were helped me enjoy Rubaiyyat that much more.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Gross

    A fascinating, wide-ranging, yet flawed look at Omar's (and Edward's) Rubaiyat. Mehdi Aminrazavi is mostly concerned with the philosophy of Omar Khayyam -- that is to say, of the philosophy of the "Khayyamian school of thought," as it's uncertain which (or if any) of the Rubaiyat can be accurately attributed to the historical person Omar Khayyam. If the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam have captivated you, you will find much to appreciate in this book. Aminrazavi looks at what can be known of the life and A fascinating, wide-ranging, yet flawed look at Omar's (and Edward's) Rubaiyat. Mehdi Aminrazavi is mostly concerned with the philosophy of Omar Khayyam -- that is to say, of the philosophy of the "Khayyamian school of thought," as it's uncertain which (or if any) of the Rubaiyat can be accurately attributed to the historical person Omar Khayyam. If the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam have captivated you, you will find much to appreciate in this book. Aminrazavi looks at what can be known of the life and works of Khayyam, which includes some of his philosophical treatises which Aminrazavi puts into the intellectual context of that period in Persian thought, and also his advanced mathematical work. Aminrazavi also examines the Rubaiyat both as an original corpus of difficult-to-determine origin that settles awkwardly into a space defined by orthodox schools of thought, and the Rubaiyat as they were translated into the Euro-American context (and the "Omar Khayyam Cult" that followed). The book is unfortunately poorly edited -- marred with typographical and grammatical errors and with difficult-to-parse passages. But if you are patient with these, you will find plenty here to expand your appreciation and understanding of the Rubaiyat.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Seniha Mihtarska

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe Heiderich

  12. 4 out of 5

    C. S. Douglas

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stas

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sadra Shahab

  15. 4 out of 5

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  16. 5 out of 5

    Mahdi Taheri

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nima

  18. 4 out of 5

    Omar

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roman Payne

  20. 5 out of 5

    yasekabood

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heydar

  22. 5 out of 5

    Peaceful peace

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jonnie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Toure

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  26. 5 out of 5

    Qudsia

  27. 4 out of 5

    John G. Stillmank

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anusha

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maryam

  30. 5 out of 5

    Suman Marasini

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