Omar Khayyam (also given as Umar Khayyam, l. 1048-1131 CE) was a Persian polymath, astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher but is best known in the West as a poet, the author of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The Rubaiyat was translated and published in 1859 CE by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald (l. 1809-1883 CE) and would become one of the most popular, oft-quoted, and frequently anthologized works in the English language. Khayyam’s name became so well-known among English speakers that organizations were founded in his honor which encouraged interest in other Persian poets and their work.
In the East, however, Khayyam is known primarily as a scientist, particularly as an astronomer and mathematician who contributed to the Jalali Calendar (a solar chart which corrected the Islamic Calendar) and as a philosopher whose works prefigured the existentialist and humanist movements. Until fairly recently, Khayyam was not recognized primarily as a poet in the East – certainly not of the stature of Rumi or Hafez Shiraz – and modern-day scholars have questioned whether Khayyam even wrote the poems that make up his famous Rubaiyat because, to some, the poetry represents a very different worldview from the philosophical works.
FOR KHAYYAM, THE PAINFUL REALITIES OF HUMAN EXISTENCE COULD NOT BE EXPLAINED BY THE QURANIC INSISTENCE ON A LOVING GOD & A DIVINE PLAN.
This seeming contradiction, however, can be explained by Khayyam’s use of poetry to express his personal feelings about life which he did not want to frame as philosophical discourse. For Khayyam, though a devout Muslim, the painful realities of human existence could not be explained by the Quranic insistence on a loving God who had created the world according to a divine plan. His beliefs brought him into conflict with devout Muslim jurists and so he tempered his public discourse and probably wrote his poems for himself.