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The earliest reference to Omar Khayyam dates from the middle of the seventh century of the Hijra. Mohammad Shahrazuri, author of a little-used history of learned men, bearing the title of «Nazhet-ul-Arwah,» devotes to Khayyam the following passage:
«'Omar Al-Khayyami was a Nishapuri by birth and extraction. He [may be regarded as] the successor of Abu 'Ali (Avicenna) in the various branches of philosophic learning; but he was a man of reserved character and disliked entertaining (sayyik al-'atan). While he was in Ispahan he perused a certain book seven times and then he knew it by heart. On his return to Nishapur he dictated it [from memory] and on comparing it with the original copy, it was found that the difference between them was but slight. He was averse both to composition and to teaching. He is the author of a handbook on natural science, and of two pamphlets, one entitled ‹Al-Wujud› (or ‹Real Existence›) and the other ‹Al-Kawn w'al Taklif.› He was learned in the law, in classical Arabic, and in history.
«One day Al-Khayyami went to see the Vezir, Abd-ur-Razzak, the Chief of the Koran Readers. Abu-l-Hasan Al-Ghazzali was with this latter [at the time], and the two were discussing the disagreement of the Koran Readers in regard to a certain verse. [As Omar entered] the Vezir said, ‹Here we have the authority,› and proceeded to ask Al-Khayyami [for his opinion] on the matter. ['Omar] enumerated the various readings of the Readers, and explained the grounds ('ilal) for each one. He also mentioned the exceptional readings and the arguments in favor of each, and expressed his preference for one view in particular.
«Al-Ghazzali then said: ‹May God add such men as thee to the number of the learned! Of a truth, I did not think any one of the Koran Readers knew the readings by heart to this extent—much less one of the secular philosophers.›