Ibn Khaldun, in the chapter “On the Rational Sciences and their Kinds” (al-’ulum al-'aqliyyah wa asnafuha) of his Muqaddimah, says: “At the time of the conquest of Iran many books of that country fell into the hands of the Arabs. Sa'd ibn Abi al-Waqqas wrote to ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab asking his permission to have them translated for Muslims.

'Umar wrote to him in reply that he should cast them into water, “for if what is written in those books is guidance, God has given us a better guide; and if that which is in those books is misleading, God has saved us from their evil.” Accordingly those books were cast into water or fire, and the sciences of the Iranians that were contained in them were destroyed and did not reach us.

Why did Caliph Omar burn books in Persia or is it a myth?


1 Answer 1


'Muslims were very barbaric, they blocked the path of knowledge, they were very intolerant' Christian missionaries, and atheists use an incident as a reference to prove these words. The event is very dear to them. The event is:

When Egypt was conquered during the time of Caliph Umar Radiyallahu Anhu, the governor of Egypt was appointed Amr Ibnul Aas Radiyallahu Anhu about what to do with the books of the library of Alexandria.

"If the books are not in accordance with the teachings of the Qur'an, they are absolutely unnecessary in our view. Therefore, their destruction is inevitable. And if the books contain words that are in accordance with the teachings of the Qur'an, then they are superfluous. So destroy the books."

On the order of the Caliph, Amr Ibnul As Radiyallahu Anhu burned all the books in the library of Alexandria.

The Muslims conquered Egypt in 642 AD and the above event was recorded about 600 years after the conquest of Egypt. The incident cannot be found in any mainstream Islamic history book.

First Abdul Latif (1203) then Ibn Al Kifti (1227) mentioned this incident. Christian writer Barhebraeus mentions the incident by quoting these two.

That is, they were recorded in these three sources about 600 years after the event!

In 1663, Professor Edward Pococke of the Arabic Department of Oxford University mentioned this phenomenon and made it popular in the West. . Then the communist writer MN Roy mentions this incident on pages 78-79 of his book The Historical Role of Islam. As the description of the event is not found in any of the mainstream Muslim historians, no comments from earlier Muslim historians have been found on this event.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Sallabi in his book Umar Ibn Al-Khattab- His Life and Times referred to the incident of Umar's order to burn the library as a 'fabricated story' P. K. In the words of Hittite, "At the time of the Arab conquer (Egypt), therefore no library existed in Alexandria." That is, there was no library in Alexandria when the Arabs conquered Egypt.

The Library of Alexandria was burned at least 4 times during different wars before the Muslims conquered Egypt. First time in 89-88 BC, second time by Julius Caesar in 48 AD, third time in 273 AD, fourth time in 391 AD.

PK Hitti called the history of Umar's order to burn the library of Alexandria, "Tales that make good fiction but bad history."

That is, this story is very good as a 'made up story', but very weak in history. This fabricated story about Umar Radiyallahu Anhu has been rejected by most Orientalists, historians.

British historian Arthur Stanley Tritton wrote in his book What Happened To The Ancient Library Of Alexandria,

"It has been proved that Umar I did not destroy the library at Alexandria." A little further he wrote,


That is, the story of the destruction of the library of Alexandria by the Arabs is not supported by even a forged document

British philosopher and historian Bertrand Russell, the philosophical guru of atheists, in his book Human Society in Ethics and Politics, called the story of Umar's relationship 'Christian propaganda' to prove the intolerance of Muslims and the story a 'complete fabrication'

Another British historian Alfred J. Butler refers to the story of Umar Radiyallahu's order to burn the library as a ridiculous story saying "The story is a mere fable, totally destitute of historical foundation."

Indian scholar D.P. Singhal in his book India and World Civilization refers to the story as a 'fabricated' story.

Edward Gibbon strongly denied this story, saying, "I am strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the consequences." Islam haters are excited about this false story thinking that they have got an opportunity to slander Islam. Because if this story can be proven, it is proven that the second caliph of Islam burned the books of a library. Thus, Muslims are fanatical, not practicing his epistemology, but burning books to disrupt it.

But regrettably, the Islam haters could not be made 'happy' by finding history!

If they had taken pains to see what their gurus had commented on this incident in their books, they would not have had to bother to write these things.


[1] Vidyasagar Anthology, edited by Sri Pramathanath, Mitra and Ghosh, 10 Shyamacharan de Street, Calcutta, 1364.

[2] Umar Ibn al-Khattab - His Life & Times by Dr. Muhammad Ali al-Salabi, volume 2, pages 339-341

[3] History Of The Arabs From The Earliest Times To The Present by Philip K. Hitti, page 166

[4] What Happened To The Ancient Library Of Alexandria by Bernard Lewis, page 213 – 217

[5] Human Society In Ethics And Politics by Bertrand Russell, page 217 – 218

[6] The Arab Conquest Of Egypt And The Last Thirty Years Of The Roman Dominion by Alfred J. Butler,page 405 – 408

[7] India And World Civilization by D. P. Singhal, volume 1, page 136 – 137

[8] The History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, volume V (5), page 481 – 484

  • source for - Amr Ibn al Aws: "If the books are not in accordance with the teachings of the Qur'an, they are absolutely unnecessary in our view. Therefore, their destruction is inevitable. And if the books contain words that are in accordance with the teachings of the Qur'an, then they are superfluous. So destroy the books." ?
    – Hisham
    Apr 15, 2023 at 0:09
  • @Hisham Amir ibn al-As is correct (عمرو بن عاص) Oct 25, 2023 at 2:21

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