The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics quotes the tradition that the Persian quatrain-form, the ruba'i, originated in the gleeful shouts of a child, overheard and imitated by a passing poet. "Succinctness, spontaneity and wit" are its essence, the encyclopaedist writes, coolly noting FitzGerald's "venial infidelity to his Persian model". FitzGerald got the rhyme-scheme right but missed the rhythmic subtlety of the original prosodic pattern [of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat].
In recent years, critical editions of the philosophical works of Khayyam have been published which not only provide us with an insight into his philosophical thought but also provide a context for a more philosophical interpretation of the Rubā‘iyyāt. In his Rubā‘iyyāt, Khayyam challenged religious doctrines, alluded to the hypocrisy of the clergy, cast doubt on almost every facet of religious belief, and appears to have advocated a type of humanism. It is no wonder that some referred to him as the “Eastern Voltaire."
"Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light." [Ruba'i 1 of the Rubaiyat]
Through the late 19th century the "Rubáiyát's" reputation grew: reviews were published, scholars argued over the merits of the translation, poets imitated the stanza form FitzGerald had invented for the translation and the "Rubáiyát" came to be seen as a major work of poetry.
In accordance with Peripatetic tradition, Umar Khayyam refers to God as the “Necessary Being” and offers several cosmological,5 teleological, and ontological (Risālah fi'l-wujūd, 112) arguments for His existence. Khayyam discusses issues such as necessity, causality, and the impossibility of a chain of causes and effects continuing ad infinitum. Among other topics pertaining to God which Khayyam discusses are God's knowledge of universals and particulars and the complex nature of Divine essence.
[Khayyam] made such a name for himself that the Seljuq sultan Malik-Shāh invited him to Eṣfahān to undertake the astronomical observations necessary for the reform of the calendar. (See The Western calendar and calendar reforms.) To accomplish this an observatory was built there, and a new calendar was produced, known as the Jalālī calendar. Based on making 8 of every 33 years leap years, it was more accurate than the present Gregorian calendar, and it was adopted in 1075 by Malik-Shāh.
Khayyam had a particular affinity for mathematics and studied under Persian scholars Sheikh Muhammad Mansuri and Imam Mowaffaq Nishapuri, who put him in position to teach and advise Persian rulers. Khayyam’s most important contribution in Persia was his work on algebra.
[Khayyam] received a good education in the sciences and philosophy in his native Neyshābūr before traveling to Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan), where he completed the algebra treatise, Risālah fiʾl-barāhīn ʿalā masāʾil al-jabr waʾl-muqābalah (“Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra”), on which his mathematical reputation principally rests. In this treatise he gave a systematic discussion of the solution of cubic equations by means of intersecting conic sections. Perhaps it was in the context of this work that he discovered how to extend Abu al-Wafā’s results on the extraction of cube and fourth roots to the extraction of nth roots of numbers for arbitrary whole numbers n.
Khayyám, an agnostic famed during his lifetime as a mathematician and astronomer rather than a poet, and his mediator, a nineteenth-century English sceptic [FitzGerald] who believed that "science unrolls a greater epic than the Iliad", may not meet in a true linguistic union, but there seems to be a "marriage of true minds" nevertheless.
Omar Khayyam (1044-1123) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and mystic. His reputation was for a time highly regarded in Iran under the regime of the last Shah but by and large he has been held either in ignominy, contempt, total disregard or intentional oblivion by almost the entire Muslim world, and especially the Arab countries and his native Iran
Khayyam was born in Nishapur in the province of Khorasan in Northeastern Iran in the latter part of 11th century, two centuries before the region was devastated by Gengis Khan. He was educated at Nishapur and traveled to several reputed institutions of learning, including those at Bukhara, Balkh, Samarkand and Isphahan. He lived in Nishapur and Samarkand for most of his life and died in 1123 CE in Nishapur.