Featured

Intellect and Conscience of the Muslim World

38 The Review of Religions – August 2005 The outstanding Pakistanischolar, one of the coryphaei of theoretical physicists of the last century, the Nobel Prize winner, professor Abdus Salam (1926-1996) has forever entered world science as a great researcher of the laws of the interaction of elementary nuclear particles and their structure. He has made a major contribution to the study and understanding of the multi-complex and the probabilistic picture of the world at a level where Newton’s classical mechanics come to an end and where the laws of Quantum Physics start to take effect. Professor Abdus Salam is one of the creators of the modern ‘standard model’ of an atom’s structure. The most modern concept of theoretical physics (for which professor Abdus Salam and two American scientists S. Gleshou and S. Va j n b e rg were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979) has resulted in the construction of a theory which has united electro- magnetism and the weak interaction of nuclear particles. The great Albert Einstein unsuccessfully tried all his life to create this very theory. To put it in simple terms, it means that a devoted Muslim scientist stood at the sources of disclosing the fundamental laws, which are common for both a microcosm and a macrocosm. These laws at the dawn of the 21st century have started a new era of philosophical understanding of the Unity of the Universe. The talented organiser of science recognised all over the world, the founder and, for a period of thirty years, the permanent head of the International Centre of theo- retical physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Intellect and Conscience of the Muslim World By Dr. Yulduz N Khaliulin – Moscow, Russia 39 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 I t a l y, Professor Abdus Salam today is quite fairly perceived as an original symbol and an inspiration behind the revival of science in the Muslim world. And not only in the Muslim world, but everywhere in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to the most moderate estimates, more than 70,000 young scientists from 80 countries of the world, and mostly from developing countries graduated from the scientific Centre that is named after professor Abdus Salam. Thanks to his titanic efforts, for a short period of time this Centre became known as the ‘forge’, where several generations of physicists have studied. Here they were able to mix with outstanding representatives of the scientific world. Way to the heights of science The well-known physicist of the future was born on January 26, 1926 in the town of Jhang, a small rural town situated in the vast north-west outskirts of then colonial India. Since 1947, this area has been a part of Punjab, one of Pakistan’s four provinces. Abdus Salam died in November 1996 and according to his will, he was buried not far from his native place – at a Muslim cemetery in the town of Rabwah, near his parents’ graves. Between these two dates there are 50 years of his continuous active research work in different parts of the world. Those years were filled with creative success and political disappointment, dramatic strains and periods of spiritual peace. And the final result is really great. Abdus Salam wrote dozens of books and scientific monographs besides over three hundred articles on the most complex problems of nuclear physics and on actual questions of the preparation of young scientists for developing countries. And as a triumphal final act, these fundamental studies in the field of theoretical physics have resulted in his worldwide recognition and fame. 40 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 The proof is that Professor Abdus Salam was elected as a foreign member at about 50 d i fferent national scientific academies as well as several scientific associations of the world. He was awarded twenty of the most prestigious international prizes and gold medals in the field of physics, including the Nobel Prize. For his major contribution to the struggle for world peace and the development of international scientific co-operation, this scientist was honoured with the top awards of 14 international organizations as well. He was also titled Doctor Honoris Causa at over 40 famous universities on five continents. Few physicists of the twentieth century have received such honours and world recognition, except for his three great pre- PROFESSOR ABDUS SALEM WITH AYYUB KHAN – (EX-PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN) 41 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 decessors – Albert Einstein, Ernest Rutherford and Niles Bore. According to several historians of science, Professor Abdus Salam, as an author of the universal theory of electro- magnetism and weak interaction of nuclear particles, certainly has the right to be one of a constellation of distinguished scholars. His way to the heights of science was rather unusual, therefore it will be interesting to look briefly at his life from the very start and through those serious obstacles he had to overcome, as a little boy from a small Punjabi village gradually transformed into a prominent world scientist. He had a solid Islamic upbringing at home among many children. His mother regularly read Muslim prayers to her children. She was the first person to notice the phenomenal memory of the boy. Abdus Salam could easily and absolutely correctly memorise whole chapters from the Holy Qur’an. His father Hadhrat Mohammad Hussein, being a teacher, quickly realised that any future stay at a local school would not add anything more to his son’s education. Therefore he did his utmost to send his son to the state college for intensive studies. Subsequently in 1938, the twelve-year old Abdus Salam was sent to Lahore, a major cultural and political centre of the Indian subcontinent. This city is also known for its master- pieces of medieval Muslim architecture. In 1940 in this very place, the well-known Lahore Declaration was adopted and proclaimed. This step paved the way to the creation of the state of Pakistan in 1947. But when Abdus Salam first came to Lahore as a boy from the backwoods (qasba), where he for the first time in his life saw electric lights, he had other thoughts and ideas. He enthusiastically started to study the basic laws of electro- magnetism, which had been discovered by Faraday and Maxwell a long time before. The 42 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 boy had to study the most complicated formulae in mathe- matics and in other subjects. After a while, he would surprise the whole scientific world with his own discovery in an even more complex sphere of knowledge. A new term by the name of ‘Electroweak’ (electro- weak interaction) would appear in nuclear physics. And this concept, introduced initially by Professor Abdus Salam in London, the native place of many great physicists, would get a prominent place in modern science. Abdus Salam was to become the first winner of a prestigious Maxwell premium and of a Maxwell medal instituted by the Scientific O rganisation of the United Kingdom. Then there would also be other, no less prestigious awards and nominations like the Robert Oppenheimer premium (1971), the Einstein medal (UNESCO, Paris), Birla Premium (India), Lomonosov golden medal (USSR Academy of Sciences) and many more. He was a diligent student of the Punjab University, from which he graduated with distinction in 1946. And he was at the top of the list in all the subjects at his final exams. Successes in studies gave him a chance to get a grant to continue education in England, at the world famous Cambridge University. In 1949 he got his MA degree with the highest distinction in mathe- matics and physics. From 1950 to 1952, the young scholar was busy with pioneering studies in Quantum Physics at the famous Cavendish Laboratory, an Institute that as early as in the first half of the twentieth century became the major centre of theoretical physics. This laboratory, so to say, produced a full dozen Nobel Prize winners. Such great scientists as the New Zealander Ernest Rutherford, the Dutchman Niles Bore, Russian Peter Kapitsa and many other world- famous physicists worked there. The young Muslim scholar from Pakistan, the country whose name had only recently appeared 43 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 on a political map of the world, unexpectedly dashed into this world constellation of theoretical physicists! In 1952 he successfully got his doctor’s degree in theoretical physics. His thesis was about quantum electrodynamics, and was awarded the Smith premium even before being formally approved. After this the way to ‘Science’ with a capital letter and all the doors of the best world research laboratories were open to Abdus Salam. With the publication of his thesis, Abdus Salam became a rising star in the field of theoretical physics. His new and original approach to the topic of study and an impeccable mathematical apparatus used by this young scientist had put him at the focus of attention of the whole international physics community. As a result he got a number of promising offers in Europe. Despite all of these lucrative opportunities, he decided to return to his motherland. He became a Professor of Mathematics of the State College at the Punjab University. Abdus Salam tried unsuccessfully to create a national school of theorists in the field of physics in Pakistan. But quite soon he realised that in the given circumstances, there was no chance for him to realise his IN HIS PUBLIC STATEMENTS AND ARTICLES, HE ALWAYS STRESSED THAT THERE ARE 750 VERSES IN THE HOLY QUR’AN, THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TEACHINGS OF ALLAH THE MIGHTY, CALL ON MAN TO STUDY NATURE AND TO OBTAIN THE MEANS FOR ITS CONTROL. “I HAVE DEVOTED ALL MY LIFE TO IMPLEMENT THESE ORDERS OF THE HOLY QUR’AN” HE SAID. ‘ ’ 44 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 vision. Moreover he understood that being so far from the leading European research centres, he was unable to continue his studies in theoretical physics. In 1954, Professor Abdus Salam returned to Cambridge where he started to read his lectures on Mathematics. During the next 35 years (1957-1993) he held the o ffice of the professor in theoretical physics of the London U n i v e r s i t y. He also actively carried out significant pioneering research in a number of areas of modern physics. These studies were awarded with numerous international premiums. London, where he spent in total about forty years of his life, was for Abdus Salam a cozy place for scholarly reflection. He visited this city every month even during the period when he was in charge of the Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. S e c rets of the Quantum Microcosm When in 1946 Abdus Salam (who was then a twenty-two- y e a r-old young man from a distant Punjabi village on the outskirts of the British Empire) arrived in a dilapidated London in search of ‘scientific truth’, the whole of Europe was in ruins after the terrible Second World Wa r. This does not have analogies in the history of mankind. Soon the ‘Cold war’ between East and West began. Leading physicists from both camps found themselves involved in secret projects aimed at the development of nuclear and hydrogen weapons. They were deprived of free communication, of any meetings, discussion and international conferences. As a sad result there was an almost complete absence of serious publication in scientific magazines. As is known, without such interactions progress in science is impossible. Yet, not so long before, prior to the beginning of the Second World Wa r, the science of quantum mechanics had made huge leaps forward through the united efforts of hundreds and thousands of scholars from all 45 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 over the world. These advances cardinally changed a scientific paradigm and in general the views of scientists on methods of cognition and the basic o rganisation of the universe. Quantum Mechanics, as though after having asked for pardon from the authors of classical mechanics – Newton and Galileo – offered essentially a new system of laws that govern our world. It was necessary by all means to move quantum mechanics further to new heights. By God’s Grace, from the 50’s to the 70’s, Professor Abdus Salam was in the midst of further theoretical research, which had shown that a great number of natural phenomena and processes such as the division of a nucleus and the formation of neutron stars, forms of chemical compounds and the structure of the DNA spiral, the workings of semi-conductor transistors, lasers and many other things, all obey the laws of Quantum Mechanics. With infinite belief in the strength of Almighty Allah, and armed with a lost precise mathematical apparatus and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, the young scientist became fully absorbed in this mysterious microcosm of elementary par- ticles. The results did not keep us waiting long. Even the initial research had resulted in quite unexpected conclusions. He had put forward a theory of a two- component neutrino. Abdus Salam also was the first who forecast the inevitability of decay in a chain of weak nuclear interaction. I have already mentioned that for a designation of this phenomenon, Professor Salam brought to life a new term ‘Electroweak’ into the language of nuclear physics. From 1970 to 1980, Professor Salam together with the Indian scientist and Professor of Maryland University (USA) Jagesh Pata, during ten years, closely dealt with the problems of interaction of three forces – electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear forces. For this purpose they needed to 46 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 ‘contradict’ theoretically by mathematical means one of the main accepted postulates of modern nuclear physics about the strength and indivisibility of the proton, which is a main component of a nuclear nucleus. (Note: It is known that the nuclear nucleus is the central part of an atom, that constitutes only one trillionth part of its volume, but it constitutes more than 99 % of its mass! A nucleus, in its turn, consists of particles of two kinds – protons and neutrons (the common name of nucleus is nucleons). The nucleons form a nuclear nucleus and are kept together by very powerful forces of mutual attraction, which are named nuclear forces of strong interaction). As a result of this research, two well-known scientists from the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent had put forward a daring hypothesis. In accordance with this theory even a proton (that keeps the strength of a nucleus of an atom) is exposed to disintegration. Though, the duration of a proton’s decay period takes an astronomically great time of 1032 years. Spiritual grandeur Being a scholar with diversified scientific interests and having an encyclopaedic knowledge, Professor Abdus Salam main- tained a constant interest in the history and modern problems of science in the Muslim world. He was one of the few scientists of the last century who on the basis of his constant analysis of historical sources managed to study almost all of the development of natural science in the Muslim world from its origins in the 7th century up to the end of the twentieth century. Brilliant scientific articles and reflections of the scientist about the past and the future of the Muslim world testify to this. The majority of those articles are included in the collection of his works titled Ideals and Realities. This book ran into several editions during the life of the a u t h o r. The collection was published in western (English, French, Italian and Romanian), 47 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 and in Eastern languages such as Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Punjabi and Urdu, the last 3 of which the author freely used. Professor Abdus Salam’s other monograph Revival of Science in Islamic countries was published in Singapore in 1994 is also of great interest. Authors of many articles devoted to the life and works of Professor Abdus Salam underline that in the 20th Century, he was the first and unique representative of the Muslim world, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his great scientific achievements. It is certainly true, but I think that it is necessary to understand the significance of this extraordinary person from a wider perspective. Perhaps he, more clearly than any other of his contemporary scholars, understood the imper- ative need for scientific progress PROFESSOR ABDUS SALAM MEETING KING HASSAN OF MOROCCO 48 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 in the developing world. Only fruitful scientific co-operation between the North and the South, coupled with the centuries-old co-operation of the East and the West, could help modern civilisation to avoid inevitable confrontation. Professor Abdus Salam was a sincere religious man. He offered five prayers daily wherever he was and in any environment. He combined his intellectual skills with a spiritual side. In his public statements and articles, he always stressed that there are 750 verses in the Holy Qur’an, that in accordance with the teachings of Allah the Mighty, call on man to study nature and to obtain the means for its control. ‘I have devoted all my life to implement these orders of the Holy Qur’an’ he said. In 1979 Professor Abdus Salam recited some verses from the Holy Qur’an in the famous Nobel Hall. This was the first time in the history of that Hall that Qur’anic verses had been recited. And later while giving his Nobel lecture, professor Abdus Salam cited another verse. He said that ‘in fact Islam is the belief of all physicists, it inspires and supports all of us: the deeper we search, the more excited becomes our amazement and at the same time more new mysteries appear’. Pakistan’s patriot Most of his life professor Abdus Salam spent far from his Motherland – he was engaged in scientific research in London and Trieste in turns and travelled all over the world – participated in international conferences and scientific forums. But during 40 years of living on foreign soil among predominantly Christians, he always remained an orthodox Muslim and despite diff e r e n t approaches, he did not become a citizen of any country where he stayed. He remained a Pakistani citizen and never lost the link with his Motherland. He always remembered and respected his roots (the land of his parents, fellow Muslims and academic colleagues) and wanted to help his country ‘to escape from 49 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 poverty’. During a long period of time (1958-1974) he was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission of Pakistan, where he rendered scientific assistance in building an atomic power station near Karachi. From 1961 to 1974, Abdus Salam was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan. At the first opportunity he returned to Pakistan, gave lectures and tried to convince Pakistani leaders of the neccessity of training spe- cialists in science and to create conditions for technological development. As far as possible he rendered assistance in this area. But not everything was in his control, and very often governmental structures could not understand his sincere efforts and scientific offers. Meetings in Moscow Professor Abdus Salam visited Moscow more than once and was a welcome participant of the great scientific conferences and academic jubilee celebrations that were held here. He enjoyed immense authority over the scientific circles of the USSR. The eminent soviet theorists and physicists knew his scientific works and treated him with profound respect. It is in particular confirmed by the fact that in 1971 long before being awarded the Nobel Prize, Professor Abdus Salam was unanimously elected as a foreign member of the USSR Academy of Science. Later in 1983, he was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal that was the highest prize of the USSR Academy of Science. In 1995 he was awarded the Maxwell prize and gold medal instituted by the Academy of Russian creative workers. In 1992 the head of the St. Petersburg University visited Trieste (Italy) especially to present the Diploma of the honorary doctor of science of the University to Professor Abdus Salam. As a humanist scientist, a man of democratic convictions and high moral beliefs, he keenly responded to the political and moral pressure upon scientists. In particular he was publicly meeting and talking with the 50 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 academic A. Saharov while he was out of favour and his Soviet colleagues avoided meeting him in public view. This way Professor Abdus Salam gave him moral support. After A. Saharov was exiled to Gorky, Professor Abdus Salam sent him a friendly letter and several scientific articles. They met for the third time in 1987 when A. Saharov was back in Moscow. ‘Every time I was surprised by Saharov’s comprehensive know- ledge. As a person and as a physicist he deserved admiration and became a legend in his life- time’ – professor Abdus Salam wrote soon after the Russian scientist unexpectedly died. In 1987, Professor Abdus Salam took part in the big international conference in Moscow on the reduction of nuclear arms. He firmly supported the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction. He always called the world community to use the potential of nuclear studies and nuclear power only for peaceful and constructive purposes. The Memory of Generations Recently after this essay was finished, I had a wonderful dream that after thirty years I am again in Lahore as a foreign tourist. Everything was like in a documentary film. My guide- interpreter was a Pakistani woman dressed as a stewardess of the PIA airlines and she o ffered me an extraordinary tourist trail through Lahore: ‘Following in the tracks of the history of quantum physics’. I could not fully understand such a strange combination – Lahore and quantum physics, but I agreed hoping to see something absolutely unusual. And then this woman carried me on a motor rickshaw along the wide Abdus Salam avenue right to the gates of the Government College of the Abdus Salam Punjab University. The guide- woman competently and hastily explained to me that the name of Abdus Salam had been given to the University according to a Special Resolution of the Government of Pakistan on the 51 INTELLECT AND CONSCIENCE OF THE MUSLIM WORLD The Review of Religions – August 2005 occasion of the 80th anniversary of this eminent well-known scientist. He had graduated from this University and was a professor, and it was from here that he started the swift flight to the very peak of world science. With the students applauding, we went through the Abdus Salam scientific library to the spacious lecture-hall where the bas-relief was engraved with the gilded notice in English and Punjabi: ‘From 1951-1954, the prominent world-famous physicist Professor Abdus Salam who dreamed of creating the Pakistani school of theoretical physics was giving lectures on higher mathematics in this hall’. Ms Nahid announced that the completion phase of our tour would be the mausoleum of Abdus Salam that was not far from Lahore near the town of Rabwah. There were only two such modern buildings here in Pakistan, one of them was the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Karachi, and the second was the mausoleum of the founder and inspirer of Pakistani science in Rabwah. Then I woke up and felt that my mind was still stuck in the dreamscape. I think that this dream can be and should be realised to some extent in the foreseeable future. Pakistan owes very much to its great son who glorified his country in the world of 20th century science.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment