2017 King Faisal International Prizes

The King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) is named after the third king of Saudi Arabia. In the year 1976, the sons of late King Faisal (1906-1975) established a large-scale philanthropic organization based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and named it as King Faisal Foundation (KFF). One of the activities of the KFF is the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP), to honour scholars and scientists, who have made the most significant advances to benefit humanity and enrich human knowledge.

 

The King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has announced the King Faisal International Prize for the year 2017.  The recipients in the categories are as follows.

  • Service to Islam: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia;
  • Islamic Studies (Topic: Muslim Political Thought up to the 9th Century H./15th Century): Professor Ridwan Al-Sayyid of Lebanon;
  • Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Efforts of Individuals and Institutions to Arabicize Science and Technology for Transfer: Research and Educational Purposes Arabic Language): Arabic Language Academy of Jordan;
  • Medicine (Topic: Biologic Therapeutics in Autoimmune Diseases): Professor Tadamitsu Kishimoto of Japan; and
  • Science (Topic: Physics) was awarded to Professor Daniel Loss of Switzerland and Professor Laurens W. Molenkamp of Netherlands.

The Prize consists of a certificate, hand-written in Diwani calligraphy, summarizing the laureate’s work; a commemorative 24-carat, 200-gram gold medal, uniquely cast for each Prize; and a cash endowment of Saudi Riyal 750,000 (about US$200,000) to be shared equally. The winners will receive their awards in a ceremony in Riyadh under the auspices of the King of Saudi Arabia.

The Prizes are named after the third king of Saudi Arabia. In the year 1976, the sons of late King Faisal (1906-1975) established a large-scale philanthropic organization based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and named it as King Faisal Foundation (KFF). One of the activities of the KFF is the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP), to honour scholars and scientists, who have made the most significant advances to benefit humanity and enrich human knowledge.

The annual prizes are in five broad categories. Prizes for Arabic Literature; Islamic Studies; and Services to Islam; were first given in 1979. Medicine and Science were introduced in 1982 and 1983 respectively. Each year, the selection committee designates subjects or subcategories to each of the above five. The science subcategories cover a broad scope: physics; mathematics; chemistry; and biology by rotation cycle of four years. Over the thirty-nine years (1979-2017), there have been 253 laureates from 43 nationalities. The distribution is as follows:

  • Service to Islam (45 scholars from 21 countries);
  • Islamic Studies (37 scholars from 15 countries);
  • Arabic Language and Literature (49 scholars from 13 countries);
  • Medicine (66 scholars from 13 countries); and
  • Science (56 scholars from 13 countries).

Within Science, the individual subject recipients are Physics (19 from 8 countries); Mathematics (10 from 6 countries); Chemistry (14 from 6 countries); and Biology (13 from 4 countries).  Within three decades the KFIP are ranked among the most prestigious awards. To date, there are 18 KFIP laureates who also received Nobel Prizes (mostly after the KFIP). There are two KFIP laureates (in Mathematics) who are also recipients of the Fields Medal.

The King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam has been awarded to The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, in recognition of his outstanding services to Islam and Muslims, namely:

  • Unfaltering commitment to serving the two Holy Mosques and their visitors/ pilgrims,
  • Allegiance to the Prophet’s Seerah (i.e. Life of Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him),
  • Sponsorship and support of the Historic Atlas of the Prophet’s Seerah and its implementation by King Abdulaziz Dara (Foundation for Research and Archives),
  • Founding of King Abdulaziz Complex for Endowment Libraries in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah for preserving Arabic and Islamic heritage,
  • Dedicated endeavours to unite Arabs and Muslims in the face of daunting challenges currently unfolding in the Arabic and Muslim worlds, including the formation of a Riyadh-based Islamic military alliance to combat terrorism, and
  • Upholding throughout the decades unwavering Arabic and Islamic stance in support of the Palestinian issue by providing political, moral and humanitarian support to the Palestinians.

A total of 45 scholars from 21 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam.  The previous four winners from the Indian subcontinent are Sayyid Abul Ala’a Al-Mowdoodi (1979); Sayyid Abul-Hasan Ali Al-Hasani Al-Nadawi (1980); Khurshid Ahmed (1990) and Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik (2015).

The Prize for Islamic Studies (Topic: Muslim Political Thought up to the 9th Century H./ 15th Century) has been awarded to Professor Ridwan Al-Sayyid from University of Lebanon, Lebanon. This is in recognition of his overall specialized publications that enriched the Arabic Library as well as his distinguished contribution to the Prize’s topic namely: (a) The contributions in his researches and studies of broad and through knowledge of the Arabic Islamic jurisprudential and political heritage with full acquaintance with modern research methodology; (b) Characterization of his academic research by precise scientific methodology; (c) Successful integration of original Islamic political thought and current Arabic Islamic reality; (d) Multiplicity of his studies on Muslim political thought, including issues of governance, authority, state, society and nation as related to historic Islamic reality. A total of 37 scholars from 15 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies. The two recipients from India are Muhammad N. Siddiqui (1982); and Ali Ahmad Ghulam Muhammad Nadvi (2004).

The Prize for Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Efforts of Individuals and Institutions to Arabicize Science and Technology for Transfer: Research and Educational Purposes Arabic Language) has been awarded to Arabic Language Academy of Jordan. The Committee’s unanimously decided to award this year Prize’s to the Arabic Language Academy of Jordan in recognition of its distinguished efforts in the transfer of science and technology through translation, Arabization of technical terms, and publication of specialized glossaries and its relentless efforts to make Arabic the language of instruction, an objective sought by various scientific institutions throughout the Arab World. The Academy entrusted the task of translation to highly qualified specialists known for their mastery of both English and Arabic, thus ensuring the highest quality for its project. A total of 49 scholars from 13 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Arabic Language and Literature.

The Prize for Medicine (Topic: Biologic Therapeutics in Autoimmune Diseases) is awarded to Professor Tadamitsu Kishimoto of Japan in recognition of his prominent role in developing a novel biologic therapy for autoimmune diseases. Professor Kishimoto, through his work for more than 30 years, is responsible for discovering interleukin-6 (IL-6), its receptor and signaling pathways. He established the physiological function of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) pathway and its role in inflammatory/ autoimmune diseases. Subsequently, he developed an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-blocking antibody into a biological therapy, leading the clinical development of this therapy towards first approval for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A total of 66 scholars from 13 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine.

This year’s prize for Science is in the area of Physics. It has been awarded to Professor Daniel Loss of Switzerland and Laurens W. Molenkamp of Netherlands. Daniel Loss is a pioneer in the theory of spin dynamics and spin coherence in quantum dots showing promise for practical applications in spin quantum computers. The idea is to use the spin rather than the charge of electrons trapped in quantum dots as quantum bits. His work has inspired many important experimental programs. Loss’ contributions open the door to powerful spintronic quantum computers with exceptional speed and storage capacity.

Molenkamp has significantly contributed to the experimental field of spintronics. His work includes groundbreaking methods for creating and manipulating spin-polarized charge-carrier states in semiconductors, with the potential to develop magnetic storage devices. Molenkamp has experimentally confirmed the quantum spin-Hall effect, which firms up the field of topological insulators, a novel form of quantum matter (topic of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics).

A total of 56 scholars from 13 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Science. Prof. Mudumbai Seshachalu Narasimhan is the only Indian to have won the KFIP in the science category (for Mathematics in 2006). Vamsi Krishna Mootha of Indian origin, now based in the USA received the Science prize in the category of biology in 2016. The previous winners for KFIP in Physics are 1983 (Prize Withheld); 1984: Gerd Binnig (Germany) and Heinrich Rohrer (Switzerland);1989: Ahmed Hassan Zewail (USA) and Theodor Wolfgang Hänsch (Germany);1993: Herbert Walther (Germany) and Steven Chu (USA); 1997: Carl Edwin Wieman (USA) and Eric Allin Cornell (USA); 2001: Sajeev O. John (Canada) and Chen Ning Yang (USA); 2005: Anton Zeilinger (Austria), Federico Capasso (USA) and Frank Anthony Wilczek (USA); 2009: Sir Richard Henry Friend (UK) and Rashid Alievich Sunyaev (Russia); 2013: Paul Bruce Corkum (Canada) and Ferenc Krausz (Hungary/Austria).  Six of them have received the Nobel Prize in Physics: Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer (1986); Theodor Wolfgang Hänsch (2005); Steven Chu (1997); Carl Edwin Wieman and Eric Allin Cornell (2001); Chen Ning Yang (1957); and Frank Anthony Wilczek (Physics Nobel 2004).

Here, it is relevant to recall the Egyptian born American chemist, Ahmed Hassan Zewail, who pioneered the Femtosecond chemistry in the 1980’s by observing the chemical reactions (a femtosecond is a thousandth of a billionth of a second). He was the first person to observe the formation and breaking of chemical bonds in real time.  Ahmed Zewail was recognized by the King Faisal International Prize for Science in 1989 in the subcategory physics with the co-winner Theodor Wolfgang Hänsch from Germany.

Ahmed Zewail received the 1999 Nobel Prize for Chemistry unshared. Egypt recognized him by issuing the postage stamps in 1998 and 1999; Order of Merit in 1995; and Order of the Grand Collar of Nile in 1999. It is to be further recalled that the Mathematician and Science Historian Roshdi Hifni Rashed received the Award in 2007 under the category of Islamic Studies for the Topic: Muslims’ Contribution to Pure or Applied Sciences. The other major science prizes instituted by the Middle Eastern region are the UNESCO Sultan Qaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation and the Mustafa Prize for Science recently launched by Iran in 2015.

The topics for the five prizes for the year 2018 (1439 Hijri) are Service to Islam; Islamic Studies (Topic: Critical Editions of Islamic Historical and Biographical Texts); Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Studies Dealing with Autobiography in Arabic Literature); Medicine (Topic: Immunotherapy for Cancer); and Science (Topic: Mathematics) respectively. The deadline for all nominations is Saturday the first April 2017 (4 Rajab 1438).  Additional details at the King Faisal Foundation Websites: http://www.kff.com/ and http://www.kfip.org/ respectively.


(The author works at the Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. He can be reached at rohelakhan@yahoo.com, http://SameenAhmedKhan.webs.com/)