King Faisal International Prizes for 2019

Within four decades the KFIP are ranked among the most prestigious awards. To date, there are 21 KFIP laureates, who also received Nobel Prizes (mostly after the KFIP), writes DR. SAMEEN AHMED KHAN.


Six individuals and one organization from Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and the USA have been named winners of the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for the year 2019, as the 41st edition of the renowned award recognized their distinguished contributions towards humanity. 

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 King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.  

Within four decades the KFIP are ranked among the most prestigious awards. To date, there are 21 KFIP laureates, who also received Nobel Prizes (mostly after the KFIP). Out of the 117 winners of the King Faisal prizes in science and medicine since 1982, there were four women (3.41%). This is marginally higher than for Nobels: just 20 women (3.29%) are named among the 607 Nobel prize winners in the fields of science and medicine since 1901. 

The King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam has been awarded to International University of Africa, located in Khartoum the capital of Sudan (https://en.iua.edu.sd/). This is in recognition of its outstanding contributions in the service to Islam and spreading of the Arabic language in Africa and beyond.

The University has its origins in the Islamic African Centre, and is now the largest Islamic religious institution in sub-Saharan Africa. The university has fifteen colleges outside Sudan in Africa, China and Turkey. In order to expand the scope of knowledge, culture and advocacy, the University has established the Radio Africa station and the Al-Alamiya satellite channel.

The University has become a prominent foundation for Islamic studies in the African continent. It has brought together most Muslim scholars in seminars and conferences and has become a role model for Islamic colleges and universities in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. 

A total of 47 scholars/organizations from 21 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam. There are four winners from the Indian subcontinent namely, Sayyid Abul Ala’a Al-Mowdoodi (1979); Sayyid Abul-Hasan Ali Al-Hasani Al-Nadawi (1980); Professor Khurshid Ahmed (1990) and Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik (2015). 

The 2019 prize for Islamic Studies (Topic: Studies on the Objectives of Islamic Law) has been withheld due to the lack of sufficiently meritorious nominations. A total of 38 scholars from 15 countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies. The two recipients from India are Muhammad Najatuallah Siddiqui (1982); and Ali Ahmad Ghulam Muhammad Nadvi (2004). Among the 38 literature laureates, there is one woman (2.63%). 

The prize for Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Arabic Language and Contemporary Challenges) has been awarded to Abdelali Mohamed Oudrhiri of Morocco and Mahmoud Fahmy Hegazi of Egypt.

Oudrhiri is a professor at the University of Mohammed V in Rabat the capital of Morocco. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic University of Niger, and Secretary-General of Moroccan Linguistic Union. He is also a member of several scientific societies and journals in Morocco and the Arab world.

Hegazi is currently Professor of Language Sciences at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University.  He has held several academic and administrative positions, including president of the Egyptian University, Almaty, Kazakhstan; Chairman of the National Library and Archives, Professor of Linguistics and Head of Arabic Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Director of Arabic Language Center at Cairo University, University of Budapest and visiting professor of Postgraduate Studies at several Arab universities. 

A total of 52 scholars/ organizations from thirteen countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Arabic Language and Literature. There are four women among these 52 laureates (7.69%), which when compared to the Nobels is fourteen women among 114 literature laureates (12.28%). 

The prize for Medicine (Topic: Bone Biology and Osteoporosis) is awarded to Steven L. Teitelbaum and Bjørn Reino Olsen (both are citizens of USA).

Teitelbaum’s pioneering research focuses on bone cell biology for the purpose of developing new treatments for the prevention and cure of diseases such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, which can lead to increased risk of fracture. It is the most common reason for a broken bone among the elderly.

Skeletal mass is the product of the activities of two types of cells that work together to continuously remodel the bones, to repair damage, balance calcium levels in the body and maintain the integrity of the skeleton. First type is the ‘osteoblasts’, which synthesize bone in response to growth factors and mechanical stress on the bone. The second type is the ‘osteoclasts’ which clear away the aged or damaged mineralized and calcified constituents of the bone matrix and this process is known as ‘bone resorption’.

Teitelbaum’s scientific studies included confirming the hematopoietic lineage of the osteoclast and the mechanisms by which the cell resorbs bone. These studies contributed to development of anti-osteoporosis drugs and understanding the importance of clinically arresting osteoclast function as opposed to formation. His work has contributed to the effective therapy for joint destructive conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

Bjørn Reino Olsen is recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of bone biology. He has made a series of key genetic discoveries which have enhanced the understanding of bone development, and the basis of inherited skeletal disorders, including osteoporosis syndromes.

A total of 69 scholars from thirteen countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine.  There are four women among the 69 KFIP medicine laureates (5.79%).  This is marginally higher than for Nobels: just twelve women (5.55%) among the 216 Nobel Prize winners in medicine since 1901. 

This year’s prize for Science is in the area of Chemistry. It has been awarded to Allen Joseph Bard and Jean M.J. Fréchet (both are citizens of USA). Joseph Bard is recognized for his ground-breaking development of electro-generated chemiluminescence methods.

Chemiluminescence is the emission of light as a result of chemical reactions. Exploiting this emitted light, Bard developed the scanning electrochemical microscope. This has numerous biological and medical applications such as detection of aids and analysis of DNA.

Fréchet is awarded the Prize for his pioneering work and seminal contributions in the areas of convergent synthesis of branched molecules (dendrimers) and their applications, chemically amplified photoresists and organic photovoltaics. Dendrimers have a number of therapeutic applications, including targeted drug delivery.

Fréchet developed chemical amplification in high resolution imaging systems, which enabled the production of modern photoresists and integrated circuits, which are the key components in the development of the modern computer and other electronics. 

A total of 59 scholars from thirteen countries have been awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Science

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 launched by Iran in 2015. The topics for the five prizes for the year 2020 (1441 Hijri) are Service to Islam; Islamic Studies (Topic: Islamic Heritage of Alquds); Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Linguistic Studies on Arabic in Other Languages); Medicine (Topic: Haemoglobinopathies); and Science (Topic: Biology) respectively.

The deadline for all nominations is Sunday the 31 March 2019 (24 Jumadi-ul-Akhir 1440). Winners will be announced in January 2020.  Additional details at the website of the King Faisal Foundation: http://www.kff.com/ and the King Faisal International Prize: http://kingfaisalprize.org/ respectively. 


The author, Dr. Sameen Ahmed Khan, is an Asst. Professor at the Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. He receives his mail at rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Further Reading:

  1. Sameen Ahmed Khan, King Faisal Foundation & its Prizes, Young Muslim Digest, Vol. 27, Issue 6, pp. 33-35 (August 2005). 
  2. Sameen Ahmed Khan, 2017 King Faisal International Prizes, Young Muslim Digest, Vol. 39, Issue 3, pp. ??-?? (March 2017).  http://www.youngmuslimdigest.com/miscellany/03/2017/2017-king-faisal-international-prizes/