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The Muslim World


King Faisal International Prizes for 2007
By Sameen Ahmed Khan

On January 16 Prince Khalid AI-Faisal, Director General of the King Faisal FoundaŽtion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia announced the winner of the King Faisal International Prize for the year 2007. The recipients will be honoured in a ceremony in the near future.

The Prize for Service to Islam has been awarded to the Tatarstan President Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiev. President Shaimiev has been awarded the Prize in recognition of his distinguished services to Islam, including his steadfast efforts to revive Islamic culture in the Republic of Tatarstan, promote Islamic teachings and values among its population, and rebuild Islamic mosques destroyed during previous eras.

The Republic of Tatarstan is a democratic constitutional state associated with the Russian Federation. It has a population of less than four million, about one half of the population is Sunni Muslim and the rest are Orthodox Christians. Today, more than a thousand mosques have been rebuilt, including 40 in the capital city of Kazan, whereas only four mosques had remained intact during the communist rule of the country President Shaimiev's reign has also witnessed the inauguration of the Ghol Sharif mosque, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, as well as the printing of the Holy Qur'an and other major Islamic books, inception of numerous Islamic schools and societies and establishment of the Russian Islamic University, which teaches in Russian, Tatarian and Arabic languages. The president is also acknowledged for pursuing wise policy that helped consolidate rapport and peaceful coexistence among members of the population, and culminated in a discernible economic and cultural development of the country.

The Prize for Islamic Studies (Topic: Muslims Contributions to Pure of Applied Science) was awarded to the science historian Roshdi Hifni Rashed. He was declared the winner in this category in recognition of his insightful studies, authentication, commentaries and translations of Muslims contributions to pure science, in particular their achievements in the fields of mathematics and optics. Prof. Rashed has authored around 60 books and more than 100 scholarly articles. This is in addition to his translation of some important relevant texts from ancient languages. These have brought recognition to several of the medieval Arab contributors of science, whose manuscripts were otherwise just lying in museums. He is particularly recognized for his illustrious, six-volume Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science {translated into Arabic and French): and his four-volume book on Analytical Mathematics between the third and fifth Hijri centuries.

Prof. Rashed was born in Egypt in 1936 and did his doctorate in history of philosophy of mathematics from University of Paris. He is an Emeritus Research Director (Distinguished Class) of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Honorary Professor, Tokyo University, Japan. Dr. Rashed has been awarded with many prestigious prizes and honorary degrees for his prolific works in the history of sciences.

The Prize for Arabic Language and Literature (Topic: Ancient Arabic Rhetoric) has been awarded jointly to Muhammad A.AI-Omari of Morocco and Mustafa A. Nasif of Egypt. Both are professors of rhetoric at the King Muhammad V University, Rabat and Ain Shams University, Cairo respectively. Al-Omari received the award for his research on Arabic rhetoric and oratory, in particular his precise methodology and research presentation. Nasif was selected for his comprehensive and original research on Arabic rhetoric as it relates to the origins of modern Arabic.

The Prize for Medicine (Topic: Prostate Cancer) has been awarded jointly to Fernand Labrie of Canada and Atrick Craig Walsh of USA, in recognition of their respective contributions to therapeutic and surgical management of prostate cancer. Labrie, of the Central Hospital of Laval University in Quebec has made contribution which have enhanced the quality of life of the prostrate cancer patients. Has also evaluated early detection procedures for prostate cancer. Walsh, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is recognized for developing nerve sparing radical A surgery for prostate cancer.

This year the prize for Science was given for the subcategory of Chemistry to James Fraser Stoddart, a British professor of NanoSystems Science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Stoddart is a pioneer in the development of a new field of chemistry dealing with nanoscience. His work is of seminal importance and has changed dramatically the way chemists think about molecular systems.

In the year 1976, the sons of late King Faisal established a large-scale philanthropic organization based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and named it after their father as King Faisal Foundation (KFF). The KFF is involved in numerous philanthropic and educational activities in and outside the Kingdom. One of the most widely known activities of the KFF is the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP). Merit alone governs the rigorous selection procedure, earning King Faisal International Prize the distinction of being among the most prestigious of international awards to scholars and scientists, who have made the most significant advances to benefit humanity and enrich human knowledge.

There are currently prizes in each of the five broad categories. Prizes for Arabic Literature; Islamic Studies; and Services to Islam; were first given in 1979. Science and Medicine were introduced in 1982 and 1983 respectively. Each year the selection committee designates subjects of subcategories to each of the above five.

The science subcategories cover a broad scope; physics; mathematics; chemistry; and biology. For the year 2008 the science prize will be given in biology. Nomination for the prizes are accepted only from international institutions and organizations. The prizes can be shared. This year's awards (29th year) bring the total number of laureates to 182 distinguished individuals from about 40 countries.

Each of the five Prizes 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$200,000). This amount is very similar to what used to be the amount for the Nobel Prizes a decade back. The current figure for the Nobel Prize money is about 1.3 million US$. Co-winner in any category share the monetary grant. The Prizes are awarded during a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of the King of Saudi Arabia. Within three decades the KFIP are ranked among the most prestigious awards.

Twelve of the KFIP Laureates in Science and Medicine have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize. For example, Egyptian-born (1946) American, Ahmed Zewail received the KFOP for Chemistry in 1989, followed by the Nobel Prize in 1999, both unshared! The nominations for 2008 Prizes close on April, 2007.

[The writer is teaching in the Engineering DepartŽment, Salalah? College of Technology (SCOT). Salalah, Sultanate of Oman, and can be reached at rohelakhan&]