Dr. Abdus Salam: Beyond Physics

Dr. Abdus Salam would have been as great a man as he was even if he did not win the Nobel Award in physics. But we would have conveniently forgotten him. That he did win the Nobel Award is a source of cosmetic and hollow pride for many Pakistanis. Cosmetic and hollow because it is also a source of visible unease. Even when we acknowledge that he was a great scientist (after all, the Nobel Committee thought so), we are uncomfortable acknowledging that he was a great man whose significance goes beyond his science.
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BETRAYING THE GREAT SON OF PAKISTAN

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by Adil Najam

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Jan 29th marks Dr. Abdus Salam’s birth anniversary. (See new biography of Dr. Salam here).

It should be a moment of deep reflection for all of us. He would have been as great a man as he was even if he did not win the Nobel Award in physics. But we would have conveniently forgotten him. That he did win the Nobel Award is a source of cosmetic and hollow pride for many Pakistanis. Cosmetic and hollow because it is also a source of visible unease. Even when we acknowledge that he was a great scientist (after all, the Nobel Committee thought so), we are uncomfortable acknowledging that he was a great man whose significance goes beyond his science.

Salam’s anniversary, January 29, remains a long shot from being celebrated as Dr. Abdus Salam Day, even though we invent anomalies like Yaum-e-Takbir, and many such similar yaums officially marked on our national calendar.

As a brutally honest editorial in Lahore’s Daily Times pointed out, “we are scared of honoring Dr. Salam.” We must not be.

The Daily Times editorial says all that needs to be said; it is worth reading, worth thinking about, and worth quoting in full:

THE TRAGEDY OF OUR TREATMENT OF DR. ABDUS SALAM

Dr. Abdus Salam was born the 29th of January 1926. He was the first Pakistani to get a Nobel Prize in 1979. But he might be the last if we continue to allow our state to evolve in a way that frightens the rest of the world. Our collective psyche runs more to accepted ‘wisdom’ than to scientific inquiry; and even if we were to display an uncharacteristic outcropping of individual genius the world may be so frightened of it that it might not give us our deserts.

We are scared of honouring Dr. Salam because of our constitution which we have amended to declare his community as ‘non-Muslim’. When Dr. Salam died in 1996 he had to be buried in Pakistan because he refused to give up his Pakistani nationality and acquire another that respected him more. But the Pakistani state was afraid of touching his dead body. He was therefore buried in Rabwa, the home town of his Ahmedi community whose name is also unacceptable to us and has been changed to Chenab Nagar by a state proclamation.

But that was not the end of the story. After he was buried, the pious, law-abiding and constitution-loving people of Jhang, which is nearby, went over to Chenab Nagar to see if all had been done according to the constitutional provisions regarding the Ahmedi community to which he belonged.

 And what did the constitution say? It said that the Ahmedis are not Muslims, that they may not call themselves Muslims, nor say the kalima or use any of the symbols of Islam. The original amendments to the constitution were passed by Z. A. Bhutto, a ‘liberal socialist-democrat’, and subsequent tightening of the law was done by the great patriot General Zia-ul Haq. Thus both the civilians and the khakis had connived in the great betrayal of Dr. Salam.

Image [right]shows the highway near CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, named after Pakistan’s first and the only Nobel laureate. CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva is home to the world’s highest energy particle accelerator and has been the subject of considerable media attention as it collides particles travelling at very nearly the speed of light to recreate the very early moments of the Big Bang. Imminent scientific discoveries are expected and with them, a significant development in our understanding of the laws of nature.

After the great scientist was buried in Chenab Nagar, his tombstone said “Abdus Salam the First Muslim Nobel Laureate”. Needless to say, the police arrived with a magistrate and rubbed off the ‘Muslim’ part of the katba. Now the tombstone says: Abdus Salam the First Nobel Laureate. The magistrate remained unfazed by what he had done but Dr. Salam’s grave is actually the tombstone of a Muslim culture that Pakistan had inherited from the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. But ironies fly thick in Pakistan. In Jhang, for example, where Dr. Salam grew up as a precocious child, the schools that he endowed with scholarships and grants now teach communal hatred rather than the love that he had in mind when he gave them his money.

Meanwhile, the Ahmedi community is under daily pressure and anyone with a twisted mind is free to persecute them.

As said, Abdus Salam was born in Jhang in 1926. At the age of 14, he got the highest marks ever recorded for the Matriculation Examination in Punjab. The whole town turned out to welcome him. He won a scholarship to Government College, Lahore, and took his MA in 1946. In the same year he was awarded a scholarship to St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took a BA (honours) with a double First in mathematics and physics in 1949. In 1950 he received the Smith’s Prize from Cambridge University for the most outstanding pre-doctoral contribution to physics. He also obtained a PhD in theoretical physics at Cambridge; his thesis, published in 1951, contained fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics which had already gained him an international reputation.

In 1954 Dr. Salam left his native country for a lectureship at Cambridge University. Before the Pakistani politicians apostatised him, he was a member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Scientific Commission of Pakistan and Chief Scientific Adviser to the President from 1961 to 1974. Pakistan’s space research agency Suparco was created by him and it is only symbolic that a group of Shia workers of Suparco were put to death in Karachi in 2004 by sectarian terrorists. Like Dr. Salam, a lot of gifted Shia doctors have had to leave Pakistan because of the state’s twisted policies.

Dr. Abdus Salam got his Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979. It was a most embarrassing moment for General Zia who had “supplemented” the Second Amendment to the constitution with further comic disabilities against the Ahmedis. He had to welcome the great scientist and had to be seen with him on TV. Since the clerical part of his government was already bristling, he took care to clip those sections of Dr. Salam’s speech where he had said the kalima or otherwise used an Islamic expression.

It was Dr. Salam’s good luck that one of the believers did not go to court under Zia’s own laws to get the country’s only Nobel laureate sent to prison for six months of rigorous imprisonment. Dr. Salam then went to India where he was received with great fanfare. He had gone there to simply meet his primary school mathematics teacher who was still alive. When the two met, Dr. Salam took off his Nobel medal and put it around the neck of his teacher.

Left: Dr. Abdus Salam as a young student of the 9th class.

Let us admit in a whisper that Pakistan did issue a stamp commemorating Dr. Salam years ago lest the government come under pressure to remove it from circulation. It is also true that his alma mater, Government College Lahore, now a university, has named certain ancillary departments and academic sessions after him following a long period of obscurantist domination. But Pakistan needs to feel guilty about what it has done to the greatest scientist it ever produced in comparison to the lionisation of Dr. A. Q. Khan who has brought ignominy and the label of “rogue state” to Pakistan by selling the country’s nuclear technology for personal gain.

Can we redeem ourselves by doing something in Dr. Salam’s memory on this 85th anniversary of his birth that would please his soul and cleanse ours?

Related Post:

Salam Sahab, we have failed you
Source, image Abdus Salam Road in Genera, Switzerland
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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] February 1, 2012 at 8:21 pm Dr. Abdus Salam: Beyond Physics « Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. I am a scientist and X———————– . You can call me X Muslim, X Christian , or X Jew; whatever you want to.
    Why don’t you people understand that it is only and only BASIC HUMAN VALUES ( LOVE , RESPECT, JUSTICE AND & SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY ) which are needed in this universe and no PROPHET OR ANY OTHER RELIGIOUS LEADER is needed to teach these human values to a HUMAN (if you are).
    This word RELIGION is the basis of all corruption, brutality and injustice everywhere on this earth.

    • You are right Afram. First and foremost thing that we all humans should have befor us are the chore values you’ve mentioned i. i. e. Love, Respect, Justice and Sense of Responsiblity. But I do not agree with you when you say that there is no need for prophets to teach these basic human values. I myself am not a man of religious leanings, but I do believe that prophets and other holy men, who from time to time rose to fight the tyranny of the powerful, of the rich and the mighty did fight such people with these very basic human values. In addition to the prophets, saints and companions of the prophets, there have been other holy men also like the Sufis in the subcontinent who again played their own role im strengthening these chore values.

      To say that religion is basis of all corruption, brutality and injustice is like passing on our responsibilities to these holy men because when we forgot these values and started following blindly the clerics only (and such clerics are not confined to any singular religious community, they are there in followers of all faiths chief being the Muslims, Hindus, Christians and the Jews), and instead of fighting the hate speeches of such clerics, we follow these prophets of hate, and yet we blame the prophets (the real men of God) for something which has nothing to do with them but a product of our own doing.

  3. I am not an atheist . Being a scientist i do believe in a SUPREME POWER ( you may call it GOD , BHAGWAN, ALLAH ,RAM or any other name from any religion).

    • Dr. Abdus Salam, that noble soul, who made tremendous contrubution to the world of science in Pakistan, was also castigated by our mainstream because again it were the evil doings, the fiery sermons, evil fulminations of the clerics, wrongly intepreting the teachings of Islam and thus poisoned the illiterate/semi educated masses to make them believe that anybody who does not tow the particular brand of Islam that cleric is carrying the banner of, is a non Muslim, or a kafir.
      Personally I do believe that whoever recites the kalima is a Muslim. If he does not believe that in his heart and mind, this again should be left to Allah to decide whether he is a Muslim in the real sense or is just pretending to be a Muslim.

      This was the very reason that the biggest manipulator of religion in Pakistani politics, Gen Zia-ul-Haq was himself once forced to adovocate: “Don’t leave your faith and Don’t touch other’s faith”.

      I think this maxim needs to be followed all times, by all communities, all religions, and all countries of the world.

      • Thanks for your time Mr Hashmi,
        (regarding first paragraph). Exactly, This is the answer. When we ask a Muslim (be he a Shia or Sunni) about any of their bad or hurting or objectionable believes, rituals or actions (dekho ji Islam tay aih nahin sikhanda, aih tay jahil logan da kam aih).

        And after listening that we used to cool down , thinking, yes, jahil people do like that, otherwise, sensible Muslims are never like them.

        OK. But when we came to know about disgraceful attitude of Pakistani nation for SIR ABDU SALAM who maintained his Pakistani nationality, inspite of the fact that many countries, including BRITAIN & ITALY, felt proud to offer him their nationality.

        Doesn’t it make you think that all the Muslims of Pakistani nation (with the exception of very few people)
        belong to that JAHIL class of Muslims, as there was no official protocol for even the dead body of that great scientist. Was there no REASONABLE MUSLIM in whole of the high officials of goverment to tell that the initial work to make this so called ONLY MUSLIM ATOMIC POWER IN THE WORLD was initiatd by this great man.
        They can, very easily jump like a frog to say we are the only MUSLIM ATOMIC POWER, but they don’t have the courage to honour the person who made them say so.

        Mr Hashmi, now you can’t say, yeh jahil logon ka kam hai. Now almost the whole nation has proved itself to be A CLASS OFJAHIL MUSLIMS. People like DR Munir Ahmad Khan & others who have courage to respect SIR ABDUS SALAM by putting aside his religiou belief are like a drop in the ocean, and PAKISTAN will sink in the ocean of these JAHILS until and unless we corner this nonsense, this argument of Sunni, Shia, Christian, Hindu or Jew and start thinking about our PAKISTAN AS PAKISTANI, otherwise we will take care of carrying this LOTA & MISWAK & will be ruined like AFGHANISTAN

  4. Thanks for your time Mr Hashmi,
    (regarding first paragraph). Exactly, This is the answer. When we ask a Muslim (be he a Shia or Sunni) about any of their bad or hurting or objectionable believes, rituals or actions (dekho ji Islam tay aih nahin sikhanda, aih tay jahil logan da kam aih).

    And after listening that we used to cool down , thinking, yes, jahil people do like that, otherwise, sensible Muslims are never like them.

    OK. But when we came to know about disgraceful attitude of Pakistani nation for SIR ABDU SALAM who maintained his Pakistani nationality, inspite of the fact that many countries, including BRITAIN & ITALY, felt proud to offer him their nationality.

    Doesn’t it make you think that all the Muslims of Pakistani nation (with the exception of very few people)
    belong to that JAHIL class of Muslims, as there was no official protocol for even the dead body of that great scientist. Was there no REASONABLE MUSLIM in whole of the high officials of goverment to tell that the initial work to make this so called ONLY MUSLIM ATOMIC POWER IN THE WORLD was initiatd by this great man.
    They can, very easily jump like a frog to say we are the only MUSLIM ATOMIC POWER, but they don’t have the courage to honour the person who made them say so.

    [Yes, Afram, I fully agree with you, and in this regard I feel myself as much guilty as all other Pakistanis who accept the Mullah’s rhetoric and accept all that nonsense that is being told from the minarets of Sunni, Shia, Deobandi, Barelvi Mosques but not from a mosque or mosques which would be the non-committal, peaceful, undisputed, and neutral house/s of congregration for the Muslims of Pakistan or for that matter Muslim of any other nationality, but without the creed of any religious sect.

    In this regard, I would like to refer to an interview, the Pakistani journalist Munir Ahmad Munir had with late Sir Zafarullah Khan, one time foreign minister and a close associate of the Quaid-e- Azam. M.A.M. asked Zafarullah Khan how did the polarisation between different sects of Islam proliferate in this country and why was it, that instead of us being Pakistanis, we are now more divided on such sectrian lines that we do not accept the other sect as Muslim. So replied the former assciate of the Quaid. The fact is that the Quaid was such a fomidable leader that he could steer the nation towards a nationalist Pakistani concept, irrespective of one being a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Deobandi, Barelvi, Shia, Sunni etc. etc. and till he lived he would never allow such nonsense in our political make up and our political philosophy.

    But when th pigmies, the ninconpoops who took the reins of power after the Quaid, didn’t have the vision, the sagacity, and the will to lead the nation on the path set for them by the Quaid, so they were led away with the rehtoric of the Mullah and when the Mullah recognised his street power during the first martial law in the Punjab, when the first Anti-Ahmadi movement was launched by our clergy and the civilian govt had to invite the military to control the situation, fom that very day the Mullahs became cognizant of their street power. And the pigmies saw refuge in alligning themselves with the Mullahs and unfortunately in this respect a liberal, secular minded politician of the stature of late Z. A. Bhutto also sided with them when he agreed with the Mullahs’ version of deciding who is Muslim who is not].

    Mr Hashmi, now you can’t say, yeh jahil logon ka kam hai. Now almost the whole nation has proved itself to be A CLASS OFJAHIL MUSLIMS. People like DR Munir Ahmad Khan & others who have courage to respect SIR ABDUS SALAM by putting aside his religiou belief are like a drop in the ocean, and PAKISTAN will sink in the ocean of these JAHILS until and unless we corner this nonsense, this argument of Sunni, Shia, Christian, Hindu or Jew and start thinking about our PAKISTAN AS PAKISTANI, otherwise we will take care of carrying this LOTA & MISWAK & will be ruined like AFGHANISTAN. [Afram, I couldn’t agree with you more than what you have said. Unfortunate though, YET IS THE STARK TRUTH.

    This is the very dilemma that we are facing right now in our polity. We are neither proper Muslims, nor we are proper Pakistanis, but a very bad and a very ugly hotchpotch of religion and nationhood, something which Quaid so much despised. It was in this very context that a few years back I jotted down a piece on this subject. If you may wish to have a look on this, here is the link: https://wondersofpakistan.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/some-soul-searching-pakistani-nationalism-and-schooling/

  5. I have gone through your link, an excellent elaborative piece of research.
    But my point still needs to be answered.
    Pakistan is the only country after Saudi Arabia to call Ahmadis KAFIR officially.

    PAKISTANI MULLAS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THEKAYDARS OF ISLAM THAN THE UAE AND ALL OTHER MUSLIM STATES AROUND KHANA KAABA, AS NONE OF THEM HAVE STATED OFFICIALLY THAT AHMADIS ARE KAFIR.

    Quaide Azam must have kept in mind the hadees of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that there will be 72 FIRQAS of his followers and only one of them will be RIGHT. Today every firqa is fighting to prove itself to be the right one. Shia, Ahle-Sunnat, Wahabi & Deobandis, all have separate mosques. Actualy all of them are proving that QUAIDE AZAM must have been wrong for hedidn’t know for which firqa of Muslims he is building Pakistan.

    Quaide Azam actually built a TITANIC for Muslims of combined INDIA with the name of PAKISTAN.. First they put the label of KAFIR on Ahmadis. Next victim were the Shias and then Wahabis and Brelvis and so on. Exactly like TITANIC, 5 water tight compartments of this Pakistan having the name of SHIA, AHLE SUNNAH WAL JAMMAT, WAHABI, DEOBANDI & BRELVI are all broken and the ship is now destined to sink.

    BEGINNING OF THE END HAS BEGUN

    One part of this titanic has sunk in the ocean. It’s name was EAST PAKISTAN. And now these firqas are pushing the 2nd part under water.

    THERE IS ONLY ONE SOLUTION

    REPAIR THE BROKEN COMPARTMENTS OF THIS TITANIC

    We should knock off the business of these MULLAS.
    All religious parties should be banned whether related to terrorist activities or not.

    All Muslims should be allowed to offer only their prayers in mosques and all other activities be banned.

    This is possible only when we think ourselves only as Pakistanis first and then whatever we are, or we may claim to profess.

  6. Many genius Pakistanis would prefer to accept other nationalities, which Salam refused. I have given this solution to SAVE PAKISTAN & it is only possible when we think ourselves as a PAKISTANI and Pakistani alone.
    As long as we think as Muslims first, we will be doing things which are attributes of the JAHIL MUSLIMS & as aforementioned, almost all of us already have proved to be JAHIL MUSLIMS by not saying
    SALAM TO SALAM SAHAB.

  7. salam to the efforts of a great Pakistani scientist.

  8. totally nonsense comments!

  9. Mister! are you a Muslim??? If not, then for your info!To b a Muslim, you have to believe in oneness of Allah and secondly in prophet Mohammad S.A.W. as the LAST prophet of Allah! if u don’t believe any one of this, u r not a Muslim!!! if u don’t know Islam, don’t talk like that!!!

  10. Mr. Ahmad Hashmi, I think you are not Muslim becoz Muslims have tolerance and passion / accommodation for others’ point of views .. and plz also take care of your faith. Those who are telling right things, think about their point of view as well. I am half Spanish and half Pakistani ,,, I didn’t know Islam but my father loved Dr. Salam. He met him in Pakistan ,,,,, He is also a Pakistani,,,,,,,,,,,,,, But has a cool mind on Islam, so use your mind, be a tolerant understanding guy and things will go fine with you.

  11. […] 1. Salam Sahab, we have failed you 2. Dr. Abdus Salam: Beyond Physics […]

  12. […] 1. Salam Sahab, we have failed you 2. Dr. Abdus Salam: Beyond Physics […]

  13. Yes, Salam was an outstanding physicist, I agree. But I don’t know why, while we talk about Abdul Salam, do they drag his religion in the discussion. Everyone seems to be doing this while remembering him on his 85th birthday. As can be verified from the Wikipedia, he was holding key government positions before 1974, but when Qadianis were declared non-Muslims, he himself resigned in protest and left Pakistan! He was a devout Ahmedi, and he wasn’t expecting that this could ever happen. I don’t want to go negative, but i think people should know that he himself left this country on a religious issue, and he made himself controversial! Despite all this, when he visited Pakistan (in 1979), he was given president protocol, was bestowed highest civilian award and so on!

  14. He was a great hero of Pakistan. But he was never recognized in his life by Pakistan. Which is very unfortunate. However after his death he was recognized.
    May Allah give common sense to Pakistan top management.

  15. […] Dr. Abdus Salam: Beyond Physics […]

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