Sameen Ahmed Khan Receives Distinction from Optical Society of America

29 Jan 2017 logo 0 comments

By Dr. Azher Majid Siddiqui

Optics is the branch of Physics which involves the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it.  Light sciences have provided us numerous instruments such as telescopes to see far away objects and microscopes to see very tiny objects. Light sciences have also impacted our lives through medical imaging, telecommunications and internet.  Beam optics and light polarisation have stimulated research for centuries.  Their understanding and manipulation are the cornerstones of optical technology. 

The understanding of light optics requires a variety of mathematical techniques. Consequently, there are attempts to understand light optics using different mathematical machineries. Dr. Sameen Ahmed Khan has been singlehandedly working on a new formalism of beam optics using matrices and quantum technics. He is Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah.

In 2016 alone he published five papers describing different facets of his formalism.  Amidst strong international competition, two of Dr. Sameen’s papers have been chosen as one of the best this year by the influential magazine, Optics & Photonics News (OPN) published by The Optical Society (OSA was founded in 1916 as the Optical Society of America and renamed as Optical Society in 2008).  Each year OSA highlights worldwide breakthrough innovations in optics and photonics in its year end December issue of its OPN Magazine. The research is thereby featured in the special edition, Optics in 2016, which carries the summaries of the thirty selected breakthroughs. 

Along with outstanding research in mathematical optics, Dr. Sameen has a keen interest in science policy and outreach, which is reflected in his over two hundred writings on science popularisation.  During the United Nations designated 2015 International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, Dr. Sameen published over a dozen articles in English, Urdu and Arabic. His is the only book carrying the title of the international year. He is the Founding Member of the Ibn al Haytham LHiSA International Society (Light: History, Science and Applications, http://www.ibnalhaytham-lhisa.com/). He was also recognised as one of the 30 speakers at the conference held at the UNESCO Headquarters, (The Islamic Golden Age of Science for today’s Knowledge-based Society: The Ibn Al-Haytham Example, 14-15 September 2015, Paris, France).

[Dr. Azher Majid Siddiqui is Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, INDIA. azherms@gmail.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Visits to the Mosques in Japan

10 Sep 2017 logo 0 comments


Recently, I was in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, to participate in the 24th Congress of the International Commission for Optics held during 21-25 August 2017 (ICO-24, http://ico24.org/).  During the brief visit, I had the privilege to visit two Masajid (Mosques) in Tokyo.  This enabled me to interact with the Muslim Community comprising both locals and immigrants/visitors. Before reaching the Masajid, I relied on the website http://www.qiblaway.com/ to know the Quibla (direction of Ka’bah) to perform the Salaat (prayers).  Muslims constitute a very small minority in Japan.  In this article, I shall outline my experience in Japan along with some historical notes. 

The history of Islam in Japan is recorded in isolated documents. The oldest records mentioning Japan in this context are that of the celebrated Persian geographer Abu’l-Qasim Ubaydallah ibn Abdallah ibn Khordadbeh (820-912 CE).  He is also known as Ibn Khordadbeh and Ibn Khurradadhbih.  In the years 846/847, Ibn Khordadbeh wrote Kitāb al Masālik w’al Mamālik (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms).  This encyclopaedic work covers the vast geographic areas now including South Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Koreas and Japan. 

Leaping into the modern times, we note that the first Masjid (Mosque) was built in Japan in the city of Kobe (http://kobe-muslim-mosque.com/). The Kobe Mosque was built in 1935 with Indian, Tatar and Japanese financial support. In the year 1938, the capital Tokyo had its first Masjid, which is known as the Tokyo Camii or the Tokyo Mosque. This was the second Masjid of Japan and was built by Tatar migrants escaping the Russian revolution. The Tokyo Masjid was rebuilt by the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey in the year 2000. These two Masajid were the principle mosques in Japan till the 1970s. Now, there are over two hundred mosques across Japan (see http://www.masjid.jp/ and http://muslim-guide.jp/ for details).  The Muslim population in Japan is estimated to be about two hundred thousand. This is to be compared with the total population of Japan, which is 126 million. There are over a dozen meanings (translations) of the complete Holy Qur’ān in Japanese, dating from 1920. 

For my visit to the Masajid, I had to choose from over a dozen Masajid in Tokyo. The name of Daar Al-Arqam caught my attention due to its name and landmark significance in the early Makkan period (before the Hijrat/Migration of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam to Madinah).  It is to be recalled that the Dar Al-Arqam (House of Arqam) served as the centre as there was no Mosque in Makkah Mukarramah at that time. The Holy Prophet used to meet his Companions at Dar Al-Arqam and teach them the essential tenets of Islam.  The Companions used the Dal Al-Arqam to perform the prayers in secret fearing wrath of the non-believers in Makkah Mukarramah.

Coming back to Japan, the Daar Al-Arqam is located in the locality of Asakusa. Hence this Masjid is also known as the Asakusa Masjid/Mosque (http://www.icoj.org/) and is not far from the well-connected Asakusa Metro Station. It was founded in 1992 by the Islamic Circle of Japan.  Like most Japanese Masajid, Daar Al-Arqam is multi-storied with one floor exclusively for ladies. And as expected the Masjid had a good library. 

The second Masjid I visited was the Masjid Otsuka or the Otsuka Mosque (http://www.islam.or.jp/) run by the Japan Islamic Trust (JIT).  This Masjid is very close to the Otsuka Metro Station.  The JIT is vibrant with a variety of activities. The JIT runs an International Islamic School (http://www.iiso-edu.org/) covering Arabic and Islamic Studies along with the regular curriculum. Significantly JIT is doing Dawah activities and provides Muslim Certificate to reverts (converts). JIT holds regular classes in both the Arabic and Japanese languages. The latter is of immense help to the immigrants and visitors.  JIT also conducts Nikah and provides the Marriage Certificate.  JIT also provides Family Counselling to beginners and others.

JIT remarkably supervises the burial services at the Yawara Muslim Graveyard, which is about 53km from the Otsuka Masjid. This Muslim Graveyard has a capacity of about four hundred and fifty Muslim-style graves and was originally financed by the late King Fahed of Saudi Arabia. The Yawara Muslim Graveyard has an office and prayer room. The graves are available absolutely free of cost. But the costs of the digging, burial services and maintenance of graveyard have to be managed by the relatives and well-wishers of the deceased.  This is a onetime expense of about twelve hundred US$.  Many Masajid in Japan have arrangements for the ghusl (bathing) of the dead.

JIT is active in the Refugee Assistance Programmes, during the calamities and disasters in Japan and beyond! Otsuka Masjid has several social activities like arranging summer camps as an outdoor activity with family and kids during summer vacations. The Masjid enables the annual Eid-ul-Adha Qurbani (sacrifice).  It is remarkable that the Japan Islamic Trust and Masjid Otsuka are able to cover all the facets in the lives of Muslims. 

Masjid Otsuka is not alone in its endeavours.  There are several other Masajid doing similar services.  I missed visiting the other Masajid in Tokyo.  May be in the next visit, Insha Allah.  Those visiting the Masajid in such remote areas are requested to carry some gifts for them. The ideal possibilities are Zamzam, Literature, scarfs, abaya/burqua and prayer mats.  The costs of Hajj are enormous and the schedules are extremely busy.  So, very few end up performing this fifth pillar of Islam.  Such gifts of Zamzam and literature are heartily welcomed in such remote locations. May Allah Almighty help us to realise the importance of Masajid particularly in areas where Muslims are in minority, and make us its obedient servants, Ameen. 

[The writer teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. Email: rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017)

30 Jul 2017 logo 0 comments

By Sameen Ahmed Khan

Stanford Mathematics Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the first and to-date only female winner of the Fields Medal since its inception in 1936, died on 14 July 2017, after a four-year battle with cancer in the USA.  Mirzakhani was 40 years old. 

Prominent mathematicians worldwide reacted to her death in such words, “Maryam Mirzakhani’s death is a big loss and shock to the mathematical community worldwide. She was in the midst of doing fantastic work. Not only did she solve many problems, in solving problems, she developed tools that are now the bread and butter of people working in the field.” 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who had congratulated her in 2014, released a statement expressing his great grief and sorrow: “The unparalleled excellence of the creative scientist and humble person that echoed Iran’s name in scientific circles around the world,” he wrote, “was a turning point in introducing Iranian women and youth on their way to conquer the summits of pride and various international stages.” 

The Fields Medal is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians under 40 years of age at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), a meeting that takes place every four years. The Fields Medal was established in 1936.  Maryam Mirzakhani is the only woman among its 56 recipients. Mirzakhani won it in 2014 at the age of 37. It is the most prestigious award in mathematics, often equated in stature with the Nobel Prize. Mirzakhani specialised in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry. 

As a young girl, Maryam dreamed of becoming a writer. By high school, however, her affinity for solving mathematical problems and working on proofs shifted her sights. 

She attended an all-girls high school in Tehran. Mirzakhani first gained international recognition as a teenager, winning gold medals at International Math Olympiads held in Hong Kong (1994) and Toronto (1995).  In the Toronto Olympiad, she notched a perfect score and another gold medal. In February 1998, a bus bringing the mathematical elite of Tehran’s Sharif University back from a competition in the western city of Ahwaz skidded out of control and crashed into a ravine. Seven award-winning mathematicians and two drivers lost their lives in that crash. One of the survivors was Maryam Mirzakhani!

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Sharif University of Technology in 1999, she began work on her doctorate at Harvard University under the guidance of the 1998 Fields Medalist, Curtis McMullen. At Harvard, Mirzakhani was distinguished by her determination and relentless questioning, despite the language barrier. She peppered her professors with questions in English. She jotted her notes in Farsi.  She obtained PhD in 2004. From 2004 to 2008, Maryam was a Clay Mathematics Institute Research Fellow and an assistant Professor at Princeton University. Mirzakhani joined the faculty of Stanford University in 2008, where she served as a professor of mathematics until her death. 

Experts say that her achievements “combined superb problem-solving ability, ambitious mathematical vision and fluency in many disciplines, which is unusual in the modern era, when considerable specialisation is often required to reach the frontier”. Her honours include the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society. The Stanford University is scheduled to organise a memorial service and an academic symposium in her honour in the fall, when students and faculty have returned to campus.  Many other institutions are expected to do the similar functions.

[The writer teaches in Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences,

Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


King Faisal International Prizes for 2017

22 Jan 2017 logo 0 comments


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 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 toThe 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 Sira (i.e. Life of Prophet Mohammed, Peace be upon him), sponsorship and support of the Historic Atlas of the Prophet’s Sira and its implementation by King Abdulaziz Dara (Foundation for Research and Archives), and 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.  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, Arabisation 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 signalling 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 ground-breaking 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 recognised 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. 

[SAMEEN AHMED KHAN teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Our Multiplication Tables

30 Oct 2016 logo 0 comments


Arithmetic is the oldest and the most elementary branch of mathematics.  Its primary purpose is to study numbers and perform the four basic operations namely: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These operations are encountered in everyday life.  For example, one may collect fruits from a tree and put them together.  Addition helps us to keep the count of the fruits in the heap.  At the end of the day, one may give away the fruits from this heap, which will require the knowledge of subtraction to keep the account. Suppose we have many trees and many heaps.  Then keeping an account of the total fruits would involve big numbers. One can still manage with addition.

But the third arithmetic operation namely the multiplication takes care of the large numbers. Multiplication of whole numbers can be thought of as repeated addition. For illustration, let there be six heaps with eight fruits in each of them. Then there are  fruits. This can be seen either as counting ‘six heaps eight times’ or equivalently ‘eight sets six times’. Two approaches are possible because . Order does not matter in addition and multiplication.

These statements may appear to us as obvious but are of great mathematical value. This property of the order not mattering has a special name and we say that ‘addition is commutative’ and ‘multiplication is commutative’, respectively.  To visualise the division, let us consider a heap of 20 fruits, which has to be distributed among four persons. Symbolically, this task is stated as . Each person gets 5 fruits. After the distribution, one can get back the size of the original heap as . Hence, the division is sort of opposite of multiplication.  We note, that subtraction and division are not commutative.  This can be checked by considering the example with the numbers say, 2 and 5; as  and .  

Since, ancient times there have been attempts to obtain mastery of the four basic arithmetic operations. Addition and subtraction are relatively easy.  The multiplication is facilitated with the help of tables. Division is the most difficult and an expertise in multiplication is a must. The oldest known multiplication tables date back to four thousand years and were used by the Babylonians (in the modern day they include parts of Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Iran).  The Babylonian tables used base 60 (same as our clocks use for time, 1 hour = 60 minutes and each minute = 60 seconds). Such tables have been also found in other ancient civilizations from later periods.

In this article, we shall have a closer look at the modern day base 10 ‘multiplication table’ (also called the ‘times table’) and some of its many properties.  In our school books, we are introduced to a multiplication table. 


The figure has a  table.  We note some basic properties.  Multiplication with 1 does not change the number.  Multiplication with 10 only appends a zero in the end.  This is the advantage of using the base 10.  The diagonal distributes the table into two identical triangles having the same set of numbers, with the diagonal acting as a mirror.  The two triangles have the same set of numbers because the multiplication is commutative.  The diagonal has the perfect squares: 1, 4, 9, 16 and so on. This reduces the burden of memorising the multiplication table to a little more than the half.  One has to memorise either of the triangles and the diagonal only. 

Now, we note some advanced properties of the multiplication table. Numbers within the diagonal do not repeat. But numbers within each of the triangles repeat. For example, within each triangle, the numbers 6, 8, etc. repeat.  The numbers in the diagonal and the triangle also have an overlap. For example, 4, 9 etc. occur both in the diagonal and the triangles.

Because of these repetitions and overlaps, it becomes difficult to count the numbers in the multiplication table! The repetitions and the overlaps only increase with the size of the multiplication table, that too in an unpredictable manner.  Using these properties of the table, we note the sets of numbers in the multiplication tables of different sizes. The sets designated by  contain the numbers occurring in the multiplication table.  For completeness, we start with a table of size 1.  The first few sets are

Sets of larger size completely contain all the sets of lower size. The size or order of the sets denoted by  grows as 1, 3, 6, 9, 14, 18, 25, 30 and so on. More terms of this infinite sequence can be obtained from The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences at http://oeis.org/A027424.  It may surprise the reader, but there is no simple formula for the size or order of the sets.  Even the legendry mathematician Paul Erdős could provide only a rough estimate.

Some very complicated formulae have been obtained involving logarithms and other advanced functions. For practical purposes, a good estimate is given by the simple inequality . In mathematics, there are many such surprises.  Even easy to understand problems such as the ‘size of the multiplication sets’ defy solutions. It is such problems, which keep some of the brightest mathematicians engaged!

[HAJIRA KHAN is a student of Indian School Salalah; and SAMEEN AHMED KHAN teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Niyaz Ahmed Conferred Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Medical Sciences

9 Oct 2016 logo 1 comments

Prof. Niyaz Ahmed received the bouquet from the Director General of CSIR, Dr Girish Sahni (sent through local florist), immediately after the announcement of the Bhatnagar Awards on 26 Sep 2016


Professor Dr. Niyaz Ahmed has been conferred the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Medical Sciences.  A Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), Royal Society of Biology (UK) and the National Academy of Sciences India, as well as the founder Editor -in-Chief of Gut  Pathogens journal, Niyaz Ahmed is an internationally known medical microbiologist working at the University of Hyderabad, India.
The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology (SSB) is a science award given annually by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for notable and outstanding research, applied or fundamental, in biology, chemistry, environmental science, engineering, mathematics, medicine and Physics.  The purpose of the prize is to recognise outstanding Indian work. There is an age limit of forty years. It is the most coveted award in multidisciplinary science in India. The award is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. It was first awarded in 1958. Most commentators consider it to be the Nobel Prize of India.  
The 11 recipients in the seven disciplines are as follows:  Biological Sciences: Rishikesh Narayanan and Suvendra Nath Bhattacharyya; Chemical Sciences: Partha Sarthi Mukherjee; Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences; Sunil Kumar Singh; Engineering Sciences: Avinash Kumar Agarwal and Venkata Narayana Padmanabhan; Mathematical Sciences: Amlendu Krishna and Naveen Garg; Medical Sciences: Niyaz Ahmed; Physical Sciences: Subramaniam Anantha Ramakrishna and Dr Sudhir Kumar Vempati. The recipients were announced during the annual CSIR Foundation Day celebrated each year on 26 September, which is the birth anniversary of Dr Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, who was the Founder Director of CSIR.  
Dr Niyaz Ahmed was born in Paras Village of Akola District in Maharashtra to Late Mr Abdus Samad and Late Mrs Aqeela Parveen.  He is the grandson of the most respected figure of the village, Late Mr. Haji Basheeruddin. He has three brothers, all of whom are PhD holders namely Dr Aejaz Ahmed, Dr Irshad Ahmed and Dr Naushad Zubair. His primary education was completed in Government ZP Urdu Middle School, Paras and high schooling at Usman Azad High School and Junior College Akola.  He has graduated in veterinary medicine (BVSc & AH) in 1995 from Nagpur Vet College, PKV Akola and MS Biotechnology from NDRI Karnal and PhD in Molecular medicine (Manipal).  
He has joined Centre for DNA fingerprinting and Diagnostics Hyderabad in 1998 and served there for 10 years. In December 2008 he joined the University of Hyderabad as a member of the Faculty and presently serving as Chairman of the Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics. Ahmed is also affiliated with the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a Visiting Professor of Molecular Biosciences at the Institute of Biological Sciences. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of the Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, India. He has received several national and international awards including: National Bioscience Award 2011; Shyama Singh and Balamati Devi Award by the Indian Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Research, 2007; Academy Professor, Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, India April 2013; University of Hyderabad Chancellor’s Award 2015; Best Oration Award for Basic Research Nicosia, Cyprus, 2015.  
Through his productive and translational work, sustained commitment and dedication to public health microbiology in India, Ahmed made founding and pioneering contributions to the development of Molecular Epidemiology of bacterial pathogens. Ahmed made seminal contributions to host-pathogen epidemiology of bacterial pathogens such as TB bacilli and Helicobacters. He has also contributed to unravelling the population genetic structure and virulence mechanisms of major human pathogens. The research of Niyaz Ahmed is of applied nature and has already impacted human health.  
Very few Muslims have received in 58-year history of the Bhatnagar prize.  He is the first Muslim from the Vidarbha region to get the coveted honour. The ‘Science Family’ of Niyaz Ahmed numbering over 150 consists of his students, postdoctoral researchers and research collaborators distributed in prestigious positions across the world.  He is married to Waseema Niyaz and blessed with two daughters, Fareeha Firyal and Rumaisa Maryam; and a son, Suhayb Gazali.
[The writer teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

One response to “Niyaz Ahmed Conferred Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize in Medical Sciences”

  1. Kashif Zafar says:

    Congratulations! MashaAllah

    It is a big win for a Muslim. Muslims students should make tireless striving to excel in science and technology. This is the only way they can live with dignity in the modern times.

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Understanding the Israa and Miraaj

8 May 2016 logo 0 comments

SAMEEN AHMED KHAN dwells upon the two most important events in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) – the Israa (Night Journey) and Miraaj (Ascension) – in the light of the Qur’ān and ahadith, and warns the believers against committing bidah of celebrating it.

The life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was marked with many events. Two of the most remarkable events were the Israa (Night Journey) and Miraaj (Ascension).  Israa refers to how one night Allah Almighty took Prophet Muhammad from the Ka’bah (in Makkah Mukarramah) to Bait Al-Maqdis (the Sacred Mosque) in Jerusalem.  See the following Ayah (verse) from the Holy Qur’ān:
Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from the Inviolable House of Worship [at Makkah] to the Remote House of Worship [at Jerusalem] – the environs of which We had blessed – so that We might show him some of Our symbols: for, verily, He alone is all-hearing, all-seeing. [Surah Israa (Bani Israil), 17:1]  
The exact date of Israa and Miraaj are not known.  Even the exact year is not known.  Some sources place it in the first year, or the fifth year or the tenth year, or the twelfth year or the thirteenth year of the prophethood, with varying months and dates. Had the date been of any importance, it would have been prescribed in the Shari’ah or documented by the rightly guided Caliphs and the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all).  
The incident of the Prophet’s journey is very instructive. Before the Prophet took this night journey, the ceiling of the house in which he was staying was opened, and Jibreel (the Archangel Gabriel) descended. Jibreel cut open the chest of Prophet Muhammad and washed that open area with Zamzam water. Then he emptied something from a container into the chest of the Prophet to increase his wisdom as well as the strength of his belief. This was done to prepare the Messenger of Allah Almighty.  
Jibreel had brought with him a white animal, called “buraq”, one of the animals of the Jannat (Paradise). Buraq is slightly larger than a donkey and smaller than a mule. The buraq is a very fast animal; the length of the buraq’s stride is the farthest distance its eye can see.  Jibreel held the buraq by his ear and told the Prophet to mount it. The Prophet Muhammad and Jibreel rode the buraq to the Sacred Mosque in Jerusalem. Once there, the Prophet tethered the animal outside the mosque where earlier prophets had tied their mounts. Then the Prophet entered the mosque.  In the mosque he found the grand assembly of all the prophets from Adam to Isa (peace be to them all).  Jibreel asked Prophet Muhammad to lead the Salaat (prayer).  The Prophet Muhammad offered two Rakah of Salaat as Imam of all the messengers assembled there. Hence, he is also called as Imam-al-Ambiya.  
Jibreel brought two vessels to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), one filled with wine, the other with milk.  The Prophet chose the second vessel. Jibreel commented on the Prophet’s choice:
“You chose milk in accordance with the purity of your nature. Hence you have received guidance and your followers have too. Had you chosen wine, your followers would have been astray.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book #55 (Prophets), Hadith #607]  
The Prophet was then taken to the first level of heaven, which was the first stage of his Ascension.  Jibreel asked for the door to be opened for the Prophet, and there stood Adam the first man and prophet. Adam said, “Peace be to you,” to which the Prophet responded, “And to you be peace.”  Adam then testified that Muhammad was the Prophet of Allah. Adam looked to his right and smiled, and then looked to his left and wept. The Prophet saw two groups of people on either side of Adam, and the ones he smiled at were the believers, while the ones that caused him to weep were unbelievers.  
The Prophet was then escorted to the second level of heaven.  Jibreel asked for the door to be opened, and there the Prophet saw two cousins, the prophets Yahya bin Zakariya (John, son of Zechariah) and Isa bin Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary). The Prophet greeted them and they returned the greeting, and then they testified that Muhammad was Allah’s Prophet. On the third level of heaven, the Prophet met Yusuf (Joseph). After an exchange of greetings, Yusuf also testified that Muhammad was Allah’s Prophet. On the fourth level the Prophet met Idrees (Enoch). Both the prophets exchanged greetings, and Idrees testified that Muhammad was the Prophet of Allah. On the fifth level of heaven the Prophet met Haroon (Aaron), who, like all the previous prophets, exchanged greetings and testified that Muhammad was Allah’s Prophet.
On the sixth level of heaven the Prophet met Musa (Moses).  After greeting the Prophet and testifying that Muhammad was indeed a Prophet, Musa began to weep. When Musa was asked why he was weeping, he said:  “The reason for my tears is that a youth was commissioned as prophet after me, but his followers will enter heaven in greater numbers than mine.”  
On the seventh level of heaven, the Prophet met Ibraheem (Abraham) resting against Bait Al-Ma’mur, a celestial house of worship which seventy thousand different angels circumambulate every day. The Prophet Ibraheem returned the greeting of his descendant and testified that Muhammad was the Prophet of Allah.  At this point, the Prophet Muhammad was then led up to Sidrat Al-Muntaha, a tree of Paradise.  Its leaves were the size of an elephant’s ears, and its fruits the size of small pitchers. It was covered by golden moths, and no words can describe its beauty.  
The Prophet Muhammad was then brought before Allah the Almighty. Since no human eyes could take in the majesty of Allah, the Prophet could not actually look upon Allah, but he stood in close proximity to Him.  Allah informed the Prophet that it was now obligatory for his followers to perform Salaat fifty times a day.  The Prophet was then led away by Jibreel. Musa, however, halted the Prophet and asked him what Allah had commanded. “Fifty prayers a day,” the Prophet said.  Musa advised: “Your followers are not strong enough.  Go back to your Lord and ask Him to make it lighter.”  The Prophet looked at Jibreel who said, “You may do so if you so desire.”  
The Prophet returned to Allah and did as he had been advised. Allah reduced the obligatory number of prayers from fifty to ten. Again the Prophet was led away and once again Musa stopped him.  Upon hearing that the number had been reduced to ten, he advised the Prophet to ask for another reduction.  Allah reduced the number to five. When Musa learned of this, he again advised the Prophet to ask Allah to reduce the number.  Musa said: “The Children of Israel were asked to do less, but still they were unable to carry out their duties.” The Prophet did not intend to return another time. “I feel ashamed before my Lord,” he said.  A voice then announced:
“I have enforced My obligation and made it light for My servants. He who prays these five prayers will be rewarded as if he had prayed fifty. What I decree cannot be changed.”
During the Miraaj the Holy Prophet was shown certain signs of the heaven and hell.
The Prophet returned to Makkah before dawn, and the next morning he told the people about his miraculous journey and ascension to heaven. The Makkan pagans, of course, scoffed at his claim.  Some ran to Abu Bakr and told him, thinking that it would shake his faith in the Prophet.  Abu Bakr remarked: “If the Prophet said so it must be true.” Abu Bakr later justified his remark which is an inspiration to generations of Muslims till the Day of Judgment. Since he had believed the Prophet was indeed a prophet, one to whom an angel brought revelations from Allah, Lord of the worlds, why should he not also believe the Prophet’s account of his travel through space and time?  From that day onward, Abu Bakr was called ‘Siddeeq’ one who believes.
The pagan Makkans tried another idea.  They quizzed Prophet Muhammad in detail about the journey to the Sacred Mosque in Jerusalem. Allah revealed the looks of the mosque in Jerusalem and then the Prophet described everything in detail, and no one could fault his description. Additionally, the Prophet told the Makkans about a caravan traveling from Jerusalem to Makkah, mentioning the number of camels, their condition, and the time that they would arrive in Makkah. The caravan from Jerusalem appeared exactly when the Holy Prophet said it would, and everyone saw that his description was accurate. But the pagans remained fettered to their disbelief. The description of the Israa and the Miraaj was a test for both the believers and the nonbelievers.  
That same morning Jibreel descended and taught Prophet Muhammad how to perform the five daily Salaat. Following Jibreel’s visit, the Muslims began praying five times each day instead of praying morning and evening.  
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was given three things during the Miraaj [Sahih Muslim, Book #1 (Kitab Al-Iman, The Book of Faith), Hadith #329]:
1. Five daily Salaat (prayers) equal to the reward of fifty daily Salaat.  
2. Revelation of the last two Ayat (verses) of Surah Al Baqarah:
“The Apostle, and the believers with him, believe in what has been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer: they all believe in Allah, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, making no distinction between any of His apostles; and they say: We have heard, and we pay heed. Grant us Thy forgiveness, O our Sustainer, for with Thee is all journeys’ end! [Surah Baqara (The Cow), 2:285]  
“Allah does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear: in his favour shall be whatever good he does, and against him whatever evil he does.
“O our Sustainer! Take us not to task if we forget or unwittingly do wrong!  
“O our Sustainer! Lay not upon us a burden such as Thou didst lay upon those who lived before us! O our Sustainer! Make us not bear burdens which we have no strength to bear!  
“And efface Thou our sins, and grant us forgiveness, and bestow Thy mercy upon us! Thou art our Lord Supreme: succour us, then, against people who deny the truth!” [Surah Baqara, 2:286]  
3. Remission of serious sins for those among his Ummah who associate not anything with Allah.  
The first thing points to the significance of the daily five Salaat. The second thing has to do with the tenets of Iman (faith). In the third point, there is the Promise of Allah that the sins of the people from the ummah of Prophet Muhammad would be forgiven except those who died associating partners with Allah. It means that the believers will not suffer eternal punishment on account of their serious sins, but will instead be pardoned either through taubah (sincere repentance) and istighfaar (seeking the forgiveness of Allah), or after first being punished for their sins. The mushriks (those who assign partners to Allah) will suffer eternal punishment. The third point mentioned above has to do with tauheed (oneness of Allah) and Iman (faith), needs to be understood in precise detail.  The very basics of tauheed need to be understood, believed and importantly practised as prescribed in the Shari’ah. One may be forgiven or punished for the non-shirk sins; but the ones doing shirk there is the internal fire of hell.  
May Allah Guide us to do Salaat regularly and save us from the grave sins of shirk, Amen.  
We have seen a concise description of the Israa and Miraaj.  The Holy Prophet was shown certain signs of the heaven (jannah) and hell (jahannum), which can be read in the Hadith.  We have to overcome the misconceptions about the miracle of Israa and Miraaj.  First, the Israa and Miraaj was physical with body (not spiritual; and not in a dream). The other misconception has to do with seeing Allah Almighty. It is clearly evident from the Quran and Hadith that the Holy Prophet did not see Allah Almighty. We quote a few Hadith:
1. Narrated by Hazrat Aisha: Whoever claimed that (the Prophet) Muhammad saw his Lord, is committing a great fault, for he only saw Jibreel in his genuine shape in which he was created covering the whole horizon.
[Sahih Bukhari, Book #54 (Beginning of Creation), Hadith #457]  
2. Narrated Masruq: I said to ‘Aisha, “O Mother! Did Prophet Muhammad see his Lord?” Aisha said, “What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar:
a. “Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar.” Then Aisha recited the Ayat: ‘
No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision: for He alone is unfathomable, all-aware. [Surah Al-An’am (The Cattle), 6:103]  
And it is not given to mortal man that Allah should speak unto him otherwise than through sudden inspiration, or [by a voice, as it were,] from behind a veil, or by sending an apostle to reveal, by His leave, whatever He wills [to reveal]: for, verily, He is exalted, wise. [Surah Al-Shura (The Consultation), 42:51]  
b. Aisha further said, “And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar.”  She then recited:
Verily, with Allah alone rests the knowledge of when the Last Hour will come: and He [it is who] sends down rain; and He [alone] knows what is in the wombs: whereas no one knows what he will reap tomorrow, and no one knows in what land he will die, Verily. Allah [alone] is all-knowing, all-aware. [Surah Luqman (The Wise), 31:34]  
She added: “And whoever tells you that he concealed (some of Allah’s orders), is a liar.” Then she recited:
O Apostle! Announce all that has been bestowed from on high upon thee by thy Sustainer: for unless thou doest it fully, thou wilt not have delivered His message [at all]. And Allah will protect thee from [unbelieving] men: behold, Allah does not guide people who refuse to acknowledge the truth. [Surah Al-Ma’idah (The Table Spread), 5:67]  
c. Aisha added. “But the Prophet saw Jibreel in his true form twice.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book #60 (Prophetic Commentary on the Quran), Hadith #378]  
3. It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr: I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be to him): Did you see thy Lord? He said: He is a Light; how could I see Him? [Sahih Muslim, Book #1 (The Book of Faith or Kitab Al-Iman), Hadith #0341]  
In the light of the above Ayat and Hadith, we have to be conscious that the Holy Prophet did not see Allah, did not have the knowledge of the unseen and did not hide the revelation of Allah. These are the worst accusations against our beloved Prophet.  
The Ayat 7-18 in the Surah Najm (The Star) are also related to the Miraaj:
4. (7) appearing in the horizon’s loftiest part, (8) and then drew near, and came close, (9) until he was but two bow-lengths away, or even nearer. (10) And thus did [Allah] reveal unto His servant whatever He deemed right to reveal. (11) The [servant’s] heart did not give the lie to what he saw: (12) will you, then, contend with him as to what he saw? (13) And, indeed, he saw him a second time (14) by the lote-tree of the farthest limit, (15) near unto the garden of promise. (16) with the lote-tree veiled in a veil of nameless splendour. (17) [And withal,] the eye did not waver, nor yet did it stray: (18) truly did he see some of the most profound of his Sustainer’s symbols. [Surah Najm (The Star), 53:7-18]  
Narrated Masruq: I asked Aisha What about His Statement: “Then he (Jibreel) approached And came closer, And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer?” (Ayat 53:8-9)  She replied, “It was Jibreel who used to come to the Prophet in the figure of a man, but on that occasion, he came in his actual and real figure and (he was so huge) that he covered the whole horizon.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book #54 (Beginning of Creation), Hadith #458]  
In the above Ayat and the supporting Hadith it is evident that the Holy Prophet saw Jibreel and not Allah Almighty.  
There is no authentic date of Israa and Miraaj. Even if the date is proven, it is not permissible to celebrate it in any form. The reason is simple and straightforward: the Prophet and his Sahabah (companions) did not celebrate it.  If celebrating it was something that is prescribed in the religion of Islam, the Prophet would have told his ummah about that, either in word or in deed.  If any such thing had happened, it would have been well known, and his companions would have transmitted the information to us. They narrated from their Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) everything that his ummah needs to know, and they did not neglect any aspect of the religion, rather they were the first ones to do anything good. If celebrating this night had been prescribed in Islam, they would have been the first people to do so. The Prophet was the most sincere of people, and he conveyed the message to the people in full, and he fulfilled the trust. If venerating and celebrating this night were part of the religion of Allah, then the Prophet would have done that and would not have concealed it.  Since no such thing happened, it is known that celebrating it and venerating it is not part of Islam at all. Allah has perfected this ummah’s religion for it and has completed His favour upon them, and He condemns those who introduce things into the religion which Allah has not ordained.  Allah says in the Holy Quran:  
1. Today have I perfected your religious law for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that self-surrender unto Me shall be your religion. [portion of Surah Al-Ma’idah (The Repast or The Table Spread), 5:3]  
2. Is it that they [who care for no more than this world] believe in forces supposed to have a share in Allah’s divinity, which enjoin upon them as a moral law something that Allah has never allowed? Now were it not for [Allah’s] decree on the final judgment, all would indeed have been decided between them [in this world]: but, verily, grievous suffering awaits the evildoers [in the life to come].  [Surah Al-Shura (The Consultation), 42:21]  
In the saheeh ahaadeeth it is proven that the Messenger of Allah warned against bidah (innovation) and stated clearly that it is misguidance, so as to show the ummah how serious the matter is and put them off it.  
3. Jabir b. Abdullah said: When Allah’s Messenger delivered the sermon he would say: “The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is going astray.” [Sahih Muslim, Book #004 (Kitab Al-Salat or The Book of Prayers), Hadith #1885]
“And every going astray will be in the Fire.” [Al-Nasaa’i]  
4. Narrated Abdullah: the Prophet said, “I am your predecessor at the Lake-Fount (Kauthar) and some men amongst you will be brought to me, and when I will try to hand them some water, they will be pulled away from me by force whereupon I will say, ‘O Lord, my companions!’ then the Almighty will say, ‘You do not know what they did after you left, they introduced new things into the religion after you.’ [Sahih Bukhari, Book #88 (Afflictions and the End of the World), Hadith #173]  
We all should avoid and condemn such innovations called Shab-e-Miraaj (The Night of Journey with the assigned date 27 Rajab) and Shab-e-Baraat (practised on 15 Shabaan), as innovations would deprive one from the pond of Kauthar. The Prophet and his Sahabah, the Rightly Guided Caliphs; and Tabi’un (generation which saw the Sahabah and not the Prophet); Tabi’ al-Tabi’in (generation which saw the Tabi’un but not the Sahabah), may Allah’s blessings be to them all, never did any special prayers or rituals or any kind of such celebrations.  
We ask Allah to help us all to understand His religion and adhere to it, to bless us all by making us follow the Sunnah, and to protect us from bidah, for He is the Most Kind and Generous.  May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad, and his family and companions.
[SAMEEN AHMED KHAN <rohelakhan@yahoo.com> teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman.]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Better Health with Honey

3 Apr 2016 logo 0 comments


The living things are classified into plant kingdom and the animal kingdom (including birds, fishes, etc.) respectively. There are some microorganisms, which do not fit precisely into the either. About 20 fruits and fruit bearing plants have been identified in the Holy Qur’ān.  The 20 plants mentioned in the Holy Qur’ān include: date palm, fig, ginger, grape, garlic, henna/camphor, lentil, manna, olive, onion, pomegranate, summer squash, sweet basil, athel tamarisk, tooth-brush tree, arak, mustard, acacia, cucumber, gourd, leek, cedrus (cedar or Lote-tree) and Euphorbia.  The Bitter Thorn and Blessed Tree are yet to be identified. The Bitter Thorn is the tree in the Jahannum (hell) and is mentioned in Surah Al-Ghashiyah (88, meaning The Overwhelming Event): 6-7.  The Blessed Tree is mentioned in Surah Al-Ra`d (13, meaning The Thunder): 29.  

The Qur’ānic botany continues to be an active area of research.  Likewise, over 40 animals and a dozen animal products (such as milk, wool, honey, leather, pearl, silk, musk, etc.) are mentioned in the Holy Qur’ān.  In this article, we shall focus on the honeybee and the honey.  The honey bee and honey are mentioned in the following Ayaat (English Meaning by Muhammad Asad from http://www.IslamiCity.com/)  

1.    And [consider how] thy Sustainer has inspired the bee: “Prepare for thyself dwellings in mountains and in trees, and in what [men] may build [for thee by way of hives]; and then eat of all manner of fruit, and follow humbly the paths ordained for thee by thy Sustainer.” [And lo!] there issues from within these [bees] a fluid of many hues, wherein there is health for man. In all this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who think! [Surah Al-Nahl, 16:68-69]
2.    [And can] the parable of the paradise which the Allah-conscious are promised – [a paradise] wherein there are rivers of water which time does not corrupt, and rivers of milk the taste whereof never alters, and rivers of wine delightful to those who drink it, and rivers of honey of all impurity cleansed, and the enjoyment of all the fruits [of their good deeds] and of forgiveness from their Sustainer – can this [parable of paradise] be likened unto [the parable of the recompense of] such as are to abide in the fire and be given waters of burning despair to drink, so that it will tear their bowels asunder? [Surah Muhammad, 47:15]  

Biologically bees belong to the class of insects. There are about six to ten million types of insects. Very few insects have been studied in detail. Millions are yet to be named! There are over 20,000 known species of bees. Bees are found in all continents except Antarctica! They are identified by their wing veins, structure of the moth parts and other micro-features related to behavioural peculiarities. A honey bee (or honeybee), in contrast with the stingless honey bee, is any bee member of the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax.

Currently, only 11 species of honey bee are recognised, with a total of 44 subspecies. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees. The study of bees is known as melittology. The study of honeybees is called Apiology/Apidology and this term is often used interchangeably with melittology.  
Honey is a sweet food made by honey bees foraging nectar from flowers. Honey is as old as history is itself. The Romans used honey to heal their wounds after battles. The ancient Egyptians not only made offerings of honey to their gods, they also used it as an embalming fluid and a dressing for wounds. Honey use and production has a long and varied history. Honey collection from the wild bees is a widely practised ancient activity, and there are records that are over 15,000 years old.

Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans.  A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees in order to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (such as: beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly). Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. Domestication of honeybees is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. Now bee farming is an established science and widely practised because of the economic returns.  

The possible health benefits of consuming honey have been documented in early Greek, Roman, Vedic, and Islamic texts and the healing qualities of honey were referred to by philosophers and scientists all the way back to ancient times. Because of its rich chemical content the honey has been used in all civilizations since ancient times.
Honey contains a treasure chest of hidden nutritional and medicinal value for centuries.  Hence, it is also called as liquid gold. The sweet golden liquid from the beehive is a popular kitchen staple loaded with antibacterial and antifungal properties that has been used since the early days of Egyptian tombs. Honey’s scientific super powers contribute to its vastly touted health benefits for the whole body. The healthy natural sweetener offers many nutritional benefits depending on its variety.  

Honey Nutritive Value per Cup (339 grams)
Principle    Nutrient Value    Percentage of RDA
Energy    1031    52%
Water    58 g    
Carbohydrates    279 g    93%
Protein    1 g    2%
Total Fat    0    0
Cholesterol    0    0
Dietary Fibre    0.7 g    3%
Sugars    278g    
Ash    0.7g    
Vitamin A     0.0 IU    0%
Vitamin C    1.7 mg    3%
Vitamin D    –    –
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)    0.0 µg    0%
Vitamin K    0.0 µg    0%
Thiamin    0.0 mg    0%
Riboflavin    0.1 mg    8%
Niacin    0.4 mg    2%
Vitamin B6    0.1 mg    4%
Folate    6.8 µg    2%
Vitamin B12    0.0 µg    0%
Pantothenic Acid    0.2 mg    2%
Choline    7.5 mg    
Betaine    5.8 mg    
Sodium    13.6 mg    1%
Potassium    176 mg    5%
Calcium    20.3 mg    2%
Copper    0.1 mg    6%
Iron    1.4mg    8%
Magnesium    6.8 mg    2%
Manganese    0.3mg    14%
Phosphorus    13.6 mg    1%
Zinc    0.7 mg    5%
Selenium    2.7 µg    4%
Fluoride    23.7 µg    –
RDA: Reference Daily Intake or Recommended Daily Intake, which is considered sufficient to meet the dietary requirements of most individuals.  

Honey offers incredible antiseptic, antioxidant and immune boosting properties for our body and health. It not only fights infection and helps tissue healing but also helps reduce inflammation and is often used for treating digestive problems such as indigestion, stomach ulcers and gastroenteritis.  

The individual behaviour and organisational behaviour of several insects has drawn the human attention since ancient times. The colonies of ants and bees are prime examples of strong social behaviour among the insects. The 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen ‘for their discoveries concerning organisation and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns’ in insects.  Karl Ritter von Frisch’s work centred on investigations of the sensory perceptions of the honey bee and he was one of the first to translate the meaning of the waggle dance.  Waggle dance is a term used in beekeeping for a particular figure-eight dance of the honey bee.  By performing this dance, successful foragers can share, with other members of the colony, information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new nest-site locations.
Researchers from around the world are discovering new and exciting medical benefits of honey and other healing items produced in the hive such as propolis, royal jelly and bee pollen.  As stated in the Hadīth, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: (The Prophet said), “Healing is in three things: A gulp of Honey, cupping, and branding with fire (cauterising).” But I forbid my followers to use (cauterisation) branding with fire.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book #71, Hadith #584].  Nutritious, health, medical and industrial value of the honey is not fully recognised. The researchers all over the world are searching and investigating in the matter.
[HAJIRA KHAN studies at Indian School Salalah, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman & SAMEEN AHMED KHAN teaches at Department of Mathematics and Sciences, College of Arts and Applied Sciences (CAAS), Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman, rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Sameen Ahmed Khan

The writer teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. rohelakhan@yahoo.com


Introspecting on the International Year of Light

3 Apr 2016 logo 0 comments


The international years are year-long observances to observe certain issues of international interest. Many of these years have been established by the United Nations General Assembly (UN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).  The first year was the World Refugee Year (1959) in the context of the refugees and migration after the World War II.  
The science related years include: the International Health and Medical Research Year (1960); the International Year of Physics (2005); the International Year of Astronomy (2009); the International Year of Chemistry (2011); the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All (2012).  It is interesting to note that there is yet be an International Year of Mathematics! Year 2014 was the International Year of Crystallography. Year 2016 is the International Year of Pulses.
The mechanism of vision and the nature of the accompanying light have fascinated the human race since ancient times, and continue to this day. Light-based technologies have revolutionised medicine and opened up international communication via the Internet, and will continue to underpin the future development of human society. When harnessed, the light-based technologies can promote sustainable development and provide solutions for global challenges in energy, education, agriculture, health and well-being. Hence, in December 2013, the United Nations proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL2015).  
Reflecting back, it is interesting to note that the first draft (dated 26 September 2012) prepared by the UNESCO Executive Board (for submission to the United Nations for proclaiming 2015 as the International Year of Light) did not have Ibn al-Haytham in it.  This first draft stated:
The year 2015 commemorates a remarkable series of important milestones in the history of the science of light dating back 200, 150, 100 and 50 years. In 1815, Fresnel in France introduced the theory of light as a wave; in 1865, Maxwell in England described the electromagnetic theory of light; in 1915, Einstein in Germany developed General Relativity which confirmed the centrality of light in both space and time; and in 1965, Penzias and Wilson in the United States discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background, an echo of the creation of the universe. Celebrating the scope of these milestones in 2015 will provide a tremendous opportunity for educational activities worldwide.  
Ziad Aldrees, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO, was instrumental in getting Ibn al-Haytham on board.  Aldrees mentioned his efforts in this direction during the inaugural session of the UNESCO September-2015 event on Ibn al-Haytham. The later drafts had the reference to the year 1015 marking the millennial anniversary of Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics, the seven volume encyclopaedia by Ibn al-Haytham). The IYL2015 provided good coverage to Ibn al-Haytham and Medieval Arab contributions to Optics.  An event highlighting ancient Arab works was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. IYL2015 would have been an ideal occasion to recognise Abu Said al-Ala Ibn Sahl (940-1000) working in the Abassid court in Baghdad, as the originator of the law of refraction of light.  He was the mentor of Ibn al-Haytham and had described the law of refraction of light in great detail in his book On the Burning Instruments (Kitāb al-Parraqāt) written in 984.  
In proclaiming an International Year focusing on the topic of light science and its applications, the UN has recognised the importance of raising global awareness about how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions for global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health. Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century.
The Opening Ceremony of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies was held during 19-20 January 2015 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. The IYL2015 was officially closed with a three-day Closing Ceremony during 4-6 February 2016, in Mérida, Mexico. Both the ceremonial events had speakers and attendees comprising international diplomats and decision-makers, Nobel laureates, CEOs, and science and industry leaders from across the globe. The outreach programmes initiated during the IYL2015 will continue for many years to come.  
The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies has been a tremendously global initiative with thousands of events reaching millions of people in almost hundred countries.  United by the interdisciplinary theme of light, IYL2015 brought a diverse range of participants in concert with UNESCO, all committed to raising awareness of how light science and technology provide solutions to the many challenges facing the world today. But the IYL2015 had only 94 National Nodes (see Table-1), which organised local campaigns, activities and events. It is to be noted that UNESCO has 195 Member States (see Table-1) and 10 Associate Members (Anguilla; Aruba; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Curaçao; Faroes; Macao, China; Montserrat; Sint Maarten; and Tokelau). None of the ten Associate Member States participated in the IYL2015.
 The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was founded in 1969 and has 57 member states (see Table-2) comprising a Muslim population of over 1.5 billion.  Only 19 of the 57 OIC countries registered as the IYL2015 National Nodes. From the six oil rich Arab States constituting the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, founded in 1981), only four participated in the IYL2015: Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates; the remaining two Bahrain and Kuwait did not.  
From the two Tables it is evident that more than half the countries did not participate in the IYL2015. These countries who missed the IYL2015 account for about three-quarters of the world population of over seven billion. It is to be noted that 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and are consequently using traditional means for light. The absence of the numerous populous countries, points the limitations of the optics community and scientific community at large. Light science is one of the most accessible themes to promote cross-disciplinary education.
IYL2015 was endorsed by the International Council of Science and a number of other international scientific unions. But even that did not induce a wider participation from the developing countries from Africa, Asia and South America. Many of the 94 enlisted countries did not participate actively. This is evident by the small number of programmes registered by the national nodes in the calendar at the IYL2015 website. It also points to the weakness of the learned societies and government organisations, which have failed to work together. Even the central theme of light, without which the civilization could not exist, has failed to operate on a larger scale. It is time for the founding fathers of the IYL2015 and the numerous organisers to reflect on this state of affairs. This aspect of inadequate participation needs to be examined by the organisers of the upcoming international years and other vehicles of outreach programmes.  IYL2015 would have been an excellent opportunity to promote national and international collaborations to address the problems faced by the Muslim countries and the developing countries in general.  If they could not come together on a consensus theme of light and vision, will these nations come together for delicate and sensitive issues?  


Table-1: UNESCO Member States
    Participated in IYL2015    Did Not Participate in IYL2015
A    Algeria; Andorra; Argentina; Armenia; Australia; Austria    Afghanistan; Albania; Angola; Antigua and Barbuda; Azerbaijan
B    Bangladesh; Belgium; Bolivia; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Brazil; Bulgaria    Bahamas; Bahrain; Barbados; Belarus; Belize; Benin; Bhutan; Botswana; Brunei Darussalam Burkina Faso; Burundi
C    Cameroon; Canada; Chile; China, Hong-Kong; China, Taipei; Colombia; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Cyprus; Czech Republic    Cabo Verde; Cambodia; Central African Republic; Chad; Comoros; Congo; Cook Islands; Côte d’Ivoire
D    Denmark; Dominican Republic    Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Dominica
E    Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia    Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia
F    Fiji; Finland; France    
G    Germany; Ghana; Greece    Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana
H    Honduras; Hungary    Haiti
I    Iceland; India; Indonesia; Iran; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy    
J    Japan    Jamaica; Jordon
K        Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kiribati; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan
L    Latvia; Liberia; Lithuania    Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Luxembourg
M    Malaysia; Mauritius; Mexico; Mongolia; Morocco    Madagascar; Malawi; Maldives; Mali; Malta; Marshall Islands; Mauritania; Micronesia (Federated States of); Monaco; Montenegro; Mozambique; Myanmar
N    Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nigeria; Norway    Namibia; Nauru; Nicaragua; Niger; Niue
O    Oman    
P    Pakistan; Panama; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico    Palau; Palestine; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay
Q    Qatar    
R    Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Romania; Russia    Republic of Moldova; Rwanda
S    Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; Spain; Sudan; Sweden; Switzerland    Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; San Marino; Sao Tome and Principe; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Sudan; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Suriname; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic
T    Thailand; Tonga; Tunisia; Turkey    Tajikistan; The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Timor-Leste; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Turkmenistan; Tuvalu
U    United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States of America; Uruguay    Uganda; Ukraine; United Republic of Tanzania; Uzbekistan
V    Venezuela; Vietnam    Vanuatu
Y        Yemen
Z        Zambia; Zimbabwe


Table-2: Organization of Islamic Cooperation Countries
    Participated in IYL2015    Did Not Participate in IYL2015
A    Algeria    Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan
B    Bangladesh    Bahrain, Benin, Brunei, Burkina Faso
C    Cameroon,     Comoros, Chad
D        Djibouti
E    Egypt    
G        Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Guyana
I    Indonesia, Iran, Iraq    Ivory Coast
J        Jordan
K        Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan
L        Lebanon, Libya
M    Malaysia, Morocco    Maldives, Mali,  Mauritania, Mozambique
N        Niger, Nigeria
O    Oman    
P    Pakistan    Palestine
Q    Qatar    
S    Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan    Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Syria
T    Tunisia, Turkey    Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan
U    United Arab Emirates    Uganda, Uzbekistan
Y        Yemen

 [DR. SAMEEN AHMED KHAN is Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics and
 Sciences College of Arts and Applied Sciences (CAAS), Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman; rohelakhan@yahoo.com]

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Second National Urdu Science Congress 2016 Held at Aligarh

6 Mar 2016 logo 0 comments


The Second National Urdu Science Congress was held under the aegis of Anjuman Farogh-e-Science (ANFROS), Aligarh Chapter at Aligarh during 20-21 February.  The inaugural session was presided over by Lt. General (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah, Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

This landmark event was graced by eminent personalities including: Dr. Iqtedar Hussain Farooqui (former Director of National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow), Dr. Mohammad Aslam Pervaiz (Vice Chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad), Padam Shri Hakeem Syed Zillur Rehman (Founder; Ibn Sina Academy, Aligarh) and over 50 delegates from all across the nation.  The Congress successfully attracted scientists; renowned scholars of Arabic, Urdu and Persian languages; educators; writers; poets; historians; heads of institutions; science reporters and Islamic scholars. Professor Abdul Moiz Shams, a renowned ophthalmologist, served as the Convener of the Conference and Asad Faisal Farooqui as the Secretary.  

In present times science and technology have a crucial place in our lives. A possible way to achieve its awareness is by delivering the relevant scientific content in a simplified manner in their native language.  

Urdu is one of the languages, which is spoken by millions of people across India and abroad.  It is extremely essential that awareness of science be made in Urdu. Absence of scientific literature in Urdu is felt with severity. Doing this may be challenging but equally important. This task is not that difficult as in the recent past Urdu was the medium of scientific instruction and enquiry. We need to revive the rich heritage of Urdu in the context of scientific disciplines. A prime example in this direction is the Anjuman Farogh-e-Science (Organisation for Science Promotion, Delhi), a registered non-governmental organisation (NGO), established in 1992.  The NGO works towards the promotion of sustainable development. Since 1994, it has been regularly publishing a popular science monthly magazine, Urdu Science, the only popular Science and Environment monthly published in the country. The Anjuman has also held science popularisation conferences in Urdu. It organises an award giving function, recognising school students with highest scores in science subjects. Credit for all this goes to Dr. Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz, former Principal Zakir Husain Delhi College, and now VC MANUU.

It is to be recalled that Dr. Parvaiz created NUSC last year. The very First National Urdu Science Congress was organised during 20-21 March 2015. One of the recommendations of this landmark event was to hold the Congress every year by rotation in different cities. Following the grand success and the recommendations of the first one, the Second Congress was held during 20-21 February 2016 at Aligarh.

 The Conference covered topics like Qur’ān, Islam and Science; Scientific Literature in Urdu for Children; Urdu, Technology and Modern Means of Communication (necessity of Modern Times); Religious Institutions and Science; Scientific Literature in Urdu (Past, Present and Future); Scientific Disciplines in Schools (need of the hour); Scientific Terms and Translations in Urdu; and Inheritance of Science among Muslims.

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