MANUU Hosts Third National Urdu Science Congress

5 Mar 2017 logo 0 comments


The Third National Urdu Science Congress was held at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad on February 16 and 17, 2017. The conference successfully attracted scientists; renowned scholars of Arabic, Urdu and Persian languages; educators; writers; poets; historians; heads of institutions; science reporters and Islamic scholars. 

The Inaugural Session of this congress was held at the auditorium of Distance Education Centre of MANUU and was presided over by the Vice-Chancellor, MANUU, Dr. Aslam Parvez. The Chief Guest of this event was Prof. S. Ramchandran, Vice-Chancellor, Osmania University, Hyderabad. The Guests of Honour for this event were Prof. Shamsul Islam Farooqui, Ex-Principal Scientist, Indian Agricultural Research Institute and Prof. Iqtidar Hussain Farooqui, Former Deputy Director, Department of Plant Chemistry, National Botanical Research Institute. He is well-known for his books including, Plants of the Qur’ān and Medicinal Plants in the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Sidrah Publishers, Lucknow, India).  The conference had a very rich programme including keynote talks by renowned speakers and oral presentations.

Technology and science are interdependent as one leads to the other. Science impacts technology and technology is required for exploring nature leading to new science. Both science and technology are crucial for the social well-being and sustainable economic development in developing countries. It is essential that the public needs to be aware of scientific and technological advances. Hence, it is essential that the relevant information be provided for the general public in as many languages as possible. 

In order to be at par with developed nations, it is essential that the public be made aware of the importance of science.  A possible way to achieve this awareness is by delivering the relevant scientific content in a simplified manner in their native language. This commendable effort is due to Dr. Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz, who is the Vice Chancellor Maulana Azad National Urdu University. Dr. Parvaiz was the former Principal Zakir Husain College, Delhi.

For the past 50 years, Urdu has been categorically stated and considered a language of Culture, Religion and Entertainment. But the number of students receiving education in Urdu has been declining ever since. A few years later, it is being considered that Urdu does not have that capability to enrich itself with Science and Technology as other languages have. Let us recall the example of Osmania University, Hyderabad (established in 1918). It is the first university to have Urdu as the medium of instruction. For instance, its medical programme was in Urdu and its medical graduates went to the UK for higher studies. They fared well in the UK, pointing to the fact that they had expertise both in the sciences taught in Urdu along with English required for higher education in the UK.

Approximately 75 years later, MANUU initiated its process of dispensing knowledge in Urdu. Through this effort, the University has a plan to dispense the Basic Scientific Knowledge with Urdu as the medium of instruction. This plan was put forward by first establishing a Centre by the name Centre for Promotion of Knowledge in Urdu whose Consultant is Dr. Khaja Syed Moizuddin. The Centre started its activities by organising the III National Urdu Science Congress at its campus. This was a 2-day Congress which covered the topics: Development of Scientific Awareness and Knowledge, Status of Science Education is Madrasas, Sciences in School – Syllabi and Education, Dispensing of Knowledge – Challenges and Future, Latest Technology and Urdu, and Qur’ān and Science.

It is to be recalled, that Dr. Parvaiz created the National Urdu Science Congress last year.  The very First National Urdu Science Congress was organised by the Anjuman Farogh-e-Science, at Zakir Husain College, Delhi, India on 20-21 March 2015. One of the recommendations of this landmark event was to hold the Urdu Science Congress every year by rotation in different cities.  Following the grand success and the recommendations of the first one, the Second Urdu Science Congress was held on 20-21 February 2016 in Aligarh, which is home to the renowned Aligarh Muslim University. Over 70 delegates had come from various parts of the country. Approximately 60 papers were presented.

[The writer teaches Physics at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India. azherms@yahoo.com]

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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


The Islamic Golden Age of Science for Today’s Knowledge-based Society The Ibn Al-Haytham Example

27 Sep 2015 logo 0 comments

Sameen Ahmed Khan (L) with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova


There have been numerous conferences on the themes related to the Islamic Golden Age of Science, during the 8th-13th centuries. But the event reported here is the ‘event of events’ and we need to briefly note the background leading to it. The United Nations declared 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL-2015), with the intention to stimulate worldwide interest in light-related sciences and technologies. The year 2015 marks numerous anniversaries from the field of optics. The oldest among these is the 1000th anniversary since the appearance of the encyclopaedic treatise on optics (Kitab al-Manazir or the Book of Optics) by the Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040).  

Sameen Ahmed Khan (L) with Science Historian Roshdi Rashed

Ibn al-Haytham became a central figure in the documents, which were submitted to UNESCO and eventually leading to the declaration of the International Year of Light by the United Nations in December 2013. The International Steering Committee of IYL-2015 launched an International Working Group (IWG) “Ibn al Haytham” to highlight the contributions of Arab scholars in the Islamic golden age to optics; in particular the work of Ibn al-Haytham. Prof. Azzedine Boudrioua, a leading optical scientist is the Chair and Coordinator of the Ibn Al-Haytham Working Group. Prof. Roshdi Rashed the world renowned mathematician, science historian and the 2007 King Faisal International Prize Laureate is the Honorary Chair.  

As part of the IYL-2015, UNESCO hosted an international conference from 14-15 September 2015 at its headquarters (in Paris, France) focusing on the accomplishments of the Islamic civilization in its Golden Age and the life and works of Ibn al-Haytham. The event had a very high profile inauguration.  Dignitaries in the inaugural session included their Excellencies: Irina Bokova (Director-General of UNESCO); John Dudley (President of the Steering Committee of the IYL-2015); Mohamed Amr (Ambassador, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO); Ziad Aldrees (Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO); Sheikh Faisal bin Qasim Al-Thani (Founder and Chairman of the Al Faisal Without Borders Foundation, http://www.AlFaisalFoundation.org/).  

Putting the conference in perspective, Irina Bokova stated, “Today, at this time of great change, when ignorance and violent extremism are rife, it is essential we do everything to teach the common history of humanity, to share the histories of women and men who did so much in the past to impact on the world as we know it today. Ibn Al-Haytham stands out in this pantheon as a great scientist and humanist.”

John Dudley noted, “Studying the history of science and the lives and works and ideas of its pioneers such as Ibn al-Haytham can yield many important lessons, and provide inspiration for the future.”  
Rest of the event had about 30 presentations distributed in eight sessions as follows:
1. Session-1: History guiding the future, example of Ibn al- Haytham;  
2. Session-2: Light-based technologies for the future;
3. Session-3: Education and Investment in Science &Technology;  
4. Session 4: The legacy of the Ibn Al-Haytham Conference;
5. Session-5: History of Optics-1;
6. Session-6: History of Optics-2;  
7. Session-7: Impact of Light Science and Technology; and  
8. Session-8: Optics and photonics in the Arab and Islamic world.  

Each session was moderated by a distinguished expert. Renowned speakers in the history of light science and international experts in research, technology and education presented talks over two days and provided decision-makers, scientists and the public with new historical insights and informed discussions. They further debated the current trends and challenges of research and education in Arab and Islamic countries and other countries worldwide. The large UNESCO conference room was equipped with individual headphones and a shared microphone for three. This was accompanied with simultaneous translation in six official languages of the UNESCO: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.  Most presentations were in English with some in Arabic and French.  
A co-located exhibition showcased the digital images of the documents and works of scholars from the Islamic Golden Age (courtesy: Qatar Digital Library, http://www.qdl.qa/).  This exhibition also featured an exceptional piece, the 17th century microscope built by Leeuwenhoek for its scientific and historical value. This Leeuwenhoek microscope was exhibited to public for the first time during the Ibn al-Haytham conference.  Besides there were (a) Video presenting ancient manuscripts of scientists of the Islamic Golden Age (Produced by the Qatar National Library); (b) Opening of the Ibn al-Haytham Exhibition; and (c) White Paper on Optics and Photonics (by the Ibn Al-Haytham Working Group).  Finally, there were round table discussions and concluding remarks.  
The White Paper on Optics outlined the actions to follow. Suggestions included: (a) translation and digitalisation of the works of Ibn al-Haytham; (b) creation of an Ibn al-Haytham International Society.  Finally, there was a suggestion to do the same for other luminaries from the Islamic Golden Age.

About 400 scientists, science historians, diplomats and science policy experts participated in the event. The author of this note is one of the 36 members of the IWG. He presented the case of the “Medieval Arab Achievements in Optical Sciences and its impact on the European renaissance”.  He in collaboration with Dr. Azher Majid Siddiqui of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India presented the proposal: “Need to Create International Science Centres in the Arab Countries”.  The proposed centres can be modelled after the European institutions. It is to be noted that photonic technologies can serve as a vehicle for international collaborations across the Arab countries. A prime example of one such collaboration is the SESAME Synchrotron facility in Jordon. The need to initiate the African Synchrotron Programme was also covered.

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

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First Book on IYL

30 Aug 2015 logo 0 comments

Sameen Ahmed Khan
(Dhofar University, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman)  
LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany,
96 pages (30 July 2015)
Price: 49.90 €.  


In December 2013, the United Nations designated 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL). A number of major scientific anniversaries are being celebrated in 2015, starting with the encyclopaedic works on optics by the Islamic scholar Ibn al-Haytham in 1015. This piece of news was covered in this magazine in January 2014.  
Dr. Sameen has been following the IYL since its conception in Italy, in 2011. Hence, the early reporting and prompt publishing of this landmark event in this magazine and elsewhere. Dr. Sameen is a Member of the prestigious Working Group, “Ibn Al Haytham” set up by the ‘International Steering Committee’ of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.  The book under study is the first book on this topic.  
The book traces the history of optics from the early Egyptian and Greek civilizations to the present.  Then it lucidly describes how the ancient knowledge of optics reached the Arab lands in the 8th century. The Medieval Arabs preserved the then known sciences (astronomy, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, optics, etc.) through the process of translation accompanied with original contributions of the highest calibre. Over half the book is dedicated to the Medieval Arab achievements in optics, during the Islamic Golden Age (8th to the 13th centuries).
Ancient science and philosophy preserved in the Greek, Sanskrit, Pahlavi and Syriac languages would have been lost forever had the scholars centred around Baghdad during the 8th-12th centuries not translated them into Arabic.  Later on the knowledge preserved in Arabic was translated into Latin and other European languages. This paved the way for the European Renaissance. Contributions of the contemporary science historians such as Abdelhamid Ibrahim Sabra and Roshdi Hifni Rashed are described in detail.  They examined and translated the Arabic manuscripts from antiquity (lying in the museums) into French and English and thus shedding new light on the Arab contributions to sciences and optics in particular. A detailed account of these developments is presented.
The book has an appendix outlining the history of modern optics from the 13th century to current times. The very current developments are covered such as the ones leading to the optics related 2014 Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry.  So, also the 2015 King Faisal International Prize, which is also related to optics by a remarkable coincidence. The 20th century was marked with the remarkable development of Accelerator-based Light Sources. These developments are described and the author persuasively presents the need for an International Year of Particle Accelerators and Accelerator-based Technologies (IYPA).  
The author states, “It is high time to recognise the Medieval Islamic Achievements in Optics and other sciences and give due credit, which they rightly deserve. There have been numerous conferences on Arab Contributions to Science. But this era of golden history is yet to find a mentionable place in school textbooks.”  
The author further urges, “It is time for the Arab and Islamic countries to reflect on the decline of science in their nations and look forward to turning a new leaf. It is time for them to come up with realisable schemes to revive the tradition of learning and enquiry as enshrined in Islam.  Such a revival will not be possible without the generous funding and the government patronage. It is time to build international science centres in the Arab and Muslim countries, possibly modelled after the international European institutions.”
As of August 2015, we had 93 National Nodes which are organising local campaigns, activities and events.  What about the remaining hundred-odd countries?  
The book could have included the “Medieval Islamic Achievements in Optics” in its title or subtitle.  The book has 172 references, many of which belong to the author! This is not surprising since the author has been working in optics for 25 years and has extensively published on different aspects.  The book has concisely covered the very ancient to the contemporary and has even attempted future insights! The book shall be very useful to one and all: popular science readers, historians, students, teachers, researchers, and mostly importantly the policymakers.
[DR. AZHER MAJID SIDDIQUI teaches Physics at Faculty of Natural Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi – 110025, INDIA.  (azherms@gmail.com, http://www.AzherMajidSiddiqui.webs.com/)]

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