The First Muslim Nobel Laureate in Science

In the autumn of 1979, Abdus Salam became the first Muslim to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was awarded the prize for his path breaking work in unifying two of the four fundamental forces of nature viz. the electromagnetic and the weak nuclear forces. This culminated in the Standard Model, a theory which represents mankind's deepest understanding of the world in which he lives. It is a work of profound beauty and power and has been experimentally verified countless times to an accuracy akin to measuring the height of Mount Everest to within a hair's breadth.

A devout Muslim, Abdus Salam had repeatedly emphasized the crucial role that Islam had played in the shaping of his science, his life and his vision. A vision that was inspired by the surahs of the Quran which spoke of a deep fundamental unity amongst all things and all peoples. A vision that he realized not only through his seminal contribution to the unification of natural forces but also through his creation of the International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. Like Samarkand of yore, the ICTP today has become a world centre for learning and knowledge, a welcoming home for scientists from all over the word, including from the poorest countries in Asia and Africa, and a precious gift of the freedom and resources that the West takes for granted. Yet this grand unifier of forces and people, lies in a humble grave in the village of Jhang in Pakistan.

The man who identified himself as a faithful servant of Allah has been vilified as a heretic in his own country. His faith has been erased from the epitaph on his tombstone, just as his name itself has been removed from the school textbooks in the land of his birth - all for the crime of being born an Ahmadiyya, a sect of Islam that has been ostracized and persecuted by the orthodox theocracy of his country, because of their un-Islamic belief in "false prophets".

An imagined courtroom drama that reveals the tragedies and the triumphs, the wit and the wisdom and the life and works of this scientific giant from the subcontinent, who lies buried next door, isolated and unacknowledged in the land of his birth.


“A charming, but ultimately sad tale about a uniquely talented scientist.” – Sheldon Glashow, Harvard University, Nobel Laureate (Physics), 1979

"Well researched and authentic, yet witty and entertaining, Nilanjan Choudhury brings to life the tragedy of a modern Sisyphus, Abdus Salam, who tried – but failed – to bring science back into Islam."  Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.

"The Trial of Abdus Salam" brilliantly captures the angst of one of the towering figures of modern physics, who also happens to be from our subcontinent. It speaks with wit and verve not only of Salam's science, but also of the individual persona and of the scientist grappling with his ideals and role in an imperfect world."Rajesh Gopakumar, Director, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Bangalore