My Ph.D. Journey – From Kashmir to Aligarh Muslim University
Fulfilling the dream of Prof. Abdus Salam
By Dr. Mohsin Ilahi, Aligarh
It is reported that when Prof. Abdus Salam wrote letters to some people in Kashmir that I need a
M.Sc. physics student among Kashmiri Ahmadis but unfortunately there was none at that time.
Then he demanded any Kashmiri Muslim but no one turned out. Finally the last request was
any one from non-Muslim Kashmiri community. There were many such students but no one came
forward due to some unknown reasons. The point is Prof. Salam’s passion for his mission and
vision to bring back the lost glory of science in Third World countries in general and Muslim
World in particular. During his 1980 visit to Qadian,
It is said that a Kashmiri Delegation put a question to Prof. Salam: What is your message for Kashmir? Prof. Salam replied that I have already written to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (The Lion of Kashmir) that Kashmiris should focus on Science and Technology and the message is the same for you as well. These are not the exact words but more or less the meaning is the same.
Kashmir has a troubled history and this has taken a heavy toll on its education system. Kashmir
does not have much history of science and technology scholarship. It is only in a recent decade
that a significant improvement has become visible. Lots of Kashmiris have started to excel in
biological, chemical and other experimental sciences but a lot is needed in mathematical
sciences. Without mathematical sciences the science and technology revolution that Prof. Salam
dreamt for Kashmir is incomplete. I am working towards this goal in my humble capacity by
being an active core member of Kashmiri Institute of Mathematical Sciences founded in January
2019 by Dr. Muhammad Rukhsanul Haq – a passionate follower of Prof. Abdus Salam’s legacy.
Life in Kashmir-1991 to 2008
When I opened my eyes in village Nasirabad (Kanipora) that is about 4km from district
Headquarters of Kulgam in South Kashmir, the armed struggle in Kashmir had already begun. I
vividly remember the gunshots that used to be fired sometimes on and off around our village by
army against the militants and we used to lay down our bodies so that bullets do not hit us.
Having education in such conditions was no less than an adventurous journey through a jungle.
Fortunately I had the opportunity to study up to 12 th class smoothly in my village private school
TIAI Nasirabad that remained mostly insulated from the political, armed and violent turmoil.
This school was run by the elders of village Nasirabad like my beloved father Abdul Hamid
Lone and his beloved friend Respected Abdul Khaliq Bhat. They were actively involved in
running this school in those terrible times when militancy in Kashmir was at its peak.
Second blessing was that my village was an Ahmadi village. The Imams particularly Respected Nasir
Nadeem used to narrate the childhood stories of Prof. Salam in Friday sermons that how
passionately Prof. Salam used to study. In school Dr. Javid Sir and others who used to narrate the
inspirational story of Prof. Salam in an eloquent manner that used to give me much needed
motivational fuel up to 8 th class. I was in 9 th class when I got hold of a quarterly magazine
Minaret published from Kerala and the issue was dedicated to the life and legacy of Prof. Salam.
This provided the motivational fuel for about two more years. After 10 th I visited Qadian and I still remember it was the book Ramoozi Fitrat by Respected Zakaria Virk that I bought for Rs. 25/ Indian rupees near Ahmadiyya Chowk in 2005. I spent nights after that to finish reading that book with full zeal and fervor as soon as possible. I got highly charged for the mission ahead after reading. The book remains with me as my very first inspirational book.
I narrated this event later with Respected Zakaria M Virk when he visited Aligarh in 2013 for Ibn Sina Memorial Lecture organized by Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Sciences Aligarh founded by visionary Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman. Mention of my name and the above inspiration by the book in another wonderful book “Salam Abdus Salam” by Respected Zakaria M Virk motivated me in a big way for my Ph.D. journey that started in 2014.
Life in Aligarh- 2008 to 2020
Due to timely guidance for higher studies by my beloved teachers Mubarak Sir, Raja Waseem
Sir & Dr. Saifullah Lone, I decided to move to the Mecca of Education in India called as Aligarh
Muslim University (AMU). Here I got dozens of the celebrated magazine Tahzibul Akhlaq
issues. These were filled with the inspiring articles by Respected Zakaria M Virk on Muslim
scientists and biography book reviews on Prof. Salam. These periodically charged me for the
goal of doing physics with much more intensity in my B.Sc. (Hons) physics days at AMU.
In M.Sc. days I came to know that Prof. Salam has donated a Replica of his Nobel Model to the
prestigious and the largest university library of Asia known as Maulana Azad Library, AMU. I
believe the purpose of Prof. Salam in donating this was just to inspire the Muslims and I can
safely say I am the one who got that inspiration out of it. Whenever my motivational batteries
went down I used to connect my heart and mind to the online books by Respected Zakaria
Virk like “Musalmanu Ka Newton” and “Salam Abdus Salam” to get fully charged. Looking at
the historic photos of Prof. Salam’s visits to AMU also fuelled sometimes my motivation.
I joined my Ph.D. program in 2014 under the supervision of Dr. Abbas Ali. His role models are Prof.
Salam and Prof. Israr Ahmad. The later prof. was not only a distinguished professor of physics
department AMU but also a colleague of Prof. Salam in the vision and mission of bringing back
past glory of Muslim scientists. He established the Centre for Promotion of Science for this
purpose in 1985 on the direction of Prof. Salam in AMU. The table on which Prof. Israr used to
work is now used by Dr. Abbas Ali and thus the Ph.D. journey was charged continuously by that
legacy of Prof. Israr who used to follow footsteps of Prof. Salam. However, much of the credit
goes to Dr. Abbas Ali without whose academic alertness, sense of perfection and nurturing the
immature theoretical physicist sitting inside me, my Ph.D. journey would have been incomplete.
Conclusion To cut the long story short, it is the legacy of Prof. Salam that kept me going.
Luckily, part of that legacy was recorded, documented and preserved that fuelled my heart and
made it possible for me to do whatever little I could by my mind trained in theoretical physics.