“Salam” is a new netflix documentary about the Nobel prize winning Pakistani physicist, Abdus Salam. The film talks about the extraordinary life of the charismatic Abdus Salam, in all its color, vitality and tragedy. It is the story of a man who traversed two worlds with ease: one of science and religion, modernity and tradition, war and peace, obscurity and celebrity.
Who is Abdus Salam?
Abdus Salam stood out right from the moment he was born in 1926 in the city of Jhang, a small town in what is now Pakistan. His father had had a vision about the birth of his son. He believed Salam’s birth was the result of a vision from God he had received during Friday prayers. As a result to that, Salam grew up being treated as a superior being compared to his siblings. He didn’t have to do other chores in order for him to afford time to work on his astounding skills in mathematics. However, that did not mean that his childhood was a particularly luxurious one. When he left his city to attend University in Lahore, it was the first time he had seen an electric light.
Salam’s skills in mathematics and physics set him apart from his classmates. As a result, he won a scholarship to attend Cambridge University. That’s when he became one of the few South Asian faces at the time. After completing his doctorate at Cambridge, he moved back to Lahore to work as a Professor of Mathematics.
Religion and merit
Throughout his life, Salam was a dedicated Muslim. He never saw his religion as an obstacle to his science. In fact, he believed that the two could work together. He claimed to his colleagues that many of his ideas came to him from God. He was striving for a unified theory that would explain all of particle physics, which was reconcilable with his religious beliefs. “We [theoretical physicists] would like to understand the entire complexity of inanimate matter in terms of as few fundamental concepts as possible,” he once said.
In 1979, the scientist won the Nobel Prize for Physics. His lifelong work was key to defining a theory of particle physics still used today, and it laid the groundwork for the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson.
This victory should have been a historic moment for Pakistan, but instead 40 years on, his story has been forgotten by the country in which he was born. The new netflix documentary ‘The First ****** Nobel Laureate’, is seeking to bring Salam and his achievements back into the spotlight.
“Salam was the first Muslim to win a Nobel science prize,” said Zakir Thaver, one of the film’s producers. “[He] was so committed to his roots and bettering the plight of his people that he wore a turban in Stockholm to receive the prize from the King of Sweden.” During his acceptance speech, Salam quoted the Quran.
Reactions on the documentary
- “This moving film is a beautifully sensitive treatment of a wonderful world citizen, his life and his struggles. It deserves to be seen by everybody.”
Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary Biologist/Author
- “A vital piece of our history. I highly recommend this wonderful documentary.”
Mahershala Ali, Oscar-winning Actor
- “A film on him is very timely. His story of brilliance needs to be told and amplified.”
Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Laureate
- “A powerful film on a great Pakistani genius, seeking self perfection—inspiring, heartwarming, sad, all at the same time.”
Naseeruddin Shah, Actor
- “Brilliant, informative. I hope lots of people watch it.”
Mohammed Hanif, Writer/Journalist