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King Faisal International Prize: Honoring Those That Make a Difference | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The King Faisal International Prize is part of the King Faisal Foundation in Saudi Arabia that had been established in 1976 by the heirs of the late King Faisal. The association was established to preserve Islamic tradition, develop Islamic culture and assist less privileged Muslims. The association organizes various activities and annually presents the international prize of King Faisal. Through these prizes, the association seeks to honor members of society who have had an effective role in serving Islam and Muslims, as well as scholars and scientists who have contributed to the development of knowledge and whose research and theories have benefited many people.

In 1977, the board of trustees for King Faisal’s Foundation had issued a resolution that an international prize would be presented in their father’s name. The prizes were firstly categorized in three ways; for those who serve Islam, Islamic studies, and Arabic literature. The prize was first granted in 1979, and in 1981, an additional prize for the field of medicine was added as another category and first presented in 1982. Furthermore, the category of science was added and the first prize was given in 1984.

Today, the King Faisal International Prize is awarded in Service to Islam, Islamic studies, Arabic language and literature, Medicine and Science. With the exception of Service to Islam category, the prizes are awarded annually. Concerning Medicine, organizers look at how nominees have accompanied the modern international direction of medical research.

Since 1979, the prize has been awarded to over 170 winners from over 38 countries. Due to the accuracy and authenticity in selecting the winners, the prize has a positive reputation globally and has been described an internationally significant award. This reputation has been earned by the activeness of the prize organizers, their dedication to impartiality and the thorough and careful implementation rules of nomination as well as the cooperation with scientific institutions both within and outside of the kingdom.

The foundation hopes to express its appreciation for those who have served Islam and Muslims, as well as scientists and researchers who had achieved success in society and particularly in developing Muslim countries. Islamic organizations, universities and academic associations all over the world put forward their nominations for all five categories. The foundation does not accept nominations from individuals or those of political parties.

The public board of trustees that is made up of a number of specialists examine the nominations to ensure that they all are suitable and meet the required conditions. These analyses are then sent to a number of judges who form their own reports and send them to the board of trustees. Afterwards, the selective committees that are made up of major specialists study all these reports and look at each nominees work to decide who should be awarded the prize.

The names of the winners are usually announced by the end of the Hijri year. The event is usually celebrated two months after the announcement of the winners. The celebration takes place in the foundation’s headquarters in Riyadh. The event is sponsored by the King of Saudi Arabia or his representative and is usually attended by members of university staff, famous writers and thinkers of literature, as well as members of medical and scientific associations and prominent figures in society.

Within the field of Islamic studies, issues of great importance to the Islamic society play a role choosing the award winner. In Arabic literature, issues that could have a pioneering and richness effect upon this field are required. In medicine, global concerns are given great importance and for the scientific category, the issues are periodically selected between physics, mathematics, chemistry and life sciences.

It is worth mentioning that some winners of the King Faisal International Prize have gone on to acquire other prominent prizes such as the Nobel Prize.