Born in Musul (Iraq) in 1918 and educated at Oxford University, Professor Saleh Ahmed Al-Ali was an accomplished scholar of Islamic history. He authored, edited or translated more than 25 books in addition to 170 articles, research papers and review articles dealing with different aspects of Islamic history and thought. His authoritative texts: The Social and Economic Structure of Basra During the First Century AH and Plans of Basra Region encompass a detailed characterization of Islamic cities during the early post-Islamic era and are examples of Al-Ali’s distinction. Other major books by Al-Ali, all of which testify to his exceptional erudition, include: Baghdad Layout of the 5th Hejira Century; Architectural Features of Baghdad; Baghdad, City of Peace; al-Kufa at the Outset of Islam and Samera’a and its Population During the Caliphate. Dr. Al-Ali also wrote on governance and affairs of the Islamic State and translated Rosenthal’s: “A History of Muslim Historiography” and other books in his field.
Professor Al-Ali received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1945 and was a research fellow at Harvard in the 1950s. For several decades he was Professor and Professor Emeritus of Islamic History at the College of Arts and Sciences in Baghdad University, and an active participant in the cultural and intellectual life of his country. He was also Dean of the Institute for Higher Islamic Studies, member of Baghdad University Council and Acting President of the Center for Revival of Arab Scientific Heritage.
In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies, Professor Al-Ali was recognized by numerous awards and honors for his pioneering studies of the Islamic city. These included: State Medal by the Iraqi Government; Aristotle’s Medal from the UNESCO, Gold Medal of the Association of Arab Historians, Iraqi Science Academy Prize, Al-Owais Cultural Prize (UAE), Bait al-Hikma Prize He was also an honorary member, associate member, or corresponding member of the Arabic language academies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the Islamic Academy in Aligarh (India), the Jordanian Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research and the Spanish Islamic Institute in Madrid. He was the President of the Iraqi Academy from 1978 to 1996. He died in 2003 at the age of 85.
Professor Salih Ahmad al-Ali has been awarded the prize for the excellence of his work in methodology, analysis, depth, and originality.
The selection committee noted that the two works of Prof. Dr. Salih Ahmad al-Ali:
- The economic and social organization of Basra in the 1st cent. A.H.
- The plan of Basra and its district.
The author chose Basra specifically as one of the early centers of settlement outside the Arabian peninsula. He noted in his work the circumstance and factors – natural, social and economic – which the Muslims took into consideration in founding this city, as well as Islamic concepts and ideas of urbanization. Thus it had a great role in our civilization and culture, which we still view with admiration.