Prof. Ali was born on 9 November 1940 in Bheramara, Kushtia, Bangladesh. 

He obtained a BSc (Physics) (1958) and an MSc (Physics) (1960) both from the University of Dhaka, and a Diploma in Advanced Studies (1962) and a PhD in Nuclear Physics (1965) both from Manchester University, UK. 
Prof. Ali was Scientific Officer (1961-1965), Senior Scientific Officer (1965-1969) and then Principal Scientific Officer (1975-1982) at the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC). He has been Professor of Physics at the University of Dhaka (1982-present). He was also Director of the Atomic Energy Centre, Dhaka (1970-1978) and a Member of the Advisory Committee of BAEC (1977-1987).  He was made life-long Honorary Professor of Physics by the University of Dhaka in 1993.

Prof. Ali has been teaching at the graduate and post-graduate levels for more than 30 years, and has promoted methods of raising the level of interest in physics education at all levels.  He has published more than 70 papers in major international physics journals in a range of nuclear research fields.

He has served with the Bangladesh Open University as its Founder Vice-Chancellor (1992-96). Dr Ali has been elected the President of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences for the years of 2004-2008. Currently he is working as Vice-Chancellor of Southeast University since 2002.

He is a member of the following professional associations: General Secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Scientists and Scientific Professions (BASSP) 1978-1981, Fellow of the Bangladesh Physics Society, Fellow of the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and a Senior Associate of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. 

Prof. Ali was elected as a Fellow of the IAS in 1988.