KIRKHS’s Acting Dean, Prof. Quayum, on initiatives to propel the Kulliyyah further

By Mahadhir bin Monihuldin

The Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences has opened its doors to a new acting dean who is now taking charge of the Kulliyyah.  As we begin our new semester, let us get to know more about the new head of the Kulliyyah and his fascinating background.

His name is none other than Professor Mohammad A. Quayum.

The first thing you should know about Professor Quayum is that he’s quite a global citizen. He was born in the city of Gopalganj in Bangladesh in 1954 but decided to travel overseas to Canada to receive his second master’s degree in English Literature.

He went on to study and teach in Australia where he received his Ph.D degree, had the opportunity to teach at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, USA, later brought his teaching credentials to Nanyang Technological University in Singapore before finally reaching our shores to teach at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) as well as our very own university.

Gopalganj, the city in Bangladesh where Professor Quayum is from
State University of New York, Binghamton, one of the many universities where Professor Quayum taught at
Flinders University, Australia, another university of Professor Quayum’s

Indeed, a very colourful set of experiences which Professor Quayum feels has given him an essential guide to the way in which he approaches education.

“Every nation, every university has its own ethos, environment and culture. The opportunity of working at various universities in different countries has helped to enrich my sensibility as an academic by exposing me to diverse practices, approaches and aspirations,” Professor Quayum shared.

“It has made my outlook truly international and cosmopolitan, and since IIUM is an international university with internationalisation as one of its mission statements, my experience will help to serve the University and the Kulliyyah particularly well.”

But despite having journeyed across the seas witnessing a variety of different lands and cultures, one country which Professor Quayum seems particularly fond of is, of course, Malaysia. After all, Malaysia has been his home for a vast number of years already.

“I have also taught at UPM for seven years and now at IIUM for nearly 14 years. This gives me the special advantage of being able to think globally but act locally,” he said.

Professor Quayum has investigated the Malaysian culture thoroughly through his extensive research and publications on Malaysian literature in English.

He had co-written the book, Colonial to Global: Malaysian Women’s Writing in English 1940s-1990s (IIUM Press, 2000, 2003), with his distinguished colleague, Prof. Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf, and has also written a second book on Malaysian literature in English, One Sky, Many Horizons: Studies in Malaysian Literature in English (Marshall Cavendish Asia, 2007, 2014).

Colonial to Global: Malaysian Women’s Writing in English 1940s-1990s (IIUM Press, 2000, 2003)
One Sky, Many Horizons: Studies in Malaysian Literature in English (Marshall Cavendish Asia, 2007, 2014)

 

It should be noted that before earning the title of Acting Dean to KIRKHS, Professor Quayum was Head of the Department of English Language and Literature from July 2006 to June 2010 and was also the Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, KIRKHS.

Thus, with all that he has seen of our university, one would beg the question: What does Professor Quayum think that make KIRKHS unique from all the other faculties which he has been a part of it over the years?

He shares, “This might sound ambiguous, but KIRKHS is similar and yet different from all other faculties I have taught in throughout my academic career.”

“It is similar in the sense that like any other academic institution/faculty it aspires to be a centre of educational excellence, in both teaching and research. However, KIRKHS also has a specific educational mission: it seeks to harness and harmonise Islamic knowledge with modern and scientific knowledge. It does not endorse segregation of worldly knowledge from values enshrined in Islam.”

A remarkable praise for the Kulliyyah which he is now the Acting Dean. As Acting Dean of KIRKHS, Professor Quayum is set to make a number of initiatives to propel the Kulliyyah even further.

Unity and Harmony in the Kulliyyah

“My first objective is to nurture and sustain an environment of unity and harmony in the Kulliyyah. Although currently we have no hostility or ongoing fracas plaguing us, ours is a manageable Kulliyyah with 11 departments, more than 5000 students and nearly 300 staff, from widely different cultures too; hence there is always that risk that we will gravitate in different directions, dictated by the specific interests of our subject areas,” he stated.

“This is where we need to constantly remind ourselves of our shared commitment to the University and the Kulliyyah, and the lynchpin that holds us all together – our common passion to give moral direction to a world that seems trapped in a whirlpool of greed and desire.”

Innovative and Creative Teaching

Professor Quayum also wishes to maintain and enhance the high standards of excellence in teaching and research that characterise IIUM and KIRKHS. To achieve this, he believes that teaching will have to be ever more innovative, ever more creative and ever more energetic by keeping up with the changes that research and technology bring on a daily basis.

“With this in view, we have recently redesigned our curriculum to make it more student friendly, time efficient and interdisciplinary. We are also in the process of implementing Outcome-based education (OBE) and the Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average (iCGPA) into our curriculum and are actively developing our electronic learning capability, including the development of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and SPOCs (small private online courses), as well as “flipped classrooms” where students study teaching materials electronically before the lectures and then use the lecture hour to debate and explore the materials with their lecturers.”

Better Quality Research

As for research, Professor Quayum aims not only to increase the output in numbers of research papers, but also to improve them in quality.

“We must make our research count internationally, research that is globally excellent and benefits the nation, the ummah and humanity. There is no point in playing the number game for the sake of numbers alone.”

Finally, in the wider scheme of things, we asked the question: What big goals does Professor Quayum strive to achieve for KIRKHS as the new Acting Dean?

“As you would know, our Kulliyyah was ranked 46 in Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies and 401-450 in Arts and Humanities in the 2017 QS World University Rankings. My first objective is to see how we can improve on these rankings. Perhaps we should not take rankings too seriously, but at the same time they are here to stay, and are often used by prospective students, parents, governments and media as the measure of an institution’s international reputation and success,” he said.

Yet, to Professor Quayum, what matters even more is this.

“The ranking that matters most is how the staff, students and alumni contribute to enhancing the image of Islam and Muslim societies at a time when he believes that Islam and Muslims are constantly under attack from certain Western quarters, and how we contribute to building peace and prosperity within the ummah and human community at large.”

Aside from undergraduate courses, Professor Quayumo wishes to expand the postgraduate programmes as well.

“Enlarging the postgraduate programmes will help to boost our research culture. Moreover, we have to look into our exchange programmes so that our students also get to learn from other universities and cultures and develop a global outlook.”

All in all, the commitment that Professor Quayum embraces is to realise the mission and vision of the Kulliyyah, make it a place of international excellence in teaching and research, groom the students so that they become the future leaders of society, enhance the creative potentials of our staff and students, and imbue a sense of hope and optimism in all members of the Kulliyyah.

“It is only by thinking positively and acting positively, while keeping our veracity and integrity intact, that we can attain collective success as a faculty,” the Professor concluded. ***

Mahadhir bin Monihuldin

A conflicted writer

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