Learning more about IIUM’s Constitutional Head

By Nur Haninah Iwan

His Royal Highness Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah, the Sultan of Pahang, is a significant figure among IIUM staffs and students. He has been holding the position of IIUM’s Constitutional Head since the day of its establishment. Every single year, he never fails to attend and officiate the convocation ceremonies of our university. The recent 32nd IIUM convocation ceremony was no different.

Along with my friend, Siti Afiqah Amalina, we were able to meet the Office of the Director of Corporate Communication, Prof. Dr. Isarji b. Haji Saruddin, to learn more about our university’s Constitutional Head, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah.

After a few minutes of introducing ourselves, he asked us to join him at the IIUM Gallery located inside the IIUM Rectory building. I felt really excited because it was extremely rare for students to enter this building due to its strict security system.

As soon as we entered, we can’t help but feel amazed by the design of the gallery. Walking into the place we felt exactly like walking into a museum. Everything was written perfectly on every side of the room. IIUM vision, its mission and pictures.

Then, we walked into the second room. Dr. Isarji stopped and pointed to this one particular wall that has “IIUM Establishment” written on it. I noticed there’s a picture of the official letter of the Pengumuman Perlantikan Ketua Perlembagaan Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia. My eyes were running wild as I tried reading and comprehending every sentence on it.

Being the only heir/son of Alyamarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah was crowned as the fifth Sultan of Pahang at the age of forty-four, after the death of his father. During his ruling, he received numerous honors from both national and foreign. He made a record for being the only Malaysian who received the Anugerah Bola Sepak Olimpik Antarabangsa in 1982.

Sultan Ahmad Shah was appointed as the first Constitutional Head of IIUM on the 1st of July, 1983. Dr. Isarji added, “He was not only the Sultan of Pahang but also the Yang di-Pertuan Agong during that time.” It was actually for that reason why he became our Constitutional Head. He served as the seventh Yang di-Pertuan Agong from 1979 until 1984.

For the past 33 years, the Sultan has been contributing a lot to IIUM in various forms. Most of the time, it would be either through large donations or key scholarships for students in the university. “He gave his consent to build the Kulliyyah of Medicine in Kuantan, Pahang. Without the permission and consent of the Sultan of Pahang and the ministers involved, we can’t build our medical campus there.”

“The Sultan of Pahang played a significant role when it comes to the campuses in Kuantan and Gambang. He was instrumental in the development of the university. “He does not run the university on day-to-day basis but he was very helpful, very supportive. He will do whatever it takes within the law to assist the university,” Dr. Isarji added.

In 2012, the Sultan officiated the opening of International Islamic University Malaysia Medical Centre (IIIUMMC) at Indera Mahkota, Kuantan. It was built at a cost of RM412.6 million which will not only help in basic training requirements for IIUM students but also able to lessen the burden of people of Pahang. The hospital is equipped with 350 beds, 15 specialist clinics, 20 operating theatre, intensive care unit (ICU), coronary care unit (CCU) and delivery rooms.

While we were strolling around the room, we stopped in front of another wall which had pictures of Sultan Ahmad alongside local and international students in various events. Dr. Isarji said, “This is when he was younger than now. He is close to our heart, and he loves the students.”

I noticed some of the pictures were from last year’s Eid-Fitr celebration with the Sultan and Sultanah. On that day, local students returned to their hometown to celebrate the special day with their family. Foreign students, on the other hand, stayed inside the university campus and celebrated together. With the appearance of the Royal couple, I’m sure it had added more special feelings to the celebration. On the same day, he gave out duit raya to 14 children of Educare IIUM.

We proceeded to another side of the gallery and Dr. Isarji continued to give us more historical information regarding IIUM, explaining every item that was exhibited inside the room, and how each of them tells the history of our university.

This reminded me of the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Mosque, a place that is always visited by hundreds of students and staffs per day. It became the symbol of our campus due to its location right in the centre of our campus, making it easier for students and staffs to attend prayers and other functions held there.

For instance, every semester, the Centre for Credited Leadership and Soft Skills would organise an Ibadah Camp for students taking Study Circle 2. Normally, the students would stay at the Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Mosque for two days to encourage an exchange of thoughts and ideas among one another. It’s also to improve students’ teamwork outside the class.

A big programme like World #QuranHour was also held inside the mosque, attended among others, by the President of IIUM, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim. The programme was covered by national television channels such as RTM, TV3, Astro Oasis, TV Al-Hijrah and Bernama TV. The mosque is one of the historical buildings in IIUM with an uncountable number of events and programmes taking place here for almost every year.

We slowly came to this one huge picture of Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah. I read the text next to the picture which was about the day when the Sultan was appointed the Constitutional Head. I found myself standing right in front of the picture for a few minutes, looking straight at the Sultan himself. I was overwhelmed by all of his efforts to help IIUM grow to what it is now, and I said to myself, “ah, so this is the man.”

After Dr. Isarji finished showing us around the gallery, we went straight back to the OCCM office. We walked to the corner and he asked us to read something hanging on the wall. Feeling confused, we tried doing exactly that but the words were very small and unclear. As I came to the end of it, it began to become obvious to me why Sultan Ahmad Shah is still our Constitutional Head despite having been the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for only five years. He was re-appointed as Constitutional Head for another five years starting from 1st July of 1998 by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after him, Tuanku Jaafar ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

He mentioned in the recent IIUM convocation ceremony that education and knowledge are fundamental to the development of the ummah. Providing various funds for the university is necessary as it will aid the students in their development, expand the quality of the academic system and ignite activities among students.

The Sultan is still with us until this very moment. To think that the Sultan has sacrificed his time to help us in every possible way is something truly heartwarming. I learnt a lot about Sultan Ahmad Shah and his generosity. Words can’t describe how thankful I am following my interview with Dr. Isarji.***

Image credit to : http://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2016/07/24/first-iium-hospital-opens-in-kuantan/

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