“Age is never an issue in the quest of knowledge” – Dr. Roslan Ali

By Puteri Balkish

Dr. Roslan Ali was long inspired by the profession of a teacher as a child, but then he grew up and took a 31-year career detour before ending up as an academician. At 59 he received a Doctor of Philosophy in Muslim World Issues during the 34th IIUM Convocation Ceremony.

Nonetheless, Dr. Roslan perceives the doctorate as a personal achievement that is to be kept to himself, rather than an indulgent achievement entitled to a huge sense of pride.

“Taking pride in the title defeats the purpose of pursuing knowledge because the doctorate is such a small contribution to mankind – a small dent as compared to the mass of knowledge in this world. How can a person be arrogant by just doing one thesis?” he wondered.

Infected by the aura of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, he believed that “with knowledge, one would age gracefully” and this kept him going throughout the nine years of completing his doctorate.

“I suppose I’m mission-oriented. I always feel young. That’s a gift from Allah at my age,” he positively said.

Dr. Roslan was adamant to pursue his doctorate after coming home from the United States in the 80’s but life caught him up along the way in the form of family, marital commitments and loans.

When asked about his struggles while pursuing his doctorate, he elaborated on the tight deadlines and difficulties in making time for himself and his family. Luckily, his family understood his pursuit and gave him their support despite the odds.

Little did anyone know, his journey in the Communication field began in New Straits Times as a clerical assistant to the company’s library. As opportunities were difficult to come by, he decided to sign up to be a journalist and shone through.

He held on to the Malay proverb, “Belakang parang diasah, lagikan tajam” (meaning even the dumbest of persons, if taught, would come out skilful by putting in all their might) and earned a living as a journalist for 15 years. In actual fact, he was not very fond of writing.

Prior to teaching, Dr. Roslan earned a Master’s in Journalism after getting into Boston University from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), continued his career in journalism, and became press secretary for two ministers. Then, he ventured into corporate communications in a few corporate companies and a local non-governmental organisation, MERCY Malaysia.

Destiny then brought him to teach in IIUM, after a short-lived career as an academic fellow at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC).

Dr. Roslan underlined how the pursuit of his doctorate helped him in his daily lectures as the learning process was interconnected.

“Being a teacher, you don’t only get to spread knowledge you learned and share experiences, but you can inspire them – your students. The challenge of a teacher is actually to inspire students and empower them to work hard and have the eye to look into the future,” Dr. Roslan spoke of his personal goal when it comes to teaching.

He believes in carrying out and executing the “amanah” as a teacher in inspiring students into passionate individuals.

“My true-life passion is really teaching, as my students are my drive every day, and the burst of endorphins and adrenaline I get when I educate them – I really feel like I excel when I teach,” Dr. Roslan passionately said.

Many of the students in the department, especially those specialising in Journalism sees him as a father figure and a passionate lecturer.

Does he think taking a doctorate at his age is relevant?

“Yes, if not for career progression or to be an academician, one should do it for personal development and self-satisfaction as they can prove to the world including their family members and friends that age is never an issue in the quest for knowledge,” he emphasised.

He realised that he only had his teaching career to look forward to once he submitted his thesis. On that night itself, he routinely switched on his laptop without realising that he was previously over engrossed with his doctorate. He felt bored after completing all the paperwork.

Why should age even matter if one has the guts, no? Despite the rough patches in completing his thesis, he cherished “meeting” with new journals, articles and books as if refreshes his mind with a world of ideas.

Pursuing a doctorate at an older age is “a humbling opportunity to be grabbed and seized if one has it,” he concluded.

Among the messages from Dr. Roslan’s former students:

He is a very nice lecturer, so humble, and daring. He has a lot of experience not only in teaching but also in life. Just ask him anything he will answer you straight away. He loves to give advices and we call him “ayah” because of that. As a former student of his, I would like to thank him. No one could replaces his warmness in treating all of his students equally. Moreover, he always prays for us not only for success in ‘dunia’ but also in the hereafter. Losing him from this university makes us feel like a child without a father. We feel close to him because he remembers all of his students’ names. That makes us easily been attached to him. If you’re reading this, I just want you to know, I personally love you and thank you for all the knowledge you gave. I hope you will always be in the pink of health. May Allah grant you happiness and Jannah.

– Fatimah Zainal, journalist of The Star, an ex-student

“On a very personal note, I think if there is one word to describe Sir Roslan, it is ‘inspiring’. I couldn’t love journalism and writing as much as I would today without his guidance. His passion is obviously in teaching and he would take the extra mile in his job. His teaching made his students love learning. Undeniably, he is hard to impress, he challenges me back then in almost every written piece I showed him. What really motivates me to always do my best piece is after he said, “I believe my students are the best”. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Thanks for believing in me, and also pushing me to go further. “The sky is the limit”, he said.

– Azra Shuib, 2017’s winner of the Syed Arabi Award, aspiring feature writer and ex-student

 

Sir Roslan taught journalism in a very simple and practical way. In the beginning, he first asked journalism students to open our inquisitive senses to our surroundings with an important technique – the 5W1H. We even did several outdoor activities which made Sir Roslan not an ordinary teacher, but a passionate one. With ample experiences in the industry, he also shared many stories of reporting cases, varied from general to special reporting, such as business and crime that we could benefit from in the future. Sir Roslan will always be remembered as a mindful and kind-hearted person, or more likely a father. We love him for his effort of not just teaching about the subject, but also in giving reflections on the meaning of life. His quote that I will remember for my whole life is, “Be kind, you will be fine.” –

Ajwad Amaluddin, a budding singer, aspiring scriptwriter, and former IIUMToday journalist

 

“To me, Sir Roslan is simply just a father figure. Just like any of our father, dad, papa or whatever you would want to call to associate with. Except that he is just a father from another mother.”

– Shazni Ong, journalist of The Malaysian Reserve, a former student

At present, he is now focused on establishing a better relationship with the Creator, improving his health and attaining the peace in his heart that was absent while he was pursuing his worldly gains. Dr. Roslan might want to pursue law if he has the chance as he initially wanted to pursue it. All in all, he is definitely grateful for every little achievement he has grasped in the past 59 years and is most certainly missed, especially by his Journalism students.

Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Thank you for being OUR father of life and journalism. ***

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