“Be the best and help others” – Prof. Nor Faridah

By Ameerah Angelina

“If you want to be successful, always be in the company of those who inspire.” 

These are the words of Prof. Dr. Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf that really hit me during the interview with her. Indeed, inspiration is important, not only for artists or creators, but really just humans in general who wish to be successful because inspiration, more often than not, serves as a form of motivation for us to strive for the very best. As such, let’s get to know Prof. Nor Faridah who, herself, is an inspiration to me and many others, I believe.   

If you are a BENL student, or if you are into Malaysian writings, you may already be familiar with Prof. Nor Faridah, who is not only a Deputy Rector and a lecturer of English literature, but also a published Malaysian creative writer.

Prof. Nor Faridah has been teaching English Literature at IIUM for 30 years. She first started as an Assistant Lecturer at IIUM’s Matriculation Centre which was located in Subang Jaya back in 1989.

After securing a scholarship, she did her Master’s in English Literature at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom for a whole year and later returned to IIUM as a lecturer. In 1994, she continued her PhD on women writers at Flinders University in South Australia.

She then came back to serve IIUM – at the main campus in Petaling Jaya – as an Assistant Professor, teaching English Literature and worked with the late Prof. Kazmi to help design postgraduate literary programmes. Not long after her return, she was made Head of her Department and continued to hold administrative posts until she became the Deputy Rector for Internationalisation and Global Network last year.

Even with the responsibility and heavy duty of holding a high position, she still teaches English Literature, which she nobly claims to be the real passion of her life. 

Despite being busy as a lecturer, she is able to pursue creative writing, having published a few anthologies of her own. One of them is entitled Bridge which is a collaboration with a university in Lahore, Pakistan. She also has two poetry books: The Art of Naming: A Muslim Woman’s Journey that was published in 2006 and Travel Poems: Stories Untold which is her second collection of poems in English. Both Bridge and her Travel Poetry book were recently displayed at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. 

Being successful as she is, it is to no surprise that Prof. Nor Faridah is often invited to talks and conferences, typically those related to literature and creative writing. As preparation, she likes doing short term research for a conference or talk she is invited to speak on. She currently has two speaking engagements before the end of this year.

Prof. Nor Faridah has just completed the manuscript of a family history novel on the Raos which will soon be published, though no exact date was given. This is her latest achievement as she and her team managed to compile priceless information on their history and contribution to Tanah Melayu in the early 19th century.

She will soon have three launches: one in Lahore, one in Sydney and another in IIUM. One of the talks will be held at Lahore College for Women University in Lahore, Pakistan on 29 October and she will be talking about creative writing and its position in this era of digital revolution. The other is on Travel Poetry at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia on 27 to 30 November. For this research, Prof. Nor Faridah says that she is interested to explore any overlapping elements between travel poetry and romantic poetry, as well as how travel poetry differs from travelogue in terms of its sense and purpose. 

Prof. Nor Faridah mentions that the biggest contribution that led her to being a successful person is the people around her who inspired her. She has been fortunate enough to have met so many wonderful scholars, especially while doing her PhD on women writers when she went all out looking for and reaching out to scholars such as Che Husna Azhari, Dina Zaman, Adibah Amin, the late Zuriani Abdul Rahman, Shirley Lim, the late Hilary Tham and the late Hedwig Anuar with whom she met and/or interviewed. Speaking with them and learning from them, she was inspired and is now a published writer, herself. 

Lately, she enjoys reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, an American-Indian novelist and poet, and Arundhati Roy. And for anyone who may be interested in reading local masterpieces, she recommends Adibah Amin’s This End of the Rainbow and any of Dina Zaman’s earlier short stories. 

Asked about her biggest source of motivation that keeps her striving to do better, she nobly admits that it is her love for Islam and her conscience to share knowledge with those in need. She is also eager to share her knowledge with anyone who does not have access to education or those who have very little exposure to so many things. 

If this still has not inspired you, Prof. Nor Faridah also puts emphasis on making an effort to do more than what is given. “Do the extra mile and you will find yourself in new places with new experiences,” is what she said, reflecting on the lengths she went for her PhD and where that got her in the end. She is never afraid of investing time and money to discover new things, and this is the quality we should all look up to because we never know where this might take us.  

“Be the best and help others when you have made it to the top.”

These are the words Prof. Nor Faridah wishes to share with all the students of IIUM, which are also the words she lives by because she believes that success is best shared. ***

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