By Rabi’ah Aminudin
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ishtiaq Hossain was an influential academic figure in the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences. He read International Relations for his B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. in University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Later on, he graduated with an M.A. in International Affairs from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and obtained his Ph.D in Political Science from National University of Singapore.
He had served IIUM for 19 years since March 2002, prior to which he was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at National University of Singapore (NUS).
Apart from his academic career in IIUM and NUS, he also served as a visiting professor in the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Washington D.C., U.S.A. and in the Department of Politics at Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.
I had the experience of being taught and mentored by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ishtiaq Hossain during my undergraduate days. As such, I always have a special position for him in my heart. He is the reason I am here, being an academic and a scholar in the making. He recognised my potential despite me being quite a cheeky student during those days. I was a very quiet student in class, at times, it was contributed by my tendency to sleep in some of my classes. Some other times, it was because I enjoyed listening. I was a quiet student that some of my batch mates did not even recognise me.
However, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ishtiaq (may Allah bless him) was able to recognise the potential in this quiet young woman. One fine day, after we received our results for PSCI 2210 (Comparative Politics) midterm, he told me to see him at his office. I was nervous. What did I do wrong? Turned out, he praised my paper and asked me why I was very quiet in class. He then mentioned that he noticed I was always late to the class (HS LT 1) and would sit at the last two rows (the backbencher). I thought I was invisible but no student was invisible under his watchful eyes. He frequently told me that I should be more confident and speak up in class because I have great potential.
I still remained quiet throughout my years as a student (this lasted until I did my doctoral degree), but I have always enjoyed my personal chit chat sessions with him, discussing world politics, pop culture, my future and many more. He often challenged me to go out of my comfort zone; he boosted my confidence and made me think that I was not doing too badly.
Every time I went for my postgraduate studies, his name would appear as one of my referees and he was as helpful as ever. Today, reading the tributes for him, I learnt that he had unearthed many good talents in the university; he coached and motivated them as he did to me. And one thing for sure, I had never fallen asleep in his class because it was so fun and it expanded my horizon. It felt like he was guiding us exploring a new dimension of the world.
Later on, we became colleagues and he was instrumental as well in the process. When I reported for duty, I brought my parents to see him in his office. His beaming smile greeted my parents.
Whenever he saw the ladies of the Department at the hallway, he would jokingly say that he wanted to join the ‘ladies troop’. One reminder that he repeatedly mentioned to me was not to get too absorbed in doing administrative works as I have to continue developing my profile as a scholar. I would smile sheepishly because I still have a long way to go.
From time to time, I would drop by his office as time would always envy us as it became less frequent. On his desk, there would always be piles of students’ works waiting to be assessed. But he always welcomed me with open hands, whenever I needed a listening pair of ears for advice or just to exchange stories on a wide range of topics, from family matters to world politics.
He was also a loving husband and father, often praised his wife and children and update us on them. As a colleague, he was always the efficient one, all of his works were submitted on time or even earlier. Everything was delivered in a top notch quality. On a personal note, we often exchanged our latest favourite series on Netflix because he enjoyed British TVs as well. He was always very up to date with recent things. Always young at heart.
He was an excellent researcher with countless projects and publications under his belt. In 1985, he was given an award by the Bangladesh Universities Grants Commission for outstanding publication and research. He also served as a Consultant on the following research projects: “Gulf War Lessons Learned By Foreign Nations: A Case Study of ASEAN States and Vietnam”, funded by the Centre for National Security Studies, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, U.S.A.; “American Foreign Policy and the Muslim World” funded by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, Beirut, Lebanon; “Rediscovering Nonviolent History: Civil Resistance Beneath Eulogised Violence in the Struggles for National Independence and Liberation”, conducted by the International Centre on Non-violent Conflict, Washington D.C., U.S.A.; “Hamas in Power: A Study of Its Ideology and Policies, 2006-2012”, funded by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, Beirut. Lebanon; “Disaster Diplomacy and Mitigation Management System in Indonesia and Malaysia” funded by the Department of International Relations, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ishtiaq also served as the Book Review Editor for the “Intellectual Discourse”, the flag-ship journal of the IIUM from 2009 to 2014. He was also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of “Intellectual Discourse”, IIUM, and the Editorial Advisory Board of the “International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research”, published by Life Science Global, Canada. This illustrates the vast contribution he made to the field of Political Science, especially in empowering the global south political discourse.
To Dr. Ishtiaq’s family (Madam Salina, Shaira and Mahmood), please know that your father holds a special place in many of our hearts. He had touched so many lives and moulded us into the person we are today. As a lecturer, I feel like I can never be as magical as he is, but he is an inspiration for me to continue learning to be a better one.
I am sharing these few pictures of Dr. Ishtiaq with our beloved department members during our happy moments. As I hold administrative post in the last few years, I tend to take fewer pictures, so some of our newer members might not appear here.
However, I will resume my duty as the department’s unofficial photographer again soon to capture the journey of the Department of Political Science. A myriad of emotions has overwhelmed me thinking that the department will never be the same again without his hearty laughters, precise comments, and entertaining stories.
The loss of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ishtiaq added to the list of department members we have lost for good in recent years; the late Dr. Aldila Isahak and the late Dr. Muhammad Fuzi Omar. May Allah bless their souls and grant them the highest state of Jannah.***
(The writer, Dr. Rabi’ah Aminudin is an academic in the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences)