Down Memory Lane

By Faiza Lamara-Toefy

Recently, I was invited by Prof. Dr. Shukran Abdul Rahman, the Dean of AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (AHAS KIRKHS) to be part of an esteemed panel of alumni from my alma mater, IIUM.

I was honoured to share the platform with fellow alumni Zamani Ismail, Dr. Sarifa Alonto Younes and Assoc. Prof. Sukree Langputeh, when we discussed and shared beautiful memories and insights of our time studying at IIUM.

The AHAS KIRKHS Ibadah Camp took place on 10 December 2021 and the topic was “AHAS KIRKHS Contributions to Society: Insights from Alumni”.

Here is the content of my speech that I delivered.

I left the shores of Cape Town in December 1992 for a land I knew very little of except that it was part of my ancestral background. I was a young 18-year-old Cape Malay whose only exposure to the outside world was via television and a traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj and Umrah. Accompanying me on my journey to Malaysia was my uncle, who until recently before the pandemic, took South African tourists to Malaysia because he fell in love with this beautiful land and its people across the oceans.

This is where my journey began with the International Islamic University in Malaysia also known as Universiti Islam Antarabangsa and IIUM in short. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.

My exposure to the Islamisation of knowledge started here. Prior to this, I was never exposed or even knew that these concepts exist or was even possible. The University and the Faculty of IRKHS in particular was based on the philosophy of Islamisation of knowledge.

The various lecturers and the courses that they taught had embedded in it gold nuggets which changed my understanding of knowledge. Courses such as Islamic Psychology, conducted by the late Professor Malik Badri (Allah Yarhamuhu), was enlightening and allowed for exposure to various dimensions of the soul from an Islamic perspective. Sitting in a political science class conducted by Prof. Dr. Rashid Moten, I was exposed to political science from an Islamic perspective.

There were also many educational trips and extra-curricular activities, offered by the University such as MAPS (Mission Awareness Programmes) and the regular weekly Usrah halaqahs that I attended, taught me various aspects of leadership development and Islamic knowledge. Educational trips to Indonesia and the Philippines to meet with university students and staff, and engage as well as exchange ideas on various educational aspects, also broaden my knowledge on these pertinent topics. Serving on various student bodies further honed my leadership skills.

Going to the weekly pasar malam was a cultural experience of Malaysian treats and delicacies. I still miss the nasi goreng and nasi lemak!

These rich experiences made indelible impressions on my life and changed my views of knowledge and the epistemology thereof forever.

Today, no matter what I embark on I still implement the teachings and ideologies that I was taught at IIUM. My understanding of psychology changed forever. I may not utilise the Islamic terms in my current research due to it not being an Islamic university, however there are many western concepts and frameworks that are based on Islamic principles, for example Positive Psychology and Humanistic Psychology that look at the human being from a positive perspective as opposed to the traditional negative concepts that explain main purpose being solely created to satisfy his sexual desires and driven by aggression.

As a manager of an Institute, and whilst assisting many organisations in my community, I still implement the teachings and make decisions guided by the insights I gained whilst studying at IIUM.

I also incorporate Islamic psychotherapy into my counselling practice when I help people suffering from psychological challenges and mental health difficulties. I’ve seen tremendous positive results in this regard, and it has given me the opportunity to offer a service that not many counsellors in my community are able to.

At a time when the world is undergoing a pandemic and experiencing catastrophic environmental events such as volcanic eruptions in Java and La Palma, and the downfall of many economies, are sad realities. The crash of markets is blamed on poor administration of governments and reason for the environmental changes are said to be as a result of global warming. The world is not in need of more scientists, physicians, economists, psychologists, educators. It is in need of individuals who are not afraid of implementing the teachings of Islam, and no matter what profession they are in, are guided by the Quran and Sunnah.

IIUM is in a unique position to guide young people to understand the epistemology of knowledge from a perspective that is not skewed by Western ideologies which are based on secularism. Laying a foundation that is rich in our Islamic heritage and providing a good understanding of Islam, is the necessary foundation to go forth in the world of work. Contributing to uplifting society, and not focusing on marginalising the poor and ensuring the rich get richer, is what the world needs right now.

IIUM should continue to strive to be a leading institution in highlighting the contributions of Muslim scientists and showcasing their legacy in the modern sciences and modalities. Furthermore, it should train and prepare researchers in various fields of Islamic heritage. Offering courses and programmes that are accredited and aligned with international unit standards are important considerations. An internationally accredited course in Islamic Psychology, which trains psychologists in the field of Islamic psychotherapy and counselling, are examples of programmes which can be offered at IIUM.

In conclusion, I feel that I received the necessary exposure to the Islamisation of knowledge whilst I was studying at IIUM, and that it was a seed that was planted and is still growing.

I would like to thank the Dean, Prof. Dr. Shukran and the Deputy Dean, Dr. Noh for this opportunity. It has been a great honour and privilege to share my experiences and insights and to be part of such an esteemed panel.

I end with a du’a, may Allah SWT continue to grant IIUM to be a beacon of light in the Muslim world, and to continue to produce excellent graduates who are the torch bearers of Islam in their various communities, Ameen. May Allah reward all our teachers eternally, Ameen.

Thank you. Terima kasih banyak banyak. Fee Amaanillah. Wa Alaykum salaam wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu.

(Faiza Lamara-Toefy is an alumna of Psychology Department KIRKHS, 1996. She is currently serving as a Psychological Counsellor in Cape Town, South Africa)

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