Viewing IIUM from Nur Arif, the Autism Ranger’s Lens 

By Amirah Yasmin

Once upon a time, in a mosque, there was no imam to lead a congregational prayer. So, a 22-year-old Muslim brother named Nur Arif bin Jasmin volunteered and led the prayer only to be told later by a fellow member of the mosque that the prayer was invalid because it was led by an autistic person.

This claim was later denied by an Usul Al-Fiqh lecturer who enlightened the crowd that the prayer was valid. By encountering the event, Arif was motivated to study Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh and was recently awarded Bachelor of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Heritage in Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh during the 36th IIUM Convocation.

Born on 11 January 1992 in Tanjung Malim Hospital, Arif is passionate with Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh knowledge as he believes that the Islamic rulings and teachings apply holistically through our daily lives such as the teachings of Maqasid Syariah.

His interest was later further supported by the assistance of many IIUM entities such as the Disability Services Unit (DSU), Counselling and Career Services Centre (CCSC), and Kulliyyah as they designed his IIUM experience to be autism and Arif-friendly.

Before going to class, the officers from DSU namely Prof. Dr. Ruzita and Sister Halimah would help create a map for Arif to go to class as Arif often gets lost.

When class is in session, the lecturers would help Arif to turn the pages of his textbook to sync with the class discussion. Course instructors also redesigned the course assessments specially for Arif to attend to his needs such as completing exercises rather than writing a long essay.

Apart from that, Arif also recieves help from volunteers and special buddies from IIUM Ibn Ummi Maktum Club which consists of IIUM students.

In addition to the blessed initiatives by the university, Arif took an independent move to consult lecturers after class to enhance his understanding on the subject. In return, Arif helped his lecturers to rearrange their books on the shelves according to size.

Moreover, Arif often lends a hand to other students with special needs such as reading out the exam questions for Ahmad Danial, a visually impaired student. Another helpful deed by Arif is opening the door to Abang Salim, a PWD on a wheelchair.

Despite much help given to Arif throughout his study, Arif unfortunately had a rough start. In the beginning of Arif’s enrolment in the ‘Garden of Knowledge and Virtue’, he faced several bumps of hardship which was mainly caused by the lack of awareness within the IIUM community pertaining to his condition. Arif would find days when he got laughed at during football or bullied in class. 

Regardless of the hurtful encounters, Arif managed to stay positive by understanding that those people acted that way because they do not understand about autism as consoled by the officers from DSU and CCSC.

To combat the sadness, Arif would do activities that he enjoys such as playing Play-Doh, Power Rangers, and watching Mr. Bean. Arif also requested a special mention to Prof. Ruzita and Sister Halimah from DSU for bringing him to Toys ‘R Us to buy Play-Doh.

After the interview, Arif invited me to play his new ice cream Play-Doh set given by Sister Amirah, Arif’s counsellor from CCSC. Arif has sessions with Sister Khairiah and Sister Amirah twice a week in CCSC’s Expressive Art Room D.

During the sessions, Arif creates food out of Play-Doh, sing songs such as “Aishiteru”, and even taught Sister Khairiah and Sister Amirah Arabic language. I felt really delighted when Arif also sang “Aishiteru” and the KWSP theme song to me during the interview.

Moreover, outside the sessions in CCSC, Arif received a lot of support and smiles from the friendly community. Among Arif’s favourite activities is parading in his Power Rangers suit around IIUM which indeed sparked joy within students who were around the campus. 

Apart from the IIUM community, Arif has a large following on Facebook who are interested with his postings. A vast majority of his followings consist of special parents who have children with autism. By reading Arif’s posts, they get to know their children better. Indeed, Arif is leading the way by being a prominent figure in Malaysia’s discussion of autism. 

Clearly, the undying effort and spirit from Arif is an inspiration to all. Congratulations on your graduation and all the best for your Masters, Arif. With love from DSU, CCSC, as well as the supportive community from IIUM and the public, Arif’s blue days turned into a teal graduation robe on IIUM’s 36th Convocation. ***

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