By Siti Nurliza
Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has severely affected the entire post-pandemic world order. But for this married couple from India, the pandemic and subsequent international travel ban in their home country have fulfilled a dream moment-to-unite the two better halves in the same convocation ceremony.
A PhD graduate from the Department of Qur’an and Sunnah Studies, Dr. Muhammed Suhail Hidayahad, successfully defended his doctoral viva in 2019 and was supposed to receive his academic scroll in 2020.
However, the global pandemic has brought his convocation to the last March this year and was again delayed to this year’s August convocation due to international travel ban in India. The fateful event allowed him to receive his scroll with his wife, Sahla Shirin, who was also receiving Postgraduate Degree from the same department.
The couple asserted that mutual support and encouragement were the real push factors in their student life at IIUM.
“Throughout our life here, we attempted to explore IIUM and Malaysia at best. During the first year, we decided to stay inside the university campus. Meeting every day and living in two separate Mahallahs was not easy at all.
“But we decided not to sacrifice her university exposure for the sake of family life. In our last year, we moved to a family apartment which became influential in exploring real Malaysian life with all its spices,” Dr. Suhail Hidaya said.
Meanwhile, for Sahla, it was challenging to survive in a foreign country mentally and physically. But the support and care of her husband motivated her.
“I truly dedicate this success to my better half. Without him, I could not complete this long cherished journey”, Sahla revealed.
Compared to Malaysia, Sahla pointed out that India is very far in women empowerment and female higher education. Many Muslim girls and their parents are still ambiguous about pursuing higher education after marriage.
“It was our mission to set an Islamic model for our local friends that higher education and successful family life are not contradictory, rather supportive,” said the duo who are parents of two toddlers, Sulaim Ahmad and Sunain Ahmad.
“The message we have to share from our own experience is that determination and persistence can bring wonders. All my friends and relatives were doubtful about how a jobless student couple could manage huge academic and living expenses here.
“But Allah blessed us and rewarded our good intention in the form of a generous full scholarship from the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT),” they added.
Presently, Dr. Suhail works as the Dean at the Kulliyyah of Qur’an and Sunnah, Darul Huda Islamic University in India while Sahla, now on maternity leave, was serving as a junior lecturer in an Islamic women’s college in the Indian state of Kerala.***