Per written about me on the right side of this page, I see myself as an optimist. Well, optimist may be too strong a word; I am a person who likes to see my glass as half full. This positive attitude of mine is the simple result of my strong faith in society and in God. Seldom do I stress over the little things in life because my faith in people is greater than my doubt for their ability to do the right thing most of the time. Also, seldom do I complain about my present life circumstances because I have faith that God has written a much more beautiful story arc for me than I could ever imagined.
When I first started on my journey to become a student of political science, I honestly could not answer to those inquiring about my plan once I was conferred with a piece of paper that has BA in political science written on it. All I knew was that I had a really strong desire to study power structure and ways for goodness to permeate throughout society especially to those at the bottom of the power pyramid.
In Pittsburgh, the first class I attended was not a course on political science, but a history course on Islamic civilization. I decided to enroll in that specific course because I thought—wrongly—that it would be an easy A to me, a Muslim who grew up in a Muslim-majority nation. More significantly, my decision at the eleventh hour just before class actually began to enroll in that specific class became the stimuli that evoked my interest to better understand Islam and Turkey (as successor to the Islamic Caliphate). Since then, every project, every paper, ever class presentation that I did at Pittsburgh revolves around issues affecting the Muslim world.
That was what I wrote in the essay that got me accepted to the London School of Economics and Political Science to do my MSc.
Now, roughly 5 years later, I am a PhD candidate and Fellow at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. The first month I am here, almost everyone I met, from fellow classmates to professors, have asked me the simple question of why would an LSE graduate come to IIUM? Honestly, I had also asked that question myself.
But at the end of the day, as much as these all seems to be my doing, it is actually not—it is His doing. Of course I would be lying if I said I did not wish to do my PhD at another prestigious university in the UK or maybe even go back to the US. But as He had planned for me, I got pregnant the minute I touched down from London, and my priorities changed upside down. As a consolation, I applied to the best university in Malaysia and was accepted, with one of the best professors around agreeing to supervise my thesis. But again, as He had planned, the professor got politically entangled and my employer wanted me to familiarize myself with the school that I am going to eventually teach in one day.
Now, here is the irony: never in my youthful days had I ever consider applying to IIUM, because I felt it was too Islamic for my liking. But now, after a quarter of a century under my belt, I am neither lying nor being defensive when I say that I am very excited to be a part of IIUM.
First of all, I am excited to be part of IIUM because I can’t wait to become a better Muslim holistically. One of the issues I have always had was in term of dressing Islamically appropriate. I remember divulging to my husband and roommate in London how I envy those who are comfortable dressing according to the Shariah in a non-Muslim country. I envy them. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be confident displaying my religion unapologetically. Yet I was weak. I succumbed to the fashion world as marketed by the industry while ignoring my inner desire to be a better Muslim. At IIUM, I am expected to conform not to ‘their’ rules, but to God’s rules, and I am more than happy to abide. The happiness and contentment within me, I believe, is part of God’s plan to bring me closer to Him.
Secondly, I feel like IIUM fits my long-term goal to be an expert in Political Islam with as much an emphasis on Islamic knowledge as well as on political science. See, I used to question every day and every night, why has God written ‘political science’ on my destiny card, and not medicine, law, mathematics or even psychology. Now I have the answer. It is because of my desire to study Political Islam that I acknowledged the need for me to have substantial knowledge on the religion itself if I am to speak about politics according to the religion. As a result, I have learned so much more about Islam. More importantly, I feel so much closer to God.
Who would have thought political science will be that which brought me closer to Islam. If the purpose of life is to submit, I am happy to say that I am on the right path.