AN EULOGY FOR DR ALDILA ISAHAK – A FIRM BELIEVER IN TAWHID AND TAWHIDIC POLITICS
By Dr Amran Muhammad, Chief Executive ISSI
Our beloved Dr Aldila binti Dato’ Isahak had always been one of the major strengths in our revival of Kalam initiative due to her articulate and radiant personality. She had been involved from the very beginning of our effort to bring back Kalam to the academic and public spheres in Malaysia despite her illness. She considered herself ‘a survivor’ and maintained a positive attitude about living with cancer until the end.
In fact she was truly ‘a fighter’ for many years who actively advocated positive attitude among people like her by providing them support and encouragement especially through the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) affiliated group, ABC advocacy and support group. Indeed, Dr Aldila was determined to live a fulfilling life for her family, daughter and colleagues including me.
I have known Dr Aldila since we were students of Professor Dr Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas at ISTAC during the early 1990s. She studied Political Science at IIUM before becoming a research fellow at ISTAC while doing her Master in Islamic Thought. Not many among us got the opportunity to study what I consider the major components of Ilm al-kalam like Dr Aldila which made her also ‘a firm believer’ in Tawhid and Tawhidic Approach in her life undertakings.
She was blessed by studying Kitab al-Tawhid of Imam al-Maturidi for her Master particularly on al-Maturidi’s Epistemology or theory of knowledge. For her PhD, she studied Ibn al-Azraq’s Politics namely Kitab Badā’i‘ al-Silk fī Ṭabā’i‘ al-Mulk (the Marvels of State Conduct and the Nature of Authority). Dr Aldila found in Ibn al-Azraq that a Muslim polity through leadership based on Iman that is rooted in taqwa is the answer to the best governance. Thus, Dr Aldila was deeply grounded in Ilm al-Kalam’s Tawhid approach of knowledge starting from Epistemology and ending in Tawhidic Approach to Politics (Imamah).
Dr Aldila had been an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM. Her understanding of how Tawhid is manifested in all dimensions of our lives made Dr Aldila attempt to translate her academic interests into multidisciplinary fields while maintaining her major interest in Political Science.
Following the footsteps of our Mutakallimun, Dr Aldila’s scope of expertise and interests diversified from Political Thought, Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology, Islamisation, Higher Education, Feminism. At IIUM, she taught ‘Political Thought’, ‘Women in Politics’, ‘Ethics and Politics’, ‘Political Ideologies’, ‘Political Theory of Justice’, ‘Issues in Muslim Political Thought’, ‘Issues in Western Political Thought’ and ‘Studies in Political Theory.’ She had also taught ‘Women in Politics’ at Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association (PERGAS) and ‘Contemporary Muslim World’ at Madrasah al-Junied al-Islamiah, Post-Graduate Diploma in Islamic Thought and Civilization, Singapore.
Among administrative posts she had held at IIUM were Deputy Director of the Industrial Networking & Internship Section, Alumni & Career Services Division, Head of Student Learning Enhancement Unit (SLEU), Deputy Dean of IIUM Press, Research Management Centre. She was also a member of Women Issues Committee of Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM), was an editor for Khadija Conference Journal 2013 of Kista Community College, Stockholm Sweden.
She was involved in various research projects as principal researcher as well as co-researcher: ‘Selected Thinkers of Political Thought: From Plato to Ibn Khaldun’ (2015), ‘GE 13: Make or Break of a Nation’ (2014), ‘The Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims: An Islamic Perspective (2013), ‘A Critical Assessment of the Impact of PSPTN Phase 1 on Malaysian Higher Education Stakeholders’ (2013).
At ISSI and within the Kalam community of practice in Malaysia, we just completed one year of our Kalam revival movement when suddenly Dr Aldila leaving us to enter our second year without the charming articulation and radiance that came with her. She was all along with us during our First Workshop on Kalam Epistemology, our Inaugural Kuala Lumpur International Kalam Symposium (KLIKS) in which she volunteered to be the emcee. She was also involved in the Second Workshop on Kalam Epistemology during KLIKS. In our social media and discussion group, she had been among the most active and articulate participants.
I remember vividly how Dr Aldila was enthralled with the return of Professor Dr Aref Nayed who was among our most learned teachers that has had a lasting impact of our understanding of Kalam vis a vis our modern and contemporary thought. Dr Aldila told me for many years she wished she could get in touch in Prof Aref until she met him in person during KLIKS, the first time Prof Aref came back to Malaysia after more than 15 years to help bringing to light the importance of Kalam revival for the Muslims.
For me Dr Aldila is an exemplary student of Kalam for being able to master both the Epistemology and Politics of Tawhid in theory and in practice. For all her continuous support and unrelenting commitment to ISSI and the Kalam community of practice, we are very grateful to her and pray that may Allah forgive her, bless her and grant her the highest station of Paradise. Amin Ya Rabb al-Alamin. Al-Fatihah.
Dr Amran Muhammad
Photos © Sohail Nakhooda/KRM