Monday, 25 May 2009


Research – it is the most popular keywords nowadays, especially in my faculty and the university, for along with it comes Research University, Research Alliance, Research Centre, Research Group, Research-based KPI and many more. But why such a word becomes so magical all of a sudden? Why we fuzz about its utterance only today? What did happen ‘yesterday’? Is it really important this thing called research? All that we know is that, there are so many questions with very few answers. Even this last sentence invokes a set of new questions, why is this so? Why we have so many questions? Why can not we answer? Why is it so hard for us to agree? Do people around the world asking the same questions? So, having these everlasting questions to begin with, I have decided to limit this writing on the importance of research into the scopes of 1) research as a form of teaching and learning and 2) research as a religious act. It is hope that what follows would shed some light on some of the mystery mystifying that very word.

1) Research as a form of teaching and learning

We are really teaching, you know, when we do research, especially when we are working with our postgraduate students. Whilst in the conventional teaching (i.e. lecturing and tutoring), the subjects being delivered are rather general and typical, supervising postgrads means delivering and transferring our best knowledge, whatever the last in stock. Also, whilst the aim of the conventional teaching most likely to produce doers (especially in our exam-oriented system), research supervision could provide thinkers that able to shape not only the country, the ummah but also the world. Sukarno once said (something sounds like this):Berikan aku sepuluh pemuda, akan ku gegar seluruh dunia (Hand me a ten of young men for then I will shake the whole world). What Sukarno really saying is that there are times (many times in fact) when quality is what really matters.

And teaching our postgrads should not be like any other teaching, it involves personal affection for the student will becomes his or her teacher’s reflection. For those preferring Sufism analog, it should be like a sheikh and a murid and for those who are into Star Wars, it should be like Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. By looking at this whole research things through such a perspective, one can even get the feeling that this research type of teaching is more difficult and demanding than the conventional one.

But what do we teach? We teach them first and foremost how to ‘read books’, how to ‘think’ or in other words, how to learn ‘by themselves’. We teach them to become the master of themselves. For me, this is the most valuable knowledge of all and this was what my PhD’s supervisor instill in me. On the teaching of the technical parts, there is an argument, however, that we must let our postgrads to go independent in their study yet this is very subjective and relative. I agree to this to some extent especially in the context of western universities but there are some explicit differences between them and us. I did not go totally independent myself when I was in the Imperial Colleges for there were like tens of very capable seniors at my disposal. When I became a senior myself, I was referred to by my juniors and taught them many things many times. Now, do we already have such a bunch of seniors that can assist in supervising the juniors? Until this is established, I believe that we should be the senior to our students, hence a personal tutoring what we must do. Again, a very demanding job if one looks at it this way.

As far as learning is concerned, research itself is a learning process. Discovering whatever to be discovered is of course learning by itself. But that is not all, research is about reading as there will be no research without reading. Everyone must read and this only to include the supervisors. There is no way for us to solve a problem been left by those who were more superior in that particular knowledge until we have at least accumulated the same amount of knowledge, for this would give a way to the possibility of luck coming into play. But again, how can we accumulate such a sufficient amount of knowledge if not by reading and keep reading and keep reading and keep reading and this only means learning and keep learning and keep learning and keep learning. All I am saying is, by doing research we have all the reasons in the world to keep reading thus to keep learning hence fulfilling what Rasullullah SAW demanded of us as his ummah; to keep learning until the end of our life.

And there is one big difference in the reading of a postgrad and of an undergrad; the former reads for his/her understanding whilst the latter usually reads for the sake of answering the exam questions.

2) Research as forms of religious act i.e. ibadah, jihad, da’wah

I think there is a ‘compact’ way for me to write on this topic that is, by telling a story of myself from which we can deduce the essence of research as a form of religious act to include ibadah, jihad and da’wah.

When I was in the Imperial College I tried to do da’wah to my fellow non-Muslims friends only to end up with them saying back to me, “Airil, if Islam is so great, tell me what is so great about you, about your country? Aren’t the Muslim’s countries are the poorest, and ones that always at war. What are the Muslim contributions in this contemporary world ?” and so on which stroke me like a lightning. How can we do da’wah, how can we promote the syiar of Islam if people do not even want to listen to us in the first place simply because we are ‘nothing’, we have ‘nothing’. Look around us, look at the computer, the lights, the fan, the air conditioner, the cars, the plane, the ship, which one is ‘ours’? Still, many of us do not even want to write journal articles.

From that very day, I have made a pack with myself that; there will be no longer a day without knowledge for me. I will go on the jihad by striving to be the best and the smartest in the field so that when I want to talk about Islam, people will listen just as they listen to me when I talk about mechanics and finite element. I must earn their respect and trust by first being the authority in my fields, then only will I have the chance to say whatever I want to say and preach whatever I want to preach and only this way, there will be a better chance for some of them to agree and to follow. InsyaAllah.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

TO Anonymous, bekas pelajar Fachhochscule

Dalam banyak-banyak respons yang aku terima dari pembaca blog aku, cuma satu yang aku tak boleh nak ignore, iaitu respon dari Anonymous bekas pelajar Fachhochscule, German (tah apa jenis sekolah/univerisit/kolej pon aku tak tau walaupon 3 tahun setengah aku duduk di Imperial College London). Aku tak de masalah dengan pendapat dia mengenai PPSMI, tapi aku cukup tak boleh terima dengan tuduhan dan persepsi dia pada student-student UTM, seperti yang aku turunkan kat bawah ni:

“Huh??Budak UTM je??Aku pula bekas pelajar Fachhochscule dari negara Jerman. Dan aku bantah PPSMI. Hanya budak yang result sains dan matematik yg cukup-cukup msakan saja yg sokongPPSMI ni.Ptuihh..”
(ditulis oleh Anonymous bekas pelajar Fachhochscule sebagai respons kepada artikel blog aku yang bertajuk: JANGAN JADIKAN JERMAN ALASAN UNTUK TIDAK LAKSANAKAN PPSMI)

Jadi, di sini ada dua perkara yang aku nak buat:
- aku cabar Anonymous of Fachhochscule untuk datang sendiri ke Steel Technology Centre (STC), Fakulti Kejuruteraan Awam, UNiversiti Teknologi Malaysia untuk dia menilai diri dia versus student-student postgraduates aku dalam bidang physics, mathematics, computational mechanics dan computer programming. Sila hubungi ofis aku (07-5531616).
- aku mintak agar student-student aku respons pada pernyataan Anonymous of Fachhochscule di atas. Korang boleh tulis dan emailkan pada aku pendapat korang di atau tulis je kat bahagian komen di bawah. Kalo korang nak letak nama samaran pon tak pe tapi kalo letak nama betul dan contact address lagi bagus. Aku bukak blog aku selama sebulan untuk bekas2 student aku untuk diorang tulis apa sahaja berkenaan perkara ini.

Lastly, on PPSMI, apa yang Anonymous of Fachhochscule cakap cume menyokong/membenarkan apa yang aku cakap selama ni iaitu, kita perlu melahirkan Leibniz-Leibniz kita sendiri dulu baru boleh beria-ia nak menggunakan bahasa Melayu dalam sains dan matematik. Kepada Anonymous of Fachhochscule, ko pahamkan dulu apa yang ko cakap dan tulis...