Monday, 25 May 2009

THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH

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.

6 comments:

Mun Keat said...

Quite an interesting way of putting it, Dr.
Somehow, what truly discourages a person to do a research is because it does not seem to be appreciated.

The value of the research a little undermined here in Malaysia if compared with foreign countries. I guess the different cultures is quite a big issue.

It is the same with writing articles or sharing of point of view. Not much people really respond or react to it, which is quite a goner.

Somehow, I do look forward to a research soon but still a little clueless on the inspiration part.

Agreeing with what Dr mention about turning it into a part of life (way of life) but hard to achieve.

pawn said...

its a well written article dr.,
dalam bz2 nk pindah sempat lagi karang eh?

well, i think u should discussed more on second point by showing some example done by previous islam warriors such as imam al-ghazali..
by that, readers will know how to respond accordingly towards ur article. readers will know how iman al-ghazali control the world by his powerfull knowledge.

memang la readers yg sepatutnya kne cari n baca sendri tp masalahnya org2 kt malaysia ni x xske baca buku tp ske baca blog org..

tq

Anonymous said...

org2 kat Malaysia tiada 'senior' yg membaca. jadilah 'senior' pd mereka. Saya sendiri baru nak membaca.

One more thing, there are a few articles on Sunday's The Star commenting on Abby Wong's article the Sunday before which says that she finds guys reading any type of pieces are charming. Good news right? :)

Anonymous said...

(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.)




Bila saye terbaca perenggan artikel ini… Saya sebenarnya amat terharu dengan Dr. kalaulah Dr. ada usaha untuk buat keje-keje da’wah ni... dan dalih-dalih yang diberikan oleh kawan Dr. itu memang betul… bukan dr. sahaja mugkin kita semua ni pun macam itu juga, dengan masalah diri kita ni yang serba serbi kekurangan, sekolah agama pun tidaklah tinggi… Negara kita yang cara pengajarannye tidaklah membina budaya kreatif untuk pelajar-pelajarnye… dengan cabaran kita semua dengan perang halus dari Barat… itu yang menyebabakan Negara kita miskin walaupun kaya dengan hasi buminya…cumanye kita semua ni bodoh…

Islam itu ‘something’ kite sebenarnya yang ‘nothing’…

Saya pernah terbaca tentang seorang tokoh bernama Ibnu Al- Nafis…Saye amat tertarik dengan tokoh islam ini dalam ilmu perubatan selain ibnu sina. Pendek katanya beliau seorang yang alim, warak dan bijak agamanya… berkat doanya Allah SWT berikan ilmu yang orang lain tiada dengan penemuannya tentang ‘Pulmonary Circulation’. Walaupun dengan tidak ada perasaan malu… hanya dengan menggunakan katak, William Harvey menyatakan dia yang menemukan kapillari darah tersebut…

Dari kenyataan ini cuma saye nak utarakan di sini pentingnya pengisian diri dari segi aspek rohani dalam setiap pengkaji-pengkaji islam lagi-lagi di Malaysia ini… sekiranya aspek rohani ini dijaga, Insyaallah Allah akan kurniakan kefahaman yang lebih tentang ilmu dunia ini…

Maafah Dr. kalau disini ada yang tersilap tulis .Cuma saye berpendapat yang kita semua kena hati-hati dalam kita mengejar dunia ini lagi-lagi dengan islam liberal, materialistic, sakularisme & etc yang sebenarnya melemahkan kita sebagai pengkaji-pengkaji yang mengaku dirinya islam…

Dan disini saya sangat bangga ada seseorang macam Dr. di Malaysia ni… Mungkin saye yang baru nak mula mendaki dan mendidik sifat membaca dalam diri saye ni akan dapat jadi hebat macam Dr. ataupun lebih dari itu… dan tiada yang mustahil…

=> May Allah Bless You

Anonymous said...

Ridhuan Tee was my student when I taught at UKM many many years ago. I thought he was a moron even then. I gave him a D and he never forgave me for that. So when I read the story that he plagiarized your work I was curious so I clicked on your blog.

I am shocked that he would plagiarize from this poorly written blog rather than from a serious scholarly work.


I am sorry to say that the state of education in Malaysia has gotten much worse since I left 20 years ago. Your blog is testimony to this. Your English is dreadful, full of grammatical mistakes and misuse of words (e.g it is fuss not "fuzz".) I would recommend that you get someone competent in English to edit your blog before posting.

Airilsametok said...

Dear Sir (Anon 8:20),

It is my honor to have a UKM Professor to comment in my blog.

In regards to your comment, however, in my defence:

1) I am an engineer (computational mechanicist to be precise) and not a linguist

2) This is a blog; a place where I write rather on the spot. For more formal writings (i.e journal articles etc), I generally spend laborious hours in ensuring the quality of the content as well as the grammar.

Thanks Prof for visiting.