Sunday, May 06, 2012

Exchange Program with IIUM

On May 1, 2012 I led a group of 13 adult students from the Islamic Institute of Toronto ( for a two-week exchange program with the International Islamic University of Malaysia ( It was one of the most rewarding experiences. While it is impossible to detail the entire two-week trip, a few thoughts on the trip will give some insight in what was clearly one of the most fulfilling experiences for the group.

The objectives were simple: To provide an opportunity for expanding of horizons, understanding of cultures and enrichment of experiences through travel and study in an Islamic environment.

The organizers of IIUM did an amazing job at providing accommodation, an interesting education program and fantastic touring opportunities that allowed us to experience the transformation that has has made Malaysia one of the top south-east Asian countries, and a contender among developing countries in the world. IIUM is a world-class university, and its integration of Islamic knowledge coupled with Islamic adab amongst its students make it a unique learning environment. As Dr. Abdul-Aziz Berghout, the Deputy Rector at IIUM remarked at our closing session, it is the sense of mission that IIUM provides its students that is critical to the achievement of its objectives as an Islamic University.

Our group listened to presentations by some of the top scholars at IIUM, including Dr. Abdullah al-Ahsan, Dr. Abdur Rahim, Dr. Kamal Hassan, Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, Dr. Benaouda BenSaeed, Dato Sri Sanussi Junid (former President of IIUM) and Dr. Ariff Osman. We also visited the newly built Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at its Kuantan Campus, and observed first-hand a model of study that incorporated free dental and medical service to the public. We participated in a special forum on the Hizmet model of education at the Advanced Institute of Islamic Sciences with Dr. Osman Bakar, Dr. Hashim Kamali, Dr. Ali Unsal and Dr. Saim Kayadibi.

It seems as if our itinerary was deliberately set up in such as way that every day revealed more beauty than the day before - in the architecture of its mosques, the natural and built environment, the wildlife (monkeys and more monkeys!), the university's progress, the shopping centres, the cuisine and the amazingly kind-hearted people we met every day. Langkawi island was one of the highlights of the trip - an island paradise with the Kilim Geoforest that preserves the natural environment.

Special recognition should be given to Siti Aisiyah bin Ibrahim and her staff (Fitri, Syamimi, Khairul and Ana) for an impressive program and for fostering an atmosphere of genuine fraternity. We are indebted to them for giving us an opportunity of a lifetime.

We are looking forward for students of IIUm to visit IIT in June...and although we will be unable to reciprocate at the same level we are confident that the students will find their stay in Canada rewarding.


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