It took me a while to compose myself after hearing the news on Thursday morning, 23 February 2023. Hours turn into days and days turn into weeks for me to recollect my memories about him. I learn the phrase “Paradigm shift” back in 1998 during the orientation week. Paradigm shift is a big word for me. What is that? In Malay, it is translated as Anjakan Paradigma.
As I took several classes related to philosophy, I understand more about the meaning of paradigm shift. But being me when I first heard the word, I was mesmerised with the guy who uttered it, Prof Kamal. A tall, lanky guy in his 50s, he looked so regal and scholarly. Coming from a non-academic family, for me to meet someone like him is almost a miracle (with the Blessing of Allah). Learning something from him in one hour seems so brief. I started to search more about his work. Reading a short article by him that I found in the IIUM library left me speechless. I started to ask myself, “Can I be like him aka as a thinker?”, “How can I be like him who seems to be wise in philosophical way?”, “Can I write like him?”.
Reflecting on myself who is not him and not having a brain like him makes me think further by asking myself “What can I do for the benefits of the ummah?” Ironically, the question was among the things that he mentioned in his talk. If John F Kennedy once said ““Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.””, Prof Kamal once posed the question (might not be his exact word, but just the gist), “What can we do for the sake of Allah to contribute for benefits of the ummah?“. The concept of ‘Abd, being a Muslim might seem alien to a younger me but it is not easy to be internalized and actualized by the older me.
I had a few more opportunities to learn from him while studying at undergraduate level during talks (not a formal course). One of the last moments was during an Ibadah camp at Templar Park in 2002. It was a long day and his talk was at night. He smiled warmly as he stepped into the hall where we had been waiting, seeing our exhausted faces. He wore a batik shirt with white pants. I was seated a little further back from the front of the stage, where he was standing. But even from a distance, I could see him clearly. His aura glowed brightly than the dimly lit hall.
As far as I could remember, he exudes the aura of cool, calm and collected. On the basis of our initial encounter, no one has ever struck me as a scholar. In my opinion, he embodied the scholarly spirit as of the late Prof. Malik Badri and Cikgu Sidek Baba, and Prof Kamal’s behaviour reflected that.
Prof Kamal, it is an honor to meet you in person when I worked as an Assistant Director of a newly established unit at IIUM back in 2004. Even though our time together was brief, you provided me with models of scholarly behaviour that I find difficult to imitate. Al-Fatihah to you. May Allah grant you Jannah.