“Do you know where and with whom I can voice my nonconformity at being little toad so they may let me to be a crocodile?”
Subcomandante Marcos, The Tale of the Nonconformist Little Toad
I have been reading many of the IIIT publications since my undergraduate years in Indonesia. Although they contain many interesting ideas, I had never become convinced that all of would be academically meaningful for me until the Summer of 2016.
The Summer Student Program (SSP) has totally changed my perception. It was my ‘nonconformist little toad’ moment.
Coming from a background in political science, I often try to connect my identity as a scholar and a Muslim to see how it relates to what I am studying. My main goal is to reconnect and give meaning to that. It’s about how I can see things differently, and how I can contribute intellectually as a Muslim to humanity. Starting in our first year in university, we were being put into boxes and confined in a certain way. Here with this program, we are encouraged to open the box. In this period of five weeks, I felt free to try new approaches, to ask different questions, and to challenge my own assumptions regarding my research problem, and see for instance, where Islamic intellectual traditions fall into place. More importantly, I had the privilege to embark on this intellectual journey with great support from professors and my fellow students. Throughout inside and outside classroom discussions, I was able to experience at first hand of how real a academic collaboration was put into practice.
All the courses at SSP were amazing. Nevertheless, I would like to highlight one of them: the Maqasid Al-Shari’ah course. It is very relevant for me because as a political scientist, we are more familiar with the question of ‘why’ rather than ‘how’. The maqasid approach creates a space for us, ‘the students of context’ to be more involved in the broader discussion of our textual traditions. But at the same time, this methodology also provides a challenge. The challenge is in how to balance our consequentialist considerations with our principles in formulating policies. For me, Maqasid Al-Shari’ah is an invitation for embarking upon further knowledge integration.
The benefits of SSP continue after the conclusion of the program. As one of the SSP 2016 student fellows, I was supported by IIIT to participate in various academic (MESA, AAR) and non-academic events (ISNA, IMSA). This opportunity helps me to expand my social network far beyond my small academic circles. As a result, I feel more motivated to be involved in the Muslim societies.
All in all, SSP did not let me become a ‘crocodile;’ it clearly opened the eyes of ‘a little toad’ like me