BERNAMA’S THOUGHTS – – SPREADING AWARENESS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY: INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF MALAYSIA (IIUM) AS A MODEL
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BERNAMA’S THOUGHTS – – SPREADING AWARENESS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY: INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF MALAYSIA (IIUM) AS A MODEL

Opinions from thought leaders, columnists and editors on current issues.

By: Dr. Mohammed RM Elshobake

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established by the United Nations in 2015, provide a blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. With 17 interconnected goals that address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation, the SDGs provide a framework for collective action at local, national and international levels.

In the global drive for sustainable development, educational institutions play a key role in shaping the minds of future leaders and changemakers. Among these institutions, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) stands out as a model for raising awareness and fostering understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through its curriculum, research initiatives and community engagement activities, IIUM exemplifies the importance of teaching SDG courses in higher education.

International Islamic University Malaysia is a prominent model in the pursuit of sustainable development goals, using Maqasid Syariah as its foundation. It is an international, award-winning institution for sustainable development. Translating its curriculum into a concrete plan of action, IIUM has introduced sustainable development courses, the most important of which is SCSH 1201: Sustainable Development Issues, Principles and Practices. Its aim is to provide a foundation for students to understand the concept and principles of sustainable development.

Integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into curricula is crucial

Integrating the SDGs into curricula is crucial for several reasons, as it helps raise students’ awareness of pressing global issues and the interconnectedness of various socio-economic and environmental challenges. It supports a deeper understanding of the root causes of these issues and the importance of collective action to solve them.

Furthermore, teaching the Sustainable Development Goals from a traditional and Islamic perspective enables students to become agents of change within and outside their communities, which will result in producing better intellectuals, professionals and scholars with the combination of qualities of faith (iman), knowledge (`ilm) and good character (akhlaq) who will serve as agents of all-round and sustainable progress as well as sustainable development in Malaysia and the Muslim world, which is one of the missions of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Since joining the International Islamic University of Malaysia in 2016 as a PhD student, I have developed a keen interest in sustainable development that spans various fields and specialisations, including legal aspects.

Therefore, after taking up the position of assistant professor at Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws (AIKOL), I applied to Sejahtera Centre for Sustainability and Humanity to teach the SDGs course: “SCSH 1201: Sustainable Development Issues, Principles and Practices”. I have been teaching it to students from different faculties for the third semester in a row.

At the beginning of the first semester, I noticed a lack of interest among students in studying this field. They saw it as an additional burden with no tangible benefits in their specializations. Their understanding of the SDG concept was unclear, they saw sustainable development only through the prism of 3R (REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE) and environmental protection, especially animals and plants. In addition, they believed that the government is solely responsible for solving environmental problems and ensuring sustainable development.

Change in students’ understanding of SDGs

However, by the end of each semester, I witnessed a significant transformation in the students’ understanding of the SDGs. Through lectures, discussions, and various expert-led videos highlighting the importance of the SDGs, students realized that the SDGs encompass a broad spectrum of global issues. They learned about the interconnectedness of poverty, hunger, climate change, inequality, peace, and effective governance, and how each goal impacts the others. They also recognized that sustainable development requires collective action and that each individual has a role to play.

For example, one student noted, “This course taught me that the SDGs encompass a wide range of global issues. I learned about the interconnectedness of poverty, hunger, climate change, inequality, peace, and effective governance, and how each goal impacts the others. Furthermore, this course not only gave me knowledge but also instilled a sense of agency. It showed me that sustainable development is not the responsibility of one entity but requires collective action, where every individual contributes. I understood that even our small contribution can benefit society.”

My classes on sustainable development have significantly increased students’ awareness of the importance of sustainable development and the need to balance economic, social and environmental perspectives while taking into account the Islamic dimension.

The students demonstrated this knowledge through various sustainability projects they presented during the course such as digitalization of food banks within the International Islamic University Malaysia, improvement of footpaths on the Gombak campus, supporting community-led sustainable energy initiatives, awareness and availability of e-waste bins among students at the Gombak IIUM campus, and Hygiene Harmony: Cleaning Prayer Mats for Good Health in Mosques and Musallas.

At the end of the first semester of the 2023–2024 academic year, students recognised their role in contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

One student stated: “After completing this course, I fully understand the comprehensive meaning of sustainable development and its goals. By understanding the connection between the SDGs and Islamic principles, my concerns about the issue of sustainable development have intensified.

“Therefore, I commit to practicing sustainable activities in my daily life, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned in the hadith: “There is no one among the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds and then a bird, a human being or an animal eats from it, and it is not considered a gift of charity for him” (Sahih al-Bukhari, hadith 513).”

IIUM Model to Support Understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals

In conclusion, the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) serves as a role model in spreading awareness and fostering the understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its curriculum, research initiatives and community engagement activities.

By teaching the Sustainable Development Goals, IIUM equips students with the knowledge, skills and values ​​needed to become effective change agents in a rapidly changing world.

As we strive for a more sustainable future, educational institutions play a critical role in shaping the next generation of global citizens and leaders committed to achieving the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals.

— BERNAMA

Dr Mohammed RM Elshobake is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Civil Law and Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah is a Lecturer at the International Islamic University in Malaysia.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)