Attributes of A True Academic

Academics are defined by their dedication to academic activities, which involve knowledge generation and dissemination. Both are fundamentals to their job descriptions. By and large, academics in universities undertake multiple duties and responsibilities, including teaching, researching, providing consultancy/services, conducting research, leading innovation, publishing journals and books, and managing the institution they are serving.

The academics’ dynamicity as knowledge workers is determined by his/her awareness and readiness to subscribe to this job description set. Indeed, it is challenging to be multitasking. However, it is a mission made possible should the academics adopt and internalize the right attributes that will define their professionalism and their personalities.

One of the attributes is upholding Amanah in accomplishing their duties and responsibilities as academic. This requires high integrity when carrying out their fundamental tasks in teaching, lecturing, researching, and producing academic writings. So, it is pertinent for academics to engage in self-reflection constantly, to be reminded of the real purposes of being in a university and the profession. They also need to acquire sincerity in accomplishing their duties and responsibilities. Only then, all they do would be counted as ibadah that will be accorded with His blessings and rewards.

The other attribute is the mastering of knowledge and continuously generating it. This is in line with the concept of Iqra’ which is the prerequisite to having wisdom or Hikmah in life. The idea of Hikmah refers to having knowledge of the reality of things, putting things in their proper positions, and bringing actions to be following relevant experience. Hikmah also addresses the attainment of decisive proofs, which are useful to strengthen an individual's religious beliefs. Hikmah is indeed overloaded with meanings. The preamble to them is the act of Iqra’, which is essentially the business of knowledge workers in an academically based organization. Iqra’ involves reading and research activities that enable them to generate knowledge objectively. Academics should self-assess if they have internalized the concept of ‘Iqra in the right manner to arrive at Hikmah, in their thoughts, actions, and how they make impact others

Hence, a university should emphasize Hikmah, which enables the academics as the knowledge workers to fulfill their sacred function as Khalifah. The Qur’an explains that the task of man as a Khalifah is to administer and cultivate the earth (Hud 11:61). From the perspective of Islam, it is an indispensable responsibility of every sane man. Therefore, in fulfilling this responsibility as Khalifah, the academics need to engage with others. They have to address the different types of communities; the learned, the learning, and the public appropriating the approaches that suit them best. This is where Hikmah is needed. Therefore, it is vital to stress that academics are not wagers but workers of knowledge who could bring about societal changes

For a profession that does not provide high monetary profit or tangible outputs (i.e., not calculated in the KPI, KIP, and KRI), it is the Return of Values (ROV) that should aspire academics to stay true to their duties and responsibilities (Asma Ismail, 2013). In addition, as stated earlier, the career as academics that is linked to ibadah and rightly executed is promised with remarkable blessings from Allah. Indeed He regards the best speeches as someone who invites to Allah and does righteousness, and for doing so, one is being the real Muslim. (Fussilat 41:33)

 Another essential attribute of academics is Rahmah in the sense that, ideally, their academic pursuit and engagement shall radiate the spirit of Rahmah to the world. Academics should hold to the idea that their work would impact the university, students, and the community at large. Hence, academics should reflect if the activities or programs conducted would positively impact the community or not. Academics in this regard are responsive and proactive in solving life problems and restoring balance in the world.

The attributes highlighted, Amanah, Iqra’, Hikmah, and Rahman are universal attributes that found their sacred values and meanings under Islam's framework. These attributes form man's characteristics as Khalifah so he may cultivate the earth in the right manner. So long that academics hold to these attributes and be agile with their roles as Khalifah, they should be able to fully-function as knowledge workers who carry out the noble task in the spirit of Ihsan in search of His Blessings.


Prof. Dr. Shukran Abd Rahman is Dean, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia; and an academic in the Department of Psychology at the Kulliyyah

Assoc. Prof Haslina Ibrahim is Deputy Dean, Responsible Research and Innovation, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia. She is also an academic in the Department of Usul al-Din and Comparative Religion at the Kulliyyah

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