Remembering Prof Sayed Sikandar Shah Haneef

Though many people come and go in our lives, only a few occupy a special place in our hearts. There can be a thousand and one reasons why an individual is remembered even after they are gone from this world. There is an ancient word of wisdom that says, ‘when great personalities leave this world, they only vanish physically from our sight while leaving something precious in the minds and hearts of people’. Analogically explained, any such great and impactful person is like a precious stone that breaks into thousands of pieces, and every tiny piece of his/her goodness stays in the hearts of people who love him/her. Such a great personality lives beyond death in the hearts of the people. At the International Islamic University Malaysia, where I teach, one is bound to come across great men of knowledge, wisdom, philosophy and personality. As a reputed learning institution, this university acts as a platform for the meeting of the great minds of the Muslim world. As a garden of knowledge and virtue, IIUM is quite successful in producing many remarkable young scholars, leaders and professionals who are now positioned in many parts of the world. As a student and now as a teaching staff of IIUM, I truly believe that this university which is the pride of the Ummah is one of the best learning institutions available in the Muslim world.

Among the many great people with whom I have interacted at IIUM, is late Prof. Sayed Sikandar. My acquaintance with him was a rewarding experience for me. In many ways, I looked up to him as a trusted friend, mentor and a good research partner. For many years we worked together as a team on research projects and co-authored many conference and journal papers. As Fridays are our non-teaching days, that was the time we used to go for a simple breakfast. Over at the breakfast table, we would exchange the latest ideas gathered through our readings, and the meeting normally ends with an interesting discussion. Other than that, the breakfast meetings also allow us to divide our tasks into developing new ideas that will be channeled through our journal papers. Our favourite research areas are focused on how to address subjects like human rights, extremism and terrorism, world peace, education, family, and Islamic biomedical issues. 

Hearing the news of the death of Prof. Sikandar on the 18th of February, I was not only sad but compelled to pen down a few words in honour of my great friend and mentor. The narrative below here is what comes out from the repository of my mind:         

Prof. Sikandar, who hailed from the unconquered land of Afghanistan, was a brilliant man who had an opportunity to pursue his medical degree at Kabul University. His ambition to become a medical doctor ended due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of his country in 1979. Like any other young Muslim of his time in Afghanistan, Sikandar had to carry arms to defend his beloved country and people. After being with the resistance movement for a while, toiling on the battlefield, he had the opportunity to crossover to Pakistan. While in Pakistan, an Islamic organization helped him to get a passage to Malaysia to pursue his tertiary education under scholarship. As a young student, Sikandar studied English and did his undergraduate and postgraduate programs at the International Islamic University Malaysia. After obtaining his doctorate in law, he was offered to teach at the Department of Fiqh and Usul- Fiqh of AHAS KIRKHS, IIUM. 

As a scholar of Islam, Sikandar worked diligently to educate the young minds from all over the Muslim world to study at IIUM. Sikandar was a prolific writer who produced a great volume of research work. As an academician, he actively participated in many local and international conferences to share his research findings. As one who specialized in Islamic biomedical issues, there was a high demand for his research work to be published in many reputable journals in the Muslim world. Besides journal papers, Sikandar managed to publish many books on contemporary issues in Islamic Jurisprudence. His last piece of academic work was an edited book under the title “Family Fiqh in Malaysia: An analysis of the Selected Issues”, which was published by Islamic Book Trust in 2021. The last intellectual discourse that was organized under his capable leadership was ‘The 2nd National Seminar on Contemporary Fiqh 2020: Family Fiqh in Malaysia: Towards Promoting Insan Sejahtera”.


Besides Islamic biomedical issues, Prof Sikandar had a huge interest in Islamic mysticism. He is a great admirer of Maulana Jaluluddin Rumi (1207-1273) and Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938). As one who is able to understand Rumi’s Mathnawi in the Persian language, which is the original language of the book, he would share his readings in English with me. As a favour in return, I would share Iqbal’s philosophical ideas, which I have gathered through my research over the years, particularly ideas present in “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’

Prof. Sikandar is a great advocate of Islam. In all of his research works, he defended the Islamic worldview and the universal values preached by Islam against all accusations hurled by the West. He is a man of peace and could get along well with his colleagues and students. I have hardly heard him say “No” when his expertise was sought after by his friends and students. Students who came under his supervision always felt comfortable as he always helped them right from the start of their research until it was completed. He is a scholar that believed in the philosophy of “Never break your students, but build them up”. Many who have completed their studies under his supervision are now holding a high position in their respective careers.

In my observation of Prof Sikandar’s character, I feel he wants himself to be seen as a ‘low-profile person’. He is a man who wants to be seen by the world through his academic performance and not so by the power and authority he holds as a professor. As one who has faced many difficulties and troubling times in his life, it laments his sensitive heart to see those who suffer from pain, poverty, illness, war and terrorism. Though for very long he was separated from the land of his ancestors, he always stayed tuned to the latest news and events happening in his motherland. Overall, Prof. Sikandar was a humanist and a true personification of a humble scholar in Islam.

Finally, for many of his good qualities as a human being and scholar of Islam, I raise my hands heaven-high and pray that may the Almighty Allah forgive his shortcomings, if any, and place his blessed soul among those who are righteous and nearest to Allah, Ameen!     

About the author:

Dr.Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak is  Assistant Professor, Dept. of Fundamental & Inter-Disciplinary Studies Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge & Human Sciences, IIUM.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.

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