While most people his age spend their days doing light hobbies like gardening or playing with their grandchildren, Dr Ismail Haron preferred spending his time in lecture halls and libraries.
Although it felt awkward being surrounded by classmates half his age, 72-year-old Dr Ismail Haron’s love towards knowledge surpassed everything.
And this was what drove him to complete his studies at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and graduated with a PhD in Islamic Philosophy last year.
“I have a passion for knowledge. I spend my days reading and studying new things. It’s what keeps me going,” Dr Ismail told HE Today in an interview.
The grandfather of 15 grandchildren said his journey started when he took informal Arabic classes at a local mosque 12 years ago.
“We started from a big class, but over time, I became the only student left,” he said, adding that he then decided to register Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia to sit for an Arabic paper “just for fun”.
“Honestly, I did not expect I could answer much during the exam.
“I even told my wife to wait for me in the car in case I couldn’t understand any question. Surprisingly, I passed my Arabic paper with a C!” he laughed.
From that moment, he decided to enrol for Arabic night classes in IIUM which eventually led him to pursue his masters and later on, PhD.
But doing a PhD, even for a young candidate, is a journey filled with perilous struggles, loneliness, and extreme stress.
In fact, many would succumb to the pressure and just give up.
The same struggles were experienced by Dr Ismail throughout his five years pursuing his PhD but he believed giving up was not a choice.
During the course of his studies, he had to travel one to two hours a day from his house in Beranang to his university in Gombak.
“The journey was very tiring and I was travelling almost daily because I had classes to attend,” he said.
Not only that, his health also took a turn for the worst for one year that he had to take a one-year break.
But his supervisor, lecturers, and family members had helped him go through all difficulties until he successfully completed his studies.
And his journey does not end there, as he wanted to achieve more in his life.
“I’m not done yet. If possible, I would like to continue my studies and do a post-doctoral in the near future.
“It is very important to instil a love for knowledge in a student. When you love it, you will not stop seeking it,” he said.