Born in 1938 into a humbly bestowed family — an illustrious father, Abdul Hamid bin Mohamed Hassan, and a mother, Quraisha binti Abdul Hamid, whose life was short lived — Allahyarham Dr. Oli Mohamed was brought up by his grandmother from the age of 5 until a school-going age. Growing up in a small village with not too much, the young Allahyarham had his first taste of what it was to be underprivileged. Allahyarham had much to adjust to when his dear father took on another wife while his two young children required a mother’s care and love. Allahyarham and his only sibling, an elder brother, were then brought up by their maternal grandmother who not just provided for them a homefront but also went on to teach them the survival skills they would much require to succeed in life.


Allahyarham received his early education at the Methodist Afternoon School in Penang while attending religious classes at a Madrasah. Upon completion, Allahyarham attended the Penang Teachers Training College and pursued a Degree in Arts in University Malaya, after which Allahyarham had several teaching stints in Sultan Ismail College in Kota Bahru, Anderson School in Ipoh, and Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid in Alor Star between the years 1961 and 1968.


Allahyarham married Puan Hajjah Firoza binti Hamid Sultan in 1966, and they were blessed with a son, Mohamed Farrash bin Oli Mohamed in 1968. While pursuing a postgraduate diploma in library science at the University of Wales on an Asia Foundation Scholarship, Allahyarham received the saddest phone call informing that his beloved son had passed on due to an illness. It is in his memory that The Farrash Foundation was given its name.


Allahyarham returned to Malaysia to serve at the School of Library and Information Science, MARA Institute of Technology Shah Alam, now known as Universiti Teknologi MARA, in various capacities including as its Head. In 1974, Allahyarham completed his Ph.D. with distinction on a Fulbright–Hays Scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh.


In 1984, Allahyarham Tan Sri Datuk Profesor Dr Awang Had Salleh handpicked Allahyarham to set up the library and information centre as the Chief Librarian at Universiti Utara Malaysia. In 1993, Allahyarham was invited as Chief Librarian to set up the beautiful library of Universiti Brunei Darussalam. The field of library and information science went on to become what is today known among C-level executives as the Chief Information Officer.


Upon retirement, being the true book lover that he was, Allahyarham would spend hours not just reciting the Qur’an, but also deeply reflecting and analysing the many translations while pursuing Islamic education to the extent that Allahyarham had completed all major translations of the Holy Qur’an. Having perused the bible and other Holy books as part of his earlier education, Allahyarham was able to comprehend the arguments of scholars in comparative religion while being able to appreciate the depth of practise.


On the family front Allahyarham left behind three daughters, Shahnas, Dr. Shelina, and Shahrin, who stand as living proof of Allahyarham’s emphasis and priority placed on education.


Shahnas is a licensed pharmacist turned entrepreneur with an MBA still continuously in pursuit of knowledge in renowned universities across the globe, including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom as well as the University of California and Stanford University in the United States of America. A decorated entrepreneur, Shahnas gives full credit to her beloved father, who taught her the non-existence of the glass ceiling and that she was to do her best in anything she does, and this may well turn out to be better than a man could do!


Dr. Shelina is an ophthalmologist with subspeciality qualifications from the United Kingdom in the field of diabetic retinopathy, who is involved in several international multicentre clinical trials and is often invited as a speaker in international conferences.


Shahrin is a computer scientist holding a Master’s Degree from the University of Manchester, qualified as a system applications and products consultant, and serving in Shell International.


The three girls are products of Allahyarham’s devotion and emphasis on the importance of pursuing knowledge. In fact, one may even say that Allahyarham was the biggest feminist in the life of his girls: each of them have been taught and ingrained with the believe that education and the lifelong search for knowledge would provide the tools and mindset needed to stand on their own two feet when facing the adversities of this life, as well as in preparation for the hereafter.


Through his life, Allahyarham has also extended assistance and support for the less fortunate to pursue their education as a stepping stone towards improvement of not just their own socioeconomic status, but also their families.


The spirit of this glows in the core areas of interest of The Farrash Foundation, as defined by Allahyarham during its set up and outlining areas of focus. Allahyarham’s passion for education, especially in empowering women at all levels of society, remains a core of the Farrash Foundation. Allahyarham’s belief that women hold the key to the betterment of society shines through the work of the foundation, especially in the work of its social enterprise Sama Sama Spa.


Throughout his life, Allahyarham has been a strong and courageous advocate of education and pursuing excellence in all that is embarked on. Being the perfectionist that Allahyarham often was, many a person could not keep up to his demands of highest standards in meticulousness of professional execution. As Allahyarham’s daughter puts it, “Daddy set the bar so high we often couldn’t even see it by merely looking up. When took the jump, if we got lucky we would get a glimpse of the highest standards we were being held to”.


The poignant memory of Allahyarham’s devotion and passion towards education and the pursuit of knowledge and excellence bring to life the Inaugural Allahyarham Dr Oli Mohamed bin Abdul Hamid Memorial Lecture.

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