Datuk Hajjah Ilani binti Dato’ Haji Isahak was born into a talented family in Kota Bahru, Kelantan on 18 March 1953. Her father was a lawyer. Her mother was active as a homemaker and also in social and welfare work.
Datuk Hajjah Illani had her school education in the Zainab Primary School 1 in Kota Bharu and the Kolej Tunku Khursiah, Seremban.
In 1972, she enrolled as a member of the first batch of law students in the University of Malaya, not knowing then that soon she would meet there her future husband Tuan Haji Adam bin Mohd Ibrahim. Tuan Haji Adam and Datuk Hajjah Ilani were to start a relationship of about four decades starting as fellow students, an item, husband and wife, lawyers in practice together, parents, partners in politics, and also as grandparents.
Dato’ Hajjah Ilani quickly established herself as an outstanding student in the University and passed her examinations without difficulty. Following graduation in 1976, she served a short while as an Administrative Officer in Bank Negara Malaysia. She underwent pupillage under the distinguished Encik Zain Azahari bin Dato’ Zainal Abidin of Messrs Zain & Co. She was called to the Bar on 8 November 1976. She practised in Messrs Zain & Co. for about five years before joining the practice of her husband Messrs Adam & Co. in 1982.
Early on, she showed an active interest in politics. She was Member of Parliament for Kota Bharu from 1990 till 1999. She worked tirelessly as a lawyer, as a wife and mother, and as a politician, frequently dividing her time between her home and office in Kuala Lumpur and another home and office in Kota Bahru and also travelling all over the country. She also found time to serve in the youth movement, rising to be the Vice-President of the Malaysian Youth Council from 1986 till 1990. And she was also active in the women’s movement. She held high office in her political party, including for some years as a member of the Wanita Umno Executive Council.
And she found time to be active in social and charity work as well.
Her duties as a lawyer, politician, Member of Parliament and youth leader also took her all over the world. She participated in many international conferences and meetings and served on various international bodies, particularly as regards parliamentary affairs and youth activities.
Sadly, her long and distinguished career in various fields came to an untimely end when she passed away on 24 February 2011 after a long battle with cancer.
Even in her last days, she kept herself busy with many things.
One of her last appointments was as the Special Co-Ordinator for the Promotion of Interfaith Understanding and Harmony set up by the Government. Another of her last appointments was as a member of the Government’s National Unity Advisory Panel.
She spent her life living, working tirelessly for the many causes that she believed in.
For her distinguished services, she was awarded the Pingat Jasa Negara. She was also appointed a Justice of the Peace by the Sultan of Kelantan. Not surprisingly, she was amongst the recipients of the Outstanding Young Malaysians Award in 1986 and won the Tokoh Belia Wanita Negara award in 2002.
She is survived by her husband Tuan Haji Adam, their daughter Farahnaz Sarinina, and their sons Adil Akbar, Aman Akbar and Amir Kahar.
I was a fellow student of Datuk Hajjah Illani and Tuan Haji Adam in law school. We had kept in frequent contact with each other over the years. I feel sorrow at the loss of an old friend. But I take pride and feel great happiness in having been associated with her and her family over the years and also regarding the many experiences that we had shared.
I pay tribute to a fellow student, a fellow lawyer, and a friend. She had led a life which was well-lived.
May her soul rest in peace.