Assalamu alaykum! My name is Maruf and I am your host.
Welcome to Muslims On Fire! It is a podcast where we share stories of ordinary Muslims doing extraordinary things to serve the One by serving humanity.
These are the Muslims “On Fire” with Purpose and Passion who are in a state of excitement to change the world to a better place.
The purpose of the podcast is to share their stories to inspire the rest of us. Subscribe to our podcast below:
This is the short version.
If you want to read the long version of our story, then below you will find more info about the podcast and me as well as why we are creating this podcast.
I am a father of 3 kids and a serial entrepreneur. I currently live in Denmark with my family.
I am originally from Uzbekistan – a country in Central Asia. Some people confuse Uzbekistan with Pakistan. It is totally another Muslim country and we love them as our brothers and sisters in Islam, but Uzbekistan and Pakistan are two different countries 🙂
If it makes you easier to remember, here are some great Muslim scholars from the past:
Imam Al Bukhari
Author of Sahih al-Bukhari
Author of Jami at-Tirmidhi
The founder of Algebra
The term algorithm is based from his name
White Bread with Black Bread
I grew up in a single parent family. My mom took care of my little sister and me. She struggled to put food on the table at times. Sometimes we would eat white bread mixed with black bread to make it more interesting 🙂
Entrepreneur at 7
So I had to start my career as “entrepreneur” at an age of 7. It was not because it was cool, but I had to help my mom. I realised if I wanted something in life, I should get it on my own. I didn’t have a father to rely on. Alhamdulillah, it was one of the greatest lessons of life for me.
I also realised if I wanted to get out of poverty, I should study hard and get a good paying job to support my family. So I did my best at school. First, I was the best in class with my grades and eventually I was promoted to a higher class. After studying a year in the upper class, I was promoted again. I was on my way to finish school 2-3 years earlier than my peers.
But at this time, I heard about a new school opening up in the city. They were teaching English and other subjects much better than any school and they were calling all students for an entry exam.
So I had a choice to make. I can stay in my current school and gradually much early. However, I was not quite happy with the quality of the education. Alternatively, I can change my school, lose 2-3 years. However, they might have a better education. So I took the risk.
English Foundation & Lifelong Friends
If you are reading this, it is because of this decision. In the new school, we learnt English extensively for the whole year. I got my foundation there and also acquired so many life long friends and we keep in touch even to this day, alhamdulillah.
Another lesson is learnt. Your environment and the people you hang out with define your personality.
The Most Popular Doesn’t Mean It is For You
After finishing the school, I was admitted at one of the best universities in my country. I got enrolled in that university because it was the most popular and it had the highest chance to get a job.
After studying there a year or two, I realised Economy was too theoretical and the most popular doesn’t mean it is for you 🙂
Discovery of Computers
While studying, I discovered computers and I was hooked. Instead of going to lectures, I would stay up all night to dive into computers and learn as much as I could. Yet I found out if I really want to learn more about computers seriously, I had to study abroad since Uzbekistan was decades behind in IT.
Winning Study Grant
Ideally, I wanted to go to USA to study, but I couldn’t afford the college fees. While searching for alternatives, a friend suggested to check out a grant by a tech college from Denmark. I went to the interview and I was granted. The good news was that I could study free now.
All I needed was that I should buy the ticket for the money which I didn’t have. So I worked as a translator for 5-6 months so I can afford one way ticket to Denmark. I remember that when I landed in Denmark all I had in my pocket was 50 kr. It is equal to around $7 at that time.
$7 In My Pocket
It was a huge risk to travel to another country with only $7 in your pocket. But I had no other choice. I had nothing to lose. It also meant I had to study and work at the same time. So I started my career as a newspaper delivery boy. Later I worked at different cleaning jobs and I even baked a pizza for some time.
After my studies, I started working at different design studios as a web designer first. Soon I realised web design only is not going to cut it. So I started learning web analytics, marketing and digital strategy as well.
In the background, I was also soul searching. Probably, it would explain my restlessness during those years. Even though the company I worked for paid well, I couldn’t find a purpose working there.
I was feeling an identity crisis. On the TV, you see big bearded men claiming to be Muslims yet killing 1000s of innocent people. I couldn’t resonate myself with them in any way. Yet I got to keep asking why I do what I do every day.
It was then I started learning more about the origin of life and humans as much as I can from scientific side. It led me to the Big Bang. Nothing comes out of nothing. There must be the Source.
When I looked around, I saw order, not chaos. Yet some believe somehow it is all nothing but a chance. For me being a designer, you can’t help but see the signature of the Grand Designer when you look at nature and how things work.
Then I started looking into different religions like Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, etc. All arrows point to Islam as being the latest upgrade. It was then I picked up Quran and started reading with understanding.
The more I read, the more I understood that I misunderstood Islam all these years. I had to rediscover. Starting with the shahadah. There is no god except Allah and Muhamad is His messenger.
The concept of god is anything you place in the centre of your life and strive for. For some, it is money. For some, it is fame. For some, it is power. You get the point. In Islam as Muslims, we promise to put Allah in the centre of our lives and strive to get closer to Him doing our best effort.
Besides, Allah is the Most Merciful and the Most Caring. In fact, every chapter in Quran starts with this bismillah except one chapter. It says in Quran killing one innocent man is worth killing humanity.
God doesn’t need us. We need God. As Muslims we are tested by our actions and should serve Allah by serving humanity. We can win by helping other people win. Gods kingdom is unlimited.
Life is an infinite game where you can win by helping others win.
What mass media promoted as “Islam” was nothing but a propaganda. A big fat lie. When you are faced with injustice, as Muslims we are to either correct by our hands or by our tongue. If we can’t do either, at least we should revolt inside. This is the least indication of faith says prophet peace be upon him in one of his hadeeth.
This is why we wanted to do something about it according to our capacity. It was also the same time my childhood friend came to Denmark after finishing his studies in Sweden. So we used to have a lunch after Jumuah and brainstormed what we could do worth pursuing.
Muslim Social Network
This is how we started our first startup in 2013. It was called Ummaland – a social network for Muslims. While we couldn’t make it work, we learnt a lot. It was the catalyst for our next startup www.halal.ad which was launched in 2015 and still exists today.
Muslim Marketing Agency
Halal.Ad is a marketing agency for Muslim brands. Alhamdulillah, today we serve some startups as well as some established companies and charities. Every day we work, we spread the work of other Muslim companies and brands doing amazing work. Bit by bit, we are spreading the message about Islam at the same time, alhamdulillah.
“Netflix” for Muslim Kids
I am a serial entrepreneur. So as you can imagine, the world is full of problems that need solutions. One of those issues is media, especially what our kids watch every day. I have 3 kids on my own and I can relate to any Muslim parent who want to provide a wholesome entertainment for their children. This is why we launched Ali Huda in 2017. www.alihuda.com is something like “Netflix” for Muslim kids.
One of the latest projects we have is Salam.App. It is my dream to create an online hub for Muslims where we can all inspire and engage as one Ummah, inshaAllah.
Some of them may succeed and some may fail. It is ok. Life is a journey and it is what you make of it. In Islam, we are judged based on our intentions and our sincerity.
Do What You Love. Love What You Do.
Alhamdulillah, today I do what I love and I love what I do. We serve Muslims doing amazing work. We employ our Muslim brothers and sisters from different parts of the world. Every day I go to work with a purpose. I would say we have achieved a milestone in discovering what we love doing and doing exactly that to provide for our families.
Partly, I feel it is just the beginning, inshaAllah. I could have superficially outlined my profile in two short paragraphs, but it wouldn’t give you the backstory.
Besides, it was not easy to get where we are. It is never easy. However, finding your purpose and passion then acting with persistence gets you there eventually, by the will of God.
It is a messy process. You can only connect dots only looking backwards as late Steve Jobs would day.
Why Muslims On Fire Podcast?
Alhamdulillah, I get to talk many Muslim leaders and entrepreneurs who are doing amazing stuff. I personally learnt a lot and was inspired to improve and find my purpose in life.
This is why I wanted to share some of these conversations with you, the reader. Hope you will benefit.