Interview With The Founder Of Muslims Of The World (Podcast)
“Storytelling is powerful…we’re trying to move people with these stories”
Sajjad Shah is the founder of the popular Instagram page and the author of the #1 Bestselling Amazon book, Muslims of the World. A young Muslim from the United States, Sajjad Shah has high hopes of changing the way the world sees Muslims through the power of story-telling. In his book, Muslims of the World, he uses stories from all over the world to share inspiration for hope, love, women’s empowerment, and faith. Speaking to The Muslim Vibe’s Chief Editor Salim Kassam on this week’s podcast, he discusses the importance in combating Islamaphobia through positivity, the role of social media in activism, and the underrated relevance in having a diverse circle of friends.
Listen to the full interview here:
“We’re changing the way the world sees Muslims, but also changing the way Muslims see themselves”
View this post on Instagram
(Link in bio, review from @doonz____ ) “The only CON about this book is the fact that it doesn’t come standard with a Kleenex box (@sajjad12345 do something about this). Make sure to have a couple of tissues right by your side as you read these stories. ___________________________________________ I swear to you I am not exaggerating, I have teared up more than once and there were many more times where I felt a lump forming in the back of my throat from reading these stories. ___________________________________________ I anticipated stories filled with hardship but I never thought this book would make me think more seriously about wearing the hijab, to give me an urge I can’t ignore to go out there and help someone, anyone and to just be a BETTER MUSLIM! ___________________________________________ @muslimsoftheworld1 you did this, you gave us, Muslims, a platform. For our stories to not only be told but to be heard, to be carried physically in the hands of people from all around the world. ___________________________________________ Let’s keep this positivity going, let’s keep it alive! I urge you to take these next steps after you have read this book: ___________________________________________ 1. Gift it to a non-Muslim, I chose @worldswithinpages Bc she has expressed interest in learning more about our community. This would be a great first book to introduce someone to ♥️. 2. Carry it around with you and showcase it proudly. You won’t believe how many strangers will start a conversation with you about it. 3. Leave feedback, go to @amazon and let others know what you truly think of it.
Muslims of the World started off as an Instagram page three years ago, and quickly grew into what it is today with hundreds of thousands of followers, with stories from across the globe representing a diverse array of Muslims. “Being a Muslim in America is not easy…many want nothing to do with Islam”, Sajjad explains. Starting from his own questions on how to balance being Muslim and being American, Sajjad decided to start collecting stories from every-day Muslims from his home state of Indiana to try to bring understanding to those unfamiliar with Islam. It quickly grew into something bigger than he had imagined — not only were these stories reaching out to those unfamiliar with Muslims, but it was reaching out to other Muslims who needed inspiration as well.
“There is a trend of Muslim youth who are lonely and lost…Muslims in America are in a tough position”
Growing into the enormous movement that it is today has not been easy, however. Many have been quick to criticize how Muslims of the World seems almost too good — that Sajjad may not be showing the reality of Muslim life and Muslims struggles by showing only the “good” through his stories and portraits. If society cannot love the ordinary Muslim when they are at their ugliest, can Muslims ever hope for acceptance even at their most beautiful moments? Sajjad however, believes that one of the most powerful ways to combat Islamaphobia is through positivity. There is already too much negativity surrounding Muslims, “we don’t need to fuel the fire”, he argues. “They already see the ugly side of us way more often than they need to…so I want to focus on the beautiful side of Muslims and Islam”. Through positivity and humanizing Muslim life and people, Sajjad hopes to offer hope and inspiration in a world that is rampant with Islamaphobia.
“We are able to change the way people see this religion, this faith…and we want to reach out to anyone with an open mind and open heart”
View this post on Instagram
Our amazing and talented photographer @alahamdan who went to several countries to get many of the stories you see in the “Muslims of the World” book. She did an incredible job mashAllah! We have five more days to make this book a bestseller guys! Click the link in the bio and get a few copies today and support the Dream! #muslimsoftheworld1
Acknowledging his platform as a powerful tool to reach out and do good, Sajjad stresses the importance of being active in social and humanitarian issues. Having a large following on social media, however, is not important, and the almost obsessive cult around gaining those followers has led to a sort of fake activism according to Sajjad. “You can still do things more effectively even if you don’t have a huge following”, he explains. By even simply using the money you would have spent on a coffee for charity instead, and having that be an example for others can, in fact, be more effective than posting pictures or articles on social media just to get a reaction. “People are not putting in the effort to actually create change, and because of that, they’re not creating change,” Sajjad says. Emphasizing the need for people to simply work hard and put in more effort, Sajjad hopes that social media can be used for good and that people can start focusing on tangible changes for good instead of the number of followers on social media.
“You just have to work really hard…that’s it”
View this post on Instagram
Sagal and her husband reading their Love story in the @muslimsoftheworld1 book for the first time! Please support us guys, this is the last week to get your book to help us make the bestseller list! Go to Amazon and search “Muslims of the World” and buy today! #muslimsoftheworld1
One of the most important aspects of Muslims of the World can arguably be the fact that it has reached such a wide array of people — both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This is in part why Sajjad and his team decided to publish a book to accompany the social media outreach; and by having a published form of stories from Muslims, Sajjad hopes to reach an ever more diverse audience. The stories from the published book are even “more impactful and more powerful”, with a unique collection of stories that cannot be found on the Instagram page. By starting conversations, and by humanizing and creating a visual space for Muslims, Sajjad hopes that his push for positivity will start to change the way much of the world views Islam. And having a diverse background and array of friends and acquaintances can come in handy for this, he argues. The more unique your circle of friends, the more outreach you have — and Sajjad argues that this can be a powerful tool in combating Islamaphobia. By bringing more people to the table — both Muslims and non-Muslims alike — there will be, in the end, more understanding and less hate for all.
Find a copy of Muslims of the World here.
Follow Muslims of the World on Instagram here.
Also published on Medium.