See How This Muslim Woman Is Changing The Publishing World (Interview)
Hajera Memon trained and qualified as a lawyer in London, UK. She left her city career to follow her passion for creative writing. She is now the founder of Shade 7 Publishing, which focuses on Islamic and interfaith children’s educational books. With Shade 7, Hajera set out to create aesthetic, engaging, novelty books to inspire and expand young minds. Read on to hear about Hajera’s amazing and ongoing journey. Be prepared for some serious Muslimah magic.
Q: Could you introduce yourself and describe what you do in your own words?
My name is Hajera. I was born and raised in London. I’m an only child which is rare for a Pakistani family! Both my parents are from big families and I have a lot of cousins all over the world. I run a creative children’s publishing company, called Shade 7, producing Islamic and interfaith books to inspire children and their families.
Q: What does your job entail?
Every day is different. My job overall entails coming up with creative concepts for Islamic children’s books, sourcing illustrators, designers, and editors. Sometimes I write the books myself. More recently, I’ve worked with an author for my latest title, Hats of Faith.
I organise the production of the books, shipping, logistics, and work with marketing professionals and traders for the sales. Day to day, it involves replying to customer inquiries and more recently working with rights and sales professionals to take the books to the next step internationally. All very exciting!
Q: What law did you specialise in?
I qualified into Banking & Refinancing/Restructuring and did the majority of my deals in Real Estate Finance law.
Q: When you left your law career, was it a lightbulb moment or did you always know you had a creative bone in your body that you needed to materialise?
I am a really passionate person and have always been when it came to my work and career. I always enjoyed art and creative writing in school and it was the perfect combination of the things I enjoy, as well as project management. In that sense, it wasn’t a lightbulb moment deciding what to do leaving law. It was more reigniting a creative passion and making it worthwhile by combining it with my faith.
Q: What made you get into publishing?
I made the decision to resign as a finance lawyer because I wasn’t comfortable with it being a pure and halal income, due to the types of interest based transactions I was involved in. I wanted to consciously choose a beneficial career path which focused significantly on my akhira (the afterlife), rather than just my dunya (this life).
I wanted to spend my time seeking knowledge, putting it into action, and making it accessible and enjoyable for others, especially youngsters. I always felt that we had the best stories in the Qur’an; stories that are truly rich and packed with inspirational gems and everlasting wisdom. They can help us get through our daily lives if we can spend time studying them to unlock their treasures.
My motivation was and continues to be, making these magnificent stories accessible to children in a fun and interactive way, so that the whole family can enjoy them together, inshAllah (God willing). Another key motivation is the sadaqah jaariyah (ceaseless charity) element of Shade 7 Publishing; I was consciously looking for what would benefit me when I pass away. Beneficial knowledge is a great legacy to leave behind and also to spend your life working on. I pray I and those that support me with this work will always have the patience and motivation to continue to work hard and strive in this path until we meet our Lord. Ameen.
Q: I love the idea behind the title Shade 7 Publishing. It refers to the hadith of the seven groups that will be given shade on the day there will be no shade except His, one of which will be ‘a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah’. Do you feel there was a gap in accessing children’s books about Islam and God when you were growing up?
Yes, absolutely. When I was little, one of my favourite books which my father used to read me stories from was: ‘Islam: Beliefs and Teachings’ by Ghulam Sarwar. This is by no means a children’s book, but it was an Islamic book which I grew up with fondly. We didn’t have any Islamic children’s books when I was young and so my father would read me stories of the prophets from this book and I would also do my Sunday school homework from it. I remember the pink illustrations and the tiny font and I loved listening to the stories. Aside from this, alhamdulillah, I was really lucky to have my father translate the Arabic stories directly from the Quran as he would read to me!
Q: How has the market changed?
There are lots more Islamic children’s books and toys available now of such a high standard and quality, Alhamdulilah. I think it will continue to grow and develop and inshAllah reach a stage where our children are just as excited about their Islamic stories and resources as they are about mainstream ones.
Q: From what I’ve seen over the years, there are far more Islamic books for children aged from as young as a few months old to perhaps 12 years of age. Do you think there should be more Islamic books for teenagers?
There is a movement to publish more teen books being led in the USA. I think books for this audience will continue to develop and carve its own niche in the coming years. Below are some blogs and recommendations of books for Muslim teens:
Q: What inspires you? Do you have a specific muse?
Right now, good people inspire me; their kindness and originality inspire me. These include people on social media, who I haven’t met in person, my friends, and my parents. There isn’t a specific thing; I see people doing beautiful acts of kindness and thoughtful gestures all around me which inspires me to be better and to do the same inshAllah.
I think it’s the creativity in kindness and how it can truly make someone’s heart smile unexpectedly, which inspires me to the core whenever I see it. I always pray Allah makes me the means by which people’s duas (prayers) can be answered. You never know what plan He has for you and how you can heal someone’s heart and help them feel better and inspire hope.
Q: Have you written any of the books published by Shade 7 yourself?
Yes, I’ve written the Surah Al-Feel Pop-up Book and the Colour Changing Wudu Bath Book.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to Muslim women to follow their dreams and instincts like you did, what would it be?
Know your motivations and be clear of your “why” and purpose. Your ideas don’t have to be faith-based, but it should be something positive and/or of benefit to people. It should solve a problem and make things better and more efficient for society. Our deen teaches us that money is simply a means, and often a test, so we have to be even more conscious that we use it for good inshAllah.
Q: What does your daily routine look like?
At the moment, I’m busy working with my team on the Hats of Faith book and signing contracts with American and Australian publishers – they’ll be able to publish the books there and sell to their local markets, which is an incredible opportunity for us.
No day goes by without checking and replying to emails, customer inquiries, arranging wholesale trade orders, and ensuring other books and projects are progressing well. We have school workshop tours planned with the ‘Hats of Faith’ book. I’m also working on a social media campaign for one of the bath books with my illustrator and social media colleague. Every day is truly different!
I request you all to keep Hajera and Shade 7 in your duas. May Allah grant her tawfiq in all her affairs, ameen.
Want to know more? Follow this link to find out more about Hajera and Shade 7.
Photo credit: Sarah Ferozedean