It was one underwhelming day at a Shoreditch Tech Event when Arfah was offered a 'free drink' coupon 🎟 upon her arrival – only to find out she had to redeem it for an alcoholic beverage... and nothing else.
Another event, another shameless moment where a Muslim relives the reality of being an outsider (even when trying to redeem a free diet coke).
When will this change? When will we reach the turning point where Muslims can arrive to a networking event and...not feel outcasted from the beginning?
This is exactly what Arfah – the now founder of Muslamic Makers –thought to herself back in 2016.
Arfah longed for a world where Muslim tech-lovers everywhere could easily access the extraordinary networking events that her non-Muslim counterparts felt so comfortable to go to.
After 6 years of building up her tech community, Arfah Farooq has hosted over 4o events for Muslims to connect, talk about tech, oh – pray on time, too!
We had the pleasure of catching up with the busy mama, founder, and all-round superwoman on what Muslamic Makers brings to the table for our communities – and we're totally here for it!
Salaam Arfah! 👋🏼 Talk to me about what the issues were/still are in the networking sphere for Muslims...
Walaykum Asalaam Zara!
There's a combination of these 'networking event characteristics' that I think were deterring us as Muslims – the corporate drinking culture, lack of halal food, and inability to pray anywhere.
For many of us, our faith is the most important aspect of our identity, so feeling as if it needed to be suppressed or unfulfilled when trying to network was really tough.
The common trend with such social events is the boozy turn it can take pretty quickly, which would always see me hitting the exit door.
As much as I loved tech and wanted to listen to these intellectual speakers in my field, I always had to give it a second thought.
There was also a huge lack of Muslim role models (or at least for me there was!).
When it comes to motivating young people, you have to remember that "they believe it when they see it". Essentially, if there's no opportunities to connect with successful Muslims in different fields, they're not going to believe that it's possible for themselves.
This what inspired the next chapter in my life when I founded Muslamic Makers.
So How the Did 'Muslamic Makers' Journey Begin?
Six years ago, I made the decision that change needed to come about.
My own experiences in these corporate settings motivated me to start Muslamic Makers – a community of Muslim change-makers helping other fellow Muslims build their careers in tech and more. 🚀
Back in 2016, I connected with Murtaza Abidi over Twitter when sharing these concerns about the lack of representation in the industry. Our ideas about the need for a Muslim tech meet-up coincided.
Then, by the will of Allah SWT, we worked to build this community which would soon translate into in-person events, courses, mentorship programs and so much more.
Our goal was, and always has been, to foster confidence in people's identity as Muslims, and to remind them that their faith should never be a barrier to what they can achieve.
Our first ever event consisted of 50 attendees, which really build the foundations of our first volunteer team!
🚀 What Would These In-Person Events Look Like?
We'd try to replicate the kind of networking events that people would be familiar with, but with our own Muslim-friendly twist!
The best, and most important, aspect of these events is to hear from inspiring individuals who have really carved out their own path in the field.
I loved the idea of quick-fire chats and a panel of tech entrepreneurs, so implementing all of these things really added to the turnout and success of our own meet-ups.
Our events included:
🤲🏼 Accessible Prayer Facilities
🚫 No-alcohol policy in place
🌮 Halal food for our attendees to enjoy
🤝Ability to connect with like-minded Muslims!
"We're Loud, We're Proud, And We Come With Our Prayer Mats!"
💪🏽 What Have You Learnt Since Opening Up The Muslamic Makers Community?
It's been such an incredible journey that has proven just how far you can go when you have determination and a passion for something.
In the beginning, we were really set on putting Muslims at the forefront of every element of our events – but we soon realised the power in diversity and inclusion.
We had to remind ourselves of the very mission we set out with in the first place, which was to bridge the gap in representation, and to avoid making anyone feel the exclusion that we had to endure for so long ourselves.
We appreciated just how much knowledge and insights we could soak up from senior leaders that perhaps weren't Muslim themselves. At the end of the day, what united us all was our love for the tech-world and being able to geek out over it!
🔎 From a Personal Point of View, Were There Any Barriers You Experienced During this Venture?
I'd say my biggest barrier in this venture came from my own frustrations as woman leader.
People forget that, as women, we build our careers but we also spend a lot of our time building our homes and raising children.
When motherhood came my way and I took the time out to have my baby, I could see other tech communities around me elevate and evolve – something I couldn't necessarily keep up with at the time.
I'm so grateful for the blessing of being a mother, but naturally these are things that happened and it can be hard when you feel like you're falling behind.
Saying this, Allah SWT has opened so many doors for me along the way and now we have the amazing opportunity to expand internationally into the US!
Barriers can also be there to protect you, and you have to be able to trust Allah's plans.
✨ As Muslims, We Know How Important Our Intentions Are – How do you Go About Keeping Your Intentions Sincere?
That's a really great question!
I remind myself constantly that the community I've built is an emanah from Allah SWT (something that Allah has trusted me with).
There's a lot of tech communities out there that gate-keep information, resources, courses and so on.
I've made it a point to not do this.
I don't deny people opportunities or resources because I don't want to be the reason that a door is closed for them to build their career! When you detach yourself from monetary gains, competition, and ill feelings – that's when you begin to achieve sincerity with your intentions.
Muslamic Makers grew with the purpose of creating chances for Muslims in the tech world and breaking the barriers that had been up prior to this. Reminding ourselves of this mission is key.
Also – of course, making dua that Allah keeps your intentions pure along the way!
💬 What's Some Advice That You'd Give to Young Muslims Looking to Network and Grow Their Careers in the Tech Industry?
'Give Your Time'. It's as simple as that.
Give your time to events, to people, to thought-leaders, to virtual communities, to programs and so on. It will honestly pay itself back in the years ahead.
When you feed your curiosity, you learn more about this field and how to work it in your favour.
Your network is also your biggest asset because the more you connect, the more people you have around you who hold these incredible skills.
In a world of personal branding and 'me, me, me' culture, there's some real power in being able to connect, network, and listen to others.
And remember that, as Muslims, we always have to refer back to Allah SWT when we achieve something – this goes for all aspects of our lives. 🎉
If you'd like to know more about the courses, events or mentorship programs that Muslamic Makers runs, feel free to check out their website and keep up to date with their social media accounts @muslamicmakers.
📚Read Muslamic Makers 5 Year Impact Report to see all the amazing work they've achieved since 2016!