Ever had one those Debbie downer days, where despite your best efforts, all you can think is, “I’m done. I can’t do anymore. There is no way I can make it,”? Don’t feel bad; it’s totes normal. We’ve all had times in our lives when we get discouraged, but one of the major keys (DJ Khaled voice) is to find what motivates you, and keep moving.
One of the things that motivates us here at Muslim Girl is learning about other women who are rocking it out and making waves in the world, and we hope learning about these successful Muslimahs will do the same for you. You may even see some of yourself in their stories, or something that will spark a fire within you, motivating you to move forward with your dreams. So, we’ve dedicated a whole series to it, called #MuslimGirlFire, and in this series, you’ll get to know some of the Muslimahs who are out here making major moves, one baddie at time.
Meet Amaliah, or rather the dynamic duo that run it, Selina and Nafisa Bakkar.
You can say that it’s a Muslim-friendly version of Polyvore, but as we found out below, Amaliah is so much more then that. Their mission to unite, empower, and dress the Muslim community; something we at Muslim Girl totally stand behind. The aim is to become a platform that brings fashion bloggers and other prominent parts of the Muslim fashion scene together. It will be a one-stop destination for the Muslim woman, a place to find curated, modest edits of the latest trends, keep up with style influencers, and to talk about issues in the Muslim community.
For the next installment of #MuslimGirlFire, we wanted to introduce you to this power coupling–the force behind Amaliah–the Muslim community’s first fashion platform.
Muslim Girl: Tell us a little about both of you and your backgrounds.
Selina: I’ve worked in marketing and brand licensing in the past, whilst most recently working for a large Muslim charity. I’m a mother of two, and am trying to inspire my children to DO, to achieve!
Nafisa: I graduated from university in 2014, studying Natural Sciences. During my time there, I got involved with social entrepreneurship. Although I loved my degree, I quickly realized that I wanted to do something more meaningful. Post-university, I worked for the center of entrepreneurship, helping students launch their own ideas or helping them gain skills through entrepreneurial programs. Eventually, I took the leap myself!
MG: What inspired you to launch Amaliah?
N: I’d go on ASOS to buy an maxi skirt or a dress, but it would have a slit in it, it would be half see-through, or it would be short in the front and long at the back. It became a really long-winded process. At first, I thought it was a personal frustration, but the more times I heard “Oh I wish this skirt didn’t have the slit,” or “I really like this dress, but I’m going to have to wear a top under it,” I realized the problem was much bigger than me.”
I see fashion and the way you dress as a form of empowerment, especially in today’s climate where we Muslims face so much backlash.
We wanted to set up a platform that celebrates Muslim women and their identity. We want to share stories with a motivational message telling people to not be scared to cover up, but also to not be scared to be yourself.
We did an interview with BBC radio on modesty as a form of empowerment, which you can listen to here.
MG: Am we right to call it a “hijab-friendly” Polyvore?
S & N: Yes, it does have elements of that; it is a little of everything. You can buy the outfits, browse, or read one of our many blog posts! Our most popular blog has been ‘That’s not hijab,” where we talk about all the instances where Selina and blogger Zareen have heard that phrase.
MG: What do you hope to accomplish through Amaliah?
S & N: To make modest shopping easy! A wider goal is to empower those we touch. For example, our “That’s not hijab” diaries aim to address online trolling, and share the impact it has on individual women. We want to send out the message that you should be confident and proud of your Muslim identity, and foster sisterhood, inspiration, and positivity through our platform.
MG: When and how did you begin Amaliah?
S & N: We were thinking about it for a while, and then properly launched in January, Alhamdulilah! Nafisa is a coder, so she got the site up, and we just took baby steps to grow it. We reached out to Muslim women to see how they would react, and we were overwhelmed with the positive feedback; Alhamdulilah, that kept us going!
MG: As an entrepreneur, what challenges did you face with Amaliah and how did you overcome them?
S: I think developing the self-confidence to believe in your vision and yourself, despite things you may hear or experience. That can really help you stay strong.
N: Honestly, it sounds so fluffy, but the biggest challenge is conquering the obstacles in your own mind.
I was working on Amaliah for a long time before I launched it, and it was simply that I didn’t have the self-confidence. Self-confidence is not a fluffy concept. It is the core of everything. Everything around us, the technology you use, the institutes you study at, the companies you work at. They were all founded on the basis that someone had the belief that they could create something that would change how you interact with the world. Forget upskilling and experience; if you don’t have self-belief, you will ALWAYS be limited. Look at the people you surround yourself with. Surround yourself with those that nurture the good in you, and erode away the bad.
The people around us have really really helped us foster this!
MG: Where do you see Amaliah in the next 5 years?
S & N: In sha Allah on everyone’s mobile, globally! We would want to be the go-to for every Muslim women on all things fashion and lifestyle, and be a platform that inspires and fosters a sense of community!
MG: You mentioned your “That’s Not Hijab” series. Tell us more about that.
S & N: The series is to firstly tackle the phenomenon on shaming on social media. I think pretty much every blogger has faced it. It is to highlight that everyone has struggles, and we should be doing our utmost to support on another. Zareen speaks of how she only wore a hijab during Ramadan; to others she was a “Ramadan Muslim,” but to her it was her first step to wearing the hijab all the time. If we within our ummah do not empower each other, what chance do we have?!
If anyone would like to contribute they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
MG: What are some lessons you learned on entrepreneurship?
S & N: Surround yourself with those that will lift you up; your support system is one of the largest influencing factors on what you achieve. ALWAYS have integrity; we have had instances where people have been rude and undermining, but we always maintain our own integrity. Don’t be driven by fears, don’t think “But what if it fails?” or “What if I can’t do it?” because there is always a way! Don’t wait for the perfect moment to start. Start small; starting is the hardest part, but start with the smallest step that you can take.
MG: Selina, you just gave birth, how will you manage both the baby and your business?
S: Lots of dua that Allah will guide and support me, in sha Allah. I also have an amazing mother who supports and helps me, as well as my sister being my co-founder which has hugely encouraged me. I already had a toddler whilst running Amaliah when pregnant with my second child, so I have a few productivity hacks. I’m very aware that time is a blessing, and always strive to use it to the best of my ability. I’m also not much of a sleeper which helps (currently writing this at 4:00 am while my children sleep!)
MG: Do you have a favorite hijabi fashion blogger?
S & N: She’s not necessarily a “hijabi” fashion blogger, but she’s someone who’s doing a lot for modest fashion, Mariah Idrissey. She’s a great role model for young people, too and down to earth, ma shaa Allah. Despite how busy she is, she takes the time to personally respond to messages, and I think that’s amazing considering how busy she is; we can all learn from it.
Where do you draw fashion inspiration from?
S & N: Living in London, we are pretty lucky to be in the city that really sets trends!
MG: Now, usually we’d beg to differ because New York City is one of THE undisputed fashion capitals of the world–so is Paris!–but seeing all the work that Amaliah is doing, we have to agree–London is stylin’ and profilin’!