Editorial note: All this month we are focusing on the stories of Muslim women working in charity, whether as the head of some charitable organization, doing volunteer work or anything in between. We are exploring what drives these women to give of themselves to others, how they balance that in their lives and what advice they have to encourage others to take up work to help those in need.
In a world where cultural narratives are constantly evolving, the Mommying While Muslim
podcast emerges as a beacon of understanding and support for American Muslim mothers. At its core, "Mommying While Muslim" is a movement dedicated to empowering American Muslim mothers. It delves into the nuanced challenges and experiences that come with this identity, particularly in a post-9/11 society.
(To learn more about the work of the Mommying While Muslim podcast, check out our story here.)
The podcast provides a platform for sharing personal stories, offering insights and fostering a supportive community. It aims to validate and support Muslim American women, providing a space for them to connect, learn, and grow together. Hosted by Zaiba Hasan and Dr. Uzma Jafri (both of whom have been writing a monthly column for The Haute Take for the past two years), this platform goes beyond mere discussion, intertwining the personal with the philanthropic, reflecting a deeply rooted Islamic tradition of charity.
Philanthropy, or charity, is a cornerstone of Muslim culture, deeply embedded in its teachings. The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of charity, with verses such as, "The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains," [Quran 2:261] illustrating the significance and impact of giving.
Zaiba and Uzma, the forces behind the podcast, extend their mission beyond discussions about sadaqa and interviews with different women working in charitable endeavors. Engaging in charity is in the ethos of their partnership and their humanity. In an interview with Haute Hijab, they shared their commitment to engaging in charitable works, reflecting the Islamic ethos of giving back to the community. Their philanthropic efforts are a testament to their dedication to discussing change and actively participating in creating it.
The Genesis of a Philanthropic Journey
Exploring the roots of philanthropy, we delve into the inspiring story behind the start of this charitable journey. Zaiba and Uzma illuminate the core values and driving forces that have shaped the podcast duo's philanthropic path, revealing the personal motivations and guiding principles that have led them to impact their community significantly.
Zaiba Hasan of the Mommying While Muslim team.
Zaiba: My philanthropic journey was inspired by my upbringing in modest circumstances and the transformation to a life of greater abundance. This shift instilled in me a strong sense of responsibility to give back. Deeply ingrained in the Muslim faith is the concept of sadaqa, or voluntary charity, which emphasizes material giving and a sincere commitment to improving others' lives. This principle of compassionate support and empathy is the driving force behind my work in philanthropy.
Uzma: One of my favorite hadiths from Sahih Muslim drives me to give back or be resourceful for vulnerable populations. And that is, “Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue. If he cannot do so, then with his heart, which is the weakest level of faith.”
My family believed in high achievement so I’d have more resources to give to the community later. I was also taught to anticipate needs before asking for help because a power dynamic is set up otherwise. Those in power have more accountability and responsibility to Allah (S), and I don’t want to be in that situation myself. Finally, starting in my childhood home and circling its way out in my adult life, I [want to] “be an asset, not a liability” wherever I am, in whatever ways I can be, using the resources I’ve been allowed to earn in this life.
Key Philanthropic Projects and Initiatives
The journey of Mommying While Muslim in philanthropy is marked by various impactful projects and initiatives. The team shares with Haute Hijab the significant efforts they have undertaken, showcasing how they have integrated philanthropy into their platform and the difference these initiatives have made in the community.
Uzma and Zaiba told Haute Hijab about their larger charity projects, which include sponsoring a women’s interfaith tea, generating $25,000 in funding for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and providing scholarships to women for spiritual retreats who couldn’t otherwise attend. They also served as leaders in the first American Muslim Women’s Giving Circle, collecting $22,000 in contributions from women nationwide to support three nonprofits critical to our communities.
Dr. Uzma Jafri of the Mommying While Muslim team.
The Mommying While Muslim team also engaged in online fundraising, raising funds for NISA
homes for domestic violence victims and Bloom Charities
for disabled orphans.
Zaiba and Uzma have also personally assisted in collecting and distributing in-kind donations to NIH patients and their families.
“What we are most proud of,” they said, “is directing individuals who contact us privately to the resources they need to get through tough times.”
Personal Definition and Meaning of Philanthropy
Philanthropy carries different meanings for different people. Zaiba and Uzma’s viewpoints on the meaning of philanthropy shed light on their unique perspectives on giving and its significance in their lives, offering a more intimate understanding of their approach to philanthropy.
Zaiba: To me, philanthropy transcends the simple act of giving; it's an expression of deep empathy and a commitment to positively impacting the lives of others. In my eyes, philanthropy is a personal commitment to use one's resources, time and energy to create a more equitable and compassionate world. It's about nurturing a culture of giving and support that uplifts entire communities, reflecting the core values of empathy and communal care that I hold dear.
Uzma: Philanthropy is the same as sadaqa to me, giving back, whether monetary, physical, time or using the unique skills and gifts we’ve been given. To me, it is the only recourse to disparity in this world. Again, if we see a wrong, we try to right it using the privileges we all have. When we have more than others, it’s not a testament to our hard work but to the mercy of Allah (S).
And, WE are being tested to see whether we share the khayr or hoard it. Philanthropy is my intercessor on the Day of Judgment. I pray that it is witness to my intentions and that they will be heavy on my scale to earn the pleasure and mercy of Allah (S).
Overcoming Challenges in Philanthropy
Zaiba and Uzma working together.
The path of philanthropy has its challenges. The Mommying While Muslim duo shared some of the obstacles they faced in their charitable endeavors and their strategies to overcome them, providing insights into the resilience and adaptability required in charitable work.
“In our philanthropic journey, the primary challenges we've encountered are quite universal yet significant: time and resources. While our hearts want to embrace and support every cause that comes our way, the reality is that our capabilities are finite. The desire to say "yes" to everything is strong, but we recognize it's not always feasible.
“To navigate this, we've shifted our perspective to view each request as a potential opportunity rather than a challenge. We carefully deliberate which projects create the most meaningful impact. This approach involves a thoughtful evaluation of where our time and resources would be best utilized to align with our core mission of making the world a better place for our children.
We've navigated these limitations more effectively by prioritizing initiatives based on their potential for significant impact. This strategy allows us to remain dedicated to our philanthropic goals while acknowledging and working within practical constraints.”
These experiences can be enlightening for anyone interested in the practicalities of philanthropic work.
Advice for Aspiring Philanthropists
Starting a philanthropic journey can be daunting. In this part, Uzma and Zaiba offer their advice for individuals looking to make a positive impact through philanthropy. Their guidance could be invaluable for those seeking direction on how to begin their own journey of giving.
“For those eager to embark on their own philanthropic journey but still need to figure out where to begin, we advise embracing the philosophy that no act of charity is too small. Even the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, ‘To smile in the face of your brother or sister is an act of charity.’ This underscores the idea that impactful giving isn't solely about grand gestures or substantial financial contributions. It's about the intention and the willingness to make a positive difference, however modest the act may seem,” they say.
“Start by identifying what resonates with you. Philanthropy is most effective and sustainable when it aligns with your values and interests. Look around your community; often, the opportunities to help are closer than you think. Whether volunteering your time, sharing resources, or simply offering kindness and support to those around you, every action counts. Remember that it is from the sunnah to look for those in need. Don’t wait to be asked.
“Remember, the goal of philanthropy is to contribute to the greater good. It's about creating a ripple effect of positive change, which often starts with small, thoughtful deeds: A phone call to a grieving friend you haven’t called in years, a meal sent to a new mom you might not know, or a virtual grocery gift card to a senior living on a limited income,” the duo says. “Approach each act of giving with sincerity and a genuine desire to make a difference, and you'll find that even the simplest actions can have a profound impact.”
Zaiba and Uzma in Morocco last year on a trip with Bloom Charity.
Drawing from the hosts' experiences will provide valuable tips for individuals looking to make a positive impact through giving and making philanthropy accessible to anyone with the kindness to pay it forward in their hearts.
Exciting Upcoming Philanthropic Projects
Anticipation for future projects is always high in philanthropic circles. Zaiba and Uzma shared with me some of their upcoming projects and initiatives they are excited about, offering a glimpse into what's next for their journey of giving and how they plan to continue making a difference.
The podcast duo announced their new status of HAWA Collective
as a nonprofit. “HAWA was born to preserve, protect and promote women’s independent voices in a platform free from censure, control and financial dependence,” they explain.
The HAWA Collective “ … aims to create a more inclusive and representative narrative in the media landscape by alleviating those challenges with like-minded groups and women already working based on a model of mutual aid, collaboration and collective clout. As a nonprofit, HAWA Collective can now provide the critical support donors, patrons, and women in media need to launch and sustain their voices.”
Balancing Podcasting and Charitable Work
Zaiba and Uzma
Juggling the roles of podcast hosts and philanthropists is no small feat. Zaiba and Uzma explain how they maintain balance and how these roles complement each other.
“Balancing our roles as podcast hosts with our philanthropic work is inherently interconnected, as the very foundation of our podcast was laid with a philanthropic spirit. We initiated the podcast to disseminate information and resources, emphasizing, elevating, and amplifying the voices of mothers who might otherwise remain unheard. This objective is a form of philanthropy, as we’ve never had a paywall.
“From the onset, our role as podcast hosts has been deeply intertwined with acts of giving and community service. Our podcast isn’t just about sharing stories; it’s a platform for advocacy and support. Whether we are guesting on other podcasts to share the unique perspectives of American Muslim moms, leveraging our platform to fundraise for various causes, or simply offering our show as a haven for community and understanding, each of these elements is a testament to our commitment to philanthropy. Several representatives from nonprofits have been on the podcast to let listeners know what resources exist and that they need ongoing support to remain an asset to the community.
“In this way, our podcasting and philanthropic endeavors are two sides of the same coin,” they say. “Each episode we produce and every interaction we have with our listeners and guests is an opportunity to further our philanthropic goals. By melding these roles, we’ve created a powerful tool for positive change, fostering a space where community support and understanding are paramount.”
The Takeaway Message for Listeners
Uzma and Zaiba shared some key takeaways for anyone interested in expanding their work into philanthropy.
Zaiba: In our journey through both podcasting and philanthropic endeavors, the underlying message we hope to convey to our listeners is encapsulated in our response to the question, "Why you?" — to which we confidently say, "Why not us?"
This mantra is a call to empowerment, an encouragement for each individual to recognize their own potential to make a difference. We want our listeners to understand that they don't need extraordinary circumstances or resources to contribute positively to their communities or to champion causes they care about.
The essence of our podcast and our work in philanthropy is to demonstrate that every voice and effort counts, no matter how small it may seem.
Uzma: By sharing stories, resources, and insights and by actively engaging in philanthropic work, we aim to inspire our listeners to believe in their ability to be agents of change. Our podcast is more than just a medium for sharing experiences; it's a platform that showcases the power of taking initiative and the impact of collective effort.
We hope our listeners take away a sense of responsibility and motivation to ask themselves, "Why not me?" when faced with opportunities to contribute to their communities and the world. We aim to ignite a spark that encourages them to step forward and actively create positive change, just as we have embraced this path ourselves.”
Mommying While Muslim transcends the boundaries of a typical podcast, evolving into a powerful force for cultural change. Through their engaging discussions and active philanthropic work, Uzma and Zaiba are supporting Muslim American moms and contributing to the wider community. Their actions exemplify the Islamic spirit of charity, showing how faith can be translated into impactful actions.
Their initiative is an inspiring model of how media platforms can be harnessed for social good, merging personal narratives with a broader mission of community upliftment and empowerment, in a world that yearns for deeper understanding and connection, Mommying While Muslim stands as a compelling testament to the power of faith, community and the transformative impact of philanthropy.