My1stMasjid is a start-up brand run by designer and Mum, Ridhwana. Sister Ridhwana has an amazing imagination and one that is not limited by disbelief. Her products celebrate creative play, arts, craft and encouraging young minds to really think out of the box as they play and create memories. Insha'Allah
We got in contact with the extremely creative sister to talk more about her work..,.
- Please tell me about you and your background
I grew up in the northwest of England, in a small city called Preston. My father worked in a Printing company when I was younger, so my early childhood memories include playing about with paper foiling machines and making Mother’s Day cards on his old chunky Apple computer back in the 90s.
I am the founder of a small startup brand called My1stMasjid, where we focus on helping Muslim Families create fun memories through DIY crafts and decor. One of our most exciting products to date has to be the pop-up play Masjid. We’ve had the pleasure of designing many other fun items also that have been equally we received by our community.
We focus on helping Muslim Families create fun memories through DIY crafts and decor!
My day to day work includes researching, designing new products, overseeing production, developing marketing materials and communicating with our community of families and wholesalers. The dream is to have a fully-fledged team and product line soon, to really help bring the vision of My1stMasjid to life. Managing the workload along with everyday life can be challenging, in my spare time I enjoy outdoor walks/hikes, cafes and art.
- Did you move to China with your family or by yourself? What was the motive behind this?
I moved to China over 3 years ago, with my son (who is now 4.5 years old) and my husband. We moved primarily for my husband’s work, as well as for the experience and to explore opportunities. Prior to China we had already spent a couple years living in the Middle East and in Malaysia.
- Your business is very unique, what inspired you to start this business? Do your children have anything to do with it?
My son is a huge part of the inspiration behind My1stMasjid, he was 1 when I initially developed the pop-up play Masjid idea. We were living in Malaysia at the time, the beautiful architecture surrounding us and the welcoming atmosphere inside, both played a huge part in the brand vision. Children love the mystery and wonder of forts, dens and treehouses, so I was inspired to merge that sense of fun with the Islamic culture and Masjid theme, in the hopes that it would help nurture a love, bond and positive connection to the Masjid, Salah and the Islamic faith in general.
Children love the mystery and wonder of forts, dens and treehouses, so I was inspired to merge that sense of fun with the Islamic culture and Masjid theme
- Your business is centred around creating masjids for children, has your own motherhood influenced this in any way?
Motherhood is central to what I do, I worry for the future generations and am motivated to contribute what I can to help my son and other children hold on to their Islamic identity with pride and fondness. I am also indebted to the other Muslim women in our community who inspire, encourage and motivate me daily through their sincerity, hard work and creativity.
- What is one piece of advice you would give to other mothers? Perhaps new mothers?
I would advise mothers that parenting is challenging and it is OK to ask for help. With all the roles and responsibilities, if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed from it all, know that you are not alone, many of us feel similarly overwhelmed, and you shouldn’t be facing this alone. Look to the loved ones who can support you and let them hold your hand through this. There are seasons for everything, and sometimes, we need to embrace whatever season we are in and let go of things that do not serve us well at that particular time.
Sometimes, this can be our own expectations or habits. Our children need us to be happy and healthy in order for them to be happy and healthy. Please take the time and space you need to fulfill yourself: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, so you can show up best for your little ones. Finally, remember that you are the perfect parent for your little one. Allah chose you for them and them for you, your bond is sacred and came to life by divine decree; we all have flaws as humans and its OK if we don’t always get it right, what’s most important is that we try as best we can.
Please take the time and space you need to fulfill yourself: spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, so you can show up best for your little ones.
- What is it like raising Muslim children in China with the current Uyghurs Muslims situation?
Raising my son in China has been challenging but the struggles have been more to do with distance from our loved ones / lack of support and community, and less to do with the actual location. We are in a small coastal city and the locals have been very warm and welcoming to us despite our apparent differences when it comes to race and religious beliefs. For that I recognize my privilege and am grateful. When we initially moved, we were unfortunately not educated regarding the injustices being carried out against our Uyghur brothers and sisters. Over the last two years, we have become more and more aware through social media and we intended to relocate in 2020. Unfortunately, due to the way the year has panned out, we may have to wait until it is a more stable time to move.
- How are you currently instilling the love of Islam in your kids?
I am trying my best to instill love for Islam in a gentle, organic way. While we are some of the very few Muslims in our city, I pay particular attention to ensuring my son feels confident in his identity while also remaining understanding and tolerant of differences. I choose subtle ways to do this, for example, when we practice Quran, we will often cuddle so he can feel the physical warmth and comfort while we learn the words of Allah. When he is having a hard day, I will embrace him, put my hand on his heart and make dua to Allah to help him with his feelings and his day; often he says he feels much better. When we make dua for sleeping, eating, washing etc we use fun words and rhymes so it is enjoyable “thank you Allah for my eyes and my toes, my funny bone and my nose”. When we choose Halal sweets even if the others look more fun, we remind ourselves it is because we trust that this is what Allah thinks is best for us. I also make use of the amazing resources available online by the incredible community of sisters who retell our Islamic stories and beliefs in a fun, memorable way.
- What advice do you have for other mums who are teaching their children to pray?
My advice to parents who are encouraging children to pray is to focus on nurturing love and connection to Allah and the Ibadah as much as possible. As parents, if we model love, and enthusiasm when praying Salah, our kids will hopefully pick up on that and show a similar positive attitude. If children see Salah as an adventure, as something that will truly elevate them to be better, then inshaAllah they will be more involved.
There are many fun resources available on the market that can help you make Salaah a positive experience. from story books, to games to amazing products like the MySalahMat, these are a great way to introduce Salah in an engaging way.
- What has it been like living and running your business from China? Are you facing any difficulties as a Muslim/in general?
Alhamdulillah I am grateful for our health and privileged position. Covid has affected us this year along with our plans to relocate. We were hoping to move in 2020 but because of the way the year panned out, it was no longer feasible especially while other countries are quite unstable. We had to close our business at the start of this year due to shipping instability and a huge increase in costs. My husband was also out of work for quite some time. We are still quite a small / young family who have been moving around for the past 6 years, combined, this has meant a fair bit of pressure and the best thing to do seems to be to stay put for the time being until we are in a better position to relocate.
Working in China for my start-up has been interesting and challenging, overall, I am grateful for all the valuable lessons I have learned along the way which I hope to carry forward with me as we grow. We have manufactured in the UK and in Malaysia also, and where we produce our products is massively based on where we are living at the time. We were looking to move to turkey or Indonesia for production, however due to the communication delays and travel restrictions at the moment, we may need to put that decision on hold.
The biggest challenge is finding manufacturers that meet ethical standards and also where ideas can be safe from plagiarism. This year we have made the decision to only proceed with products where we can be sure of the manufacturing process to the best of our ability.
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