In the beginning
Take a moment and imagine the following scene. I am sitting in front of the TV, with my laptop doing some work, for my first company, Hajj Safe.
I am thinking of my son Hamzah who was four years old. That day, he had been struggling to do sujood. He couldn’t work out where to place his hands, knees, forehead and nose. He would try and try but then give up and just lie on his tummy. Masha’Allah it was very cute.
I wondered if I could buy something to make it easier for him. My background is in product design and I imagined a mat with the position of the hands, knees, feet, forehead and nose marked. This would make it much easier to learn.
I logged on to Google to have a look online. After browsing for a long time I realised that there was nothing educational or appealing for children to use and learn how to pray Salah. I then opened my Adobe Illustrator and used Google to find an image of a plain prayer mat as well as images of hands, feet, nose and the Kabaa.
I placed these images on the plain prayer mat to identify the positions of the different body parts during Salah. Instantly I thought, ‘This is a great idea to help children learn Salah’. I thought about what else I could include in this impromptu design.
Children could also learn the main words used in prayer, such as Allahu Akbar and the duas for Ruku and Sujood. I wrote these words out and started to add them around the prayer mat. Within a few hours I had something that looked like this:
This design sheet was the starting point for the development of the prayer mat design. At that moment, I did not consider that this could be an interactive, touch-sensitive prayer mat. Instead, I imagined it as a soft touch prayer mat with prints. Within a few days of working collaboratively with a friend from Indonesia, we managed to create this design.
My Salah Mat is born
I used my existing contacts in China to get a sample made quickly. I was excited and keen to see my vision become a reality. Shortly after, I received a sample and opening this was an exciting moment.
With the sample in front of me, I could see many more possibilities. The buttons around the side could be changed to make sounds when they were pushed. The wudu button on the mat could also be pushed and tell children how to perform wudu. I embarked on a year long process of research and development.
At times exciting and at times challenging, this journey involved travelling to China, making over 20 prototypes and working with a range of professionals from factories, designers, translators, photographers, patent lawyers and many more. What a journey it was, but I persevered to make my vision become a reality. I truly believed that this was an amazing concept with great potential.
However, now that I had this great product, I met another obstacle- money. I needed a large amount of capital in order to take the final product to production! Now imagine that I am sitting on my laptop inspecting some spreadsheets. I’m making lots of calculations to try and find the money that I need. I have some potential investors and I am considering alternative strategies like KickStarter. My mind is running like a calculator with sums flying around.
I stop for a moment and a thought strikes me. Why am I doing this? What is the reason? What is my motivation? Was I doing this for money and financial gain? Was that my motivation? Instinctively, I knew that the answer was no, it really wasn’t. My approach had not been one focused on profit.
After contemplating further, I finally realised that my motivation was to create a high quality product that could help children learn how to pray Salah. Most importantly, children would want to pray and interact with the different aspects of Salah. This was my true motivation and the most important thing to me.
A leap of faith
The initial investment for production was a huge amount of money. Doubts crept into my mind. What if people disliked the product and it failed? The reality was that I had a family and children and with that came financial responsibilities that I had to fulfill.
I continued to work hard to work out logistics and practicalities. Finally I performed Istikarah and then with a deep breath I said Bismillah and took a leap of faith. It was the one of the most frightening things I had done but I sent over all the money to the factory for the production and waited anxiously for delivery.
During this waiting period, I invested my time into developing a website myself as I had no capital left to invest in anything else.
I am a teacher by profession and I worked with an ex-student from Egypt who edited some footage I took with a friend of the prayer mat in order to produce a video.
This would be the basic promotional video that I would use to launch and advertise the new product. This video would later go on to receive over 50,000 views on social media platforms and YouTube within a few days.
Everything was in motion and beginning to fall into place ready for the arrival of the product. I worked with a company called Launch Good to set up a pre-order sales strategy.
The start of an
Subhan Allah, despite all my anxieties, the product was an instant hit before it even arrived. Within a few weeks of the pre-order launch, we had sold more than half the stock. Bear in mind, the product was still on a ship in a container in transit to the UK.
Alhamdulillah, once the stock arrived, the product was sold out within three months. The reception from the Muslim community around the world was beyond my imagination. People were sending humbling messages of praise and gratitude for this innovative product. I really cannot thank everyone enough for their support and words of encouragement.
Three years on from the creation of MySalahMat we are still developing as a company and still looking for stockists and agents around the world. MySalahMat is being produced in even more languages in order to meet the needs of people internationally. We are not even close to being established, this is just the start of a journey that feels like a blessing straight from Allah. Despite all the challenges, it has been a memorable journey and I feel that Allah has made it easy for me.
I would like to leave you with a final thought. I created this prayer mat for my son Hamzah, so that he could learn how to perform sujood. Today, when a child sees a MySalahMat, the very first thing they want to do is perform sujood! Alhamdulillah.
This is something you can never plan or design for. That is one of many blessing we have received. From one simple idea, all these children have benefitted.
I would also like to ask you to get involved and support us in whichever way you can and spread the message of MySalahMat. Let us work together to help our children learn and love Salah!!