We all have a purpose on this universe and I believe one of mine is in showcasing the beauty and vastness of Islam to children, through the magazine.
Lockdown Boredom to Messenger Magazine
Every time I took my nieces with me to Asda, a local supermarket, they would convince me to buy them a magazine. This was either a Disney princess one or even worse – Peppa Pig! One day, I had a flick through these overpriced magazines and began to reflect on what the children were truly benefiting from them. Many of the activities were purposeless and there was nothing truly worth gaining inside – especially at that price! I then would wonder why there were no publications for children their age that had characters that represented good morals, God-consciousness and other Islamic principles – characteristics that the Prophet and his family embodied, for example. This was the first seed of what would eventually become the flower of the Messenger Magazine.
During the nationwide lockdown (either no.2 or 3 – it was hard to keep track!), I was struggling with not being able to keep busy. A friend recommended that I watch or research about key figures and events in Islam to fill my time wisely. When I began to do so, I felt the need to make notes on the information I was learning. However, as a very visual learner, the notes did not excite me! I decided to use an online design software to make some of these notes more colourful and attractive. This not only filled my time, but the process of creating them filled me with so much joy!
I began to notice that the posters I was making were so clear that my 5-year-old niece could understand them too – she would watch over my shoulder as I was making them and began to show a keen interest. This got me thinking…I had always felt bitter about the magazines she bought, and the lack of colourful, dynamic Islamic content out there – and I seemed to possess the ability to create a solution to both these problems myself! I then decided to create at least one edition of a magazine of some kind with the content I was making- which, unbeknown to me at the time, would later be known as the Messenger Magazine!
When I started to develop other ideas to fill the magazine, I thought about what kind of knowledge I myself was lacking, in addition to the lessons I wanted my nieces to learn. For example, I reflected on the fact that I had very weak knowledge of many of the Prophets – 25 were mentioned in the Quran but I could barely explain the story of even 5! This is what led me to create the Prophet story series – where I write out a short summary of each prophet’s life, alongside graphic images of key parts of the story. Each Prophet story took me 3+ hours to fully research with reliable sources until I was able to write them out! I then added to the list of topics – Star surahs (information about surahs in the Quran), Sunnah foods (recipes and benefits of food recommended by the Holy Prophet), Quiz time (4 multiple choice questions on various Islamic topics) and more.
The next step was researching and then writing all the content for each topic. Over time, the magazine started to get filled up – but everything was still stuck on a screen! I had no budget to work with yet I was desperate to bring the ideas I had spent hours working on to life – I knew it would not be the same experience for a child to read through the magazine digitally. I approached some printer shops but was quoted extortionate prices, and I did not want to make the magazine unreasonably expensive. However, I then remembered that the office I worked in had an A3 printer…
Thankfully, my manager agreed for me to use the printer, as long as I covered the cost of ink and paper. The printer was not perfect – the ink would bleed, the papers would jam – but I believed so much in the concept of the magazine that I stayed patient and kept going. I would stay after work and do the printing, then sort the printed papers in the correct order, then start stapling – sometimes leaving the office at 10pm at night!
Although the process wasn’t ideal, it meant the magazine had finally come to life! I set up a simple Instagram page – @messengermagazine – and began shipping the first edition to the few that ordered. When I started to receive feedback and in particular, photos of children doing the activities, it brought me a joy that was almost indescribable – in that moment, I felt that all the work I had put in had paid off. I didn’t intend to create multiple editions a year initially, but when I received feedback on how beneficial it was, I felt a calling to continue. I also decided that I would provide a free gift with each edition – one that had purpose, rather than the junk my nieces would receive with the kids’ magazines I bought them. For example, the gift with Edition 1 was an Islamic cookie cutter – with the recipe for the cookies inside, easily explained and laid out. Edition 2 came out a few months later and from what I saw, the kids and parents alike loved the magazine – things seemed to be going well!
However, as I completed Edition 3 and was ready to print, I received some news…our office was closing, and the printer was moving to another location over an hour away from my home! I had no choice but to travel to the temporary office, hauling the paper with me, then have to shuffle around to find the ink and sit in the middle of boxes by the printer. I would then pack the printed papers to take on the train home, where I would lay them out and start the long stapling process. It was honestly a struggle, but being able to deliver the edition to those who ordered it made it all worth it.
After E3 was sent off and things settled down, I visited a local printing shop – Colour Copystat in Wembley – to print an item for a birthday. When I was there, we began talking and I referenced my magazine. Having spoken to other printing shops, where prices were way beyond the selling price alone, I did not have high hopes that we could work together. However, the lovely couple who owned the shop turned out to be Muslim and we came to an agreement where we were all happy!
6 months later and 3 editions have been printed off at the shop so far! I’m so grateful for how smooth and easy the process is now – especially the fact that I no longer spend hours stapling! As a whole, the journey to the present day has not always been an easy one, but I have been pushed by the sheer passion and love I have for the magazine and the power it has to educate. We all have a purpose on this universe and I believe one of mine is in showcasing the beauty and vastness of Islam to children, through the magazine. My only hope going forward is that the magazine grows further and reaches more and more children across communities. It is important to note that I don’t see the success of the magazine as a personal win – I am simply working as a vessel for Allah (SWT) and inspiring and benefitting our Muslim children is my only intention.
The Messenger Magazine is a quarterly magazine for children aged 4 – 10. Orders are made in stalls around London or via an order link found via the Instagram @messengermagazine
All readers of Muslim Family Hub will receive a BONUS free gift with any order of the Messenger Magazine – please message us your name on Instagram to @messengermagazine