Every Friday afternoon as a little child, I was never able to escape the voice of Sheikh Mohamed Metwally Al-Shaarawi preaching through our TV. His voice floated around the house like a wind whipping the curtains. While everyone in the room was haloed by their calm duties: my sister and I combing out the delicate hairs of our dolls, my father coming home from Friday prayer with the newspapers, and my mother decorating the table for our meal, Al-Shaarawi’s voice, tranquilly, continued to run the stream of life.
Among the serene noises and the trees moist with humidity, among the tiny moments of grace that came to us unnoticed, no one had noticed that at some point in time these Friday afternoons would cease to exist, and would seem as strange to us as though it had been a separate life. Phone screens replaced newspapers, work and studying duties replaced doll play, and there was little to no time to watch or listen to Al-Shaarawi. As soon as lunch was over, the living room became vacant, the sun was setting, and each family member dispersed to their own entertainment and various responsibilities.
Consuming religious content online
In this digital age, I don’t actively follow any religious accounts or pages. I typically follow or read content for comedy, education, and entertainment.
Religious education, to me, has often been associated with traditional mosque preachers such as Al-Shaarawy, but I never quite understood the appeal of listening to religious preachers online. I’ve never also really enjoyed actively searching for accounts to follow. Instead, I let my algorithm suggest accounts to me.
In August of this year, however, I discovered Soundous Boualam (@soundous.boualam), a Brussels-based Moroccan influencer who aims to break down stereotypes about Islam and share a healthy lifestyle based on Islamic principles.
Boualam is not a religious preacher, but simply a content creator and an influencer. In one video, she gives a tutorial on four habits of Prophet Muhammed that can now be branded as “wellness trends”, which is a term coined by Gen Z to express a healthy lifestyle.
In another, she shares “5 things to forgive as a Muslim”, which entails forgiving your parents, forgiving yourself for the mistakes you did as well for not being the best version of yourself, and lastly forgiving others.
Scrolling through her account, Boualam also shares Quranic verses next to each advice or tip she shares. For the first time, I had never seen a Muslim influencer who was so visibly Muslim but who was not constrained by or required to adhere to only one image of a religious person. This is not to say that it should replace official religious preachers, but Boualam’s content is also a breath of fresh for a generation that leans more towards bite-sized content. Through simplifying complex religious principles online, and showing more relatable stories and examples, people can feel less inclined to separate their religious identity from the rest of their life.
In a society where Andrew Tate and other detrimental role models exist for Muslim children, Boualam and other Muslim influencers online can have a positive influence not only on Muslims, but also on young women. She is a typical 30 year-old who expresses her everyday ideas and religious struggles with a dash of humour and sarcasm.
Below are a list of other Muslim influencers like Boualam:
This Instagram account creates journaling books related to Quranic verses, explaining the various interpretations behind prophet stories and chapters. “Since I practice Quran journaling, I have learned to reflect on every ayah that I study including its practical tips,” she says in one of her posts.
In another post, Sacide explains in her journal how to practice gratitude. “To say alhamdullilah (thank Allah for the bounties) is part of being grateful. But to be truly grateful to God for what He has blessed us with, it must be shown in our action.”
Sameera Qureshi (@sexualhealthformuslims)
Sameera Qureshi is an Islamic psychology practitioner, and her platform offers a holistic space for Muslims’ sexual, mental, and spiritual health. Other than her posts on social media, she also prepares therapy toolkits and online therapy. Some of these toolkits include the “Marital Sexual Intimacy” toolkit and the “Muslims, Trauma, and Healing” toolkit.
In one post, Qureshi shares common misuses of the term “haraam”, as she explains, “We’re afraid to question what we learn because of fear-based/’God will punish you’ perspectives. Even though Islam highly values education and knowledge in all facets of life.”
As an author herself of ‘Mighty Muslim Heroes’, Tamara’s Instagram account shares books about Muslim figures and other books about Muslim experiences. Her account is inclusive for all ages, ranging from kids’ literature to fiction and nonfiction for adults.
“It could be the story of a family member or your neighbour. We are not merely readers but delve into their thoughts and emotions. It portrays the intimacies and complexities of family dynamics beautifully,” she says in her review of ‘A Place for Us’ (2018) by Fatima Farheen Mirza.