A big city lawyer turned Islamic publisher and author of the visionary first-ever Quranic pop-up book – meet Hajera Memon from Shade7 Publishing.
Klaudia Khan: How did you first come up with the concept of the Quranic pop-up book?
Hajera Memon: After deciding to resign as a finance lawyer, I sat down with a group of my closest and most beloved childhood friends and bounced around ideas, asking: “If I could do anything in the world, what would it be? Who could I become to bring the most benefit to the world as a Muslim woman?”
My inspiration for the book came from wanting to establish a long-term source of beneficial knowledge, which was creative and would inspire children to learn more about Islam and their own relationship with God. As Muslims, we believe that certain things we do in this life will benefit us in the afterlife as an ongoing charity, for example, planting trees because the shade and fruit a tree gives are benefits that last for generations.
Some important concepts came to mind: ongoing beneficial knowledge, putting knowledge into action, ‘Sadaqah jariyah’ and the hadith saying: “Seven types of people will be shaded by God under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His.” I wanted to turn these key Islamic principles into actions and really make a difference, not just for myself, but for everyone involved. With this vision in mind, Shade 7 and its ambitious, creative publishing vision was formed.
KK: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Are you a full-time writer and publisher?
HM: I would say more a publisher as I run the business full-time; I’m involved in a lot more than just writing. Writing the books is just one small element of my role, although in the future I hope to do much more of it, and that’s the bigger intention for me to have a lot more time for learning and discovering the stories in the Qur’an and writing, insha Allah.
Novelty publishing is also slightly different from conventional publishing as the books are hand assembled so it involves a different process altogether.
KK: Has the success of pop-up Quranic book The Story of the Elephant changed your life or affected it significantly?
HM: I would say the whole process has certainly strengthened my iman. The story itself is so powerful in its teaching of strength and faith during difficult times. Any good that we do is from Allah (SWT), and it’s so important to remind ourselves of that. Consequently, any success is from Him and so it does have a significant effect in that it makes me feel humbled and grateful, alhamdulillah. I always pray for the work I do and for my own life to be used as means or tool to guide the hearts of others, and the whole journey reminds me to continue praying for that as we don’t know what the ultimate success would be and whether our efforts are accepted. I pray with my heart that all our efforts are not only accepted, but rewarded throughout our lives and in the next too.
KK: Your friends say that you are a very hardworking and dedicated person. Would you say these are the key ingredients to a successful enterprise? What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, publishers, writers?
HM: Thank you! That’s very kind, alhamdulillah, I feel very blessed and grateful for my friends and the positive company that surrounds me. I do think hard work, dedication and determination are core attributes to being successful at anything in life, not just entrepreneurship.
Qualities of resilience, patience and faith also help as well as a powerful motivation that can keep you going through the less glamorous times.
KK: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own creative business?
HM: I think as a budding entrepreneur, you have to do what you love and it should serve a purpose. Meaningful goals make all the hard times and sacrifices worth it; they are the motivator, and creating and developing a product for others to enjoy is just so exciting and satisfying. I would encourage anyone who has a dream to benefit others – by providing a service or developing a novel product – to follow it through, but know that it’s far from an easy journey and, most importantly, it does take time.
KK: You used crowdfunding to raise money for publishing the book. Could you tell us something about it?
HM: Crowdfunding is essentially pre-selling and a marketing campaign to gather support for your project, often with a social impact. Like any kind of fundraising, it takes time, energy and support from a community, amongst many other factors for it to work successfully. Like most things, much depends on the project itself in relation to whether it is for everybody.
KK: On your website it says that Shade7 is a global and multilingual publisher. What other languages is The Story of the Elephant available in?
HM: Currently we are hoping to start our version in Danish soon, insha Allah, and are also looking into Arabic and French translations as well. By the very nature of our work, there is so much potential for translations of our stories into many languages and so this is a vision and ambition we wanted to embrace from the beginning.
KK: It also says on your website that you are working on some thirty new titles. Could you share some of your future publishing plans? What other books can we expect to be released? Would they all be novelty books? And is it only Quranic stories that you are working on?
HM: The Qur’an is rich with magnificent, timeless stories and hence our schedule was easy to fill with titles. A lot of them are my childhood favourites. Some of our next stories include Noah’s Ark, the story of Prophet Joseph and a series on the Prophet Moses (peace be upon them all).
Our unique offering is that we publish creative and interactive novelty books. Each book has an element of on-going play and is designed for a child to not only read the book time and time again, but also enjoy extended learning through play.
In November 2015, we have a very special, colour changing, wudhu bath book arriving, insha Allah. This is a perfect, simple introduction for children about the names of the parts of the body we wash when making wudhu. It is suitable from birth, so the very young ones can get involved too – a great idea for those special newborn gifts and something which connects a child with faith from early on.
KK:What are your dreams for the future?
HM: My dreams for the future are insha Allah to be able to continue contributing positive, exciting, innovative, creative material to our society and communities to inspire and help them to engage and establish a connection with faith, a relationship with God and spend their lives on a journey of discovery through the beautiful stories and lessons in the Qur’an.
Leaving something beneficial behind is the ultimate motivation so I pray that Shade 7’s work touches hearts and brings families together to share quality time through these stories.
Shade 7’s spectacular Islamic children’s books are available at www.shade7publishing.com
Klaudia Khan is a writer and a mother of three, who loves children’s books and buys them for herself as much as for her daughters.