Sometimes, an organisation comes into existence and it feels like they should have always been there. This time las year, it was impossible to even conceive of a non-profit organisation like Children of Jannah, where the grief and range of emotions felt by Muslim parents following child loss are dealt with through an Islamic framework. The fact that this project (launched in May 2011) has already had a huge impact all over the world is a testimony to its need. Through the use of diverse media – articles, books, webinars, videos, coaching and online support groups – Children of Jannah begins to deal with the difficult questions around grieving, and challenges us all to begin working together to support our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who face the the trials of bereavement.
Saiyyidah Zaidi: Why did you leave your safe job as a Head of Department in a school to set up Children of Jannah?
Hafizah Ismail: When I got married, I decided to leave my job as the Head of Maths at a Business and Enterprise College. After taking a few months out, I decided to work as a self-employed Education Consultant and found my years as Head of Maths served me well in terms of the skills I had learned whilst leading a team, the contacts I had made, and interaction with the students I had taught. By the end of 2008, I became certified in life coaching and, after attending the NicheHero business leadership programme in 2011, I felt I had begun developing the skills to start something extraordinary, something amazing. Little did I know that it would be the sudden death of my two-year old nephew that would be the inspiration behind Children of Jannah.
S.Z: What does being a business owner mean to you?
H.I: As CEO of Children of Jannah, I get to envision the future direction for the organisation. I also recruit all-stars to our team and lead the organisation through our different aims and projects. It’s very different but I love the challenge and the rewards, insha Allah. As the founder, I am fortunate to be my own boss, allowing me to really develop the organisation from the ground up in accordance with my own principles, as well as managing my own workload. This flexibility is priceless when working for yourself.
S.Z: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far?
H.I: Grief is taboo within our communities and issues such as coping with the loss of a child are simply not addressed. Through Children of Jannah, bereaved parents now have the support available to them when they most need it. Nothing like Children of Jannah existed within Muslim communities before and to be the one to establish it is an honour.
S.Z: Who has been your greatest business influence and why?
H.I: Muhammad Alshareef. He is one of a very small group of Muslim business leaders who benefits the Muslim community, is a terrific orator, and has great business acumen.
S.Z: What has been the most effective marketing initiatives you have used to promote your organisation?
H.I: Writing the e-book Sorrow to Serenity and launching Children of Jannah’s Facebook page. Thousands have found these a source of peace, allowing them to begin engaging with their child’s memory in a positive way. The feedback made me realise how important our work is, and how much we can do to begin getting the message out there that talking about grief and child loss within the Muslim community is imperative to be able to support our fellow Muslims properly.
“SubhanAllah, I wish someone had written a book like ‘Sorrow to Serenity’ six years ago when my son passed away. The ‘11 Ways’ contain practical and essential strategies to come to terms with a mother’s loss. They may seem straightforward, but they will otherwise take years to figure out. It’s a beautiful book and I am positive that it will change the lives of grieving Muslim mothers.” -Umm Tariq
S.Z: What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
H.I: Don’t listen to the critics because if you do, you can end up being ruled by what they say. Listen to your audience’s needs and wants because it is key to understanding their pain when you are providing a solution.
Sister Hafizah Ismail is a true inspiration to women who want to lead their own organisations and projects. Under Hafizah’s leadership, Children of Jannah is currently putting together a second toy drive for children’s hospitals and hospices, as well as processing a support pack for hospitals to give to parents in the first 72 hours following the death of their child. Masha Allah, Hafizah is also researching a book on men and grief, again responding to the call from those in need who contact the organisation. Hard as it may seem, Hafizah does have some spare time and in this she enjoys taking walks in the countryside and spending time with family. Her number one goal for the next year is to launch a product that is a game changer when it comes to grief recovery.
To find out more about Children of Jannah and to get a free copy of Sorrow to Serenity go to http://www. ChildrenofJannah.com If you are looking for support or have experienced the loss of a child and would like support please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All donations made to Children of Jannah are tax deductible by using their registered charity number: 1145936.
Saiyyidah Zaidi is the founder of Working Muslim, an organisation empowering Muslimahs to balance responsibilities to work, faith, family and society. To find out how you can take the step from employee to entrepreneur, or to get back to work go to www.workingmuslim.com and get lots of free resources from there.