Conversations for thought: Podcast review

By Maira Shahzad

With the rapid growth of online communities and learning platforms, people are carving new and creative ways of learning and accessing information. Although we are experiencing a time where online platforms and our usual learning spaces such as the school, online forums, are saturated with information, it still helps to have sources that review ideas so that we can navigate through a vast collection of information and have some clarity of what is beneficial amidst the noise. This article briefly discusses two podcasts which offer different themes for listeners to reflect on based on their identity as a Muslim. Both of these podcasts have Muslim guests who speak about their experiences as Muslims through different lenses, such as those of being a student of Islam, being an entrepreneur and so on.

Freshly grounded is a podcast by two Muslim entrepreneurs and it hosts guests who offer valuable insight into the daily experiences of being Muslim. The format of this podcast follows a conversation based on a prompt but it flows naturally and includes the listener within. One of the recurring themes in this podcast, as approached in different angles is that of the Muslim ‘self’. This is related to the genre of self-help but it adds a more nuanced spiritual dimension to it. In addition, most of the episodes discuss experiences, reflections, and ideas around relationships and business. This podcast is great for those young people who are navigating the entrepreneurial niche. The host himself speaks with transparency about his experiences as a young Muslim entrepreneur and the discipline that it takes to achieve goals.

In one episode titled “From Counting Penny’s to World’s Largest Oil Company” (If this is an online article, the link to the podcast can be hyperlinked here), the guest traces his career trajectory in detail and mentions the importance of decision making while working on your career, the small steps to take to become financially independent, and finally, the importance of networking. This is particularly relevant right now as the job market and educational landscape have changed with new avenues of working and different ways to create passive income. For the guest, a single conversation where he took someone’s opinion about career choices seriously, set the trajectory that he followed as he switched fields from retail to Information Technology. One significant dilemma which students, especially fresh graduates, face is whether to prioritize immediate financial prospects or career growth prospects of an opportunity in developing your career. This is also addressed in this episode as they reflect on what it means to have a career and what it means to have a job, all the while considering how best fulfil your potential. The podcast has a recurring theme of young Muslims going through transitionary phases in life. These phases may be career changes, lifestyle changes, or spiritual. Alternate version of previous sentence: These phases may be career, lifestyle, or spiritual changes.

The second podcast on this list is hosted by the YouTube channel titled ‘Ilmfeed’. Ilmfeed has also produced several other short videos and documentaries. However, this podcast does not shy away from reflecting on socio-political issues that are found in Muslims communities as well as communities in the West. In a recent episode, following the protests that arose as a result of police brutality and violence against African Americans, the guest delineated and simplified the issue of systemic racism and its history in a way which was easy to understand. The guest expounded upon the root cause of racism, which is arrogance and the first instance of arrogance in the Muslim historical tradition which was when Satan refused to bow down to Adam, because of his self-perceived superiority. The episode explains the differences between racism and bias and the relationship of racism, prejudice, and bias on a personal and community level. It is an incredibly important conversation to listen to as it prompts the reader to think about all those times where we mindlessly act and speak in ways in which our biases and prejudices are inherent.

One event from the guest’s life stood out and anchored his experiences of racism as a black Muslim. Many years back, while witnessing police brutality against a young black man, the guest walked to the police officer and asked to file a complaint against his aggression against the young man. Following this, the guest was also arrested and taken to a police station, facing what were not hurdles but blockades and loopholes set to dehumanize and take away from a person’s autonomy.

The guest ends on a poignant note reminding the listeners that it is our duty as Muslims to examine our own biases within ourselves and our communities. It ends on an optimistic note by reminding the listeners that Although the events mentioned are set in the West, it offers a good prompt for listeners to think about how systems of racism, bias and exclusion function within our communities.

The two podcasts are among several that can be explored during this time. They both reflect on ideas and people’s experiences as they navigate through life a Muslims in a society that is ever changing. What really stands out for these podcasts is that they are reflective and deliberative in nature instead of instructive so they are great food for thought for people who want to spend time thinking constructively about life as Muslims.

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