There’s a new platform for Islamic educational entertainment in the form of on-demand Islamic video from Ali Huda – what’s been dubbed the new “Netflix” for Muslim kids.
With new content being added almost every week since their launch on August 1, 2017, Ali Huda aims to offer content that the creators found missing in the Islamic educational landscape.
The primary goal is to provide educational and informative programming on Islamic morals, ethics, history, Arabic language, and Quran – while also entertaining children ages 2-12. The secondary goal of the platform is to provide a means for parents to easily support new Islamic programming and producers. Subscriptions to the platform support participating programs’ production costs and help them make new content.
Aboutislam spoke with Maruf Yusupov, CEO of Ali Huda, about his motivations for building the service. We also wanted to know his long term plans for consistently hitting targets for improved quantity, quality, and competitive pricing.
A long time in the making
The idea had been in Maruf’s head for a couple of years. However, knowing how huge an undertaking it was, he wanted to assemble the perfect team before working to make it a reality.
After putting in hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars of start-up funds into the platform, in June 2017 Maruf mounted a LaunchGood campaign. The aim was to raise the additional funds needed through supporting contributions and pre-orders. The team hit their initial targets and are excited about what’s coming next.
“In the next 3 to 6 months it’s going to be very interesting for us,” Maruf said. “Most importantly, we’re curious how the market will accept the product and how we’ll move forward.”
As a father with three children of his own, Maruf saw many of the other available cartoon platforms as troubling. Lack of quality moral content, plentiful ads, and network charges, all made him want to explore Ali Huda solutions to the growing problem.
There were other solutions in the market. However as Maruf explained, “they just weren’t exactly what I wanted. There are multiple companies trying to make the games and the movies and everything at one time: they’re only producers. Additionally, their content is very limited.”
Maruf was thinking bigger. Ali Huda was born to tackle the issue of both quality content and wider distribution.
“I was looking into Netflix, and how they did it and knew that there was something we could do like that. I also knew that if we could bring some other publishers on board it would be worthwhile,” Maruf said.
Fostering new partnerships
So far, the Ali Huda platform has partnered with great content producers like Islam Channel, British Muslim TV, Eman Channel, Brainy Bunch, Kid Noise Studio, Baba Ali Kids, and many other key partners dedicated to growing quality Islamic programming for Muslims around the globe.
Maruf shared that in addition to partnerships with three top channels, “We also have partnerships with some smaller independent content creators. Some in the UK, some in Malaysia, some in other places,” he explained.
Dr. Bilal Phillips, Founder of Islamic Online University, endorsed the project. “It’s a great idea and it has come at the right time.”
Intrigued, I recently signed up for a free trial myself.
My nearly three-year-old daughter and enjoyed many of the new Islamic series. The Misri Bunch series with animal puppets and cartoons is one of the longer-length episodes available on the platform. We also loved the Amani Zikhr Practice series that teaches daily dua’s, and the Arabic learning program from British Muslim Kids as well.
I’ve seen a substantial amount of content added to the platform since pre-launch and I’m learning to keep a lookout for email messages l about newly added shows. This keeps me motivated to stay with the platform and also excited about what’s coming up in the queue.
Maruf notes that the plan is to eventually have thousands of video episodes to watch. But it does take some time to prepare the content and optimize each video for the platform. There is also the issue of convincing early adopters to come on board and support the initiative.
“Some of those we have contacted are on the fence about joining us because they don’t want to jump on the new platform,” Maruf notes.
Maruf explained that some of the content producers Ali Huda contacted were not comfortable with the initial revenue-sharing model. “Some content producers will tell us straight away that they don’t want to participate, as our model is a bit different. We can’t pay a lot of money to the producers up front right now. So, what we say is ‘put up your content to us and we’ll pay you based on views.’ And, alhamdulillah, some of the publishers are okay with that.”
Maruf also shared that they’re planning to add new categories and on-demand videos for all ages. The long-term goal is to include videos suitable for children between age two and twelve.
“It’s not only just about showing cartoons,” Maruf explained. “When the kids are eight, nine, ten, and twelve years old, we want to have content for them as well.”
Three-fold benefits for parents
As we talked, Maruf also noted that becoming a supporter of the platform does three important things.
First and foremost, Ali Huda is an educational and learning platform. It’s a space where parents don’t need to worried about the type of content their children are exposed to – unlike other on-demand programs like Netflix, YouTube, and cable pay-per-view.
Supporters like Muhammad Alshareef, President of Al Maghrib Institute, noted, “There’s not enough content for our children delivered in a safe environment that safeguards our Deen.” Thankfully, Ali Huda is the perfect solution for distributing Islamic content quickly and safely.
As a parent himself, Maruf sees Ali Huda as an investment in our children’s future. “At the end of the day, we’re creating educational entertainment for Muslim children,” Maruf explains, “and as a parent, we always want good for our kids.”
Secondly, Maruf notes, “One of the things mentioned over and over again in Quran is to always remember orphans and the needy. So, what we’re doing at Ali Huda is working with the UK registered charity Orphans in Need. We’re donating 10 percent of our profits to the charity to help kids in other countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Syria, and wherever there’s a need.”
Thirdly, parents who join the platform are investing in supporting the filmmakers and content producers to tell Muslim stories to our kids. “We have to remember the current general story about Muslims is not positive, it’s negative,” Maruf explained. “In this way, parents contributing to the platform are contributing to change the Muslim narrative – and therefore the world as well.”
Making all this great content available as a digital on-demand service means the only thing parents need to access it all is an internet connection. It’s now easier to both give our children educational Islamic programming and support these film makers as well.
Maruf graciously offered a discount code to all About Islam readers. Parents who use the code ABOUTISLAM when they sign up for a 7-day free trial will receive 50% off their next two months on the platform.
Maruf is confident that with parents’ support, the platform will only grow bigger and stronger. The team welcomes feedback and is actively looking for suggestions of ways they can improve the site. They’ve even created a support forum for those who want to participate in shaping the platform. Users can offer feedback, suggest new shows, and actively contribute to open discussions.
“Right now, Ali Huda may not be perfect,” Maruf said, “but insha’Allah we’re trying our best. With the Ummah’s support, it’s only going to get better.”