"Mommying While Muslim" — FannBoy Friday

Mommying While Muslim's greatest desire is to learn from and validate their Muslim American sisters, offer support, and work together to find solutions and relevant resources to help each other thrive.

Side-by-side portraits of Uzma Jafri and Zaiba Hasan, hosts of the podcast "Mommying While Muslim"
Uzma Jafri (left) and Zaiba Hasan (right) have hosted "Mommying While Muslim" together since 2019.

FannBoy Friday is a weekly column from Shahjehan Khan that highlights American Muslim creatives.

"Mommying While Muslim" (“MWM”) is the first and only podcast of its kind. In their own words, “it seeks to support American Muslim moms and [their] unique issues in a post-9/11 world. In addition to sharing [their] personal experiences and perspectives, 'MWM’s' greatest desire is to learn from and validate [their] Muslim American sisters, offer support, and work together to find solutions and relevant resources to help each other thrive. Through this work, the podcast intends to develop a movement of lasting cultural change by building allies, resources, and innovative programming that elevates women and motherhood to their rightful Islamic status.”

I have a special place in my heart for the “MWM” podcast, as they were the first place I featured as a guest during our promo push for “King of the World.” Uzma Jafri and Zaiba Hassan had me come on a Clubhouse discussion for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 (it was live, so sadly, we can’t link it here), and a few months later, Uzma happened to be in Massachusetts and reached out to see if I would be interested in meeting her family. Actually, she was a huge fan of my mom and was dying to meet her, and so the Jafri clan (like seven people total) found themselves at my parents’ place for a giant Pakistani dinner.

It was nice to catch up with both Uzma and Zaiba for this conversation.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Shahjehan: What are your goals for 2023?

Zaiba: I actually just downloaded my [kids’] homework for the month. Starting the new school year with our kids, it's like a new year for parents and mothers. And so I specifically regroup because it allows me some time to have some quiet and refresh. 

I literally just wrote down some of my goals for the remainder of the year. It's so funny that you asked me this question. Uzma and I are working on a book, and our goal literally is to have it outlined and ready to go to the publisher by the end of the year. So I'm raining a little bit on Uzma’s Parade. That's one of our professional goals. 

One of my personal goals is to continue this healing journey [I’ve been on], and to finish and fine-tune some of that as my older ones are leaving the nest, slowly but surely. With every kid that leaves, you have to become a new version of yourself … Part of what I want to do for the remainder of the year is take some introspective time and figure out what's next for me, Zaiba, in this next version of myself.

Uzma: That's hard to follow up. I just want to get my closet organized … Get my chapters for the book ready and get ready for my cousin's wedding. So that means hitting the gym again, because I haven't been to the gym since like February.

Zaiba: Oh, Uzma. We’ve got to work on that.

Shahjehan: What's the best part about doing the “Mommying While Muslim” podcast?

Uzma: Being with each other.

Zaiba: Yes, I was going to say that … Because we were childhood friends, now we're really trying to help each other grow into this next version of ourselves. And I love being on this journey with Uzma, to be honest with you.

Uzma: When you're little, you've got all these weird, nebulous ideas and you are this nebulous thing [yourself]. You're not really a person until you're 25. It's nice to be able to have this part of my growth and this really beneficial part of the most recent part of my life. Sharing that [growth] with Zaiba and having her witness it, and being able to witness hers, has been an incredible privilege.

Shahjehan: When did you both first feel like you had really hit on something with this show?

Zaiba: I can tell you for me, it was when we covered a particular topic that was probably a little bit taboo in the Muslim community. We focused on LGBTQ Muslims and giving them a mic and a platform. [We don’t say] whether it's halal or haram, we don't get into that on the podcast, but [we provide] a place and [give] voice to the voiceless. We lost literally thousands of followers within 24 hours on Instagram, [and that was when I was like] oh, apparently people are paying attention to what we're doing. Sometimes being hated on [means you’ve] made it to the big leagues.

Uzma: For me, it was probably after two and a half years, when we started getting thousands of downloads. That's when I knew. I was like okay, they're there, they're out there, they're listening. And I knew we had achieved what we wanted to.

Shahjehan: What are some standout instances of very powerful feedback or moments of connection you’ve had with a listener?

Uzma: We had a young man reach out to us from a Muslim country, and he wanted to know if he could still be loved [if he was queer] by his family — and more importantly by God — despite the desires that he had. [We were] able to tell him that regardless of whatever our desires are, God creates us all in perfection. We don't believe in original sin in Islam. And that he is always going to be beloved to God. And if he thinks that he doesn't have a family, then he just needs to reach out to us because he's got two moms on this podcast.

Zaiba: Another one was when we helped somebody physically leave a domestic violence situation. [We are now] able to now hear back from this person, and they [have] moved on and they're in a better place … [As a podcaster], sometimes [it feels like] you're literally talking into a vacuum. Sometimes you feel like you're talking to yourself. So for me, it really is about those people that connect with us in our DMs or private messages. Uzma and I really mean it when we say that if you need help, we might not be able to directly help you, but we can find out who can. 

Shahjehan: What's the hardest part about doing this particular show?

Uzma:  Being consistent. It requires effort, especially during the busy parts of our lives (back to school, summertime, winter vacation) … That's the hardest part for me.

Zaiba: It's obviously a “mommying podcast.” And I have older children that have come to me personally and said, “I don't want to be on this platform [or] on social media” … It is really hard for me as a mom, because of course you feel a little bit of ownership over your children. But the reality is that once they are old enough to say “I don't have a social media platform and I don't want to be on yours,” I really have to be creative with how I can still remain relevant as a “mother” without showing the product of my mothering or my mommying.

Shahjehan: Who are some of your Muslim creative inspirations?

Uzma:  I'm going to pick somebody [related to] cooking. 

Zaiba: Because we hate cooking.

Uzma: Somebody who cooks, and it sucks because I only know her Instagram account, is Hajar Larbah. She is Moroccan and Libyan and makes really great recipes. My daughter and I have tried a couple, but I still haven't done the heart shaped custard donuts, or their crumb donuts, because it just seems so hard to make the dough … She makes me feel like I can cook.

Zaiba: I am not active on social media, but in general, we've had so many amazing Muslim women on our show. Each of them have their own place and significance. Obviously, this allows us a platform so we can meet with other people like yourself, Shahjehan, that are doing such a great thing and putting out such great content. 

We're probably a lot older than some of your [readers], but I would have to say from [looking] back in the day when we really had zero representation to now, looking across all platforms and at least seeing a little version of yourself … I was just watching Spider-Verse with my kids yesterday and they were so excited when they saw the cartoon masjid come across the screen … Even something as simple as that has just been amazing to witness in the last five to ten years. It helps inspire other people to continue putting out that content because it's not just about becoming engineers and doctors. As much as Uzma is a doctor, and we love and respect her, [we must] allow our children the opportunity to explore different versions of themselves so that we can put out some amazing content as an American Muslim community as a whole.

“Mommying While Muslim” can be found on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. You can listen to their show on Apple Podcasts.

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