As a child, Sumiya Faruq would love listening to her father’s bedtime stories, most of which were of incidents from the Prophet’s (PBUH) life.
Sumiya’s parents would encourage her to question and dig deeper into the stories, and as she grew older, the youngster studied other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism.
By the time the Hyderabad-based Sumiya was in college, she had a hard disk full of Islamic content, including videos of speeches by Islamic preachers, Quran recitations and tafsir of the Quran.
“Among friends and relatives, we used to exchange the content,” said the computer science engineer. “However, with time, this changed. The content moved to content-sharing websites such as YouTube and Vimeo.”
But there was a problem. “Unfortunately, YouTube or Vimeo is like a jungle. You find content of all categories and of all types, sometimes extremely distasteful and harmful.
On YouTube, if you are viewing Mufti Menk’s video about Paradise, the related videos could be of a completely differen
t nature,” said Sumiya.
The advertisements on these video-sharing platforms can often lead someone to content that is “haram”, or forbidden.
“This problem gets further aggravated when people let their kids visit these sites. Kids might very soon end up learning things that are completely inappropriate for their age,” said Sumiya.
Sumiya saw an opportunity for a portal that has “clean Islamic content” for the whole family. And thus, in March 2016, Taqva.com was born.
This video-aggregation platform includes videos from content-sharing websites; a group of volunteers analyses the videos for suitability and then puts them up on Taqva under categories such as Quran recitation and tafsir, hadiths, Islamic reminder videos, Prophetic stories and Islamic cartoons for children.
The team also curates posts based on Islamic quotes, mainly from the Quran and the hadith, and shares them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Taqva has over 1,000 Islamic videos across more than 15 categories. “We are reaching over 10,000 users and currently have 3,000-plus active followers on social media outlets such as Instagram, Twitter [and] Pinterest,” said Sumiya, who also works at a multinational financial technology company.
“Given [that] the content is predominantly in English, our user base is from India, followed by [the] US and UK. Very soon, we will be adding content [in] Arabic and Urdu … followed by Bengali,” she added.
Sumiya realizes that apart from providing clean Islamic content for children and grownups alike, Taqva also plays an important role in dispelling some of the misconceptions about the religion.
“It’s undeniable that there is a rise of Islamophobia across the world. It’s unfortunate that a beautiful religion like Islam has been misunderstood, misrepresented and misconceived by many in the world. And with Taqva, we aim to educate people about Islam, providing them with Islamic videos, all under one roof,” Sumiya said.
By 2020, she wants to make Taqva the largest video repository of Islamic content in the world, reaching 100 million Muslims internationally. “We are setting up a team of volunteers across each country and aim to have 500 volunteers from over 100 countries in 12 months,” Sumiya said.
And she is banking on technology to deliver accurate content. “Machines are becoming intelligent. Now we have cars that are driverless. I want to work on an innovative solution that is based on machine learning which can answer people’s questions related to Shariah Law,” said Sumiya.
After all, as she notes, machines don’t get tired, and they lack many of the limitations that humans possess.
At present, Sumiya is funding the startup with help of grants, but she hopes to create exclusive content that will help get subscribers and attract Shariah-compliant advertisements as well.
“As a practicing Muslim, I not only plan my life for this world but also for [the] hereafter; therefore, when I set out to start my entrepreneurial journey, I asked myself, why not use my abilities to solve problems of both the worlds?” Sumiya said. And she hopes that Taqva will help others do the same.