We have tons of Influencers sharing the fluffy and perfect side of marriage as Instagram is truly only a highlight reel, while the mainstream media tends to reek of harmful stereotypes. We deserve to have our stories represented as we live them, rather than complaining.– Niya Abdullahi
Ever wondered what love and marriage look like in Muslim communities and how different cultures within the community navigate the institution of marriage? We need not stretch our curiosity very far as Documentary-filmmaker, Niya Abdullahi has embarked upon a personal journey to unveil the lived realities and significance of Muslim marriage. In her new documentary series titled “Muslim Love,” she explores the good, the bad and the ugly. The Couples in the series share the joys, challenges and truths about marriage. They keep it real and unfiltered.
Niya Abdullahi is a Multi-disciplinary Artist, Tech-Enthusiast, and the founder of Habasooda, a platform dedicated to sharing the richness of the Muslim experience through a variety of storytelling avenues including short films and data-based graphics. Themes of identity, liberation and resistance inform her work. To find out more about her work, TMWT had a chat with her and here’s everything she had to say:
TMWT: You recently produced a documentary series about love and marriage in the Muslim community, Can you tell us a little about this documentary and what inspired you to do this?
Niya Abdullahi: Absolutely! My docuseries titled “Muslim Love” explores the realities of love and marriage within the Muslim community. I’ve wanted to make this series for a while because in general, it’s very hard to find accurate representations of Muslim marriages. On social media, we have tons of Influencers sharing the fluffy and perfect side of marriage as Instagram is truly only a highlight reel, while the mainstream media tends to reek of harmful stereotypes. We deserve to have our stories represented as we live them and rather than complaining, I sought out to make the series happen.
TMWT: We are interested in your creative journey which is very much a part of who you are. Can you tell us about your history as a filmmaker and what drew you into documentary filmmaking?
Niya Abdullahi: My filmmaking journey has been such an interesting ride thus far. It started off with starting my page called Habasooda, a page that is dedicated to sharing the richness of the Muslim experience through a variety of storytelling avenues including film. I started off with a series titled #Mustalk and started interviewing friends, family, and other community members – again, a space where we could tell our own stories, unapologetically. This really opened up the realm of possibilities, I recognize the impact that media has on the psyche of people which is how the media has been used in the past to spew hate towards Muslims but I think it’s worthwhile for us to reclaim our own narratives and begin making our own spaces to share our own truths. I would say my projects are labours of love, filmmaking and content creation is not my job – I’m a Statistical Data Analyst by day but I still work every day to pursue my passions by night and Alhamdulilah, really grateful that I have the capacity to do both 🙂
TMWT: What was your favourite part of the filmmaking process when producing Muslim Love?
Niya Abdullahi: Meeting incredible couples and getting to know their stories. These couples all have such a wealth of knowledge and advice to share, I appreciated the opportunity to document their journey through life amidst the turbulence and the smooth sails. I really appreciated each of their candidness and brevity, it’s not easy to share the challenges in one relationship(for the world to see), but they did so as a means of starting important conversations, as you can see from the series- we opened up several cans of worms…
TMWT: What’s the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your documentary?
Niya Abdullahi: Each person will experience the series differently, if you’re a single person watching it, maybe you’ll leave with some advice surrounding “how to find the one”. If you’re married and going through a hurdle, you might finally feel like you’re being seen, and I hope that their advice would be helpful to you. I hope it builds community at the same time and allows us to have much-needed conversations.
TMWT: Are you able to tell us about any upcoming projects you have? What are they?
Niya Abdullahi: I just finished making my short experimental documentary titled “Tie your camel and trust in God”, it’s about the stigma of mental illness within the Muslim community. It’ll be coming out soon, so please follow @habasooda for more details on how to watch it! I’m also in pre-production for a few other projects, more to come on those. I’m also planning on making a second season of Muslim Love, that’ll be coming out by next year insha’Allah.
TMWT: What advice do you have for young Muslim women who may be looking to start a career in filmmaking?
Niya Abdullahi: Just start, don’t wait to buy a fancy camera, don’t wait until the “perfect moment”. If you feel like you want to make something, get out there and try. You don’t need the latest gadgets to produce a great film, honestly, with the phones we have today, truly the possibilities are endless. If anyone wants to connect with me, feel free to reach out anytime, I’m always happy to share my experiences.
TMWT is an online media platform spotlighting the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. We aim to be one of the most authoritative and informative guides to what is happening in the world of Muslim women. We hope to cover key issues, spark debates, progressive ideas and provocative topics to get the Muslim world talking. We want to set agendas and explore ideas to improve the lives and wellbeing of Muslim Women.