Ramadan is all about devoting time to prayer and loved ones, and one family has found a way to combine the two in a particularly creative and engaging way.
In 2017, British couple Rizwana Ismail and her husband Ahmed launched My 1st Masjid, a toys and decor company inspired by their son Jibreel. The small, family-run business, currently headquartered in China, specialises in hand-finished toys, crafts and decor influenced by mosques.
Pop-up play masjids for children
It all began with the idea of a play masjid, or mosque, when the family was living in Malaysia. “The beautiful architecture surrounding us and the welcoming atmosphere inside played a huge role in brand vision,” says Rizwana.
“Children love the mystery and wonder of forts, dens, castles and treehouses, so I was inspired to merge that sense of fun with the Islamic culture and masjid theme. I hoped that it would help nurture a love, bond and positive connection to the masjid, prayer and the Islamic faith in general.”
Rizwana set about creating toys and craft kits that are open-ended, allowing the family to spend time putting them together and customising them.
This in turn led to the family business, which has since branched out to include other items, including stamp sets, craft kits, maps and decor items.
The brand also prides itself on being sustainable, with most of the toys and crafts made from biodegradable cardboard, wood or recycled paper.
Popular during the pandemic
Their pop-up masjid kits are most popular, says Rizwana. “Many of the pictures went viral from the moment we introduced them to the market.”
With mosques around the world closed for most of 2020 because of the pandemic, there was a marked increase in interest, as people began to look for ways to build a special prayer area at home.
“Today, my son thinks his parents are like the Ramadan or Eid elf, putting toys together for Muslim children around the world and it’s absolutely brilliant. His pride in what we do is our motivation," says Rizwana.
“Our work is important because it allows families to enjoy modern items that encourage and inspire values from the Islamic faith in a fun and positive manner. We want children to be left both inspired by and proud of their faith, which encourages confidence and positive contributions."
How to create a cardboard masjid at home
For a cardboard set-up:
- Gather any spare cardboard boxes you have at home – the larger, the better.
- Set aside two large parts of cardboard for your side walls. These can have cut-out arch windows for a special touch. Draw out the windows using a pen or marker and then cut them out using a sharp craft knife.
- Your front wall requires a doorway, usually a nice traditional arch is a great idea for the front.
- Connect the side walls and front walls with strips of cardboard; these can act as hinges. Strips should be about 15 centimetres long and 6cm wide. Use a glue gun to stick the strips to the corner joints of the cardboard walls. Press down to make sure the joining strips are glued and sturdy.
- Stand the masjid base up now that the walls are connected.
Now that we have the structure, you need to add the main features: the dome and minarets.
- Cut out dome and minaret patterns and glue onto base. A glue gun is preferred. You can use alternatives such as velcro strips or strong tape.
- Your masjid can be painted, decorated with craft patterns or mosaic pieces, or left simple.
- Drape with fairy lights.
- Finally, add in a rug and pillows for the final finishing touches.
For a cloth set-up:
- Make a cube structure using PVC pipes or wooden beams. The size will depend on the space available to you.
- Drape the structure with cloth, focus on creating an inviting entrance.
- Cut out domes and minarets from cloth, and attach to the top of your structure.
- Finish with lights, a rug, pillows and lanterns to create a calming ambience.
Instructions courtesy of My 1st Masjid.