Toledo Society

Riyaad Minty | AJ+, TRT and everything in between.

Riyaad Minty | Co-founder of AJ+

The AJ+ phenomenon is a familiar sight for anyone using the internet today. Short, flashy and yet compelling, AJ+ videos have become a staple in the modern news industry. Far less known, however, is the young South African who played a major role in building it: Riyaad Minty.

As a first year law student, there wasn’t much on Riyaad’s plate apart from going to classes and participating in the Muslim Students Association. From the outset, Riyaad seemed like a very normal 18 year old. His next course of action, however, was far less typical. With an idea in mind and a vision to achieve, Riyaad decided to drop out of University after his first year. Partnering with his cousin, Riyaad had a start-up idea which changed the way greetings and ringtones were digitised. Despite the success of his start-up at a young age, Riyaad’s journey really kicked off when he was picked up by a global media giant: Al Jazeera.

At 22 years old, Riyaad left everything and moved to Doha as an e-marketing specialist at Al Jazeera. As a strong believer in the counter voice that Al Jazeera provided, Riyaad was able to bear the less picturesque parts of working as a junior in big media; sharing tables, working unrealistic budgets and battling his age to be taken seriously by anyone.

In speaking to Riyaad on The Transit Lounge, we feel a strong sense of perseverance and faith behind his successes – “When everyone is telling you no, that’s when you know you are on to something good”. Almost paradoxical, Riyaad draws his strength from the fact that an idea sounds so absurd – a sure step in becoming a disruptor in any given space.

Riyaad’s creative genius met his unparalleled drive to achieve for one reason: his strong belief that Muslims need to be “going somewhere”. From practically inventing “Live-Tweeting” news coverage with his team, to pushing for coverage of the Egyptian leg of the Arab spring, to finally playing a major role in bringing AJ+ to the world, Riyaad’s philosophy of defying the norm saw no end.

On episode 7 of The Transit Lounge, Riyaad tells us more about the spirituality which led him to refuse job offers from major tech giants, his current projects at TRT World, and shares a personal struggle which we can all derive strength from.

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Episode 7: Riyaad Minty – AJ+, TRT and everything in between.

Riyaad Minty grew up in a South Africa just recovering from decades of oppressive apartheid. With a keen interest in human rights in a post 9/11 world, Riyaad chose to do a Law degree at university; but only for so long. With a vision in mind and a company to build, Riyaad dropped out of university after his first year of study. Starting off in the animated greeting cards and ringtones industry (back when it was revolutionary, that is), Riyaad eventually moved to Doha to pursue an e-marketing role at Al Jazeera. Through a mixture of pure genius, a desire for impact and a deep spiritual drive, Riyaad went from the junior no one had time for to the man that would play a major role in bringing AJ+ to the world; a purely digital news outlet that has changed the way humans consume news.

Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Riyaad Minty.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here.
Listen on Google Podcasts here.

In case you missed it, check out our interview with fellow South African entrepreneur, Haroon Meer on how to scale a successful start-up.
Also check out this great episode with Mohamad Jebara on entrepreneurship and Islamic values.

Episode 4: Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Noura & Yusuf have moved into their new house. They’re excited to make new friends. However, when they first meet their neighbor he is very rude to them. They are upset and tell their parents that they don’t like their neighbor. But their parents tell teach them an important lesson, two wrongs don’t make a right. Listen to the episode to find out what happens next.

Mohamad Jebara | Islamic Values and Modern Business

Mohamed Jebara | Co-founder of Mathspace

The Global Financial Crisis is a stark moment in the modern memory. For some, it illustrated the deep flaws within the existing system. For others it meant a lot of lost money. But for very few, it became the site of a deep reassessment of their life’s direction and greater purpose. Mohamad Jebara was one of these few.

A senior partner at a lucrative derivatives trading firm (at the age of 25!), Mohamad profited heavily as the Global Financial Crisis deepened. Whilst not contributing to the crisis itself, the market volatility made for a profitable playground for traders like Mohamad. As the days went by, Mohamad would break profit record after record. To put it mildly, Mohamad was doing handsomely well for someone just 25 years of age.

Strangely enough, Mohamad decided to leave it all. As we sit with Mohamad on the Transit Lounge, we poke at the mindset that led to this perplexing decision. Surely enough, Mohamad describes his dilemma of operating in the zero-sum game that trading was: there was no value created for the Akhirah (hereafter). Sure, he made a killing during his time trading, but he wasn’t adding any value to anyone’s life. As a Muslim grappling with his faith today, that just wasn’t good enough.

Taking a year off travelling, reflecting and spending time with his family, Mohamad knew a couple of things: Firstly, he loved Mathematics and truly believed in its empowering capacity, and secondly, he needed to add value to the world around him. The interaction of these two principles saw Mohamad bring to the world Mathspace: A start-up digital tutoring company which rewards students for learning Mathematics. Whilst Mathspace hosts over 500 thousand active students and 20% of Australian schools now, it was far from an overnight success.

Mohamad debunks the romanticised start-up story: things are never easy, and breakthroughs are few and far between. Interestingly, this wasn’t something that broke Mohamad. Described as an unfair advantage, Mohamad’s Islam bought something to the table that other start-ups didn’t have – Tawakkul. Tawakkul as an unwavering trust in God’s plan, not only lets him get through the tough times, but also keeps him from ever compromising on his principles.

On episode 6 of the Transit Lounge, we uncover more pearls of wisdom about how Islamic values permeate Mohamad’s inspiring work in the education start-up space. We also hear about why Mathematics is critical today more than ever, and how Donald Trump’s election would’ve been prevented with more Math literacy!

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Episode 6: Mohamad Jebara – Islamic Values and Modern Business

By any measure of the word, Mohamad Jebara is a true Math whiz. Scoring in the top 0.5 percentile in his year 12 finals, he ventured to take on the toughest Math he could find at university: actuarial studies. By his mid-20s, Mohamad’s genius saw him being named senior partner of a lucrative derivatives trading firm in Sydney. But after just two months, Mohamad dropped it all. Something just wasn’t right. From here on, with a relentless pursuit of value, faith and principles, Mohamad brought Mathspace to the world; a unique start-up changing the way children learn Math through reward-based digital tutoring. We trace Mohamad’s journey from growing up in a Lebanese household of 8 siblings, all the way to the struggles of the start-up space and uncover some gems about practicing Islamic values in the corporate world.

Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Mohamad Jebara.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here
Listen on Google Podcasts here

In case you missed it, check out our interview with Haroon Meer on how to scale a successful start-up.

Episode 3: Spidey’s Eid Shoes

Spidey is looking forward to attending his Eid party with all his friends. Before the party, Spidey goes shopping for shoes, but is saddened when Hen doesn’t have eight pairs of shoes for his eight feet. When he visits his friends Froggie the frog & Elie the elephant he realises that they all have shoes for the Eid party. Spidey decides not to go because he is upset that he will be the only person without shoes at the party. So his friends come together to surprise him with the best present he’s ever received. Listen to find out what happens next.

Episode 5: Naz Shah – British Parliament via Poverty

Abandoned by her father at six, Naz’s family was jumping from squalor to squalor and living meal to meal. Far from a normal upbringing, she was sent to Pakistan at 12, to protect her from the man sexually exploiting her mother over a mortgage. She was forced into an abusive marriage at 15, and upon return to the UK, was beholden to her mother killing her abuser. From here on, Naz was thwarted into a life juggling between campaigning for her mother’s rights, visiting solicitors, working odd jobs and raising her younger siblings. We sit with Naz and hear of the incredible set of events which took her from homeless, abused and uneducated, to eventually gaining a sweeping victory over George Galloway as the Member for Bradford West. If there is any story that embodies true perseverance, it is this one.

Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Naz Shah.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here
Listen on Google Podcasts here

In case you missed it, check out our interview with social justice advocate Dalia Mogahed.

Episode 2: 7 Stories – Sarah & Adam

On episode 2 of 7 stories, Sarah is excited for her first day of school. She has a new rainbow bag with matching rainbow shoes that she can’t wait to show all her friends. Adam is also excited, he likes rainbows as well but loves giraffes even more. Join Sarah & Adam on their first day of school. It’s plenty of fun and there’s a great lesson to learn about always being truthful as well.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen to Episode 1 with Ayaa & Sammy in Istanbul

 

Episode 4: Mufti Menk – Struggles of a Worldwide Mufti

The Transit Lounge Episode 4 with Mufti Menk

Mufti Menk is arguably the most popular and renowned Mufti on the planet. Having been in the ‘Top 500 Most Influential Muslims’ list 6 years in a row, his name and online lectures are a staple in millions of Muslim households. To no surprise, we learn the Mufti was reading the Quran at the tender age of 3 and memorised it cover-to-cover by 11 (yes, you read those numbers right). A fast-tracked upbringing was just the beginning; after being enrolled (somewhat a surprise to him) into Madina University, Ismail Menk began on a journey of hardship, enlightenment, struggle and joy. We trace the Mufti’s journey from childhood in a Christian school, to early medical career aspirations, studying abroad and a difficult divorce – all of which made the Islamic Scholar we know as Mufti Menk.

Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Mufti Menk.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here
Listen on Google Podcasts here

 

Dalia Mogahed – Muslim Engagement & The White House

Dalia Mogahed On Muslim Engagement

Being a Muslim in the modern world carries multiple dilemmas and paradoxes. Forced into the public spotlight all so suddenly, the political arena which Muslims are compelled to navigate is nothing short of frantic. There are so many questions but it seems there are so little answers: How should we engage? What should we do? Should we even engage?

Dalia Mogahed began grappling with these questions at the tender age of 15. Armed with the autobiography of Malcolm X, and an inquisitive eye into the justice embodied in Islamic scripture, social justice was all that was on Dalia’s mind. Not soon after, an event occurred which made this so much more real than an intellectual endeavour; September 11.

From here, Muslims were thrown into a fast, hostile and confusing political space. Dalia’s activism began in fear – fear for her community, for her child and for her religion. There was a need to act and do something to fight back, to secure a place for the American Muslim. So it started with outreach work – classrooms in colleges, later training law enforcement and eventually advising President Obama on policy related to Islam and Muslims. From the outside at least, things seemed to be moving.

But were they in reality?

As we sit with Dalia on The Transit Lounge, we explore the paradoxes and uncertainties of modern Muslim activism. A seasoned activist, Dalia delivers a deep truth we often lose sight of: it is never about the result, but always about the journey. To stay in the game and prevent burning out, one must recognise that as Muslims, we must strive, but it is only through God that we may arrive.

In the public spotlight having to constantly deal with the stress, death threats and backlash from within the community, Dalia’s unwavering commitment to spirituality is an essential. Whether that be daily dhikr, night prayers or constantly reaffirming her intention, there is a deep inner strength that Dalia appeals to.

In Episode 3 of The Transit Lounge, Dalia delves deep into practical lessons learnt from engaging the Obama administration, the dilemmas and absurdities in engaging the current administration and a peek at her new research on interesting aspects of the Muslim community.