Baba Ali (real name Ali Ardekani) has become an Internet phenomenon. He is the co-founder of Ummah Films, and his series of videos on YouTube, 'The Reminder' and 'Ask Baba Ali', have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people.
Ummah Films seems to use entertainment to reach out to the masses who usually do not attend lectures or services at the mosques to learn about Islam. Baba Ali can now be seen on the Islam Channel and has been a guest at many Islamic conferences around the world.
The Revival caught up with him at a recent event for an exclusive interview...
So how did you get the idea for Ummah Films?
I was sitting in Jumu'ah one day and I got frustrated that I'm sitting in an environment where I can't say anything. It’s not that you SHOULD say something, Islamically we have to follow the rules, but there was a lot of stuff going on in Jumu'ah and I wished I could voice my opinion. One person would be reading a newspaper, some sisters would be handing round photos and lots of people were sleeping. Of course I could say something afterwards, but because I'm a young guy and if I go to an older person and say it they might take it sensitively, egos would be involved, so I started making videos because then I'm not saying it to people directly and they won't get offended. So I started sending the videos on to friends, one friend would send it to another and the rest is history.
Where do you get most of your inspiration?
I get inspired by just living my normal life. I can't really write about other people's lives because I've never been through it, but if I see them and they're my close friends or if we all see it together, then I can write about it. I went to $25,000 Muslim weddings, and I write about that. I saw Muslims in the airport and I write about that. I think that's why a lot of people connect to it because they're like "That's SO true!" because they've been through it too.
Do you know how your work has been received by non-Muslims?
A large fan base of ours is non-Muslim. Ummah Films by itself wouldn't get to the top of the YouTube charts if it wasn't with non-Muslims rating it as well. I know non-Muslims are going to be honest on YouTube, they're not there to make you happy, so judging by the number of positive emails we've received it’s been amazing.
Why do you think your video blogs have received more hits than lectures by qualified scholars?
Because I think the youth relate to someone who is their age, who they went to high school with, to college, someone who will talk about the peer-pressure, instead of someone who grew up in a village, became hafiz by 11, memorised Hadith by 14, and by 18 years old he's completely stayed away from girls, so he has had easier circumstances.
How have your family reacted to what you do?
My father has no idea what I do, my mother learned about Ummah Films after Season 1 came to DVD and she saw it at someone's house. Her reaction was a bit of disbelief: "YOU put this together?" It was kind of strange, but I didn't really do it for them. I wanted to hopefully get an impact, there were bigger reasons why I did that.
Do you plan to continue the 'Reminder' series? Are there any other projects?
The 'Reminder' series is, Alhamdulillah, completed and now the new series is called 'Ask Baba Ali', where people send in their questions and I try to help them, Insha'Allah. Because a lot of the time the youth are disconnected with their parents and they have bad friends with bad advice, so this is an advice show, it’s not Fiqh. Basically what you might ask your friends: "How do I get out of going to the office Christmas party", that kind of stuff.
Do you have any advice for Muslim youth growing up in the West who are finding it difficult to practice Islam in this society?
Yes. If you see the person in the mirror and you don't like that person and you want to change, then change your friends. Because your friends are a reflection of you. Look at all your friends: you have some good friends, some bad friends, then that just says what YOU are: you have some good in you and some bad in you. You want to be a better person? Change your friends, because bad friends are never going to push you towards good things, and good friends are more likely going to push you away from bad things. Allah (swt) chose our parents, but we can choose our friends.
For more information on the work of Baba Ali and Ummah Films check out: