Meet one of my favorite lifestyle bloggers – Minara of Hijabi Life

Minara El-Rahman, the creator of Hijabi Life – a Muslim Lifestyle Blog is a true gem. A brilliant writer, licensed attorney, Digital Marketing professional and loving mother, Minara is one of the most refreshingly honest people you’ll meet! And i’m not just saying that because i’ve known her since I was 13 years old. #QueensRepresent!

Genuineness flows through her every word. I have developed a deep and unwavering respect for Minara since our recent conversation. Her personal convictions and love for fellows Muslims became apparent when she took a step back from blogging and personal brand development in response to the horrific treatment of Palestinians in Gaza. She explained, “I had to take a long break from blogging, especially about fashion. I was horrified. Seeing children like my own getting blown to bits simply for existing was too much for me. I felt frivolous for blogging about modest fashion.”

So grab a hot cup of pumpkin spice latte and enjoy the conversation!

What was the motivation behind your blog? 

I started Hijabi Life in 2012 where I wanted to blog for myself and give Muslim women a voice. I noticed a rise in lifestyle blogs, but didn’t see anything out there for Muslims who wanted to rock hijab stylishly, find halal recipes, parent their kids according to Islam, etc. Now, we have a ton of great blogs and it makes me so proud that I contributed to the rise of Muslim women getting their voices heard.

I also wanted to create something for my kids. Literally everything I do is for my kids! I launched my blog shortly after having my daughter. I wanted to create content that Muslim women can enjoy. Up until this point, Muslim women had been disenfranchised and unspoken for. I didn’t want my daughter to feel this way as she got older. In order to contribute to my own narrative, I decided blogging would be a great way to share my own voice and hopefully it would resonate with other Muslim women.

When I first started wearing hijab in 1994, not too many women wore hijab. I remember my only options for hijab were black lace edged triangle ones and I had to wait until the Muslim Day Parade once a year to get colored hijabs. Now, you can find hijabs or pashminas you can wear as hijabs in mainstream stores like Target! I decided Hijabi Life would be a great way to share my fashion finds with readers so they can find stylish modest options. I also decided to review modest fashion sites because online shopping can be risky. I wanted to be that reliable reviewer who would tell you what modest fashion lines are legit.

I actually used to blog a lot more frequently. However, right around the time Gaza got hit in the summer of 2015 (Operation Protective Edge), I had to take a long break from blogging, especially about fashion. I was horrified. Seeing children like my own getting blown to bits simply for existing was too much for me. I felt frivolous for blogging about modest fashion. I just wanted to spend my free time with my kids. Life is so short and I already work a full time job, so I wanted to spend every free moment telling my kids how much I love them, go out and explore the beauty of the world with them and just be a good mom.

I just started getting back into it again, but I am trying to focus on more Muslim parenting blogging, recipes and DIY projects. I will still blog about fashion, but it won’t be as focused as it once was.

 

Literally everything I do is for my kids!

 

Did you have a clear vision behind the blog from the very beginning or did it take some time to focus in on your niche? 

When I first started Hijabi Life, I really wanted the blog to be a lifestyle blog. That is why I chose the name Hijabi Life. It was to be modeled after a typical hijabi mom’s life. I noticed my fashion blog posts performed the best so I decided to focus more on those mid-stream. However, like I mentioned above, I felt like a piece of me was missing from the blog. I felt like I was cheating my readers from really getting to know the real me. For example, I am DYING to start blogging about my own fitness and wellness journey. I recently started doing a boot camp at 5:00AM and it is one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a hijabi. Since I started dressing modestly at such a young age, I assumed I had a pass from eating well and exercising. OH BOY was I wrong. I am now trying to get back into a healthy lifestyle and I feel so much better. Beauty starts from inside.

You draw inspiration from your personal life. How do you strike a balance between private and personal? Do the two intertwine at some point? 

This part was hard. My husband has been my guide with this. He is my rock. I am an over-sharer of my own personal stuff and he really taught me it was okay NOT to share everything. So I don’t share too much about my kids or my marriage. I don’t need to show off my vacations or gifts from my husband. It opens up a Pandora’s box and I don’t want to incite jealousy or envy even if it is inadvertent. Even when I hang out with other bloggers, I am not hanging out with them to post it online. I recently met up with an old friend and I let her know that she shouldn’t be compelled to post it on Facebook. I came out to see her, not to show it off on social media.

At one point, I was offered a lot of modeling opportunities, but after discussing it with my husband, we decided that the purpose of my blog was to offer content for Muslim women to enjoy. I didn’t want to make the blog about me. I remember it was hard to take my ego out of it. Who wouldn’t want a little attention? I remember turning down Instagram opportunities with talented folks like Langston Hughes, but in the end I know it was the right move for me. I may have gotten a lot more followers, but my readers are the BEST.

I truly admire the bloggers who can be more in the public eye. I just can’t do it. My kids are so small and I really don’t need to add fans in the mix knowing who they are. I also have an Instagram and it is so surreal when I am at Target and hear someone calling how “Hey Hijabi Life!” My husband is so supportive of me. He is so good at his own job and any time I have a question, he can answer it like a pro. I am a very lucky lady Alhamdulillah.

I love Noor Tagouri. However, I think her consenting to be in that publication meant that Playboy’s history of being a demeaning publication for women, exploiting their bodies for money and being a gateway to harder non-consensual porn is okay in the Muslim community. It is not okay.

 

So you made the decision to keep your kids from of the public eye? What about your married life?

Yes. I made the decision that my kids are too young to be online. I do share snaps of my kids, but only with family and friends. I never post my kids’ lives or photos on the blog. As a wife, I share general marriage tips, but I am not about to spill my marriage online for others to pick apart. I make it a choice not to share that. That is my personal life.

How did your in-laws react to your blog?

My in-laws are very active online. I have sent them links to my blog posts and they have been very supportive. My father in-law is a very intellectual man who really admires strong women. His own mom earned a college degree in Assam, India back in a time where it was unheard of for women to go to college. She was a highly educated, strong woman.

My mother in-law treats me like her own daughter and I am very grateful for all of her support. Without her, I would not have been able to have a professional career because she supported me by giving my children the care and love they needed as babies. I would not have been able to bear leaving them in the care of anyone else besides my own mother to go back to work. She is so smart mashaAllah.

She is always on YouTube listening to Islamic lectures and gives sound advice. I can only hope to be as wonderful as she is as I get older. I did share a personal post about being a hater, but it didn’t have a name attached to it. I tried to be as tactful as possible, but someone in the family assumed it was about her and that was a hard conversation to have with my in-laws. I explained to my in-laws that no names were mentioned and it was as general as possible. All I can say is that if you assume it is about you, then maybe you need to look at yourself and not the writer.

When did your love for fashion begin? 

It literally began as a toddler. I used to fight with my mom about wearing hats during winter because I didn’t want my hair getting messed up! My mom was forced to buy me earmuffs instead. I clearly remember begging my dad to buy me L.A. Gear sneakers when I was in grade school. AND he did! They were these kicks that had laces made out of pink lace. I was in love and wore those shoes to death.

In high school, I have memories attached to clothes I still own. I remember vintaging at stores like Antique Boutique in the Village. I still have a velvet blazer I still wear from there. I remember my brother buying me a skirt from United Colors of Benetton for getting an almost perfect score on a Regents exam in Chemistry (New York state exam). I still own that skirt.

I always had a love for fashion and beauty. My first job out of college was a PR Manager for a footwear line. In my heart, I think I will end up doing Marketing for a fashion company eventually.

I literally have to hide and write blog posts in the bathroom or wait until my kids are asleep. There are times when I would think “okay, I have a cute outfit on to take a photo on Instagram” only to have my kids smear food on it.

 

Which fashion blogger has been your biggest inspiration? What specifically do you love about her style?

My biggest inspiration is Melanie Elturk. She is a licensed attorney like I am, but she never downplayed her love of fashion and style. Her clothing style is practical, yet glamorous. Mel is one of the first people to believe in Hijabi Life and work with modest fashion bloggers. I just love watching her SnapChats and Instagram videos too. She has such a relatable personality. I remember laughing out loud when she was asked about fans spotting her and she admitted that she probably chases down fellow hijabis with a salaam first! You know she is my biggest inspiration because she is a #bosslady and I buy a ton of clothes from her! Just keep taking my money Mel. 😉

Mel sticks with the classics. Her style is very elegant. If you look at her clothes, it is very simple but glam: trench coat paired with red lipstick, cozy weather sweaters paired with knee high boots, nautical stripes with a killer pair of sunglasses…I can go on and on. It also helps that she is easy on the eyes too, mashallah. I would love to be able to raid her closet!

It is tough picking just one inspiration because there are others I love just as much. I adore Nura Afia’s fierce makeup styles and I am obsessed with Saman Munir’s fitness tips and smoothie recipes. I know I cheated on this question, but there are SO many hijabis I love. How can I just pick one? Just a secret I will share: we all fangirl about each other and so many of us are actually friends with each other.

How have you grown personally since you starting blogging. Did life change as your blog gained popularity?

Oh goodness. I look back at myself when I first started blogging and I LOVED the attention at first. I can admit that. I think I have matured since then. I ask myself “Is this post going to benefit my readers? Or is this just me getting on a soapbox?” I have taken my ego down a lot and I want to really write great content. Here is a secret: most people think that you get celebrity perks as a blogger. Yes, you do get product sent to you, but it is not like I am getting paid big bucks to write content. I am actually just writing content to benefit you all. Even if you get sponsored posts, it is likely not enough to support you as a real job. It is extremely hard to live like a celebrity if you are blogger. There are some bloggers who have been able to do it, but it is not as easy as it looks and takes real talent and commitment.

Did having kids affect your blogging schedule? How did you find time to blog? 

YES! I literally have to hide and write blog posts in the bathroom or wait until my kids are asleep. There are times when I would think “okay, I have a cute outfit on to take a photo on Instagram” only to have my kids smear food on it. You have to take photos after fajr before the kids wake up if you want to look good. Also, I don’t have time to place fake eyelashes on every day. Sorry, but it is not happening. There is a reason a majority of our hijabi fashion bloggers don’t have kids or have older kids. The mom life is not glam.

Do you think your efforts have been well received by non-muslims? 

Yes! I get emails and comments from non-Muslims who write things like “I was afraid of Muslims, but after reading your blog, I realize you are a mom just like me.” Those are the best kinds of comments. Most people are good, but don’t have access to learn more about Muslims. If I can change just one person’s opinion, I am happy.

 

I truly hope to eventually devote more time to share blog posts that elevate the soul as well as your life in this world. We are so starved when it comes to soulful connections.

 

Your thoughts on the massive popularity of Muslim fashion and lifestyle bloggers recently. 

I think it is wonderful. From New York Fashion Week, to mainstream television, we have hijabis being represented more often. Do you know what was amazing? Seeing Amani from Muslim Girl being featured in Teen Vogue. I remember reading that magazine as a teen and dreaming of being a hijabi featured in those pages. I love how this exposure normalizes hijab and modest fashion. We are not freaks. We are normal people who just happen to choose to dress a certain way.

In your opinion, do fashion bloggers have some sort of moral and social responsibility to set good examples for their “followers?”

Yes. I am going to go there. I love Noor Tagouri. I really admire her. I think she had wonderful intentions when she agreed to be featured in Playboy. However, I think her consenting to be in that publication meant that Playboy’s history of being a demeaning publication for women, exploiting their bodies for money and being a gateway to harder non-consensual porn is okay in the Muslim community. It is not.

I know Playboy has moved away from this content, but this is the history and background of Playboy. Our society is hypersexualized already. We see Muslim kids watching porn at shockingly young ages like 5-7 years old. The internet has made it too easy to access things that maybe you would have been exposed to as a teen who was actively looking for it. Sidebar ads and pop ups don’t care what age you are. I even heard of a 4 year old Muslim kid who was already addicted to porn.

Noor has covered sex trafficking and is actively against that. I think her efforts to bring dawah to a new group of people are noble, but it was misguided. That is just my opinion. We all have to make a conscious effort when we take up interviews and sponsorships as bloggers. It is a tough call. I think people who attacked her online were disgusting. If you read the comments, they are violent against women and it was so disheartening to see that. Noor, I love you and I see you. You are young and super bright. You will get over this. I would recommend focusing on the ways we can repair our young ones and the growing addiction to porn in the Muslim community.

 

I appreciate your honesty! And thank you for bringing light to the unsettling issue of porn addiction. It deserves more attention and a practical solution! 

So what can we expect from Hijabi Life in the coming years? Is there a specific goal you want to pursue?

I truly hope to eventually devote more time to share blog posts that elevate the soul as well as your life in this world. We are so starved when it comes to soulful connections. We may be blessed to have so much information at our fingertips, but what about wisdom? Back in the day, we used to soak up knowledge from in depth conversations with scholars and our elders.

Now, we just seem to be mired in busyness. That worries me. I am not sure of the solution to that, but I hope that Hijabi Life can be a portal where Muslim women can find sage advice from scholars and knowledgeable sources. This means that right now in the dormant stages of my blog, I am forging personal connections with knowledgeable Muslim women in the Bay Area as well as scholars. I am hoping that this means more contributions from these wonderful souls to benefit all of our souls inshallah.

I also want to build more furniture and show women how to buck the trends of consumerism and come back to a maker culture. We can become empowered and teach our children life skills that they just can’t get in a classroom. I hope you all join me for this new adventure inshallah.

 

That sounds exciting! I’m a huge supporter of teaching kids practical life skills. In the same spirit, please share some advice for our young Muslimahs who are aspiring fashion or lifestyle bloggers.

You can do whatever you set your mind to. You will hear naysayers. Your job is to filter through the noise and make a difference. You can do it! If you ever need a someone on #TeamYou, drop me a line at Minara.elrahman@gmail.com.

Be sure to check out Minara’s blog – Hijabi Life

Instagram: @hijabilife

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