Are our hearts truly pure? Trying to judge purity and understand Islamic teaching is not always straightforward which is why Mizz Nina has developed a special Qalby App to help.
It is a path that former hip hop pop singer Shazrina Azman has been following over the past few years, as she transformed into Mizz Nina. Talking to British Muslim she explained how this change has come about.
“My family have always been involved in music. My parents ran a singing school and I was influenced by that, and by my older siblings who used to bring back a lot of music from the UK and USA. It inspired me to get into music and performing, especially since I loved dancing at school. Hip Hop appealed to me.”
She continued, “I continued as a hip hop singer until I was about 33 when I realised that music had not given me the happiness and contentment that I was seeking. When you work in entertainment, you are pretending to be someone else, trying to reach people by one image or another. It can be very tiring.”
2007 proved to be the turning point in her career.
“My brother passed away in 2007, and it woke me to the reality of life. We get so caught up in life, that we do not think about deeper things. I had not been a practising Moslem and had done a lot of experimentation during my twenties. There were a lot of toxicities surrounding me then. I wanted to become a happier, healthier person and started to research, and learn more about Islam.”
At was at this point that she went on Haji and was profoundly affected by the experience as Mizz Nina explains. “I saw all these people at sunset, so humble and crying out for forgiveness. It opened my eyes to what could be done and wanted to be a new person, a Moslem.”
Giving up her music career, she began to focus on transforming herself externally as well as internally. Working with a business partner, Mizz Nina moved into modest fashion while furthering her Islamic studies. As her interest and knowledge deepened, Mizz Nina’s thoughts began to turn in new directions.
“I had a teacher who taught me it was not enough to learn, but that I needed to share that knowledge and put it into action. I wanted it to be part of my legacy, knowledge that has helped me and sharing it with others,” said Mizz Nina.
As a result, just before Covid broke, Mizz Nina quit fashion and began working with a new partner to develop a special app that would help people wanting to revert to Islam or explore their Islamic knowledge and practice. Over two years extensive development led to the launch of the Qalby App and website.
A very comprehensive Muslim lifestyle app it sets out to provide useful information, readings, spiritual video lessons and prayer collections. Classes are available on a long term, daylong or a one off basis. Qalby is seeking to provide something for everyone, and is regularly adding more classes. Islamic merchandise can be purchased in the Souk, including baby bags.
Mizz Nina says, “It is nice, easy and accessible to everyone. Qalby helps with the lifestyle of a Muslim and provides daily does of motivational quotes and inspirations.”
It quickly proved very popular. To date it has been downloaded over 1.2m times. Cultural differences have become apparent resulting in Mizz Nina tailoring the content to suit different markets.
“There is a different language and colours required in Indonesia which is different again to Malaysia. Users in both countries have a liking for more videos and visual content. As a result we are introducing more visual material for them. In the UK, Canada and the US there is a different approach. People love to read articles and so we have to create more written material to match this market.”
An important part of the project is building a long term community, where people can feel safe and ask questions knowing that answers will be provided.
“We want to support people in their progress within Islam. Qalby is a place where they can talk to a specialist, read articles, gain support and get in contact with others. There is a social media vibe. Qalby is not just knowledge based. People can share their personal reflections on there, and share knowledge. We are doing a lot of work to keep it as a safe, sharing place and want to develop this further.”
“We have a Q & A section focused on the Muslim community and are expanding this to other countries offering more courses and improving accuracy of the timing of prayers. It takes time to work with local Islamic consultants in different countries to do this.”
Mizz Nina is already looking to the future and how Qalby can be further developed. “We see Qalby being expanded into children’s programming, and offer more variety to children with cartoons and live programmes.”
And what of Mizz Nina herself? She says, “I’ve got a lot going on. Apart from the app, I have a foundation in Malaysia and want to expand that in the coming year and want to do more with my production company. I’m involved as a teaching assistant for an Islamic programme in Canada and I have a baby to look after. My life is blessed because I can do what I love.”