Becoming a Muslim Content Creator (feat. @themadmamluks)

the mad mamluks sim mort mahin amir saeed moga

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WHOOO! I am HYPED to bring you this episode of the Becoming the Alpha Muslim podcast on Muslim content creators. At 3 hours and 3 minutes long, this is the longest interview I’ve ever done.

The reason I started Becoming the Alpha Muslim is that there was a huge gap in content by Muslim men for Muslim men. I sincerely believe we need many more male Muslim content creators.

For example, one of my long-time readers, Ahsan, is starting his own podcast. I’m really excited for him and this episode comes at a perfect time.

This is why I invited my good friends the Mad Mamluks on the show to talk about their journey. How they started, their struggles, the growth of their podcast, how the Muslim community receives them, plans for the future, etc.

The hosts of the Mad Mamluks – SIM, Amir Saeed, Moga, Mort, and Mahin – do a fantastic job of presenting Muslim male perspectives in an online discourse that’s dominated by left-leaning voices, speech-policing, and self-censorship. We definitely need more makers/content creators like them online.

I’m joined on this call by SIM, Mort, and Mahin. I deliberately let the discussion meander so we get to hear as much of their philosophy and ideas on Muslim public discourse.

You’ll hear a clear structure to the discussion but we take several interesting detours. Scroll down if you want to read the show notes.

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mahin sim mort moga amir saeed the mad mamluks

Subscribe to the Mad Mamluks podcast on iTunes + rate + review

Show Notes

  • [0:02:00] SIM, Mort, and Mahin introduce themselves and explain how they got involved with the show
  • [0:05:42] I describe the different dynamic each of them brings to the show: SIM is the wise old man, Mahin is the comic relief, Mort is the opinionated loud-mouth, Sheikh Amir is the scholar
  • [0:07:10] The guys talk about how hard it is to get their guests to relax and open up during conversation
  • [0:09:45] The world wants you to be vanilla but as soon as you become vanilla, the world will abandon you
  • [0:12:15] The Mad Mamluks try their best to treat guests like regular people and not put them on a pedestal. Many guests are different people on and off the air
  • [0:19:05] I tell the story of how I found the Mad Mamluks podcast and what endeared me to them. Shoutout to Sheikh Hamza Wald Maqbul and brother Muhammad Shirazi
  • [0:21:20] SIM tells the origin story of how Joe Rogan indirectly calling him out on his podcast inspired him to start the Mad Mamluks, how he listening to Tim Ferriss helped him overcome his introversion, how he came up with the name by melding his love of Muslim history and his past life as a Metalhead
  • [0:25:35] It’s easy to get discouraged from launching your project if you think you need to produce the quality Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan from the beginning. This is a misconception. You don’t need to be picture-perfect when you start. It’s ok for you to launch with imperfections
  • [0:30:00] SIM and Mort came back into the “Islamic space” after a period of separating themselves from the community for many years. They had old contacts in their networks because Chicago was a major hub for the American Muslim community. E.g. Mort was instrumental in bringing organizations like Al-Maghrib to Chicago. When they came back on the scene they had to refamiliarize themselves with the community and new hierarchies
  • [0:39:00] They scrapped many episodes while learning the ropes of podcasting. Their philosophy on releasing content is high quality and attention to detail. They also need to keep their context in mind. Muslims have a reputation for shoddily-planned and shoddily-executed projects. And the Mad Mamluks wanted to break that stereotype.
  • [0:47:00] SIM strategically used music in the podcast intro to filter out low-quality listeners e.g. to remove the haram police from the audience pool
  • [0:52:00] The podcast grew slowly and consistently, starting from a few hundred downloads to thousands of downloads per episode. When they realized more popular guests did not equate to more popular episodes, they knew they didn’t have to chase celebrity. Instead, they could focus on delivering high-quality content consistently, and be confident that the podcast will continue to grow
  • [0:56:00] Mahin elaborates on the story of how he joined the podcast. A combination of factors – Moga getting busy looking for a job, Mahin having a good radio voice, and having a strong network and connections to book guests – made Mahin a perfect addition to the show
  • [1:04:20] When selecting guests, they don’t just go for entertainment. They ultimately want to benefit the Muslim community and help them improve their consciousness
  • [1:07:00] The young generation of Muslims in the West are living in an unprecedented time of political and ideological hostility to Islam and Muslims. They need to be intellectually equipped for this
  • [1:11:30] There is a difficult balance to strike when having an open, inclusive platform, between letting guests speak their openly and challenging controversial ideas
  • [1:15:40] We’re anti-right, anti-left, pro-Islam. Owning and defining the “Alt-Bro” moniker
  • [1:20:35] While criticizing the right and the left, we want to find the middle path. Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) cites Rasulullah ﷺ who said, “Love your beloved mildly, perhaps he will become hateful to you someday. Hate whom you hate mildly, perhaps he will become your beloved someday.” [Jami Al-Tirmidhi; Sahih]
  • [1:29:00] The silent majority of Muslims are still orthodox/normative/mainstream in their understanding and practice of Islam. Many supporters of the Mad Mamluks agree with them in private but are hesitant to express their support publicly. They need the courage to live their Islam unapologetically
  • [1:31:10] Because of the nature of left-leaning public discourse, leftist/liberal Muslims are given a lot more slack, and more excuses are made for them, than any Muslim who publicly expresses right-leaning or conservative viewpoints
  • [1:34:00] Your pet political or activist projects are not an iman/kufr issue. Don’t try to force your contemporary ideas of social justice on other Muslims and question their faith if they disagree with you
  • [1:39:00] Despite not deliberately trying to provoke or offend anyone, the Mad Mamluks get a surprising amount of hate. This is because the Muslim community is not used to open and frank dialogue from everyday Muslims. The key is to stop worrying about what people think and be who you are
  • [1:41:35] Backlash comes from the vocal minority. These people are not your real audience. This is reflected in your viewership, which will not necessarily decline. Even if it does, this is good for you, because those people are not your audience either
  • [1:44:30] The Mad Mamluks need to balance not self-censoring themselves with protecting the public standing of their hosts
  • [1:46:30] Ultimately, as a content creator you want to build something you can be proud to show your children. It’s not just about entertainment. At the end of the day, you want to serve the community and be a net positive for Islam, as opposed to a negative
  • [1:48:30] As Dr. Shadee Elmasry wrote in one of his articles, Wilaya is the goal of every believer. Be self-aware: is your role as a content creator helping or hurting this goal?
  • [1:50:20] Criticism and haters can help you grow and improve your understanding and practice of Islam
  • [1:52:30] Critics have arbitrary, impossible standards on what you need to do to satisfy them. You will never be able to make them happy. Don’t waste your time on them
  • [1:59:00] Everyday Muslims expressing themselves is important and helps the community because they can say things scholars, academics, and community leaders can’t or won’t say due to their reputation, what’s socially expected of them, or other reasons
  • [2:03:00] The Muslim community doesn’t realize how much postmodernism and Cultural Marxism have affected their thinking, speech, and opinions
  • [2:06:00] Many scholars and people of knowledge listen to The Mad Mamluks and don’t have a problem with the show. And on the other hand, if these people approached them with sincere advice on ways they can improve, the Mad Mamluks will listen attentively
  • [2:10:00] Becoming the Alpha Muslim is deliberate in carefully selecting its audience. I want people to say, “No”. If someone can’t handle my social media posts, I don’t want them reading me. It’s not that I want an echo chamber of people who agree with me, it’s that I want to cultivate a community of high-consciousness individuals
  • [2:12:45] SIM gives me a really good piece of feedback: my style of content is new to Muslims and they aren’t used to it. I should try to lay the groundwork and flesh out my ideas more to acclimatize my audience better
  • [2:15:00] Putting our interaction with right-leaning online figures in context. At the end of the day, people like Milo, Cernovich, Ben Shapiro, Paul Joseph Watson etc. are disbelievers. Their agenda is not to protect Islam, nor do they have any reason to want to protect our feelings. Once we understand this, we can have a more nuanced interaction with them
  • [2:16:30] With a few exceptions, Muslim entertainers, like comedians and musicians, are corny/cheesy
  • [2:21:00] Brown people and black people are totally down with “white supremacy” if white supremacy makes them feel good about themselves and acknowledges their perceived victimhood. But let someone like Hamza Yusuf say something critical or misspeak and you’ll see the hatred and racism against white people come out. SIM and Mort correct me and explain the Western Muslim context in dealing with non-Muslims who are not hostile to Islam and Muslims
  • [2:28:05] Nabeel has been successful in opening up the minds of several Muslims to public figures like Mike Cernovich and helped them understand the nuances of his views and his platform
  • [2:31:50] How are the Mad Mamluks’s listeners doing as supporters of the show? Are they engaged and active in spreading awareness about the show? Compared to their downloads, engagement is low. Part of this is due to Muslims being new to the podcast format and iTunes making it difficult to leave ratings and reviews. Part of it has to do with content creators educating their audience on why things like social shares, ratings, and reviews are important
  • [2:37:00] The Mad Mamluks are very open and engage with their audience actively, both online and in-person. They have an open-door policy for anyone in or visiting Chicago
  • [2:39:30] Live video is an opportunity content creators, especially podcasters, must take advantage of. Facebook Live is the easiest way to start and get momentum going. Once you get confident on Facebook Live you can expand to Youtube and Periscope
  • [2:42:00] Facebook ads are a cheap and easy way to increase your viewership, but if you don’t do it right you can waste a lot of money. The best way to boost your posts is to boost a post that is already doing well organically because you know this post already has traction and is something people like
  • [2:43:45] The Mad Mamluks don’t have immediate plans to monetize their platform because their audience is quite new to the podcast platform. They do have plans to upgrade to video content. If your audience is Muslim the scope for monetization is small because the audience is small. Right now the co-hosts are focused on adding value and getting better as interviewers and speakers
  • [2:53:20] Monetizing your platform doesn’t have to be complicated. Product endorsements and advertisements are a simple way. You can sell physical products like t-shirts. You can package and sell unreleased material at a premium price.
  • [2:56:10] Will ads turn listeners off? No. If you look at creators like James Altucher, Tim Ferriss, and Joe Rogan, they will have ads before, during, and after every episode. If you are providing high-quality, valuable content to your audience FOR FREE, the least they can do is sit through a few minutes of ads so you can KEEP providing them value
  • [2:58:16] The Mad Mamluks share where you can find them online and how you can engage with them
  • [3:01:00] Nabeel explains how to leave an iTunes rating and review. Ratings and reviews are the way the iTunes algorithm rank shows. The more ratings and reviews, the more people will see the podcast and benefit from the material. It’s the least supporters can do for the hundreds of hours of free content shows like the Mad Mamluks provide

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Check out my guest appearance on the Mad Mamluks from last year:

Here’s some additional reading to add context to all the side-discusions we got into:

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