Think Outside the Envelope: Creative Eid Gifts from Five Muslim-Owned Companies
When Mahnoor Asim’s spunky four-year old asked, “Why doesn’t Santa ever come to our house?” she knew she had to do something.
Muslim children in North America are not to blame when they see the holiday hoopla at malls. Compare that to Eid when they are shuffled from one house to another in uncomfortable clothing and it doesn’t seem like as much fun.
Asim vowed to make Eid festive not just for her children but others too. She now hosts an Eid party every year at a place that is fun for kids instead of a dinner that is anticipated just by adults. She also puts extra thought into the gifts she purchases and makes it a point to buy for adults too, so that children see that Eid is special for everyone.
Which parent hasn’t grabbed a gift card or stuffed some cash in an envelope en route to an Eid party? This year, like Asim, try to plan ahead and make your Eid gifting more meaningful. Halal Consumer has handpicked a few fail-proof ideas (and has partnered with some of the vendors here for gift-away’s too.)
The brainchild of culinary expert Uzma Sharif, IFANCA halal certified brand Chocolat (www.chocolatuzma.com) is a feast for the senses as opposed t o a mass produced box of candy that you grab at the grocery store. Besides their exquisite taste, knowing that you do not have to worry about ingredients such as alcohol, gelatin or vanilla extract will put your mind at ease. Sharif makes sure that she uses all natural ingredients so that her products are IFANCA halal-certified.
Her hand-made exotic chocolates, available in unique flavors, come in eco-friendly packaging, largely from treeless paper, with a personal note and can be shipped anywhere. As you share the spirit of Eid, Chocolat is also a tasteful gift for co-workers who may not be Muslim.
“Chocolate is such versatile ingredient that there are countless ways to use it,” Sharif said. “From truffles and bonbons to cakes and sculptures, I love how we can make chocolate delicious and artistic at the same time.” Sharif has chocolate running in her veins as her pastry chef grandfather had several bakeries in Pakistan.
Chocolat is not far behind. Sharif wholesales to several fine stores in Chicago including Express Market at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker drive, Food Ease Market at the Water Tower Place and Marion Market in Oak Park.
With Eid arriving in August this year, Sharif said that it can be a bit tricky, but not impossible, to ship chocolate despite the heat. She suggests her famous caramel date cake, stuffed dates or toasted coconut macaroons as a safer bet.
However, if you still want to order her bestselling triple chocolate almond or assorted bonbon box, she uses special ice packs and coolers to ensure that your gift arrives in good shape.
How many times have grandparents wished they could read stories to their little ones with characters that Muslim-American children can relate to? That’s exactly what three siblings thought when they came up with the idea for Noor Kids (www.noorkids.com), a story plus activity book that is mailed to your child four times a year.
Extensive research showed Mohammed, Shireen and Amin Aaser from Minneapolis that identifying with positive characters builds confidence and from nine business ideas presented to Harvard Business School, Noor Kids was the one funded.
“When kids see themselves in the pages of a book, they feel like they belong,” said Amin Aser, author of Noor Kids. “Plus the demographics and sheer economics of a growing Muslim population support the viability of the idea.”
Noor Kids makes a great Eid gift for 3 to 8 year olds who love to receive mail addressed to them. Along with interesting stories, kids can also enjoy puzzles and brain teasers. Each issue is based on Islamic education, Muslim culture and American integration.
Aaser believes that most books on Islam that are currently available are either based on Muslims living in other countries or focus on the “what and “how” of Islam. Noor Kids focuses on “why”.
They chose loveable animal characters to represent their readership. “Muslims are so diverse that if the characters were human, inevitably some ethnicity would be left out,” Aaser said. “And subtle references, such as the American flag in the background, are not a coincidence either.”
If you’re looking for guests to ooh and aah at your home décor but don’t want something permanent or ridiculously priced, think about Islamic art decals. A great choice for college students, your parents or in-laws, these decals are easily removable with no wall damage. They are also very versatile. Experiment by applying them to any clean surface: a mirror, refrigerator or even a locker.
Started by an all-women owned company in Las Vegas, Simply Impressions has a wide palette of design styles, colors and sizes. From a huge tree with the 99 Names of Allah to small “Bismillah” decals for your laptop, they have it all. Their website (www.simplyimpressions.com) showcases decals in different room settings, for inspiration while you shop.
“While most of our clientele is residential, we have had several orders from libraries and Islamic schools,” said Fawzia Khawaja, Co-Founder and Lead Designer. “In the future, we plan on working with more artists and offer more contemporary designs too.”
Ranging from $14 to $100, and 23 colors to choose from, there is something for everyone. The $3 flat shipping seals the deal.
“Kids and adults can add their personal touch by painting a canvas in any array of colors and after it dries, apply a decal,” Khwaja said. “That’s instant and unique art at your fingertips.”
Eid parties have come a long way from when a couple of immigrant families had a potluck in the basement. The millennial American-born Muslim wants more style without compromising on values. When I saw my children desperately looking to find their names on mugs, water bottles or key chains at souvenir stores, I knew that other Muslims would like to see personalized products as well. That was the seed behind Up A Notch, (www.facebook.com/takeitupanotch).
In addition to personalized wrappers for all shapes and sizes of candy, Up A Notch makes customized favor boxes, hot cocoa or seed packets, mints, lollipops, chap sticks and practically anything that can be wrapped. Its products have already made their debut as ice breakers at a Texas interfaith event, in recognizing Islamic school teachers in Chicago and as a dawah tool on Eid for neighbors in New Jersey.
When we were flooded with orders for Eid just through Facebook, we knew there was a demand. I think people like how they can customize their wrappers instead of just choosing from a fixed menu of option A, B or C. My favorite part is seeing the creative ways in which customers use our products.
“I love your design because it is fresh and modern. I have been looking to purchase Islamic art for a while now (but) everything I come across reminds me of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents homes. I wanted something fresh, new, and modern. Please continue to create new pieces.”
“I do not have the words to express how beautiful and elegant your art is. It embodies some of the true characteristics of Islam; simplicity, purity and grace.”
These are actual customer testimonials and at Sakina Design they’ve found the perfect connection between modernity and Islamic art.
“Many Muslims find it challenging to purchase artwork that reflects their Islamic identity and fits in well with their other home decor. This problem frustrated us so much that we created our own line of home decor inspired by Islamic art and architecture from around the world,” says Kung Pik Liu, Creative Director at Sakina Design and also the designer for Halal Consumer® magazine. Ever since then this Southern California entrepreneur, together with her husband Jontie Karden, has been on a quest to share the beauty and diversity of Islamic art.
With more than ten years of experience in the graphic design industry, Kung Pik Liu draws inspiration from civilizations stretching from southern Spain to northern China, creating artwork that is a fusion of East meets West. As their website nicely summarizes it, Islam is “a faith with a long history of tolerance, multiculturalism, justice, and mercy. A society where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in peace and harmony. And (it has) a tradition in which art has always played a central role in conveying spirituality, history, and heritage. We aim to continue that tradition.” Their artwork does, in fact, create an atmosphere of timeless beauty, contemplation and sakina — tranquility. The perfect gift for your own home this Ramadan, don’t you think?
Editor’s Note: Only select products are halal certified for manufacturers. For an up-to-date list of halal certified products, visit www.ifanca.org
About the Writer: Kiran Ansari is a Chicago-based writer and editor with more than 12 years of experience and bylines in more than 30 publications. She loves to shop for the perfect Eid gift all year long.