Posted on Jan 24, 2017
This month's HOTM has impressed us not only with her incredible work in the film industry, but with her kindness and humility. Samah Safi Bayazid is a screenwriter, filmmaker and producer who focuses on humanitarian, Islamic and uplifting content. With her production company LightArt Productions, she produced the American drama series “Inspiration” that displayed the morals of the Prophet Muhammad (S) through a dramatic plot that went viral with over 50 million views on social media and TV platforms. It’s been translated into 16 different languages, and won Best Creative Project in the ICDA Dubai Festival. Her latest film “Orshena,” a short film that addresses the refugee issue around the world and the hardship of losing their loved ones, has been officially selected for many international film festivals and most recently won the Award of Excellence in the Indie Film Festival in California. Her latest PSA “Islamophobin," which addresses the issue of Islamphobia in the United States, also went viral on social media with over 15 million views in just a few days. She has also worked with the Swedish artist Maher Zain on his music video “Muhammad” about the love for the Prophet Muhammad (S), with over 14 million views on YouTube.
We caught up with Samah to learn more about her work, thoughts on hijab, and more.
1) When did you start wearing hijab? Tell us a little about your journey.
I started wearing hijab when I was 15 years old. I had 2 older sisters who wore hijab, and they encouraged me to wear it and join the squad. My dad always taught me that hijab is an act of modesty, and that modesty starts from within; how I think, how I talk and how I walk. Wearing hijab is the "cherry on the top," as he once said, so I took the decision of wearing hijab knowing that I still need to work hard on my heart.
I feel good and confident dressing modestly in an overly sexualized world, and I think if you believe your power comes from your words, your unique contributions, your mind, your work, then you don’t need to seek attention and power by emphasizing your body and minimizing yourself to your body.
2) You are a gifted filmmaker, producer and writer! Tell us more about what you do and what you hope to accomplish.
I studied filmmaking and screenwriting at New York Film Academy in New York City and started working professionally in the filmmaking field since I was 22 years old.
With my husband, director Muhammad Bayazid, my life and work partner, I merged my passion in faith with filmmaking to produce humanitarian and Islamic entertainment for audiences in the West and East, such as short films, PSAs, TV campaigns and programs, documentaries, drama series and music videos.
I still hope to do more projects and productions that are humanitarian, Islamic, and anything that spreads great morals and positive vibes.
What originally inspired you to get involved in the film industry? What in your view are some of the biggest benefits and challenges of being in this industry?
Movies have always been an effective way to communicate messages and ideas to an audience. It’s a great way to build bridges between people and to tell your own narrative and story.
Nowadays, more and more of us filmmakers are using our projects to create a positive impact and to spread awareness about issues that might hopefully lead to action and bring about real change.
Unfortunately, Muslims continue to be portrayed in a negative light in both movies and television. Most of the time they are being presented as terrorists or violent people, and in the best-case scenario they are presented as ignorant people!
It is very important to clear these misconceptions, and to show the world the right image of Muslims through our film productions. This is our responsibility.
What is your favorite hadith of the Prophet (S) and why?
There are many favorites, but this is my favorite hadith of The Prophet (S): “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.”
It’s a great daily reminder to appreciate what you have and to do your best with what you have at the moment. It’s a call to appreciate your blessings that you might not even be aware of. Life is always in a changing state, do your best at the moment and set your priorities wisely and be present.
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Focus on the effort, not the result - the rest will come naturally. You can have it all, but not all at once! And keep working hard but be more patient, Allah created the universe in days.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone struggling with hijab, what would it be?
I know it’s not easy to wear hijab in these days, especially if you live in a western country where hijabis are a minority. I am a hijabi and I live in the States, so I go through many struggles and challenges too. Always renew your intention (“niyyah”) of why are you wearing it, and focus on your relationship with Allah and care less about what people around you like or what they don’t. Try to surround yourself with hijabi friends, or even follow hijabi bloggers on social media who will help you to stay motivated. If you've reached a point where you decide to take it off, then please keep wearing modest clothes and cover the body even if you are not covering the hair anymore, and remember that hijab is not the only bond between you and Allah.
Is there someone you'd like to nominate for Hijabi of the Month? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.