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Exclusive Interview of Hassan Waqas Rana, Director & Producer of the film Yalghaar



 “I very firmly believe that money can only be useful if it is used for the purposes which are greater than ones self.”

Times of Youth: For those who don’t know about you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Well, I am a businessman and a political economist by trade, however this journey of mine had extremely humble beginnings.  It starts on a cycle and ends on Ferrari 355 F1 Spider (which was the very first car I bought with my own money). The very first job I secured was of a janitor where I was studying and at the same time worked extremely hard to put myself through a business school. After I completed my education I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work at some of the front running fortune 500 organisations which taught me a lot. Then I ventured to work for myself, I choose the field of Oil Exploration, Trading in heavy metals and LED Lights Manufacturing. I achieved a reasonable amount of Financial success, which encouraged me to put my financial gains to do something important because I very firmly believe that money can only be useful if it is used for the purposes which are greater than ones self.

Times of Youth: Yalghaar- What is the real story behind choosing this power-packed name of this film? Whose brainchild was the inception of this story altogether?

Hassan Waqas Rana: In 2007, I heard about an operation which the Pakistan Army had conducted in the Swat valley. The story intrigued me, so set upon researching on it, and the more I ventured in to it, the more I got inspired by the people involved in this daring act of soldiering and I thought this is a story that, I need to tell the world and most importantly to my people. Now as far as the name is concerned, the reason why I chose this name is because this one word “YALGHAAR” (which means “BATTLE CRY”) completely embodies the story of the film.

Times of Youth: What is the plot of the movie?

Hassan Waqas Rana: As I mentioned before, the story of the film has been inspired from a Military operation undertaken by the Pakistan Army in the Swat Valley. The plot of the film revolves around the lives of the soldiers and officers who were involved in this operation, the movie is about, love, romance, sacrifice, courage and valour.

Times of Youth: Considering the incredible success of your previous venture ‘Waar’, what valuable lessons did you derive from its making which you’ve implemented while creating ‘Yalghaar’?

Hassan Waqas Rana: The first lesson which ‘Waar’ taught me was that, I needed to formally educate myself on all the technical aspects of Film making, starting from camera operations to the art of colour grading. Therefore I spent a lot of time after its release to train myself and I went to almost everywhere and to everyone who could teach me a thing or two (by the way, I still learn something everyday). This training enabled me to better analyse what was lacking in our industry and during this time I learnt the most important reality of life that, the audience are too smart and their standards are too high, so if you have to keep them engaged for 2hrs and 20mins, you have to work very hard to meet their expectations and keep them engaged. I also learned that if one has to succeed one has to make a film on international standards and not only cater for your own market. Every aspect of your film has to be as close to perfection as possible. The devil is in the details and if you don’t account for it, you will lose and lose hard. Another important lesson that I learnt was that, “THE STORY SHOULD DRIVE THE ACTION AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND”.

Times of Youth: What was the total budget of the movie? 

Hassan Waqas Rana: We initially planned for almost 5m US$ but by doing certain things right we are now able to finish the film in almost 3 to 3.2m US$.

Times of Youth: What motivated you to delve into the field of action movie production & direction?

Hassan Waqas Rana: As I mentioned to you earlier, I wanted to put my money into some good use so I thought of reviving the Pakistani cinema. Because I very firmly believe that, in order to succeed as a society you need to have a very vibrant and successful film industry. Action films in particular have a larger audience because there is an ‘Action Hero’ in all of us and all of us tend to live vicariously through such action heroes. The reason why I got into direction was simple, I am a trained pilot, a sky diver and am half decent both at martial arts and weapons and tactics, and all of this gives me a unique insight into the emotional and biological changes which occur while you are doing all of the above, therefore I think I am able to go deeper into action and am able to show a different side to action which the audience has not seen before.

Times of Youth: Who were/are your filmmaking inspirations? It could be anything which inspired you all along.

Hassan Waqas Rana: As far as Pakistani Cinema is concerned I am extremely inspired by the Late Mr. Riaz Shahid, he was unique and the moment the first scene of his film would open you can understand that it is a Riaz Shahid film, from his subject matter to his execution he was different and always ahead of the game, wether it was “Zarqa” or “Ye Aman”, he was way ahead of his time. Internationally my inspirations have been Mr. John Woo and Mr. Guy Richie, both of these gentlemen have a unique style of execution and a unique and interesting style of engaging their audience and again you really don’t have to read the credits to find out who actually directed the film that you just watched. And now as far as writing is concerned both Mr. Riaz Shahid and Mr. Amjad Islam Amjad are in a class of their own.

Times of Youth: Any special experience you’d like to share with us regarding this film?

Hassan Waqas Rana: On an action film where we were using live ammunition and explosives, and you are either dangling under a helicopter or jumping out of the plane at 10,000ft along with your camera, you really can’t narrow down to one or two experiences.

Times of Youth: Based on how viral its teasers have been going, what kind of an impact do you expect once the movie releases?

Hassan Waqas Rana: We have more then a million views on our first look. This has given us a lot of heart as a team and we expect that the film shall achieve targets that we set for it.

Times of Youth: Which scene or moment while making Yalghaar was the most overwhelming for you and your crew?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Almost every one is as crazy on this set as me, especially my core team of AD’s which includes Mr. Imad Khalid, Ms. Sofia Haroon and Mr. Ameer Zaidi. We are so lucky that, everyday on the set we all get to do and try to achieve that, has not been attempted before and we tend to push the outside of the envelope every day, so can’t really narrow down to any one particular thing.

Times of Youth: As seen in Yalghaar’s trailer, a host of outrageous and daredevil-ish action sequences including lots of choppers and skydiving being involved including an awesome star cast. Based on the responses so far, what are your personal expectations from the film at the box office?

Hassan Waqas Rana: The film even before it is finished has sold over 500 shows which is almost a revenue of a 100million rupees, this is an unprecedented success and trust that, the people have shown us and this is exactly what I am hoping for.

Times of Youth: Which was the most difficult sequence that you shot for Yalghaar from a director’s point of view?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Most of the romantic sequences of the film were a challenge to me as a director, because they had to match up to the great action sequences we already have in the film, in a romantic sequence you have to do justice to your actor’s talent, so everything has to be perfect from lighting to the camera angles that you choose. I was extremely lucky that I had the talents of Mr. Shaan Shahid, Sana Buch, Adnan Siddiqui, Aleeze Nasir, Bilal Ashraf, Armena Khan, Ahmed Taha Ghani and Uzma khan to help me in these sequences and they came unto the exacting standards that we had set for our film.

Times of Youth: How does it feel to be one of the rare Pakistani directors to create films incorporating VFX on a large scale for an entire feature film?

Hassan Waqas Rana: It is strangely satisfying and liberating when you have an amazing team backing you up, Mr. Bilal Ashraf who is deputising me on VFX is doing an amazing job along with Mr. Syed Abbas and Mansoor are my strengths and they give me the courage to push the boundaries as far as I can.

Times of Youth: What lessons would be learnt by the audience on watching the movie? In other words, what would be the take-home message of this movie?

Hassan Waqas Rana: I want my audience to feel pride in the amazing achievements of our country and our countrymen, and I want my international audience who don’t know much about Pakistan leave with a better understanding of Pakistan and its people.

Times of Youth: What’s your top five favorite movies of all time?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Its very hard and the list keep on changing, however on this day and at this very moment it would be,

1. Zarqa

2. Shawshank Redemption

3.  The Untouchables

4.  Lock Stock and Two smoking barrels

5. Scent Of A Women

Times of Youth: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back something to the society, or just tell a particular story and not do anything else? Why or why not?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Filmmakers have the biggest responsibility of them all. It is because a person will come to the cinema, pay money and listen to you sitting in a dark room with his full faculties. So it is incumbent upon us filmmakers to take this responsibility extremely seriously and honour the audience and their time.

Times of Youth: How much do the film-makers have to compromise in creativity for film production owing to financial constraints?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Especially in Pakistan, its a lot.

Times of Youth: Any advice you’d give to aspiring youngsters who want to enter movies now or in the future?

Hassan Waqas Rana: It’s the most difficult industry to break through in, so if and when you come, be ready for the hard graft and a very hard time, but also know the flip side of it. If and when you break through every ounce of struggle that you had made getting here will give you dividends a thousand times over. There is no field which can give you all but this, provided you can push yourself hard enough.

Times of Youth: Any message to fans and followers via TIMES OF YOUTH?

Hassan Waqas Rana: Firstly, is thank you for reading my babble, I truly appreciate the effort from the very core of my heart. Secondly, do everything in life with a knowledge that every action you take as a young person is going to determine the future of this planet. So no pressure!

Times of Youth is an International Youth Magazine read by the youth of more than 82 countries. Times of Youth brings the latest Youth Opportunities, News, Interviews, Fully Funded Scholarships, Paid Internships, Future Stars, Rising Stars, etc. For further details you can email us at: [email protected]

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Mike Moats- Award Winning Macro Photographer



“Spend as many hours as you possibly can honing your craft, and get online and participate on as many sites as you can find on photography.  Start a blog giving helpful tips about photography and build a following.”

Times of Youth: For those who don’t know about you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?  

Mike Moats: I am a full time pro macro nature photographers and live in Southeast Michigan, USA. I started with used equipment purchased off of ebay back in 2001, and it became a full time business by 2006. I have had my images and article published in many of the photo magazines, and my images have won local and international awards in contests. I am sponsored by Tamron and a member of the Tamron Image Masters group.

Times of Youth: What does photography mean to Mike Moats? 

Well it means being able to pay my bills, but more importantly it gets me outdoors where I love to be.

Times of Youth: Who are your favorite classic photographers, and how did they influence your career path?  

When I decided I wanted to take up photography in 2001, I went to the local bookstore and checked out the photo books.  I saw a book by John Shaw on nature photography and one by Art Wolfe, and those were the photographers that inspired

Times of Youth: As a macro photographer, which aspect is the most important to capture images creatively?

I’m always trying to come up with a different view, or framing of a subject, something that is different from what everyone is doing.  I’m always searching for subjects that are not being shot by everyone else.  To many macro photographers only shoot flowers and bugs, and forget there are many other great subjects to shoot.

Times of Youth: Nature, doubtlessly, intrigues. What is it about nature that lures you the most? 

Would you consider choosing human subjects for your macro photography in future? Mother nature creates amazing subjects that are all different and unique in their styles, shapes, contrast, textures, colors.  Photographing humans are of no interest to me, but who knows someday I may change my mind.

Times of Youth: Are there any special scenic geographical locations that you prefer to shoot at? 

Since I don’t shoot landscapes, scenics are not my objective, but I do like to refer to my macro photography as tiny landscapes. The type of environments I like to shoot my macro photography in would be wooded areas and areas with water, like ponds and swamps.

Times of Youth: Besides being a nature macro specialist, are there any other areas of photography that interest you? 

I started out as a landscape photographers but after three years I realized my passion was in macro photography, so I dedicate all my time to macro, and never shoot any other styles of photography, and no other styles of photography interests me.

Times of Youth: Your work has intrigued many people and filled their lives with beauty. Your comments?  

I love to share my work and am very honored when I have people that would like to purchase my work to hang in their homes. It’s always fun when you show people intimate details from nature that they have never seen before, and watch them get excited.

Times of Youth: Of all the places you’ve been to for your photography expeditions and workshops, which has been the most memorable? 

The local parks where I live hold the best memories, because most of my best images come from those parks.  I can remember each image I’ve shot at those parks, and exactly where in those parks I shot them.

Times of Youth: What is your idea of a perfect picture?  

I created what I call a two subject composition which has been the images that have won all my awards in contests or have been my best seller to the public.  It’s a simple concept of having an interesting main subject on top of an interesting background subject.  I shoot  with both subjects in full focus. Very simple composition that works very well.

Times of Youth: Tell us about your books, especially ‘Tiny Landscapes’. What do your books offer and what has been their consequent impact on the audiences? 

The Tiny Landscapes book shows many of the different types of subjects there are to shoot in nature and also some insight into the environment where I found the subject, some info on my composition, and what f/stop I chose for depth of field. I also have an e-book called, Creating Art With Macro, and that is more on the how-to teaching about macro photography.

Times of Youth: Among your works, which one is your personal favorite? Why? 

I have an image of a beautiful green fern growing over top of a black charred tree trunk that was lying on the ground.  It has won me more awards and more honors than any other image I’ve shot.  The other significance of this mage is it was shot during the time when I started to really grasp macro photography and started to produce good quality images.  That was about three years after I started photography.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Times of Youth: You have been published by several iconic publishers in the the stream of photography. Has there been any accomplishment that you are especially proud of? 

I am not a good writer, and in high school was lucky to get Ds in English, so I was the proudest of my very first article in 2005 that was published by Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Happily many more came after that first one.                                                                                                                                                                              
Times of Youth: Having won several awards in your field, you continue your magnificent work successfully. Which has been your most unforgettable moment of all? 

It was the very first image I had published in 2004 in Outdoor Photographer Magazine.  I was so excited that I called everyone I knew, and told everyone on the internet about my accomplishment.  That was very special day and very honored that I produced an image worthy of being accepted by a major photo magazine.  It sure fueled the fire for my photography.

What is the first word that comes to your mind when you read the following- 

1. Camera: Nikon
2. Macro: Small details in nature.
3. Beauty: Macro subjects.
4. Love: Creating art with a camera.
5. Life: Live as much as you can in the outdoors.

Rapid fire:

1. What cameras do you work with? Nikon D7000.
2. If you had to choose one lens which one would it be? Tamron 16-300.
3. What is your favorite photography accessory, other than your camera? A diffuser.
4. How would you describe your style? Creative Macro
5. What is your most used image editing software, tool, plug-in, action set etc.? I use Photoshop Elements, Nik Software, Topaz Software, and Smart Photo Editor.

Times of Youth: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography and computer softwares to beautify the clicks; what is the influence of digitalization on your photography? 

I love that the post processing gives us so many creative options to enhance our images. Photography now has to stages, the creation of the images, and the enhancements through the post processing.

Times of Youth: How is the market for macro imagery in these current times of extreme digitalization?  

It’s great for selling to people interested in fine art photography for their homes, but as for stock photographers, I have no idea as I don’t participate in that area.

Times of Youth: Marketing and self promotion is crucial to photographers as other businesses. What is your ultimate strategy to capture the audiences? 

My business would not exist if it wasn’t for the internet.  Before the internet the only way you became know as a nature photographer was by having a book published and on a bookstore shelf, or you did a lot of writing for the photo mags.  Now you can become very well known by being out there on all the photo sites, writing blog posts, posting on all the media sites, Facebook, google+, twitter, etc.

Times of Youth: What do you think is the biggest obstacle for established professionals like yourself to remain successful in today’s times? 

One obstacle is that everyone that owns a camera now wants to sell their work or teach, and that cuts into everyone’s business. So you have to be always improving your skills and images, and staying very active online.  I’m online 365 days a year keeping my name out there.

Times of Youth: What advice would you have for those youngsters via TIMES OF YOUTH who dream to be photographers as prolific as you? 

Spend as many hours as you possibly can honing your craft, and get online and participate on as many sites as you can find on photography.  Start a blog giving helpful tips about photography and build a following.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how your fans can contact you to share their appreciation/feedback/suggestions. 

Contact me at [email protected]  My website is, my blog is and my storefront is  Look me up on facebook.

Times of Youth: Any advice you’d give to aspiring youngsters who want to enter movies now or in the future? 

In the book called “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, he say those who reached the top of their craft, were found to have spent an average of 10,000 hours practicing.  Work hard and you will get rewarded.                                                        

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Featured Interviews

Candid Interview of the Mystical Photographer Thomas Dodd



“Always follow your heart and your passion. Don’t try and guess what people want or what you think will be commercial.”
-Thomas Dodd

Times of Youth: It’s an honour to finally be getting to know you. Yet, for those of our readers who may still be unaware of your works, how would you briefly describe it?

Thomas Dodd: Thank you – it’s nice to meet you as well! I call my style of imagery “Painterly Photo Montage”. What this means is that I take a series of photographs and layer them and manipulate them in editing software (Photoshop) so that the end result looks much like a painting, but it is in fact a photograph.

Times of Youth: What does ‘art’ mean to you?

Thomas Dodd: It is an expression of that which can not expressed in language. Art to me transcends cultural boundaries and elicits emotion from it’s viewers regardless of the intended context.

Times of Youth: We have seen your works and most of them are more of mystical. What makes your imagination psychologically intriguing?

Thomas Dodd: I have always found a connection between the realm of the “spiritual”/mythic and psychological states of consciousness. I think that the best art (and certainly the art that I am influenced by) draws upon these archetypes and invokes them in the psyche of the viewer.

Times of Youth: Most of your muses are nude women. Any specific reason for this choice?

Thomas Dodd: I consider the female form to be the most beautiful thing in creation (and of course, females are quite literally the creators of life as well). If you look at the history of Art, you will see that I am not alone in this assessment!

Times of Youth: What/who has been your ideal all along your colorful yet ‘Gothic’ journey?

Thomas Dodd: I think there have been many “ideals” along the way. I think really all of the artists, musicians and photographers who have influenced me have all set ideals for me to follow. There is a famous quote by Isaac Newton that sums it up perfectly- “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Times of Youth: How does your family react to your works, considering they are so offbeat?

Thomas Dodd: Well, I was actually influenced by all of the art books that my mom and dad used to have in the house when I was a child, so my family sees the link between them and my work. My father unfortunately did not live long enough to see my success as an artist but my mother, who is a very healthy 94 years old absolutely loves my art and is proud of me. In fact, she has attended several of my art openings, proudly displays my book on her coffee table and thinks my nudes are very tasteful and elegant.

Times of Youth: What has been your proudest achievement so far?

Thomas Dodd: My first show in New York City (in October of 2014) was one of them. Having my work acquired by the New Britain museum of American Art was another high point as well!

Times of Youth: We hear you were a harpist and have composed for many albums, too. And now that you are an internationally acclaimed visual artist, which one of these two careers has been more satisfying to you comparatively?

Thomas Dodd: John Cale once said that “the problem with music is that you have to play it with other people” and although it was a humorous comment, I concur that being in a musical group can be a frustrating experience because if one person is not as into it as the others, then everyone’s career suffers. What I like about photography is that I get to collaborate with other people, but we don’t really have to depend on each other in the long run. I work with a model and then we both move on to working with other people. I have a show at one gallery and then I move to another, and they have another artist the next month. So art fulfils both my solitary nature and my collaborative nature and ultimately there is really no need to be competitive with anyone else, because there are more than enough opportunities for many, many people to experience.

Times of Youth: Since the start of your career so far, have you encountered any particular incident that literally changed your entire life/perspective?

Thomas Dodd: My life perspective was profoundly changed by a job I had (before I became a full time artist) where I worked with people with disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. From them I learned the importance of living in the present moment and of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. I never heard any of them complain about their situations or anything else for that matter. That attitude was infectious and made me realize that life doesn’t really give us anything that we can’t handle, no matter how difficult we may perceive it to be from the outside.

Times of Youth: Since nowadays everything is more and more digitalized, including paintings, what do you think are future prospects for old style artistry?

Thomas Dodd: I think it will never go away. There is a huge contingent of representational painters that I am aligned with and they are all very much keeping the ancient art of painting alive. There are also many photographers who use film or even older methods (such as tintype) in their work. Technology will always inspire a reaction for some people to return to traditional methods (or reinvent them in the process) and I think that is a necessary and healthy cycle of creation/innovation!

Times of Youth: You have travelled to numerous places to showcase your art. Which one has been the most memorable of all and why?

Thomas Dodd: Probably my first show in New York City because of what it represents for an artist like myself, and the fact that I was reunited with my 92 year old Godmother who I hadn’t seen in nearly 30 years!

Times of Youth: What professional advice would you want to give to all the new and aspiring artists of the younger generation?

Thomas Dodd: Always follow your heart and your passion. Don’t try and guess what people want or what you think will be commercial. Do what you love and you will create your own market of people who love what you do.

Times of Youth: In life, is there any dream that you’d love to achieve before the end of your time?

Thomas Dodd: I would like to have more shows all over the world – especially Europe and Asia.

Times of Youth: Any message that you’d like to give for the youth of today via Times Of Youth?

Thomas Dodd: Never grow up- always have a sense of wonder and joy and always learn!

Times of Youth: Do tell us how your admirers can contact you to share their appreciation and suggestions.

Thomas Dodd: Best place to find me and message me is at my website- or my facebook page:

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Dr. Bilal Philips



My message would be to learn about Islam, apply it, and convey it. Make whatever you are doing Islamically relevant, a means of Ibadah for yourself, so that you can succeed in this life and in the next.
-Dr. Bilal Philips

Times of Youth: Tell us a little about your background and your research. How did you get interested to preach Islam?

Dr. Bilal Philips:
My preaching, promoting and propagating Islam activities started with my conversion to Islam. Naturally, any new convert is driven to want to share Islam with those around them. With your parents, your brothers and sisters, your other family members, your neighbors and your friends. You could say that was my basic drive to want to share, propagate, and promote Islam.

I immediately began to seek knowledge, from the time that I first entered Islam in 1972. I sought to understand Islam more in depth, because the more I could understand, the better I could explain it to others. Within the first year, I quickly ran out of local sources for Islamic learning in Toronto, Canada, and I decided to go overseas to Saudi Arabia to study there. While studying there I used to come home in during the summers, to Canada and to the USA in order to share what I learned.  After graduation from Madeenah University in 1980, I went to Riyadh and started my Masters there and at the same time became a High School teacher of Islamic Studies. This became the new arena in which I became engaged in propagating Islam to Muslim youths.  During this period I was also forced into writing. I wasn’t originally a writer but I used to read a lot. However, when I started to teach Islamic Studies, I found that there were no Islamic studies textbooks available in English, so I had to create something. I began the process of preparing material based on my studies in Madeenah which I would teach from. The students used my notes as texts from which they could revise for their tests and exams. With the help of my parents, father in particular who was an English language expert, I soon developed effective writing skills. My parents guided me, and taught me, not only how to write, but also teaching methodology and classroom management.

My high school career lasted for over 10 years during which I completed my Masters and began a PhD in Islamic Theology from the University of Wales, UK. After completion of my doctorate in 1993, I moved to the UAE where I became a University professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the American University in Dubai. Naturally, the university became another avenue for propagation and promotion of Islam to young adults. In UAE, I also set up the first Da’wah Center for propagating Islam to non-Muslims in Dubai, The Islamic Information Center. Through that avenue I was full-time actively involved in teaching, preaching, and promoting Islam and thousands accepted Islam from the Center over the subsequent years. I also became the head of Darul Fatah’s English press and published a number of my books through them. In 2001, I developed a department of Islamic studies at Preston University, Ajman, to further preach and teach Islam from an educational institution. A few years later, after moving to Qatar where I was a consultant for a Da’wah Center, I again moved to Chennai, India where in 2009 I set up my own University, Preston International College, and Al Fajr International School. These were additional channels for promoting, propagating and preaching Islam. In 2010, I took my boldest step to preach Islam globally by setting up the Islamic Online University (IOU), which now has over 2,00,000 students from 225 countries of the world. The IOU has the most diverse student body of any university in the world; a unique platform from which I continue my preaching, teaching and Islamic propagational efforts. That is where I am today.

I was also given the opportunity to propagate Islam through the television, in Saudi Arabia Channel 2. I did a program there called “Why Islam?” in which I focused on the new Muslims. I had different new Muslims each episode who described their journey to Islam and focusing on the turning point. I would use that as a means of inviting non Muslims who would be watching the program who may share common backgrounds to want to share the message of Islam. In UAE, I was invited to do 3 programs a week, on Sharjah television. All of them da’wah oriented, some of them question and answer types. One related to the Quran in particular, and the other one related to contemporary issues. Of course, a lot of people know me through Peace TV, so this is the channel I also utilize, as well as Islam channel in the UK, Guide US TV in the US, etc.

Times of Youth: How would you describe your work to someone who has never known about it?

Dr. Bilal Philips: It depends on what you mean by my work. If by my work you are referring to my current main focus, the Islamic Online University, it is a University available on the Internet fundamentally Sharia based, which using English medium, teaches the basic Sharia courses normally taught in classical Arabic Universities. It has additional modern courses, which I feel a Sharia graduate should also know to be able to effectively utilize his or her discipline in the Muslim community. So, I added to the curriculum the areas of counseling, teacher training, psychology, management, Islamic banking and finance, IT as well as other areas. We are also offering degrees in Education, Psychology, and Islamic Banking and Finance, all taught from Islamic perspectives. Furthermore, I have made university education accessible at the lowest possible price cost for students globally. Students do not pay tuition fees. They only have to pay between $60 and $150 per semester according to the Gross national product (GNP) of their home countries. We also have a free diploma in which 1,95,000 of our 2,00,000 are enrolled. Thus, only 5,000 of our students are enrolled in our accredited bachelors programs and actually pay registration fees.

Times of Youth: At what age did you start preaching? Has your family always been supportive of this choice of yours?

Dr. Bilal Philips: I accepted Islam at the age of 25, so that’s when I started. In terms of family support, my family has always been supportive. I didn’t have any problems. They respected my choice of Islam and my parents later converted to Islam also.

Times of Youth: What would you say to those who think Islam degrades women by keeping them behind the veil?

Dr. Bilal Philips: I would say that they are probably mixing up Muslims with Islam. It is true that some Muslims may oppress women by imposing the cultural veil and what’s connected to it. However, the teachings of Islam do not oppress women by veiling. If by veiling we mean the most common veil which most Muslim women wear (head scarf and loose outer garment), this form of veiling is for the protection of women, not for their oppression. The nuns of Christianity, and females in orthodox Judaism, and in all the major religions we know about, cover themselves up. Exposing the physical charms of a woman is exposing her to physical danger, abuse and harm. The veiling instructions in the Quran for women to cover themselves is stated as being for her to be known for chastity and to protect her from physical harm.

Times of Youth: Can you clarify the difference between a Muslim and Islam?

Dr. Bilal Philips: A Muslim is somebody who claims to follow Islam. Whether he or she actually follows it or not will depend on their level of knowledge, the cultural influences that may be on them, and a variety of other factors. So what they may end up doing in the name of Islam, may or may not agree with the actual teachings of Islam. In order to judge the various principles and teachings of Islam, one needs to understand them from their authentic sources rather than from the practices of Muslims in different countries. In summary, Islam is not necessarily what Muslims do, but what they are ideally supposed to do. People might ask, ”How are we non-Muslims supposed to know what is cultural and what is actually from the teachings?” The basic rule of thumb to follow is that what Muslims do everywhere in the world, like praying five times per day, fasting in Ramadan, Hajj, etc., you can be almost certain that it is a part of the teachings of Islam. But what you find in some places, like FGM (female genital mutilation), females giving dowry to males and “honor killing”, and not in many others, you can almost be sure it is cultural and not from Islamic teachings.

Times of Youth: In the light of your knowledge, if you were given a choice to abolish one thing/act in the world forever, what would you choose?

Dr. Bilal Philips: Oppression. This is a major and dominant evil which affects all human societies. The Prophet (pbuh) quoted Allah as saying, “O my servants, I have forbidden Myself from oppression, so do not oppress each other.” The Quran calls us to justice and prevention of oppression. The Prophet (pbuh) warned, “Beware of oppression, for it is layers and layers of darkness on the day of Resurrection.” I would say that oppression is the biggest thing plaguing human society on all levels, so it should be abolished as all human laws in general seek to prevent oppression and establish justice.

Times of Youth: Despite all Muslims follow one and the same Holy Qur’an, why are there so many sects and different schools of thoughts among Muslims?

Dr. Bilal Philips: First and foremost, it is not correct to refer to the Quran as the Holy Quran. That is an imitation of the Christians reference to their scripture as the “Holy Bible”.  The Quran has not been described as “holy” in any of the texts of the Quran, or the Sunnah or statements of the Sahaabah.  This term only came into vogue in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent after the period of Christian European colonization of the Muslim world. So it is proper to refer to the Quran as the Noble Quran (Al-Quran Al-Kareem), or the Magnificent Quran (Al-Quran Al-Atheem), and so on and so forth. Better to use the descriptive terms which were used by Allah in the final revelation.

In terms of the actual question, “having only one Quran, why do we have so many different sects”, this goes back to people’s interpretations instead of strictly following the Quran and Sunnah. Where people have strayed away from the Quran and Sunnah, either denying the Sunnah all together, or denying parts of the Quran which don’t agree with them. These are factors or modernist interpretation of the Quran. Extreme views. So we have all these factors which can create different lines of thought, but those who follow the Quran and Sunnah as it was understood by the early generation of Muslims, they represent the main body of Muslims and they are one.

An additional point. What I’m trying to say is that, Prophet Muhammad May God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him, had predicted that Muslims would be divided up into 73 different sects. Only one of them was going to Paradise. These 72 sects are the product of satanic deviation. Satan whispers and you have several groups that have clearly deviated from Islam to varying degrees. That one group of the 73, in my view, is not a narrow single group. So we can’t say it’s only so and so people. All of the modern movements and certain groups that have come up, are part of the same one out of the 73 that are generally on the correct path in general. Though they may have individual errors amongst them. Some may be closer to the perfection, and some further from the perfection. We’re not going to say that it’s only these particular individuals, and everybody else is going to hell. That’s what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said. The 72 are going to hell. Only one is going to paradise. Are you ready to say that a person who’s so and so and because he’s not of the other sect, that he’s going to hell? That’s a very difficult claim to make. Very difficult claim.  A more inclusive approach is to look at the one going to Paradise, the one correct path, as having people within it who have different opinions, but they are firm on Quran and Sunnah, and are trying to follow it the way the forefathers did. The earlier generations, such as Abu Hanifa, maybe they slipped up here and there. They don’t realize today that Abu Hanifa wasn’t a Hanafi, but as far as they are concerned they are trying to follow Abu Hanifa who was one of the pillars of that generation, who were interpreting the Quran and Sunnah as it was understood by the earliest generation. When we look at that group which are going to Paradise, the right group, we need to be a little more open minded than many of us tend to be today.

Times of Youth: Considering that a lot of people think that Islam oppresses women, and there is a boom of supporters of feminism and women’s rights and liberation in today’s times, would you enlighten us on what Islam says about educating females and ‘women empowerment’?

Dr. Bilal Philips: First and foremost, the Prophet (pbuh) called the Ummah to educate itself. Saying seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim. That every Muslim means both male and female. That’s why it’s not surprising to find among the leading scholars of the sahabas were women. Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, was the fourth most prolific narrator of Hadith . Some huge portion of the Sunnah, of the Sharia that we know, was narrated by her. Umm Salamah as well, and others among the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) and female sahabees. They were teachers. Five of Imaam Malik’s hadeeth teachers were women. So the idea of women being educated was never an issue among the early generations. I think as time passed, corruption spread, and misunderstandings grew and women became sidelined. Women became barred from the mosque, like in Pakistan and India women can’t go to the Mosque. Something so basic. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had clearly  said do not prevent your women from going to the mosque. So now if you’re blocking women from going to the mosque, something as basic as that, then of course other areas that the women should be free to participate in, they would have no opportunity. It’s not surprising that we have a situation now, which is a result of ignorance fundamentally of what the true teachings of Islam are.

The issue that women should be empowered, Islam empowers women. When Islam said to the women when you get married, you don’t change your name to your husband’s name, that was empowerment right there. 1400 years ago that even till today the west hasn’t reached. You have some female movie stars who when they get married they don’t change their names, but for the rest of the women of the west they change their names right away. Where did that come from? That came from the Roman concept of the man’s possessions. The man would put his name on all of his possessions. He would put his name on his villa, on his chariot, on his slave, and on his wife. Islam said stop that. The woman has her own name, that is her own identity, capable of owning and disposing of her property herself. This was only something given to women in the 20th Century. So, there are so many elements that Islam has provided in terms of women female empowerment 1400 years ago at a time when it didn’t even cross people’s minds. It’s modern times that they’re looking back and saying, “Wow. Amazing.” They were doing it from back then.

Times of Youth: A lot of conspiracy theories with appealing proofs are being propagated over the internet regarding ‘Free Masons’ and the ‘Illuminati’ cult. Your views about them?

Dr. Bilal Philips: My view is avoid conspiracy theories, and cults. It’s a waste of time, energy, and brain cells.

Tell us the first thing that comes to your mind for the following-

  • Youth: The future of the Ummah depends on the education of the youth
  • Love:  Love is from Allah Subhana wa Tala. Love should be between husband and wife. Love makes the world go around
  • Freedom:  Freedom is the right of every human being within the boundary set by revelation.
  • World:  The world is our home. Allah created us for this world. Nationalism, and tribalism, is against the norm. There should be open borders, where humans can go wherever they want to live. The world is ours.
  • Afterlife:  We need to be focused on the afterlife, because this life is only a bridge to it. Whatever we do here, we should be thinking how it’s going to affect our afterlife.

Things we’d like to know about you-


  • First thing you do in morning: Salatul Fajr. After salatul Fajr, I exercise. I do Tai Chi.
  • A thing you never forget to do: I never forget to eat, but what I should never forget to do would be to read Quran every day.
  • Your day is incomplete without: My day is incomplete without gaining some knowledge, passing it on, and practicing it.
  • In your closet, we’ll definitely find:  My computer.
  • Most prized possession: My computer.
  • Last thing you do every night: I check emails from the Islamic Online University administration coming from the other half of the world that is just waking up.


  • Your Most cherished day: The day both of my parents accepted Islam.
  • A person who is most dear to you: My mother.
  • A place you’d visit recurrently: Makkah.
  • Best advice you ever received: The advice of the Prophet (pbuh) to love for your brother, what you love for yourself.
  • An utterly awesome experience for you: in 1991, when I led a team of brothers giving dawah to the American troops, after the first Gulf War. After 5 ½ months, over 3000 of them accepted Islam.

Times of Youth: Being a teacher of Holy Qur’an, what is your advice to parents and educators to initiate the teaching of the Holy Qur’an in the daily life of their kids and the youth?

Dr. Bilal Philips: I can’t say I’m a teacher of the Quran, though I teach Quranic teachings and hadeethic teachings. For a teacher of the Quran, you may think of a Qari, a person teaching the memorization of the Quran etc; I would say in teaching the Quran, the understanding of the Quran is critical. We tend to focus on the memorization of the text, which was not the focus in the time of the Prophet (pbuh), even though the need for it’s memorization was most critical then. Instead as Abdullah ibn Masood narrated, they used to memorize the Quran 10 verses at a time, having understood its meaning and trying to implement it, they would move on to the next 10. I would say in the course of teaching we should follow that methodology as that was the way of the Sahabah.

In terms of memorization, rather than making the whole of the Quran the goal for everybody, as the Sahabah had narrated, one who had memorized the whole of Surah Al-Baqarah was called a ‘Hafiz’. That was the goal. Surah Al Baqarah contains virtually everything that you’ll find in the Quran. This would be a worthy goal for everybody. Rather than trying to take 30 people and trying to make them all memorize the whole Quran. Out of that 30 maybe only 5 do. The other 25 you’ve lost along the way, and when you lose them you lose everything. They haven’t gained anything. You only stressed they must memorize the text, by beating them and doing all sorts of things, so when they drop out, how do they drop out? With a body of knowledge that they can utilize or do they just drop out and don’t want to hear anything about Quran after that? I think we need to rethink our approach to the teaching of the Quran.

Times of Youth: In your opinion, what are the main themes and topics that Muslim speakers, mentors and educators should focus on when addressing the Muslim community (whether in Friday sermons, conferences, etc.)? What areas need their special attention at the moment?

Dr. Bilal Philips: The area of Tawheed is a perpetual need. The area of learning the deen, again another perpetual need. Everybody needs to learn the deen. The primary subjects of education should be in areas that will benefit the Muslim community, to serve the Muslim community, and make their work ‘Ibadah’. This should be the emphasis. The emphasising of the responsibilities of parents, to ensure that children get a proper Islamized education. Of course, also the basic acts of ‘Ibadah’ that they be done according to the spirit of Islam, and not merely according to the letter.

Times of Youth: If you could give one piece of advice to Muslims worldwide, what would that be?

Dr. Bilal Philips: The biggest piece of advice that I’m currently focusing on, besides the motto of my University (Islamic Online University), changing the nation through education, is the importance of bringing morality back to the classroom. The Prophet (pbuh) had described Islam in terms of morality. That was the essence of the message he brought. We need to bring that back in the classroom where morality has been removed. Western secularized education has removed religion from the whole educational process. They are coming from a humanistic perspective, that human beings can decide for themselves. People are studying various courses, physics, science, math, etc., but without a moral compass. They are capable of doing anything. The biggest problem plaguing the Muslim ummah globally is that of corruption. If we can’t produce graduates from our institutions who are morally sound, who can’t be bribed, then we can never change the situation that we are in.

Times of Youth: Any message to your students and followers via Times Of Youth?

Dr. Bilal Philips: My message would be to learn about Islam, apply it, and convey it. Make whatever you are doing Islamically relevant, a means of Ibadah for yourself, so that you can succeed in this life and in the next.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how can admirers contact you to share their appreciation/feedback/suggestions.

Dr. Bilal Philips: They can contact me on my Facebook page. Dr. Bilal Philips – the official page. Whether they will get a response from me is another question, but this is where I am in contact with the general global public. We have 2.7 million followers on the page. If there is something important, or some new issue, then I come in and post there. I also post regular reminders. I would say my Facebook page is the best point of contact.

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Yvonne Maffei



 Find out who your authentic self is as a person- who are you, what’s your mission in life, why you’re into cooking and what path down the culinary road would make you happiest. It’s okay to admire and look up to other chefs, cooks, bloggers, TV personalities, but sometimes it can make a person feel that they are less than  adequate before ever getting started on their own path.
-Yvonne Maffei

Times of Youth: For those who do not know you, could you describe yourself and your work in brief?

Yvonne Maffei: I’m a Food Writer, Recipe Developer and the Publisher of I create, test and write recipes for my website and other publications as well as do the food styling and photography for the website’s recipes and articles.

Times of Youth: Despite of being a Graduate in International Studies, Journalism and Health, what got you more interested in the arena of cooking?

Yvonne Maffei: I have been interested in good food since I was a young girl. My Sicilian grandparents on one side and Puerto Rican on the other surrounded me with the most delicious and interesting foods during my entire childhood and my parents carried on the tradition of being interested in international cuisine, exotic foods and flavors and travel. I grew up in a small town in Ohio surrounded by Amish towns and local farm fresh produce, so I was fortunate enough to know what local and seasonal fruits and vegetables should taste like. When I went away to college, my mom supplied me with boxes of great cookware and cooking utensils that I used to experiment in my own kitchen. During that time, I also studied abroad and traveled extensively so I was able to explore different cultures and their way of eating and cooking hands-on. My family and the world I explored was literally my classroom.

Times of Youth: Tell us about your tasteful endeavors for your blog My Halal Kitchen. How did the name come about? Did you expect that it would reach this level when you created it at first?

Yvonne Maffei: I really wanted to share the recipes I was making, all with the halal substitutes I had tried and tested out over the years. I chose the domain name that resonated with the concept and was available at the time. I hoped and prayed that people of all faiths and backgrounds would find the recipes simple, inspiring and delicious enough to try as well as having an openness about the concept of halal. I had no expectation about how many people would enjoy what I was sharing, but I just kept pursuing the concept with all my heart and soul. With each recipe created and shared, that’s still all at the top of my mind.

Times of Youth: Hailing from Puerto Rican and Sicilian heritage and bred in the U.S. with an experience of living in several places across the globe, how do you feel it influenced your cooking style?

Yvonne Maffei: Well, I think I come from two ethnic traditions that really love and embrace their cultures and their food. In both cultures there is a reverence for real food, for family, for native and traditional dishes, too, and that’s something I really held onto as I was growing up and seeing the food world as a whole change dramatically. It made me sad and disillusioned because I wanted to, in some way, preserve the beauty and the nutrition that real traditional cuisine can bring to people. I watched my grandmothers nourish us with good food and be the connectors of family and friends around the table with the creations they made. They were really the glue that connected everyone and bonded us for life. When I began to eat only ‘dhabiha halal’ (Islamically slaughtered and permissible) food, it was the perfect opportunity to go back to traditional cuisine (i.e. cooking with real chicken broth as opposed to a hydrogenated oil) and capture the essence of certain dishes some of us hadn’t eaten in years. I then discovered that the reason everyone loved traditional foods was often times the quality of ingredients and the use of real food products. You could say that ‘revival’ process helped me to become a real cook and truly enjoy pursuing it as a career.

Times of Youth: From where do you draw inspiration to design the new dishes?

Yvonne Maffei: I get inspiration from a lot of places, but mainly just how I feel and what I’m going through in my life at the time. For example, when I’m feeling sluggish and want to clean up my diet, I’ll share green juices or fresh salads; when I’m traveling to certain places around the country or the world, I’ll share recipes for dishes I’ve re-created from restaurant visits. It’s all very personal and experience-centered.

Times of Youth: What has been your most delicious recipe ever?

Yvonne Maffei: That’s hard to answer! I don’t like to play favorites with my food or cuisine, but I’ll go with my homemade Baked Mastaciolli recipe. It’s a mixture of using my Sicilian grandmother’s tomato sauce recipe, adding meat and all the halal cheese varieties I’ve discovered over the years and putting them into one big baking pan and serving up for my guests. It’s my tried and true recipe for entertaining because I have confidence that just about everyone and anyone will like it, especially the kids! The recipe can be found on my website.

Times of Youth: You also have a line of kitchen aprons and napkins. How would you describe it to an international audience and potential buyers?

Yvonne Maffei: As Muslims with our own holidays and celebrations, I just thought it would be fun (and it wasn’t available anywhere else) to have aprons that exhibit our happiness for the occasions- the aprons and napkins say “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Eid Mubarak” and are great ways to share the celebratory feel with your guests or wear the messaging as you cook up great meals in your very own halal kitchen.

Times of Youth: According to you, what makes any dish ‘halal’? 

Yvonne Maffei: Well, halal food and ingredients are certainly abundant, so that’s why I know any dish can be made halal and that means globally-inspired food, not just food from a particular region or ethnic group. It’s basically the absence of non-halal i.e, ‘haram’ ingredients that makes a dish halal, and fortunately for us there are great substitutes around to make that possible.

Times of Youth: Do you think taste matters more or the presentation? 

Yvonne Maffei: They say you eat first with your eyes, then your nose and last with your taste buds. I say it’s all important but in reality who is going to eat something that looks terrible and they have to be convinced that it’s actually pretty tasty? Taste as you cook then present the food beautifully, even if it’s just for yourself. That’s the beauty of Allah’s creations- He made so much and everything so beautiful to our eyes and halal to us. Why not embrace it, enjoy it and share that with others? I’m reminded of Surah Rahman of The Noble Quran where Allah tells us, “Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?”

Times of Youth: Which cuisine do you favor/relate to the most? 

Yvonne Maffei: I think Sicilian food will always be my comfort food. It will always remind me of the love, comfort and security of home and family, and because it’s full of healthy Mediterranean ingredients, I think it does double duty for me!

Times of Youth: We hear that you happened to accept Islam just before 9-11. Could you tell us how has your journey as a Muslim been so far? What impact did it have on your skills?

Yvonne Maffei: As life would have it, my journey has been full of ups and downs, but it has helped me narrow my focus and become clear on how I want to use the gifts Allah Almighty gave to me. At this point it’s about providing simple and delicious recipes to help everyone understand what halal is all about, help bring it to mainstream as a normal, natural and healthy way of eating and to really bring more awareness to our community and the world about the state of our current food system. I am so incredibly passionate about equal access to real food for everyone and on making natural, organic foods the norm once again, about saving the bees and saving our environment. The fact that those things are in line with Islam and an Islamic way of life, it helps me feel that my work is in line with my values and vice versa. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Alhamdullilah.

Times of Youth: What do you prefer to do when you’re not cooking or blogging? 

Yvonne Maffei: Gardening and nesting at home are my absolute next favorite things to do. Although I love to travel, I also absolutely love to be at home tinkering around cleaning, organizing and rearranging things. It’s my personal space, my sanctuary and where I feel the happiest, so I want it to be comfy and cozy for my family and everyone who visits.

Rapid fire-

Food: Nourishment
Love: Peaceful living
Halal: God says it’s good for us
Family: Unconditional love
Kitchen: Healthy creative expression

Times of Youth: Which has been the most unforgettable moment/feedback in your scrumptious journey?

Yvonne Maffei: I don’t think there’s been just one, but rather a collection of moments particularly with the amazing people I’ve been blessed to meet because of the work I do. I am able to connect with people who care about food, food justice, halal, gardening, community service, education, children, health and wellness, etc. and the list goes on which is what I love about this work. Life becomes rich with experiences and relationships with people I may not have ever come into contact with otherwise, Allahu’alim. That’s how I want to live my life and hope I can be as useful and enriching to others as they are to me.

Times of Youth: Since Ramadan is just around the corner in about a month’s time, what would be your numero uno advice to the ladies with regards to cooking?

Yvonne Maffei: Plan, plan and plan some more. With planning, you become organized because you figure out what you have, what you don’t, what you have time for and what you don’t have time for, and you can get a sense of peace and calm because you’re taking action and becoming proactive about the time you have surrounding meals, ibadah (worship) and everything else that you have to do during the month. I wrote several articles over the years about this topic, which are all on the website.

Times of Youth: What are the upcoming projects for Yvonne Maffei and My Halal Kitchen?

Yvonne Maffei: There’s a lot in the works, but I’m taking it all one day at a time to make sure they’re all done well, insha’Allah. Right now, we have a free app for Android phones and are waiting on approval for our iOS app, so readers can get the same information from our website that they would get by being logged in to a computer. I’m working on more books, live demos around the country and insha’Allah the globe, and soon hope to add more content on the website from other halal foodies. We’ll see where it all goes- we plan and plan but Allah Almighty is the best of planners indeed!

Times of Youth: What advice would you give to young aspiring chefs via TIMES OF YOUTH?

Yvonne Maffei: Don’t try to be like anyone else but ‘YOU’. Find out who your authentic self is as a person- who are you, what’s your mission in life, why you’re into cooking and what path down the culinary road would make you happiest. It’s okay to admire and look up to other chefs, cooks, bloggers, TV personalities, but sometimes it can make a person feel that they are less than adequate. I just want anyone starting out to know that your journey is unique and so are you- we can all be in this field together and bring something special, unique and truly beautiful to share with the world.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how can fans and foodies contact you to share their appreciation and feedback.

Yvonne Maffei: I love to hear from readers. They can contact me via my Facebook page at or by email at:[email protected] I try to respond to each and every inquiry, even if it takes a while to get to them!

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Asim Raza, Director & Producer of the film “Ho Mann Jahaan”



“An intelligent film maker is aware of his limitations but is able to deliver something unique and fresh through his skill and treatment.”

Times of Youth: For those who don’t know about you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I graduated from the Dawood College Of Engineering with a degree in architecture and later got a post graduate degree from the Bartlett School of Architecture University College London. Later I moved to a canvas of a different kind, one with moving pictures, music and story-telling. My ability to visualize environments whether gritty or sophisticated, modern or traditional and versatility with scale led me to explore direction and film making. During the 18 year span of my career, I have worked on music videos, television commercials, a telefilm and am now on the verge of releasing my very first feature length film.

Times of Youth: Whose brainchild was the inception to make a musical, ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’?

I always dreamt of making a film one day, in fact all my experience was conditioning me for the same. I have always been musically inclined, which is why I have enjoyed directing many music videos, and music always forms a key element in my TVCs as well.

Hence Ho Mann Jahaan is my dream that I have managed to realize through the love and support of my friends, colleagues and family.

Times of Youth: Whose brainchild was the inception to make a musical, ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’?

Just like visuals, sounds, sets and actors deliver a message through the medium of film, I feel music plays an equally important role in evoking emotions in audiences. A well rounded film must take advantage of all these, very effective, elements of storytelling, so as to leave viewers with an experience that satiates all their senses.

Times of Youth: Any special experience you’d like to share with us with respect to this movie?

Most of my experiences during the process of making this film, are special. They are all moments that I cherish and hold close to my heart because they are my first. It would be very difficult for me to pick a specific moment, time or event: it has been a journey and that’s how I would like to treasure it.

Times of Youth: As ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ based on a believable story, what kind of an impact do you expect should it make on the audiences?

The best thing about this story is the fact that it is very real and close to home. It’s a movie that expands over generations rather than being bound to a specific age or time. This is why it is my belief that everyone who comes to watch this film will be able to identify with the characters of Ho Mann Jahaan and that is what will make this experience unique and fulfilling.

Times of Youth: Which scene or moment while making ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ was the most overwhelming for you and your crew?

When the screenplay for Ho Mann Jahaan was completed, there was a wedding scene that was written in the script, and when my team read it they took it for granted that it would be the most elaborate sequence of my film; and ultimately I did give in to their persistence for the same.
The song Shakkar Wanda was the most ambitious outdoor set that we had constructed at the Frere hall. We delved into it head on from set, costume, dancers, production design, technical support and everything that could go into making this a true depiction of a very grand and wholesome expression of a Pakistani wedding. I think this was the most overwhelming experience during the shooting for both me and my team.

Times of Youth: As seen in ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ official posters and promos, the presence of a talented star cast is evident. Based on the responses so far, what are your personal expectations from the film at box office?

Well… my actors, my team and myself have put in our best to make a film that is culturally relevant, emotionally engaging and yet commercially viable. I feel that no hard work goes unrewarded and Ho Mann Jahaan in nothing short of my sweat and blood. I feel that our audiences are ready and eager to watch and welcome intellectually and emotionally stimulating content, which is why I am sure that Ho Mann Jahaan will do well not only at the Box office but in the hearts of audiences as well.

Times of Youth: Which was the most phenomenal sequence that you shot for ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ from a filmmaker’s point of view?

This movie is not about sequences that are phenomenal or over the top in terms of their execution; it is in fact a film about very real moments in the lives of very real people. And so if you ask me what is the most touching moments in the film, then I would tell you about one of the most touching sequence in the film that I shot at a train station in Karachi. This scene came at a point in the story which was an amalgamation of heightened feelings coming from three best friends, all their emotions melting and merging together at a dire crossroad in the lives of these characters.

Times of Youth: Considering that ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ is expected to be a new age film based on the struggle-filled life and emotions of young Paki musicians, what specific lessons would the audiences derive from it on watching?

Ho Mann Jahaan is actually not a story about the struggle of musicians or a band, it is about the intricacies of relationships and how one learns from their mistakes as they evolve and come of age.

The lesson that should be taken from my film is to always follow your heart and realize your true potential.

Times of Youth: Could you describe the response of Pakistani audiences regarding ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’ since the release of its promos?

From the response and feedback I have received so far, Ho Mann Jahaan has stirred a great interest due to its soundtrack and wholesome genre. It is a first of its kind since the reawakening of the film industry.

Times of Youth: Considering that Pakistan is an Islamic country and music being forbidden in Islam, what makes you think that this concept will work?

Considered that Pakistan is an Islamic country, I am of the opinion that we as Pakistanis are neither rigid nor averse to art forms. Wholesome ideas that converge with our societal and moral norms are readily acceptable by the masses.

As a film maker I have made sure not to offend the sentiment of any individual or sect, yet keeping the global appeal of my story alive. So I don’t think that the music or any other facet of my film will be questionable.

Times of Youth: What’s your top five favorite movies of all time?

That is a very tough one because there are loads, but Room with a view by Ivory Merchant and Junoon by Shayam Benegal are two films which I feel are exceptional.

Times of Youth: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back something to the society, or just tell a particular story and not do anything else? Why or why not?

Film is a medium that is a creative expression. It does not have to be condescending; neither does it have to be preachy. I for one tried not to be preachy to anyone because every person has their own outlook towards life and very good reason for it too.

We as human beings instinctively know right from wrong and I would like to leave that better judgment with my audiences who are sensible, exposed and progressive.

Times of Youth: How much do the film-makers have to compromise in creativity for film production owing to financial constraints?

In my case I was the Producer and Director for my film and my learning has been that if you have a limitation then you should not try to go out there and try to re create the Taj Mahal.  An intelligent film maker is aware of his limitations but is able to deliver something unique and fresh through his skill and treatment.

Times of Youth: Any advice you’d give to aspiring youngsters who want to enter movies now or in the future?

It’s a beaming and booming industry that is growing at quantum speed with an increase in production of over 200% from 2012-2013 to 2014-2015, the Pakistani film Industry is experiencing a great turnaround.

Times of Youth: Any message to fans and followers via TIMES OF YOUTH?

Follow your heart

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Nouman Ali Khan



Times of Youth: We are honestly privileged to have this wonderful opportunity to know you today. Please tell us a little bit about your journey to being such a noted Islam preacher.

Thanks to you guys for giving me a chance to share some things with you. My journey is one I couldn’t possibly have planned.  A lot of people around the world follow my work and I’m humbled by the appreciation and prayers I get but to be honest I didn’t imagine ending up in this position. I think there are a few elements to my journey. First of all, God’s will. He brings to prominence whoever He wills. There are so many more talented, knowledgeable and dynamic people out there that the world doesn’t know and I certainly chalk that up to divine decree. Secondly, I don’t come from a formal religious background nor do I have formal religious training.  As a matter of fact, much of my early adult life was spent as far away from religion as one can imagine. As a result when I speak about the faith, I speak from a perspective not of someone talking down to people who are struggling with faith but rather as one of them.  I don’t speak any differently among friends and family as I do on stage. Its not a persona. Its just me and I think that resonates with a lot of people.  Thirdly, I make a distinction between my studies and my teaching. When I study religion, I may be navigating advanced scholarly texts but when I’m talking about it, I feel compelled to speak in language that is as far from academic as possible. I always try to keep in mind that there is someone sitting in the audience that has absolutely zero background in religious education and they should be able to benefit from what I have to say. As a result I feel that my audience is also very unique. Though a lot of serious students and devout Muslims also follow my work, there is a very sizable contingency of Muslims and non-Muslims who don’t even identify themselves as religiously practicing that regularly tune in to my content.

Times of Youth: How would you describe your work to someone who has never known about it?

I am on a mission.  I’d like to show the whole world that the Qur’an is an remarkably beautiful book with counsel, wisdom, guidance and wonder that any curious human being would come to appreciate. I’m not looking to convert people to Islam or make them follow my understanding of religion. All I want is to share the amazing discoveries I continue to make about this book without which I feel, that just like my former self, so many will just miss out on so much of what the Qur’an has to offer.

Times of Youth: What was the prime factor which compelled your choice of expertizing in Arabic and later becoming a full time preacher at a comparatively younger age?

My college education was in computer information systems. I’m no genius but I am somewhat mathematically inclined. I enjoyed working in the technology industry and dabbled into the creative and graphics design industry in my early career as well.  By 3rd year of college I was a design director at a technology firm in New York City. It is around that time that I became curious about Arabic because I felt disengaged when trying to figure the Qur’an out in translation.  When I first started learning Arabic, I was shocked to see how mathematical and systematic this ancient language was. It was literally permutations and algebraic formulae that make up the core structure of Arabic. I was hooked. I studied it earlier on as a ‘science’ and as my knowledge of it evolved, I began to appreciate it as an ‘art’. What kept me motivated to pursue Arabic studies was one single thing; every bit I learned was unlocking something new about the Qur’an for me and every one of those steps blew me away.

About becoming a full time ‘preacher’ I want to say a few quick things.  I never sought that as a career path. There are people who want to be preachers and get famous and don’t get there and get frustrated either with themselves or the audience that won’t give them their due. I was not looking for a large audience. I used to teach Arabic and share my discoveries and learnings from the Qur’an as a passion with small groups. Word spread on its own. Demand started coming from all over the United States for me to teach purely through word of mouth. I realized quickly that my passion is being validated by the acknowledgement of elders, scholars and communities at large. So I decided to make a conscious career move. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life but I’m extremely grateful for it. I’m grateful to my Lord and to the people whose encouragement and validation gave me the strength to take this leap and leave my corporate career behind.

Times of Youth: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration and strength to embark on this journey of spreading God’s Word?

I’m a bit of a loner. My greatest companion has been this divine Book.  My addiction became the look on peoples faces when they learn some awesome new thing about God’s Word that they never knew before. That look reminds me of the look on my own face in my own journey. I relive it every time I teach. I love learning as much as I love teaching. I find so much meaning in both.

Times of Youth: ‘Bayyinah’ being your brainchild, could you tell us why this name, elaborate on the idea of its formation and its current endeavors?

The word ‘Bayyinah’ is an Arabic adjective describing something distinct from others, self-evident, and crystal clear. This is what the Qur’an is to me. It is also a fitting description of the language of the Qur’an. It also happens to be one of the descriptions of the Qur’an in the Qur’an itself. I love the name!

I’ll turn the long story into a super short one. I wanted to teach and learn Arabic and the Qur’an for the rest of my life. I knew I was made for this as I had test driven short courses and classes and the feedback was overwhelmingly pushing me in this direction. Now given my tech, business and creative background I had to create a mechanism that would allow me to do what I love while still being able to put food on the table for my family. This is where this whole thing started. Now, ‘Bayyinah’ is far beyond that original aspiration. It is a constantly growing organization of more than fifty full time employees working in eight fantastic departments and much more than an organization it is a movement. It is a vehicle by which we (not I) hope to revolutionize how the Qur’an is talked about in the world, to redefine how Arabic education is conducted and then by extension how Islam, its history, its current place in the world and its future are discussed. We hope to create the world’s most influential, meaningful and productive platform for healthy and honest discourse on Islam and Muslims. Ambitious, I know, but I can see it insha Allah.

Times of Youth: Islam, today, despite of being the fastest growing religion as per recent statistics of several countries, is still one of the most despised religions in the world. What, according to you, is the core cause behind this skewed perspective and ‘Islamophobia’?

Lots of reasons. It certainly is a complex problem with multiple dimensions and working to eradicate it can feel like swimming against the tide. But I do think significant gains can be made. I do believe much of the ‘Islamophobia’ machinery is simply a money making industry and like any other industry, it needs to keep demand for its products and services high. In its case, it does so by constant fear mongering.

Times of Youth: Keeping in view this scenario of the world, what in your opinion can be done to bring about a change in this preconditioned mindset?

I think most people are looking for honest and unbiased information. Its our responsibility to make such information accessible to everyone. Secondly, any phobia against a people or a faith, ‘Islamophobia’ being no exception, can only thrive when communities live in isolation. Its easy to dehumanize people you don’t know or you’ve never truly interacted with. At a local level, everyone can do their part in dispelling ‘Islamophobia’ simply by being a good neighbour, an engaged citizen and a productive member of society.

Times of Youth: What would you say to those feminists who still think Islam oppresses women by keeping them behind a veil or mandating headscarf and denying fair educational opportunities?

First of all, let’s not label people who have a different view than ourselves. Second of all, Islam keeping women behind a veil is a pretty gross misrepresentation, but a far greater untruth is the allegation that Islam denies women fair educational opportunities. The Islamic code of dress is a source of pride and dignity for tens of millions of women around the world who wear it entirely by choice every day. I’d like to recommend your readers to check out a book about the historical role of female scholarship in Muslim civilization called ‘Al-Muhaddithaat’ by Dr. Akram Nadawi. I think people will be surprised to find out what an active role women played throughout Islamic history in virtually every sphere of society and how the modern discourse on Islam’s treatment of women tends to present an incredibly skewed view. Ironically, this skewed view isn’t just held by non-Muslims but even many Muslims.  History is so easily forgotten and when that happens, people tend to lose sight of their own value system.

Times of Youth: When all the Muslims follow one and the same Holy Qur’an, then why are there so many sectoral rifts and different schools of thought among Muslims?

This, I believe is an oversimplification.  Muslims follow the same Qur’an only means that they as a whole regard it as divine. The degree to which the teachings of the book itself influences their world view varies drastically.  Many of the varying schools of thought in Islam are distinguished from one another in their interpretation of Islamic law and the principles each of those schools uses to arrive at those interpretations. These have historically been accepted as part of the larger fabric of Islam and the differences, which at least among the scholars have always been civil and did not come at the expense of mutual respect. Yet another set of differences are theological and philosophical where things tend to get far more contentious obviously because metaphysics (the realm of the unseen) is discourse about the faith itself so naturally any disagreements here are going to be the source of great tension. That has historically been the case. The Qur’an has always been the same, but just like no two people read one book and walk away with the same exact impression, there have always been and always will be varying interpretations of the sacred text of Islam and if we are to be fair, that will be true of all texts. That to me isn’t the problem. The problem is when one isn’t willing to reconsider their interpretation in light of stronger evidence. Or when one has already made up their mind that their reading of the text is the right reading and there is no need to consider the others point of view. As far as I’m concerned, difference of opinion is part of what makes us human. It will always exist. I will find something convincing and you will find something else more convincing.  You and I both have a right to our convictions and shouldn’t be persecuted or hated for them. We can certainly be questioned or criticized in regards to them in light of more substantial evidence. That is the nature of the quest for truth. Muslims and really all human beings, must embrace the reality of passionate yet compassionate disagreement.

Times of Youth: A lot of conspiracy theories with appealing proofs are being propagated over the internet regarding ‘Free Masons’ and the ‘Illuminati’ cult. Your comments?

I’m too busy studying something that gives me fulfillment and meaning that I simply don’t have the motivation, time or energy to pursue that sort of stuff.

Times of Youth: How do you think the Islamic philosophy and way of life is applicable in today’s modern times?

Its simplicity, its beauty and the peace and harmony it brings to a person’s life is timeless.  It is no less relevant today than it was when it first came. To understand how it is relevant, simply ask yourself what is it at its core anyway? The Islamic message is of belief in one God who commissioned each human being with a powerful spiritual element, the soul and a magnificent intellectual element, the mind. Using both of these, this human being doesn’t just find his way to God but to a lifestyle that brings about balance and harmony in his own life and those around him. It is a message of internalizing peace and sharing it with others. It is a message of compassion, justice, love, mercy, service to God and inspired by that, service to humanity. Isn’t that a dire need in modern times?

Times of Youth: Tell us the first word that comes to your mind for the following-

God:  Constant Companion

Youth:  Put it to work while you have it

Love:   Makes you do things you would never have done otherwise

World:   belongs to you if you belong to God.

Afterlife:  inevitable, so get ready!

Times of Youth: In the light of your knowledge, if you were given a power to abolish one thing/act in the world forever, what would you choose for it to be?

I don’t have much knowledge, but I’d vote for the eradication of preconceived judgment.

Times of Youth: Taking lesson from holy books, how do we remove bitterness from the hearts of all humankind which they have wielded for one another?

That’s a deep one! Bitterness towards others is a result of unresolved  internal moral, spiritual and psychological struggles. I think better self-awareness would go a long way.

Times of Youth: In your opinion, what are the main areas that need special attention for Muslims of all nations at this moment with respect to the war situation in order to bring peace?

I think we need to tone down sectarian rhetoric which is blown out of proportion, not only out of genuine religious fervor, but as part of larger political games in geo-politics.  Whether another person belongs to my school of thought or not or even my religion or not, he or she is still a human being and still deserves dignity and respect.  All human life is sacred.

Times of Youth: If you could give one piece of advice to all humans worldwide irrespective of religion, what would that be?

We share this planet and its resources.  Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, people of all of faiths and people of no faith at all, none of these are going to disappear. We better learn to respect one another despite our differing world views otherwise we are doing an injustice, not just to each other, but to the world we are going to leave behind for our children and their children. We live in an age of unprecedented global connectivity and communication. Lets use these tools to break barriers, and not to build them; to eliminate hate and not empower it.

Times of Youth: Do tell us how can admirers contact you to share their appreciation/feedback/suggestions.

I can be reached at [email protected]  Thanks guys.

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Humaira Bachal



“If I am given a proper chance to make world a better place, I will make education, health facilities and job opportunities available for everyone.”

Times of Youth: In brief, enlighten our readers about yourself and your achievements for those who may be unaware.

I am an education advocate striving to change the attitudes of people who are against women’s education, despite utmost opposition and threats from many community elders and extremists. I have been risking my life daily to teach young girls. I am the first girl child from my family who acquired education and began championing this right to education in my hometown Muwach Goth, a demoted community in the outskirts of Karachi. At the age of 12, I started classes for impoverished children in my neighborhood, which later grew into the Dream Model School where 1,200 students are currently enrolled. I also founded the Dream Foundation Trust. Recognized by the Women in the World Foundation as one of five “Bravest Women on Earth,” I convene community leaders and elders to challenge biases and archaic thinking about women’s education through conversation. I was awarded the 2013 Women of Impact Award at the 4th Annual Women of the World Foundation’s Summit and my efforts attracted the attention of Chime for Change and Madonna, who pledged to support girls’ education in Pakistan. “Humaira: The Dream Catcher”, a documentary film produced by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, captures my voice and brings it to the outside world. Through the work I do in the classrooms and in the community, I am tackling Pakistan’s education problem at every level. Looking forward, I hope to build schools in neighboring communities in addition to inspiring more children, especially girls, to seek education, be empowered, and know their rights so they can defend themselves. I am the Advisory Board Member of Chime for Change, US-PAK Alumni, Asia 21 Young Leaders Class Fellow of 2013, Emerging Leaders of Pakistan class fellow of 2013 and the current featured activist of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s current film Humaira: The Game Changer, produced by Salma Hayek, Hollywood actress and philanthropist. My work has recently been featured in Time Magazine as well as the CNN. I have received recognition by the CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Oprah Winfrey, US Ambassador-at-large for global women’s issue Catherine Russell and American star and singer Madonna Louise Ciccone.

Times of Youth: Your wisdom and courage has inspired several lives in your country today. What inspired you in the first place to go against your father’s wishes to gain knowledge and be who you are today?

I believe that education is the only key to unlock entire doors of success. It also gives us ability to judge “what is good and what is bad”. Our society is surrounded by distinct problems such as violence, abuse, corruption, injustice, excesses, patriarchal monarchy, and numerous intolerable acts and I think all of these developed within me the spirit to wage an unrelenting fight against these. I saw around myself, violence against women in the name of tradition and honor, I saw how due to lack of education a mother gives her young child expired medicine which proves fatal for the kid, I saw the ugly face of illiteracy when a pregnant lady in labor pain was administered pain killers not meant for humans. Observing all these things, my young mind could only conclude one thing that this is all an outcome of lack of basic education and awareness. When I was in 6th grade, I decided something has to be done to correct this and that is when we started. I didn’t aim for anything grand, my friends and I just thought that whatever is possible within our limited means we will do. I promised myself that I will make sure that the way my mother had to struggle for my education, the way I had to hide from my father to study, the way my family had to bear insults hurled upon them by community because they were educating their girl, I promised that I will not let that happen to any girl child in my community. Of course, my father was against my education but now, he proudly advises the community to send their daughters to school and supports my vision as well.

Times of Youth: In your tender adolescence, you already had the courage to start teaching your community in your own make-shift school and later still at this meager age you already run a well known school. When and how did you aspire to achieve all this? What helped you the most in the long run?    

When I was 6 year old, I saw my infant cousin die, coughing blood and wheezing for a breath of air – all because her mother was given an expired fever medicine. Medicine the child’s own illiterate mother had fed her because she couldn’t read the expiry date of the medicine. The agony of losing my baby cousin, the heart-wrenching screams of her mother- it was that day when I decided to teach dates to my community. My aspirations gradually amplified and grew my potential for furthering the education system in Pakistan. In this whole journey, my mother played a significant role, my team members always supported me and my students, who had also stood side by side.

Times of Youth: What, according to you, is ‘Education’?

Education is a basic human right. It is as important as breathing. It can transform the minds and brings peace and sense of better understanding among countries around the world.

Times of Youth: Your crusader-like take on education has won you several national and international accolades and attracted media attention world wide, including that of Chime for Change and Madonna. How does that make you feel? 

I had never imagined I could become well-known and a lot of media coverage would occur, but I think it has been cool and I believe that if you have something better to do and give back to the society for the betterment, such miracles happen instinctively. Obviously these make me feel contented.

Times of Youth: Being one of those rare persons to have not one but two documentaries made on by your nation’s coveted Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, how has this experience been for you and how did it benefit your work?

Working in documentaries, especially of Sharmeen Obaid’s has been tremendous experience, and obviously these documentaries put enormous impact on my work and helped make my dream come true in the face of Dream Model Street School. After these documentaries, various international media and donors approached to help my cause which has been the promotion of knowledge, skills and consciousness about education.

Times of Youth: As you’re now prominent image of Pakistan’s women education advocate, what are your current endeavours in the field of education?

I want to challenge the system of rote learning that is found in government schools in Pakistan. I want to evolve the system of education in Pakistan and bring it to the poor. I, along with my team and well-wishers are working on creating a great education model for Pakistan and will introduce it to the government so that they impart it to their schools so as to give impoverished children the quality education complimentary. In our school, we encourage critical thinking, analysis, learning through discovery, and research, and our teaching methods don’t rely on memorizing information. I want to train others to do the same.

Times of Youth: Do you believe education can eliminate crime from the society or it can reduce Crime Rate? Please answer in detail.

Of course it can. Look, education teaches us about peace, humanity, love, and respect and if one has understanding about these four essential learnings, he/s will never choose crime. So, obviously people by themselves shall strive to eliminate and diminish crime.

Times of Youth: In the wake of how popular you and educationist work has become, do you ever fear what would occur to you at the hands of anti-education minded people, may be even simulate what they had done to Malala?

Well, threats have been many. I was threatened by several anti-education minded people as they warned me to stop educating or they would have put me to death and some even attempted to kidnap me but those were my good luck and I would say help from Allah who saved my all the time. One day, the land owner of the premises where we were teaching, threw us and our students outside and locked the main gate of our school and warned us not to even touch the gate. I was very young at that time so we couldn’t do anything. All I could do was to gather children and started teaching them in the street. My mother supported me in those bad situations so we were able to set up classes in my home.

Times of Youth: At the end of it all, what is your real goal in life? 

My first real goal was to build a Model School for my impoverished community which has come true. My current real goal is to build a Peace Park Space, a space that is safe, beautiful, hopeful, and positive, celebrates life and skills, and brings the community together. Purpose of this space is children to play, imagine, discover, and grow. A space which awakens all the senses: sounds, texture, colours, shapes, lines, sweet, sour, savory, aromatic smells. A space that caters to a spectrum of learners: sound, visual, textual, social, independent, logical, concrete and abstract. A space that closes the age gap between parent and child and bridges ethical differences in the community – A conflict resolution and meditation space with rules. A vocational skills development workshop space, yet the space is limited so every inch of it will be usable space including the surface of the walls/pillars/ceilings – wall gardens.  Possible name Peace Park (Bagh Al Sukun), will have written on the exterior wall in such a way that vandalism would not be able to alter it, like carving it into the walls. Functions of the space: Award ceremony, morning assembly, performance space (with a back stage space), vegetable garden, carpentry room, craft workshops, play area with swings and slides, cricket practice space, water well, gardner supplies area, craft or art room, projector, research Gosha (glass-enclosed space) that can be used as a classroom or workshop room, a wall of watering cans, recyclable water, a green space, composting space, sound of water (not trickling but almost gushing), shadows and play of light, kaleidoscope of colors inspired by local crafts, Cool surfaces.  overwhelmingly green space, butterfly garden, a sand box or a mud box that can be sculpted to create land forms for geography classes or for imaginary play or just for messing around. This is a general idea of Peace Park which will also facilitate the entrepreneurs to do their businesses dexterously.

Times of Youth: What has been your biggest moment of pride?

The biggest pride I felt is that, when my father came to me and said “Ummi (My father calls me with love), I accept that I have been a greater opposition of your education and this all happened because my brother and my relatives played with my mind but as I see your success and I think I should too work with you to promote your cause”. We both laughed – He hugged me and told me to do whatever I want and even permitted me to get married by my choice.

Times of Youth: Despite of being against you at the start, how has your family been handling your success filled journey?

At the beginning, my three brothers and my father, they were completely against me and my cause, they thought I was wrong and running to a bad direction. After this long journey, everybody is happy. My eldest brother who said that he would not send his daughter to school now sending his 5 of 5 children to school. Their mind set has been changed and are compelling others. They support me at every stage and are happy.

Times of Youth: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the following? 

Education: Basic human right
Parents: Best Guiders in the world
Achievements: Put up smile on poor’s face
Youth: Ambassador of peace & a powerful force for global change
Nation: Face of its inhabitants
Life: Opportunity

Times of Youth: Considering your enormous intellectual potential, we believe that you have the power to bring a rational change in the world. If given an apt chance, what would you do to make this world a better place? 

If I am given a proper chance to make world a better place, I will make education, health facilities and job opportunities available for everyone. If a person is healthy and has the knowledge of hygienic and unhygienic food, he would hardly ever become ill. Through jobs, people become mentally relaxed because a lot of people have this same issue, earning the bread. If job opportunities are available, poverty reduces, if poverty reduces they become more powerful to think owing to a better living standard. If they have jobs and have the source of earning, they would not choose terrorism. They are criminal because they are poor and it is an easy but dangerous way making turnovers. If these three facilities are on board, nobody will protest, fight, become terrorist, become robber or involve in drastic activities which impair the atmosphere of any country.

Times of Youth: What advice would you give to the budding generation with regards to seeking knowledge?

Knowledge is something that everyone should own, no matter how much or of what level. Keep aspiring, keep dreaming big and struggle to make it come true. Do whatever you want but keep a few things in mind which are:
1. Respect your elders and your culture
2. Value the virtue of being something wonderful
3. Keep your parents abreast of your personal or professional development
4. Give back to your society
5. Try to work for the betterment of your community and for those in need.

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Featured Interviews

Exclusive Interview of Rahul Arya



Times of Youth: In brief, could you enlighten our readers about yourself for those who may be unaware?

Hi, I am Rahul Arya popularly known as India’s Sand Animation Artist. Currently Director of Flying Rock Studio Pvt. Ltd., a film production house. I’ve been on several TV Reality shows & 3 films other than my 500+ Sand Art Live shows globally.

Times of Youth: You have inspired many a young and old in your country today. What/who inspired you in the first place to be who you are today?

Well, My Dad is my sole inspiration whom I lost recently. My every story has a message, mostly how my dad used to see the world. I wish there will be one complete day; with nothing wrong happening. I know its a lot to wish for.

Times of Youth: Albeit you’re a trainer designer, animator and IT professional from a reputed university, what made you fall for sand artistry?

Yes, I’m an Engineer & Masters from IIT Mumbai, but my love for drawings was from my childhood, when we used to draw friendship day greetings for our friends. During childhood, I used to love our first Alto car & Enjoy cleaning it. When car is filled with dust I used to scribble the sand  on windshield with fingers. That’s how it all started.

Times of Youth: Despite sand art being a rather unexplored career option in today’s times, you had the courage to venture into it with extraordinary gusto. When and how did you aspire to achieve all this? What helped you the most in the long run?

Well, I started doing professional Sand Art since 2007, but my major breakthrough was when I won ‘Entertainment ke liye Kuch bhi Karega’, a SONY TV show, post which my association with Wizcraft built stronger. In our society Event Industry was considered lower, as being Doctor, Engineer & IITian considered more reputed. I had to go through a difficult time to convince all & give my 100% dedication to what I believe in; regardless of fear of success/failure.
“When your loss is big, then your success will be bigger” is something I say and uphold.

Times of Youth: Your perfectionist approach towards the intricacies of sand art has won you several national and international accolades and attracted sizeable media attention. How does that make you feel?

Am not exaggerating, in all honesty I never made anything to attain attention. I’ve always said and worked for what I myself believe in. for eg. In my Nepal Tribute video, I’ve asked people to donate when I myself have donated & I’ve visited Nepal & felt the pain of actual victims. I’ve got several awards including Best Film from Carnegie, USA & from Film Division of India & few more. It makes me feel proud but also gives a responsibility that my message should convey both sides of the story. For eg. My Peshawar Attack Tribute has got humongous success with lakhs of views, even when India & Pakistan were not in good terms, but people in pakistan have welcomed a small Sand Art Tribute with open arms; as titled ”Indian Artist Tribute to Pakistan”. Hence, If you genuinely believe in your work, it will connect to the audiences heart.

Times of Youth: We hear about your marvellous work for several films like ‘Zainab’, ‘Mitti Na Pharol Jogiya’ etc. has been winning many hearts including that of prominent movie stars and common public alike. Would you please elaborate on the lucrativeness of the concept of sand art in films for us?

Sand Art in films like Ormayundo Ee Mukham, MNPJ & Zainab are more of fun as well as difficult than a Live Event.

Reason 1- You get to learn while working with the stars like Jimmy Shergill, Anurag Basu, Vineeth Srinivasan & more. A little bit of excitement and anxiety comes naturally. But slowly I’m improving myself.

Reason 2- When you see you name on film credits & audience applauding your work coming on the big screen, while sitting next to them quietly. It’s a feeling of butterflies in the stomach, can’t explain in words.

Times of Youth: What was the idea behind naming your studio ‘Flying Rock’?

If you look closely, Earth is a flying rock in our galactic space. And so are all the planets & their moons, which are actually rocks flying in our Universe. It all came from that idea.

Times of Youth: Being a part of Flying Rock studio, which is an agency on par with international standards, please share with us your biggest achievement so far.

Flying Rock Studio was credited in a full feature length Bollywood film in just 3 months of its inception.

Times of Youth: Since sometime now, you have been into creating a benchmark in the field of sand based artistry by being the first one of its kind in a country like India where talent abounds. How has been the overall experience?

I don’t want any other artist to go through the difficulty of learning Arts, as I had been through. Hence, I’m actively taking workshops & online tutorials for Sand Art from last 7 years.

Times of Youth: If not a sand artist, what would you have been career wise?

Although I’m an Computer Engineer & IITian, I would love to be a drawing teacher in a primary school.

Times of Youth: ‘Rare is here’ is another concept we see you propagating these days. What do you exactly mean by it and why call it ‘rare’ if its ‘here’ at our fingertips now?

It is a new venture; dedicated only to showcase unique art forms. People are thriving for out of the box ideas & we serve to search for rare artworks. You’ll see a lot more at our official website.

Times of Youth: Currently as a upcoming yet already prominent entertainment professional of your nation, what are your endeavors in this field?

I’ve won a few awards, nominated twice as Most Innovative Artist & performed with majors like Mr. Sachin Tendulkar’s Retirement, Mr. Shahrukh Khan’s Kidzania Launch, John Abraham, TV show India’s Raw Star with Honey Singh & many more, which has given me a reputed name. I feel I’ve got more then what I deserve, so I try to give away whatever I can to the society via films or charity.

Times of Youth: What, in your eyes, are more easier to tackle- films or ads?

Ads. If you can convey your message beautifully in 30 sec ad film, you’ll connect more people faster. “When your work can communicate, no piece of paper is required to prove.”

Times of Youth: In the wake of how popular you have become by your incessant adventurous approach to sand artistry, what is your ultimate dream now at the end of it all?

Its ambitious, but I want to have my own Art & Travel show. I’ll still continue directing ads.

Times of Youth: Which experience would you say has been most memorable of all?

When Sachin Tendulkar called me by name. When your idol knows you by name there’s nothing more important than this. I was born in when Sachin started playing for India.

Times of Youth: What has been your biggest moment of pride?

When Shahrukh Khan applauded for me on my Live Sand Art Tribute.

Times of Youth: How has your family been handling your success filled journey?

It is always a huge support from family and friends, especially my brother. They’ve shielded me from few responsibilities, when I was working for TV shows or events. They are always happy with my TV appearances & success, only annoyed with my refusal on getting married for now.

Times of Youth: Do tell us one incident that totally changed your life/perspective.

When I lost my father few months back. It made me realise- money, fame, success should never be the ultimate goal. “Success is, if you can make a better world before dying, then what it was when you were born.” –

Times of Youth: What is the first word that comes to your mind when you read the following-

Sand: Hand
Design: Skills
Achievements: Happiness
Youth: Demand for Better World
Nation: Needs a lot of improvement
Life: The time between; Sand to Human, Human to Sand

Times of Youth: What makes your day? What spoils it?

When I talk to my mom, and tease her for anything, it makes me smile. On the other hand, When someone mistreats a person working under him in public; really annoys me.

Times of Youth: If you were given one wish, what would it be?

I would hug my dad, and say I’ve always loved you.

Times of Youth: Considering your enormous potential, we believe that you have the power to bring a rational change in the world. If given an apt chance, what would you do to make this world place a better place?

I wish we all would treat everyone (I repeat, everyone) as their loved ones.
Because we always try to understand our loved ones actions & their situation before judging them.

Times of Youth: What advice would you give to the budding generation, especially artists?

 I like to write quotes; so will try to convey my message in the same manner.
“To be a STAR in ART, you need to ‘START’. ”
“FAIL, and lose the fear of failure forever.”

Times of Youth: Any message for your fans and followers via Times Of Youth?

“Sometimes, we have to unlearn to match up with the youth”.
 “Your last failure, will not be your last failure.”

Times of Youth: Do tell us how your admirers can reach you to share their appreciation/queries.

Like us & get a free hug.

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