Author: Althea Chokwe
Starting a business in the 21st century is easier compared to the past. One notable reason is the advent of social media platforms, where entrepreneurs wage their campaigns with just a few clicks. Armed with a smartphone, people can now connect with scores of window shoppers, an inexpensive way to compete for sales. And, although no technology-savvy small business owner could battle with large corporations, they still have a better time than their predecessors.
Meet Muhammad Al Andalusi. He is the 27-year-old founder of the Andalus Institute, an online school that promises to help you achieve fluency in classical Arabic in the space of only 15 months. The program is called Arabic Like An Arab, a name that conveys high expectations considering the intended pace. With this offering, the institute lays out a selection of self-directed lessons and quizzes, one-on-one sessions with instructors, joint video calls with other students centered on conversational Arabic, and other well-thought-out features.
The school relies on word-of-mouth and a strong reputation among the Muslim community, primarily. It doesn’t exist just for Muslims, but Al Andalusi positions the company as an entity that exists to facilitate the religious duty of understanding the Qur’an in its original form. Classical Arabic, due to complexity and antiquity both, is a headache for many Muslims, particularly those living in the West, and the Andalus Institute markets itself as the solution.
But why does a mostly Muslim consumer base buy Al Andalusi’s product? Muhammad Al Andalusi himself subscribes to Islam, and his public image falls in line with the tenets of the religion. Donning a white thobe and occasionally a pair of eyeglasses, Al Andalusi speaks to the camera about Arabic grammar or insight into Qur’anic verses. Islam holds the philosophy that constant pursuit of knowledge and self-discipline are two integral habits every member of the deen (Arabic for “religion”) must adhere to. Elm, or “knowledge,” is a frequent theme on Al Andalusi’s social media pages. His philosophy is to use the institute as a vehicle to spread knowledge of Arabic as far as possible. To a Muslim consumer base, this kind of mindset is appealing and reminiscent of what a sheikh in the mosque may often preach.
Instagram is where Al Andalusi takes the camera with him throughout Saudi Arabia, his current country of residence. The entrepreneur had previously been based in Mauritania, another Muslim-majority nation. Under one video that shows him visiting the Masjid Al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, a comment expresses, “I almost cried … you’re so blessed …” The backdrop of glittering white buildings and Arabic street signs is enough to get his followers’ undivided attention, particularly because Saudi Arabia holds the holiest of sites within the religion. Is Al Andalusi exploiting religion to grow his audience? There isn’t much proselytizing, and most of the online conversation surrounds his business rather than Muhammad as a public figure. If anything, the Andalus Institute gives him credibility and appears to be the only reason the 27-year-old even spends much time on social media at all.
99% of Al Andalusi’s content relates to learning the Arabic language. It is his mission, his time-consuming passion. Just as Islam encourages one to focus on a craft that is productive and halal, or “legal,” Muhammad Al Andalusi sees his school as the embodiment of his calling and centers the entire day around honing and perfecting it as a business product. For Muslims who are often told to be wary about engaging in haram, or unsuitable, money-making ventures, watching Al Andalusi operate helps them figure out how to balance religious doctrine and life responsibilities. Even if some followers are not yet actual customers, they prefer to follow Al Andalusi because of how his lifestyle relates to what they are told is good for them. This mental connection is what keeps Al Andalusi popular and continues to grow his status.
The word “relatable” is thrown around a lot, especially when influencers on TikTok and other apps pretend to be so for likes and shares. Relatability is quickly gaining the connotation of insincerity, but it’s still an important tool for brands to promote themselves. Al Andalusi doesn’t go out of his way to “relate,” necessarily, to followers, but he aims to challenge their thinking. It’s safe to say, the entrepreneur is more of a role model at this point. Being a teacher, it’s natural to gain admiration for your work, but Al Andalusi adds 24/7 accessibility to this level of esteem. Andalus Institute students and graduates, as well as outsiders, are welcome to DM the founder questions, thoughts, or reactions to his newest content.
It’s apparent that Al Andalusi’s followers appreciate his openness online. Even if one doesn’t know him personally, scrolling through the @muhammad.andalusi page gives them a glimpse into Muhammad’s life. Transparency is thought to be another effective branding tactic, as it builds the customer’s trust. Al Andalusi’s propensity to plan ahead is also evident, as a track record of transparency is exonerating in any event of scandal or controversy. The school’s business model is hardly divisive, yet any aspersions cast upon it will be difficult to keep up.
The public nature of Al Andalusi’s work exposes him to many risks. Making friends with followers is another way of preventing ill words from being spoken, a threat that could strike any day or hour. Even so, this public figure has a consumer base that already believes what he shows online is a genuine reflection of life behind the scenes. Instagram Lives and Q&A sessions assist in furthering an atmosphere of geniality and closeness.
At the end of the day, Muhammad Al Andalusi has himself to credit for his rise to semi-stardom so far. And, as his fame keeps increasing, the millennial entrepreneur is staying loyal to his core demographic, a sign that he could handle the brunt of a major public relations disruption to his business.
You can connect with the author on LinkedIn here.