CEO End of Year Thoughts

As the year comes to an end, I have found myself thinking about entrepreneurship. Particularly, what makes an entrepreneur? While reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (the founder of Nike), I came across a quote that really resonated with me.

…when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully.
— Phil Knight, founder of Nike

During 2017, I have seen our Zileej team apply the essence of this quote in our everyday work to build our first three brands: 5Pillars, making learning about Islam fun; Salam Sisters, dolls with a mission to motivate young girls to dream big; and SmartMuslim, wearable tech enabling users to understand and improve their spiritual habits.

This year of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit shown by each of our team members has started to pay off, alhamdulillah. 

Our first production of the new range of 5Pillars games have been completed, our Salam Sisters doll range is about to go into production, and our most secretive product range—SmartMuslim—will be revealed very soon. 

As we enter into a new year I wanted to express my gratitude for a number of things:

1. Guidance from The Most Merciful. 

Decisions need to be made on a daily basis and at times the right decision is not always clear. Like all startups, we have had (and continue to have) our fair share of challenges. However, the key is not to focus on finding a way to exist without challenges but rather finding a way to keep pushing through and growing with those challenges.

We will continue to put our complete trust in Allah and we pray for His continued guidance and mercy and ask Him to always keep us sincere in our efforts.


2. The Zileej team & their families.

To be the leader of such a talented team continues to be such a humbling experience. Our team is mostly virtual and spans over 10 time zones from Lima in Peru to Sydney in Australia and one of the challenges we face as a global virtual team is coordinating our meetings.

Many times our team meetings fall outside of traditional working hours but, thanks to everyone's commitment and the sacrifices of their families, having an occasional call before sunrise or after midnight makes it all possible.


3. Your feedback.

Throughout the year we have been sharing updates on our product development with you and with each update you have given us constructive feedback that kept our creative team on their toes. Your feedback is such an important part of our product development process that we consider ourselves as building products with you rather than for you.

Never underestimate the power of your comments or suggestions so please continue to send them!


4. Our distribution partners.

We are extremely grateful for your belief in us and our ability to continue creating wonderful products and experiences that we hope will bring lots of positive benefits to communities across the globe, inshaAllah.

We are committed to standing side-by-side with you and we look forward to the exciting journey ahead.


2018, here we come, bismillah!


— By Ansarullah Ridwan Mohammed, CEO

Celebrating 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, we’ve taken some time to look back and appreciate our favourite projects & moments from the year.

From combining forces with Gould.Sydney to sharing our Salam Sisters dolls with you, it’s been a year to appreciate our achievements as a team. Powered along with truly international calls (covering as many as 9 different timezones at one time), copious amounts of coffee, and lots of positive thoughts & prayer.

We’re happy to share our highlights from the year, and some stories on what was happening behind the scenes!


Gould.Sydney joining the team

The talented designers at Gould.Sydney were part of Zileej before Zileej even started. When our CEO Ridwan first had the idea for the 5Pillars boardgame - he turned to Gould.Sydney to design the very first range. 

It’s been great to officially join forces by name, especially since we've been sharing the same vision from the very start!


5Pillars new range


This year, 5Pillars has grown from one boardgame in 3 languages to 3 boardgames, pop quizzes, and a funbox in 10 different languages. Shoutout to Daryl who designed 10,000+ cards on Islamic trivia knowledge. 

He might not be Muslim but we’re certain he can beat many of the Muslims on our team in the 5Pillars app — and probably in about 3 different languages!


Salam Sisters


We were keeping our dolls away from the public eye for the most part of the year so it was super exciting to finally share photos of them with you all! The response has been wonderful with your support. We’re working hard with our manufacturers to bring the dolls to you next year inshallah.

Click here to sign up and be one of the first to know when you can get your hands on them!


Learning, teaching & connecting


Many from our team have also had the opportunity to learn, connect, and share their knowledge with like-minded people from Dubai to San Francisco.

Peter Gould ran 5 different workshops on Islam-inspired innovation, branding, and design thinking in 3 different cities. He also attended an epic design thinking workshop at Stanford in California.

Daryl presented at the Thailand Halal Assembly, Nick at the Halal Expo in Australia, and Subhi presented at MLE Connect in London, and at the 24th WIBC in Bahrain.


Nominated as a finalist


Our design team in Sydney were nominated as finalists at the Australian Multicultural Marketing Awards for their work on a Ramadan campaign with local school Arkana College, and Westfield shopping centre. 


Meet the team

Ridwan, CEO

Ridwan, CEO

Salam! Although I go by my middle name, Ridwan, my first name is Ansarullah. I don’t know how that happened but my guess is since I’m from Trinidad my middle name was probably easier for people to get right. I enjoy solving problems, visiting places and learning about its history, running, playing football and cricket, and spending time with my family.

Through Zileej, I hope we can together make a positive change in the world!

Peter Gould, Design Executive Officer

Peter Gould, Design Executive Officer

I’m Peter from Sydney, Australia.  I feel truly blessed to have a beautiful young family with 3 kids. Zileej is my dream company and feel so lucky to be part of this journey with you all.

Fun fact:  In 2018 I hope to reconnect more with outdoors / nature and try to see the world fresh through the eyes of a child.   Pablo Picasso said  “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child

Mawlid, COO

Mawlid, COO

Mawlid, currently based in Barcelona, Spain.

There are few things in my life which makes me happy. Being near the sea, watching kids playing football or looking to the faces of the fathers when they meet their kids at the airport after their arrival flight....

I love playing football and my dream job is to train small kids in playing football in few years inshaAllah.

Habib, CTO

Habib, CTO

While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty three years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept/worked. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination. 
Edited from Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Mara, Product Designer

Mara, Product Designer

Hello! I'm Mara, I'm passionate about designing toys because it brings me joy to see young kids having fun with toys I've designed.

I like reading science fiction books, gardening (especially growing lots of different flowers), and spending time with my beautiful cats.  

I love all kinds of art and visiting museums. I also do Yoga  and Pilates and enjoy living by the sea in beautiful Denia, Spain.


I have a real respect for people who are talented in multiple fields. I love stories of other worlds and hope to one day create my own. I’m an avid gamer who struggles with a gaming ‘to do’ list that keeps growing. After I was born, the first night I was brought home was the biggest storm my family had ever experienced. As the first child, this was probably both literally and metaphorically. I don’t know if this storm made an impression on me, but I always get excited when thunder and lightning crack the skies.

Nick, Creative Director

Nick, Creative Director

Kenneth, 3D Animator

Kenneth, 3D Animator

I'm a 3D artist looking to improve every day. In my spare time I sculpt characters (digitally) when my gaming needs let me. 

I'm not normally one to take selfies and usually I'm the photographer so, was hard to find a photo of myself. This is a special one actually. One of the highlights of this year (other than having one year with all you in Zileej) is finally having the chance to leave my home, my country to begin looking for a better future. Just the first step of many to come.

Daryl, Creative Director

Daryl, Creative Director

Hey I’m Daryl, from Sydney!

When I’m not designing, I’m either at an exhibition, at a gig or eating too much.

I play music in some punk bands and spend a lot of time looking for obscure disco records. I think my parents named me after this movie.

Subhi, Communications Director

Subhi, Communications Director

Originally from Radelaide, (it's real, look it up) currently in Dubai. I was supposed to be here for two weeks—it's been two months so far!

I love travelling to connect with family & friends I've never met. I believe simply buying less clothing is better than buying ethically-made clothes. When visiting a new country I love getting locally-made items. Chocolate is life. Boxing is fun! Kindness & generosity are always the better options.


I’m Dhon, I like bubbles and I’m an Illustrator at Zileej, based in Dubai. One time, I was invited to a children’s birthday party and was tasked to take care of the bubbles. It was a hit with the kids, good times. 

I’m a big fan of old animated films, I hoard video games and I never play them. I treasure artworks from friends. I always wanted to be a Doctor when I was a kid. I pretend I know how to swim. I never dreamed that I would work as an Illustrator but this is best job I’ve ever had.

Dhon, Illustrator

Dhon, Illustrator

Peter Pham, Design Thinker

Peter Pham, Design Thinker

I'm Peter Pham (aka Peter Pan while growing up) and I like hash browns, matcha lattes, gaming and Arabic graffiti. I love learning new skills - both digital and physical.

I believe Marvel and DC Comics can coexist and have a deep respect for old school sign painters. 

My humble family is my inspiration for becoming a better person and my motivation to work harder to leave a positive impact on the world.

Ismail, Content Manager

Ismail, Content Manager

Ismail Kamdar from Durban, South Africa. Content Manager at Zileej, and a lover of good food, coffee, video games and books.

I juggle many roles in the community but they all revolve around one major goal: Helping the next generation of Muslims succeed in this world and the next. 

Through our various products at Zileej, I hope to achieve this goal and inspire entire generations to succeed in every possible way.

Navira, Junior Communications

Navira, Junior Communications

Hello! My name's Navira and I'm from Sydney,  Australia. I'm currently in my second year in my Bachelor of Design in Visual Communications. In my spare time, I like to read books or play video games like your typical millennial! 

I am a huge fan of K-Pop and I like to create designs for their merchandise. I'm a coffee addict and like the occasional avo smash on toast for breakfast. Like most of the team, I'm also Star Wars nerd!

Abdullah, Retail Operations

Abdullah, Retail Operations

Abdullah, Indian from Makkah, Originally from Yemen from my grandfather's side.

My favourite things to do are eating, reading, and playing Sports ;)

I have an interest in learning new languages & new cultures. My message is "to be polite to the people" 

I always have dreams that I am flying, so inshaAllah it would be nice to continue flying upward with our Zileej team.


Looking forward

Thank you all for being part of our journey this year, we’re excited about what 2018 will bring. We wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday and a brilliant start to the new year. 

— Peace, Zileej Team 2017

From Bahrain: The 24th World Islamic Banking Conference

Banking and design don't ordinarily appear together, but design is relevant to the world of banking perhaps now more than ever.

I recently shared a presentation at the 24th World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) in Bahrain, where I entered a whole new world of finance-related and banking things that I don’t ordinarily spend too much time thinking about.

So how does branding and our work at Zileej relate to financial institutions?

Well, we believe that every institution, bank, and company can benefit from branding as well as design thinking. I spoke about using design thinking & branding to address disruptions in banking, and to stand out - in a positive way - from one’s competitors.

Attending talks by leaders in the field such as Mohammed Kateeb from Path Solutions, Dr Imran Lum from National Australia Bank, and Dr Saeeda Jaffar from Alvarez & Marsal ME, I learnt about the amount of change happening in the banking world; for example the amount of digitally savvy customers who have the same needs as traditional banking customers, but with a preference for interacting with banks on digital platforms. Particularly, their phones. 

And then there’s blockchain technology which has the potential to make thousands of jobs redundant and could potentially revolutionise banking as we know it.

That disruption can be scary but there is also opportunity in it, and through the process of design thinking and embracing an innovation mindset, it is a great opportunity for potentially positive change. 

This approach has been adopted by major banks such as Deutsche Bank which has an innovation lab. This creates a culture of innovation right across the bank. 

Islamic banks and financial service providers are competing with these mainstream banks who have embraced innovative thinking as well as providing Islamic finance solutions, alongside their powerful brand recognition and trust.

In order to stand out, your brand needs to be on par - or better - than your competitors, and this is increasingly relevant in the world of Islamic banking.

After the WIBC, we were invited to attend the exclusive Islamica500 dinner and award ceremony where Zileej was recognised as a leader in strategic design and innovation. 

Sunset in Bahrain, the final night of the 24th WIBC.

Sunset in Bahrain, the final night of the 24th WIBC.

— By Subhi Bora, Communications Director

Zileej in Thailand

I was recently invited to speak as part of the Thailand Halal Assembly 2017, held at BITEC, Bangkok between Nov 30 and Dec 3. This year’s expo theme was “Halal Wisdom: Convergence of Science, Technology and Islamic Arts”. Thailand is on the way to be at the forefront of the Halal Industry, and it was an exciting event to be a part of, along with scientists, academics, SMEs and startups.


As part of the conference, my presentation topic was on “The Evolution of Islamic Art, and patterns.”

Over the years of designing for Islamic brands and audiences, my understanding and appreciation for Islamic arts has grown immensely. Along with it, a deeper understanding and appreciation for Islam’s many ongoing global contributions towards visual culture, architecture, science and technology among others.

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In my talk, I explored a brief introduction and history into Islamic art, in particular, patterns in art.

From the beginning of the Islamic era, craftsmen and artists mixed creativity and mathematics to create abstract decorative forms in architecture, books, carvings, textiles and other objects.

To today's brilliant contemporary artists such as Inkman, El-Seed, Sherin Guirguis, Shireen Taweel, Eric Broug and Elvira Wersche.

To the future; from games such as Engare, to augmented reality in Salam Sisters, or questions like "What will a Mosque in space look like?" in Islam Imagined.

I’m fascinated by what happens when you combine creativity, art, design, technology and culture - and how these modes of making can be used to continue and extend on traditions; giving modern audiences an insight into Islam’s creative lineage and enduring heritage. 


Art and design serve two very different purposes, but in design, we utilise many of these visual signifiers throughout.

The global Islamic economy is of great importance, and includes sectors from food to travel to fashion. By 2030, there will be 2.2 billion Muslims making up 27% of the world's population. That is a massive market, with diverse cultures and tastes, that are all seemingly connected. This growth in number will come with a growth in more brands, startups and products than ever, that are all driven by faith. And along with this growth, an increase in demand for higher quality in these brands.

Not all Muslim products or brands need to utilise patterning – but what is of key importance is the continued use of creativity and innovation. Islam has a rich visual language that we can gain inspiration from. We can use it as a frame of reference, to portray heritage, or we can play and experiment to delight audiences. We can continue to use it to unify, connect and encourage positivity.

Daryl P
Creative Director

Zileej in Istanbul

Two of our Zileej brands, 5Pillars and Salam Sisters, were invited to be showcased at Kids Turkey – a toy fair in Istanbul by Spielwarenmesse.

Our Zileej team were excited about sharing our Salam Sisters dolls for the first time. The dolls were received with overwhelming positivity, interest, and support. The question of “when and where can I buy them?” was often repeated – to which we can say they will be available soon!

If you’d like to be part of the Salam Sisters community and receive exclusive updates, sign up here.


We also shared the expanded range of 5Pillars games, which now includes Seerah, Fun Box, and Trivia Burst editions in Turkish, Arabic, French, Malay, and English (with more in development). 

One of the highlights was bringing out the 5Pillars boardgame and seeing how much fun everyone had playing it for the first time. The reactions of grown men and women having fun, laughing, and getting competitive over their Islamic knowledge was rewarding to be part of.

It was an honour to share the results of our ideas with those at the fair, and it motivated us to continue working on realising our vision of creating products that inspire connection to faith through play. 


Indonesia, we've got great news!

Image uploaded from iOS.jpg

Kita punya info seru untuk teman-teman kita di Indonesia! Alhamdulillah, kita mendapatkan dukungan dari Republika untuk membuat dan menjual produk yang sudah lama ditunggu - 5Pillars ! Buat yang belum pernah dengar, 5Pillars adalah papan permainan yang terinspirasi dari 5 Pilar Islam. Tujuannya untuk menguji pengetahuan pemainnya tentang islam dan juga untuk mendapatkan pelajaran baru di dalam suasana menyenangkan bersama teman dan keluarga. Insyaallah, produk ini dapat memberikan pandangan bagi umat Muslim untuk lebih memperdalam keyakinan mereka akan Islam.

Exciting news for our friends in Indonesia! We're happy to announce that our 5Pillars games have been endorsed by Republika - an Indonesian publishing company. We have seen the boardgame in action in Jakarta with a small group of friends, and it was lots of fun! And now, with the help of Republika, we look forward to sharing our new boardgames, fun box, and trivia burst series with everyone else in Indonesia. 

Our vision with 5Pillars is to help inspire Muslims reconnect with Islamic knowledge through fun — and friendly competition — with family and friends.

A Brighter Future By Design

Zileej acquires internationally recognised design firm, Gould.Sydney


Zileej, a Dubai-based inspired innovation company, announced the acquisition of Australian award-winning design studio, Gould.Sydney. This expansion allows Zileej to help build and launch innovation-led brands, products, and experiences for clients that share the vision of enabling a bright shared future for everyone, including Muslims.

Uniquely guided by Islamic Design Thinking, Zileej identifies innovative ideas and brings them to life by creative design, a strong product development team, and capability to create and launch original brands and experiences. Zileej is able to help clients stay ahead in a changing economic landscape that continues to experience disruptions through new technologies and trends.

The founder and director of Gould.Sydney, Peter Gould, is a co-founder of Zileej, “bringing our two companies together in a formal capacity was a natural transition.” For the past 15 years Gould.Sydney has a developed a strong international reputation for strategic branding and creative design. Working with companies from Etihad Airlines and Thomson Reuters, to successful startups in the Islamic Economy such as Hijup, and many government programs including the Sultanate of Oman.  

“We are excited to welcome Peter’s pioneering design team as an integral part of our company,” shared Ansarullah Ridwan Mohammed, CEO of Zileej, “so we can continue working together to create brands and experiences that enrich our global communities.” The expanded Zileej team now consists of 15 staff with diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, across 5 regions including MENA, ASEAN and Europe.

To learn more about the acquisition, Zileej's services, or for interview enquiries, please contact Subhi Bora at 

Click here to read Salaam Gateway / Thomson Reuters' coverage on the acquisition.

Ramadan at Westfield

Designing an experience to share the Islamic month of Ramadan with the local Westfield shopping centre community in Sydney, Australia.

The outcome: A colourful and fun pop-up stall celebrating Ramadan and educating shoppers about the Islamic month of fasting, receiving press coverage and broad reach through social media.


Shopping centres are not only places of convenient necessity, but also places to build a sense of community. Westfield Hurstville embraced this potential for a positive community experience by inviting Arkana College, a local Islamic primary school, to share their tradition of Ramadan.

Our challenge was to design an experience that encouraged confidence in the young students representing their school and their faith, while sparking the interest of Westfield Hurstville shoppers to create a space of conversation and connection.

We designed an interactive daily countdown concept representing the 30 days of fasting that make up Ramadan. The students were involved creatively to share their personal experiences of celebrating Ramadan.


This was also an opportunity to share facts about fasting in Ramadan and the long history of Muslims in Australia, which was shared through flyers addressing common questions and conveying uncommon facts.

On the day, the event was live-streamed through Facebook and we created a short, easily shareable video to capture the heart-warming moments of connection that came out of this campaign. Together, these two videos were shared over 195 times on social media reaching over 100,000 views.

The Ramadan campaign also received media coverage in local newspapers to a positive response from the wider community.

We welcome and celebrate cultural diversity at Westfield Hurstville and was very grateful to have been able to work with a local community school to share and educate the wider community on what Ramadan means to them. From shoppers’ positive response, we intend to grow this initiative and continue to build Westfield Hurstville as a place where people can come to explore and immerse themselves in social engagement with different cultural celebration.
— Michele Lok, Brand Experience Manager, Westfield Hurstville

Inspiring Creative Muslim Entrepreneurs

In her insightful book, Generation M: Young Muslims Changing The World, Shelina Janmohamed quotes me in the closing pages:

“We need to dream big, be bold, and spark the imagination of millions of young Muslims around the world. We must shift our mindset from reactionary projects and pessimism to raise a generation of creative thinkers and innovators solving the many, many problems we have. It’s ambitious, but I believe we have the technology, energy and drive to make it happen, inshaAllah.”

I’ve spent time with many of the founders driving this wave of entrepreneurship, innovation & creativity and feel like we’re about to hit another positive inflection point. And yet, it’s just the start of a much bigger journey. We have to think positively and optimistically about our shared future.

My hope for Zileej is to help set new standards in imaginative, fun, creative products and brands for Muslims, that will inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs. It’s a truly exciting space to be a part of.

by Peter Gould, Chief Creative Officer, Zileej