Unfortunately… my three year old, a connoisseur of Netflix, PBS Kids, and YouTube Kids alike, was epically unimpressed. And so was I. While I appreciate the good intentions behind the website, I was disappointed to notice the lack of both variety and quality programming. Of the animated programs available, few were up to par in comparison to mainstream cartoons. While Christian producers have done exceedingly well in producing high-quality children’s shows and movies that impart religious values as well as engaging entertainment, Muslims sadly struggle to develop the same.
Divided into age groups (age 2-3, 4-5, and 9-12) and categories (Travel and Outdoors, Science and Craft, Songs and Nasheed, and more), Ali Huda does try to imitate the Netflix layout, which makes for easier navigation - but only on desktop. Unfortunately, trying to access it on a mobile device is nigh-impossible due to the inability to navigate it without being logged out or simply taken back to the home screen without a way to actually navigate the shows.
One thing that Ali Huda could do to improve their service is to include classic Muslim children’s shows and movies - the Adam’s World Series, Zaki, Muslim Scouts, Hurray for Baba Ali, and so many more pioneering examples of Muslim entertainment. There are entire collections of famous nasheed artists such as Native Deen, Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Talib al-Habeeb and others, and to have their work collected on one streaming service would be extremely helpful to those of us who otherwise rely on YouTube playlists that our kids can easily click out of.
Of course, I do appreciate that the first effort has been made to provide this kind of halal streaming option for Muslim children. My daughters enjoyed the “Science Made Cool” show, although they wished there was a hijabi girl also involved in the experiments, instead of being relegated to the “Kids in the Kitchen” show. While the “Saladin” and “Ibn Battuta: Prince of Explorers” cartoons try to bring famous Islamic figures to kids’ attention, unfortunately, the quality of the animation was so poor that it rather failed at its purpose.
I also appreciate that Ali Huda donates to a charity for orphans, and that there is a special discount for schools - this is quite beneficial for those who run full-time Muslim schools, or even part-time community Madrasas.
Something for people to keep in mind is that exposure has a lot to do with how well Muslim children will handle “Muslim TV” - when my daughter was quite young, I restricted her entertainment heavily and only allowed her to watch select Muslim entertainment. Since she had very few options, she enjoyed whatever it was that I let her watch. My three year old son, however, is your average toddler whose screentime indulgences include Daniel Tiger, Paw Patrol, and Pokemon - hence his much high standards.
I look forward to seeing Ali Huda develop further, and hope that the people behind it are able to fulfill its full potential by reaching out to other Muslim media and entertainment creators. I also hope that they are able to reach the level that Netflix has in being able to work with other Muslim developers to create new entertainment that is high quality, creative, and appeals to Muslim kids who already have a higher expectation of what will capture their attention.
The Muslim community is in dire need of greater media and entertainment that is not only produced by our own writers and artists, but also meets a higher standard that can compete with mainstream non-Muslim options. Ali Huda has the potential to be a great resource for Muslim kids, and I truly hope that they are able to develop themselves further to meet a major need in the Muslim community.