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Alberta-designed app aims to make balancing religion and life easier for young Muslims

Tawhid, an app geared toward helping young Muslims navigate and balance their faith and daily lives, launched just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Submitted by Hasnain Baloach - image credit)
Tawhid, an app geared toward helping young Muslims navigate and balance their faith and daily lives, launched just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Submitted by Hasnain Baloach - image credit)

Hasnain Baloach remembers it being a challenge from a young age to balance his religious identity and the world around him.

The Pakistani-born Calgarian grew up in a world he says was vastly different from his Islamic traditions — and without a circle of friends who held the same core values and perspectives.

All of that, he said, made him hesitant, at times, to practise his faith and stick to his spirituality.

"There's been many different moments where, based on my faith, or based on the practice of my faith, I've been judged or I've been looked down on," Baloach said.

"The newer generation not only has to face the stigma associated with practice but also can't connect due to a generational gap and lack of a circle of friends around them that supports them."

Driven by an ambition to help other Muslims, Baloach made Tawhid, a community and faith-based app designed for Muslims, to address the problems he and others within the community go through.

The University of Calgary graduate has worked in tech for more than six years with companies that tried to solve issues for industries like construction and health care, among others, but he noticed a glaring gap.

Hasnain Baloach launched the app he made and founded just before Ramadan.
Hasnain Baloach launched the app he made and founded just before Ramadan.

Hasnain Baloach launched the app just before Ramadan. (Submitted by Hasnain Baloach)

"The Muslim community, it was just very underserved," Baloach said.

"I never saw a single founder that was trying to solve an issue existing for Muslims or within the Muslim community."

Baloach said Tawhid is an app that will help young Muslims in the West balance their everyday lives with their religion.

It launched just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which started Monday in Canada.

Islam and tech

Tawhid is a subscription-based app that asks users to pay a $10 monthly fee that will be donated to a charity when the user completes the unique tasks they've set out for themselves.

It was born out of an idea and practice that Baloach had for years.

He would write reminders on the notes app on his iPhone, things that would keep him grounded in his faith and connect to his community.

The tasks included pillars of the Islamic faith like daily prayer (salah) or fasting (sawm).

But they also included aspects of the religion that aren't typically associated or known to non-Muslims as staples of the religion, like smiling often and forgiving others immediately.

"A lot of times people view Muslims or Islam as something that's a religion," Baloach said.

"But I would say it's also a way of life and more of a culture as well."

Spiritual connection through community

There are four parts to the app: goals, progress of those goals, daily reflections and a support circle.

Each element of the platform, Baloach said, works toward tackling challenges he's seen and heard Muslims in Canada struggle with.

"Even if your workplace or university is very encouraging of practising faith, it's still very difficult to do when you're around with a circle of friends that doesn't," Baloach said.

"[The app] helps people feel that … inclusion and feel like they're part of something where they're bonded with one another."

The inclusion and community element of the app is brought about through a number of features, including one dubbed "Open Your Door."

The app's founder and CEO Hasnain Baloach says he wanted to create something to tackle a gap in the tech space.
The app's founder and CEO Hasnain Baloach says he wanted to create something to tackle a gap in the tech space.

The app's founder and CEO Hasnain Baloach says he wanted to make something to tackle a gap in the tech space. (Submitted by Hasnain Baloach)

It's something that gives users the opportunity to connect with like-minded Muslims and build a community — and was a draw to Tawhid for early-user Sarah Khan.

"Starting off as a Muslim in Canada was a bit tough," said Khan. "I was trying to find the right space for me."

Khan was born in Mumbai and came to Calgary as an international student. For her, it was tough to fit into the community and she felt as though she couldn't find like-minded people she could connect with.

Having an app, she said, is something that changes the perception.

"I think that virtual space definitely makes it more comfortable," Khan said.

Another element she said motivated her to sign on was that the platform delves into the why behind certain practices and pillars of Islam.

"Most of the time we don't know why we're doing particular tasks, like why do we [read] the Qur'an every day," Khan said.

"It gives you that knowledge you might not have."