Difference Maker: Enter the Podcaster – Interview with Walid Darab, a podcaster, and host of the show ‘Greed for Ilm’

There needs to be a “greed” for knowledge or ‘ilm’

Everyone is aware of radio broadcasting and there are many radio stations in Pakistan, but podcasting is something that hasn’t really taken off in Pakistan. It is a medium that doesn’t require much gadgetry and once set up, you can reach all over the world depending on your content.  A podcast is an episodic series of digital media files which a user can set up so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer or portable media player. The word arose as a portmanteau of “iPod” (a brand of media player) and “broadcast.”

Walid Darab is a Muslim-American, husband and a dedicated father of two. He began ‘Greed for Ilm’ as a solution to boredom while stuck in traffic. He likes listening to engaging topics, which is, unfortunately, rare on mainstream radio. He noticed tons of podcasts available on iTunes, but all the targeted Muslim ones were either solely religious or in a non-English language. When he couldn’t find podcasts that had intriguing interviews and meaningful discussions addressing issues that Muslims face in America (and around the world), he decided to host one himself. That is how Greed for Ilm podcast was created. By now, he has created 191 episodes for the podcast and it is one of the top-rated Muslim podcasts on iTunes.

Walid has interviewed people from all walks of life, religious figures like Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, Imam Suhaib Webb, Yasmin Mogahed, Yvonne Ridley, Dr Jonathan Brown, Shaykh Omar Suleiman, and Sami Yusuf who is a famous singer. Journalists like Murtuza Hussain (Intercept), Femi Oke (Al Jazeera), Lauren Booth, Noor Tagouri, Sunny Hundal (Sky News), Kristiane Backer, et al.

DNA had the pleasure to talk to Walid to discuss his podcast, education, his experience and other things in this exclusive interview.

Question: For the ones who are not quite aware, tell us a little bit about podcasting and how is it done? What attracted you towards podcasting?

Walid Darab: To me, podcasting is the new “radio.” It’s pretty easy to do and anyone can do it. In fact, my little cousin just started a podcast. If you have a microphone and a computer, you can create a podcast. What attracted me to podcasting was the fact that I hated listening to the radio and there weren’t any good Muslim-hosted podcasts on iTunes. So I thought, “why not create one myself?”

Q: You have interviewed people from all walks of life. From authors, speakers, journalists, writers, scholars, teachers. How would you sum up the whole experience?

WD: I would sum up the whole experience as a blessing. I spoke to so many people that otherwise, I would have never spoken with. I met a good portion of my guests. It’s an absolute blessing.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and besides podcasting what else do you do?

WD: I’m a Muslim, husband, father to two wonderful kids. I have been working in IT for over 15 years and live in Virginia (VA). Outside of podcasting, I’m mainly taking orders from my three-year-old son.

Q: I know it’s hard to pick one, but so far what episode are you the proudest of?

WD: I get this question a lot and it’s probably the hardest question to answer. I would say the episodes I did with Sami Yusuf. The reason why I picked those episodes is because his fans actually contacted me with questions/compliments to relay to Sami live on the podcast. Some of his fans are in war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq. So it felt good, knowing that a smile was put on their faces when they heard Sami Yusuf mentioning their name and answering their questions personally.

Q: You were born in the US, but your parents are from Afghanistan and you have also spent a couple of years in Pakistan. What do you remember about Pakistan?

WD: Not much! I just remember it being hot, lizards, kites flying on roofs, dusty roads, and playing marbles on the street.

Q: How much efforts go behind in producing one episode?

WD: In the beginning, a lot of effort was put into each episode. Now, aside from the time it takes to record, I’d say I put it another 15-30 minutes max. I try not to edit much. I like that “live” feel.

 

We must have a “thirst” to better ourselves intellectually

 

Q: If someone is interested in podcasting what would you recommend?

WD: If anyone is interested in podcasting, have them contact me via greedforilm.com I will help them out based on their specific needs/budget, etc.

Q: Every episode has something unique about it. Every guest adds that something new. What do you say about this process of learning?

WD: To me, it’s a simple process. Interview whatever/whoever interests me. That’s why there is such a wide range of topics/guests. I just don’t stick to Islamic topics, or whatever.

Q: You are passionate about religion and a lot of the episodes have guests that talk about religion. Was that one of the main reasons behind the birth of ‘Greed for Ilm’?

WD: The reason behind Greed for Ilm is to promote the notion that before we start learning, we must love to learn. We must have a “thirst” to better ourselves intellectually. There needs to be a “greed” for knowledge or ‘ilm’. Not a greed for money or material things, all that fades away. But knowledge stays with us even when we’re gone.

Q: In one of your podcasts you have mentioned that lining up guests for the show is quite a task. Sometimes you have to nag them for months and months. Tell us a little bit about it.

 

WD: Ha! Yes! There are guests that I have been trying to get on the podcast since I started (for years). Some of them are busy, or they don’t reply to their email, or they say, “sure, shoot me an email” but never reply back. It can get discouraging when you don’t hear back from people, but I learned early to keep moving on. How else would I be approaching episode 200?

Q: What has been the response like from the audience all over the world so far?

WD: The overwhelming response is positive. I get emails from people all over the world. I even started a special series of podcasts called ‘Listener E-mails’ in which I read some of the e-mails people send me. It’s amazing and truly motivational.

Q: Every medium is important if one wants to learn. In your opinion, what is the future of podcasting?

WD: Podcasting is the new radio.

 

The youth has such an advantage with the technology, but at the same time, it can be their death if they waste their time on it

 

Q: Some of the most well-seasoned podcasters earn a little bit from their podcasts. What is the financial model of a podcast?

WD: Making money of a podcast can be a little cumbersome. There are different methods you can go about making money. You can contact an ad agency and based on the number of your downloads, they will sell you ads. You can contact companies that you like and feature their product and get a percentage of revenue from people purchasing their product through the podcast, etc.

Q: Who is that one person you always wanted to have on the show, but so far haven’t been able to get on your podcast?

WD: There are quite a few. I will name a couple, Mehdi Hasan, Queen Rania, Maher Zain, et al. There are so many more.

Q: You have had guests on the show who talked about Pakistan a little bit. So what do you know about Pakistan and its culture?

WD: Pakistan has a very loving and deep culture. I have a lot of Pakistani friends and they are some of the nicest people. Of course, the food is amazing! Pakistan and Afghanistan have similar traits in that sense.

The overwhelming response is positive. I get emails from people all over the world

Q: What can we expect in the future episodes?

WD: More down to earth episodes. I started out a little structured and professional, but I am becoming more of myself. When I talk to someone on the podcast I don’t even want them feeling like they are being interviewed.

Q: What message would you like to give to the youth?

WD: My message would be: stick to education. Don’t be discouraged by your surroundings. Just because something bad is happening now, doesn’t mean it will always be bad. Stick to your religion, pray, ask Allah and He will provide. The youth has such an advantage with the technology, but at the same time, it can be their death if they waste their time on it. Use technology for good, and come out on top!

Usman A Khan Tahir

The writer is a member of the staff. He can be reached on Twitter @thedockhan.



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