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The Andalus Institute, & Making Money the Halal Way

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Author: Althea Chokwe

To the outsider, Islam is a strict religion. Extending past tenets and a holy book, Islam is meant to be a way of life for its nearly two billion adherents. The terms halal and haram are thrown around often, but their meaning is tremendous to the faith. Halal is “permissible,” and haram is the exact opposite; these two categories are used to classify everything from food to music to legal matters. An interesting aspect of this black-and-white system pertains to financials and business ventures. No Muslim is allowed to engage in business that goes against the religion; working while in accordance with religious doctrine is mandated. Although most settle with an average line of work, some go out of the way to promote Islamic values and be successful simultaneously, a decision considered most ideal.

For Muhammad Al Andalusi, a philosophy as this is part-and-parcel with his calling. 27 years old and living in Saudi Arabia with a wife and kids, Al Andalusi relies on teaching Arabic to fund a fast-paced, flexible lifestyle, often documenting his travels through the Middle East and elsewhere on social media. The entrepreneur founded the Andalus Institute in 2019, intending to help other Muslims learn classical Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. A job like this definitely earns the halal stamp, but it continues further to the point of actively contributing to Islam. Knowledge of Arabic is seen as preferable, if not mandatory, since Muslims value the original Qur’an more than any translated version.

While Al Andalusi does not engage in the field of Islamic theology, his institute piques Muslims’ intellectual curiosity, plus that of others learning Arabic for professional and social reasons. Besides an understanding of and appreciation for the Qur’an, the Andalus Institute represents Al Andalusi’s decade-long quest to learn Arabic in its most eloquent form, an uphill battle that required him to relocate from Europe to Egypt for six long years. These studies forced the entrepreneur to change his daily habits and mindset drastically. Attaining multiple years of progress in Arabic within a year alone made Al Andalusi downgrade to a phone that was obsolete compared to the regular smartphone model. In his own words, Muhammad saved time without the distraction of an app-laden device, a tactic that he directly credits with his quick advance in the Arabic field.

The intense focus with which Muhammad perfects his craft is part of his spoken philosophy of seeking elm, or knowledge. Al Andalusi, as a teacher, uses every opportunity he can to communicate some rule or tip of the Arabic lexicon on Instagram and Facebook. His job consumes every part of his life, an observation that elucidates the level of commitment Al Andalusi has for the school he created. He already enjoys respect and awe amongst the online Muslim community, with other high-profile influencers recommending the Andalus Institute to non-Arabic speakers. Considering the importance of Qur’an recitation and study, teaching classical Arabic was always going to be a successful endeavor. Before 2019, Al Andalusi had worked on other online startups for a European audience whilst in the United Kingdom, yet he could not maintain an acceptable profit margin. One day, it reached the point where the Spanish native took time off and locked himself away, minimizing contact with even his family. He read for hours at a time, patiently waiting for a better business idea to manifest itself. That period was a time for questioning and soul-searching, which was logical because entrepreneurship is an extremely volatile field. Additionally, Al Andalusi had dropped out of school at the age of 16. He recalls not being interested in the traditional Western system anymore, a strong opinion for a teenager. Al Andalusi had no regrets, but paying off a $9,000 debt would not be easy without a university degree.

That same introspection is what Al Andalusi teaches each cohort that enrolls in the institute. There is no point in striving for a higher purpose such as religion without looking after oneself first. At the start of the program, everyone listens to a video of Al Andalusi outlining the study and sleep habits he expects them to adapt to maximize their productivity. In case you were wondering, the entire curriculum is meant to be finished within 15 months. Of course, one can stay as long as they like and there is lifetime access to the user portal, but the Andalus Institute makes sure to boast that students, as long as they do as they are told, become fluent within the intended time frame. While everyone is different in terms of goals and outside commitments, mental preparation is Al Andalusi’s way of ensuring no one overstays their visit. For a $2,000 price tag (at a generous discount of $997 for the time being), such guidance and care make the offering quite appealing to even the busiest customer.

In all honesty, the scaffolding and design of the Andalus Institute stem, for the most part, from Al Andalusi’s personal experiences. The vocabulary-first methodology is what the founder used to learn, not just Arabic, but French and English, also, as if the features of the school are what Al Andalusi wishes he once had to facilitate his own educational experience. Even the students notice and it is apparent that this modus operandi builds trust between a business and the clientele. Couple this with Muhammad’s constant presence on social media, giving the world a glimpse of behind-the-scenes goings-on, his followers feel that they know him through and through.

The language guru is a great friend of transparency, a trait that renders him approachable, as well. For a mostly Muslim consumer base, his willingness to discuss personal views on Islamic decrees and to differentiate himself from other influencers with a scholarly, studious persona is highly attractive. Even if the rest of the world may view Islam as narrow-minded, harsh, or unaccommodating, practicing Muslims love it precisely for the motivation and high standards set. And, while the halal versus haram debate is at times head-scratching and mind-bending, there are many answers to secular questions overlooked.

Al Andalusi proves that it is possible to financially thrive and be an ardent follower of the Islamic faith simultaneously. And he can show that he is right: the Andalus Institute rakes in between $20K and $50K each month, starting to do so only six months after its inception. With the advent of other Islam-centered YouTube channels and startups, the online presence of yet another Muslim entrepreneur is speaking to a wider trend of more representation and diversity. As a result, due to the rarity of his sort, Al Andalusi has gained much loyalty. Identity is not the sole reason, but years of working on his main money-making skill are significant in explaining Muhammad’s success thus far. Through a halal business, Al Andalusi relates to his audience in a powerful way. The businessman is their fellow Muslim, advertising a product where they all benefit in a plethora of ways, most notably spiritually, making the institute’s program irresistible for followers to not purchase. It is apparent that relatability and authenticity are integral in the business model of the Andalus Institute.

You can connect with the author on LinkedIn here.

The idea of Bigtime Daily landed this engineer cum journalist from a multi-national company to the digital avenue. Matthew brought life to this idea and rendered all that was necessary to create an interactive and attractive platform for the readers. Apart from managing the platform, he also contributes his expertise in business niche.

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Business

Business Strategies of Michael Gastauer

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Michael Gastauer, a German billionaire and entrepreneur, has led Black Banx to remarkable heights with his innovative strategies in the digital banking sector. As the founder and CEO, his vision has transformed Black Banx into a significant player in the global financial industry, serving millions and revolutionizing banking practices. 

Gastauer’s approach has been distinctly customer-centric, focusing on solving real-world problems through accessible financial services. This strategy has not only captured a vast market share but also established Black Banx as a model of innovative fintech success.

Innovate Early and Often, Invest Strategically

Gastauer’s journey began with a robust foundation in the fintech sector, where he initially created and later sold a payment services company for US$480 million. 

This significant capital boost allowed him to invest in his next venture: Black Banx. Launched in 2014, Black Banx differentiated itself by offering real-time account opening and cross-border payment solutions to a global audience, addressing major inefficiencies in traditional banking. 

Gastauer’s foresight in identifying and investing in these key areas early on allowed Black Banx to scale quickly and efficiently. His strategy was clear: leverage high initial investment to accelerate growth and secure a substantial market presence before competitors could catch up.

Within a year of its inception, Black Banx expanded rapidly, reaching over 1 million customers. This was just the beginning, as the platform soon integrated cryptocurrency options, enhancing its appeal and utility for a broader client base. By the end of 2018, Black Banx was valued at US$9.8 billion, a testament to its rapid growth and the successful implementation of its business model. 

Gastauer’s bold move to integrate cryptocurrencies early in the game positioned Black Banx as a pioneering force in fintech, well ahead of traditional banks.

Pinpoint Problems and/or Challenges

One of the core components of Gastauer’s strategy was to tackle financial exclusion head-on. Black Banx made significant strides in offering banking solutions to the unbanked and underbanked, particularly in regions with limited access to traditional banking services. 

By leveraging technology and strategic partnerships with mobile network operators, Black Banx has been able to extend its reach and offer innovative banking solutions to millions worldwide. This strategic alignment with mobile operators has been crucial, as it taps into an existing infrastructure to reach remote areas, significantly lowering the cost of expansion.

The platform’s ability to facilitate quick, cost-effective international money transfers has been a game-changer, particularly in markets like the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. This not only supports individuals and businesses in these regions but also contributes to the overall growth and stability of the global economy. 

Gastauer’s focus on simplifying and reducing the cost of these transactions demonstrates a deep understanding of the core needs of his customers, thereby enhancing customer loyalty and trust in the brand.

Take a Tech-Driven Approach

Under Gastauer’s leadership, Black Banx has remained at the forefront of technological integration within the banking sector. The adoption of blockchain, AI, and data analytics has enabled the platform to offer personalized financial services, enhancing customer experience and satisfaction. 

This technology-driven approach ensures that Black Banx stays ahead of industry trends and continues to offer relevant and secure banking options. Gastauer’s commitment to integrating advanced technology not only streamlines operations but also provides a scalable model that supports continuous growth and adaptation in a rapidly evolving market.

Leave No Market Unturned

Gastauer’s vision for Black Banx was never limited to a single region. By 2023, the company had expanded its services to include 28 FIAT and two cryptocurrencies, with a robust presence in over 180 countries. This global approach has not only diversified the company’s customer base but also minimized regional economic risks, allowing Black Banx to thrive in a competitive and fast-changing financial landscape. 

The strategic decision to operate across diverse markets also mitigates the risk of localized economic downturns affecting the overall health of the company.

Set Milestones

The year 2023 was a landmark year for Black Banx, as it reached 39 million customers and reported revenues of US$2.3 billion. The company’s ability to maintain a high rate of customer acquisition and satisfaction speaks volumes about its effective strategies and customer-focused approach. 

The first quarter of 2024 continued this trend, with Black Banx announcing a pre-tax profit of US$639 million and revenues of US$2.1 billion, driven by strategic implementations like fixed monthly account maintenance fees. Gastauer’s strategy to introduce fixed fees was a calculated risk that paid off, providing stable revenue streams and further solidifying Black Banx’s financial foundation.

Michael Gastauer’s strategic foresight and relentless innovation have propelled Black Banx to new heights, making it a leader in the digital banking sector. His commitment to financial inclusion, coupled with an aggressive expansion strategy and technological integration, has not only shaped the future of Black Banx but has also set a new standard in the industry. 

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