We are pleased to announce Fatmah Muhammad as our Fourteenth Muslim Woman of the Month!
We all know and love her and her vibrant personality (and laugh!), Fatmah Muhammad is the Knafeh Queen! Although she resides in California, Fatmah grew up very close to her Palestinian heritage. A huge part of her culture and experience growing up was knafeh.
Whether it was sitting happily with family and friends eating it, watching her mother make it, or making it herself, knafeh brought Fatmah and anyone who tried it so much joy.
God’s guidance and the overwhelming support, encouragement, and love others had for her special knafeh inspired Fatmah and her eldest daughter, Rheyanah to turn their passion for knafeh-making and their long-held family tradition into a thriving business.
But their business is not just about selling knafeh. They are also using it as an opportunity to educate and change the perceptions others have of Palestinians, of Muslim women, and of Muslims in general as well.
Made with love, this knafeh is a tribute to a heritage that takes pride and joy in hospitality and giving to others. This unique recipe and love for knafeh was passed down from daughter to granddaughter, and is now reaching people all over the world, making an impact in the way they had initially set out to do.
Since the beginning, Fatmah and her family have stayed true to their roots and their mission. They are changing minds, changing hearts, and are connecting people through every bite of this delicious, traditional Palestinian dessert.
Now available in numerous stores and shipped nationwide, the award-winning Knafeh Queens is becoming a household name. I had the pleasure of speaking with Fatmah, and in our chat, she shares all about how they got started, the meaningful purpose that drives their brand, and their future goals for the business.
Read on to learn more about Knafeh Queens’ story, the amazing work they are doing, and why their knafeh business is so special.
What is Knafeh Queens?
Knafeh Queens is all about serving royal happiness in unity with every bite Our knafeh consists of a buttery phyllo dough pastry layered with our secret sweet and salty cheese mixture, and it’s topped with our homemade simple syrup. It’s knafeh that’s perfect for any occasion from baby shower, to graduation, to telling someone you love them, to someone’s birthday, to building bridges.
That’s awesome, Mashallah! What are the different sizes and flavors that people can order?
Cupcakes, pies, and we have the king tray. We even have a layered cake. But we don’t ship the cake or the king size. We only ship the pie size and the cupcake size. We always have the Original, the Nutella, and Cookie butter–those are going to stay on the menu.
Then we have our specialties. We have the S’mores; we took that off the menu, but we’re going to put it back on for January and February. For the fall, we had Pumpkin Spice, Apple Pie, and Pistachio Ganache. We’re going to be coming out with–and this is a secret, but we’re going to tell you–it’s exclusive, so only our followers get to know that we’re going be releasing a Banana Cream Pie Knafeh!
Yum! Those all sound so good!
That’s what makes us unique. I think people now make the Cookie Butter one, and the Nutella, but nobody knows what’s up our sleeves all of the time. We always have something new coming up. And that’s one thing about me is, I’m very creative when it comes to kitchen. I’ve always been very good at putting different flavors together.
That’s the gift that I got from my mom because she never measures. I think that was hard for me when I started Knafeh Queens when I was training people because I was like, “A pinch of this, you shred a little bit of this cheese, and a little bit of this cheese.” I remember someone was like, “Um, no, no, you have to give exact measurements for this to be right.”
So that was one of my biggest hiccups at the beginning. That and all the different racist comments. To me, I don’t consider them hiccups. Those were all ways to be able to teach people our narrative. So, I don’t look at it as a negative thing, Alhamdulillah.
“I always thought it was such a magical experience watching my mom make it. And it was fascinating to me that it always brought people together.”
How did you start Knafeh Queens?
A big thing with Palestinians, a big part of our culture is hospitality. [My mom] always emphasized that, when we have guests over, no matter what color, no matter who they are, no matter what their title is, you always put the best things out for them. And knafeh was always a big part of that. When we had gatherings, knafeh was the center of it.
Knafeh is the iconic Palestinian dessert. It all started in Palestine. It actually originated in a city called Nablus, Palestine. So that’s something that we get to take pride in, and it’s so exciting to know that’s where it all started.
I always thought it was such a magical experience watching my mom make it. And it was fascinating to me that it always brought people together. I saw that people were always smiling eating it, laughing and just telling stories. So I always had that sense of happiness and unity around knafeh since I was a little kid.
I had been watching my mom since I could walk, maybe like one, just watching her spreading the cheese, making the dough, mixing the butter, taking it out of the oven, flipping it, and adding the syrup. It was all so fascinating to me.
At seven, I had the courage to make it. My dad invited a bunch of people over last minute. And I was like, “Mama, I’ll make the knafeh.” She looked at me and was like, “No, you don’t know how to make it.” I was like, “No, I’ll make it.” She said, “If you mess it up, you’re not allowed to make it until it’s perfected” because it’s something she takes pride in. Her knafeh is amazing.
I remember that night all of the guests loving it, and everyone’s reaction. My mom was like, “Wow, you did a great job.” And I was just like, “Okay, if I got my mom’s approval, then I did it.” So from there, I was always the designated knafeh maker for any gatherings.
I didn’t realize how much I loved making it because it was just such a normal thing for me. But other people noticed the love that I had for it and how much I loved making it. “It never seemed like, “Oh, gosh, I have to make it.” No, it was always like, “Oh my gosh, this knafeh is gonna bring joy and happiness.”
So fast forward, my daughter at 10 years old, she learned how to make it. Her name is Rheyanah. She’s 15 now.
I remember coming home from a date with my husband. We were like, “Who made this knafeh?” We were asking my sister-in-law who babysat. She’s like, “Oh, Rheyanah did.” I was like, how did she make it? She was like, “She asked if she could make me knafeh,” and my sister-in-law loves my knafeh, so she was like “Oh yeah!”
And we were like, “Girl, you’re grounded! You’re not allowed to bake without asking us beforehand.” So we sent her to her room and we tried the knafeh, and it was magical. I was so excited, but we knew we couldn’t show her that excitement because she was grounded!
She started making it for her friends and her teachers and she was like, “Mama, everyone falls in love with it when they eat it, why don’t we just make it for everyone?” But I was like, “I’ll just make it for friends and family that come over or whatever.”
I never thought of it as a business. Before that happened, believe it or not, because my son is six now, I remember I made dua in the labor room while I was having contractions, and I said “Allah, please guide me in what you think is best for me.”
Because at this point, I was like, Should I focus on therapy because I majored in psychology? Should I focus on business because me and my sisters had started a clothing line? It’s called Shop Helweh. So I was just kind of like, “Man, I’m good at this, and I’m good at that.” And then Subhanallah, right after that, my daughter learns how to make knafeh, and she asks me, “Why don’t we start selling it?”
And I ignored that sign. Then shortly after, I’d have friends who would be like, “Fatmah, why don’t you sell your knafeh?” And I was like, Okay, that’s weird. And then I would get random people who try my knafeh for the first time at a potluck, and be like, “Oh my gosh, why isn’t your knafeh in all the stores? Like this is so good!”
People’s reactions were different from before. People always told me, “Oh my god, your knafeh is delicious. It’s amazing.” But they never said, “You should sell it.” So I just felt like Allah is guiding me in what to do. But I think I was kind of scared. Then, one of my best friends, Omrana did an Aqiqa, and she goes Fatmah, can you cater your knafeh for my daughter’s Aqiqa?
There were three to five hundred people at that event. I’ll never forget the reactions everyone had eating my knafeh. I’ll never forget that day. Everybody was asking everyone who made the knafeh. That was when I was like, “Wow!” Then, shortly after that, I had a really good friend Amani call me and she goes, “Hey, Fatmah, Can I order knafeh? I was like, “Oh, I don’t sell it. I make it for friends here and there, but I don’t sell it.” She’s like “Yeah, you do. You’re gonna sell it.” I was like “No, just come pick some up.”
So she comes and picks up twelve cupcakes, and she puts money on the counter, and I’m like, “Girl, what is this for?” She was like, “Because you sell it.” I think that’s how it literally all started. That’s when it was confirmed. She put it on her Snapchat, and I was just getting nonstop calls. It just literally took off. That happened, and then boom, we were nonstop.
Wow, I love that. It’s like it was something you were meant to do.
It was one of the most amazing things. It was because that’s what God wanted. I asked for Allah to help me find what my purpose was in life and what I should do. It was so obvious. It was right after I had my son, everyone was talking about me selling it. Before I made that dua, I literally never got those kinds of signs.
Subhanallah, that’s amazing! Aside from serving people delicious desserts, what is the mission and purpose of Knafeh Queens?
Around that time was when Trump was in office, and he was talking about the Muslim ban. I remember my kids asking me, “Mom, are we gonna get kicked out of this country?” But we are a part of the American fabric. Muslims were on the boats when they found America. Muslims were a part of that.
I was trying to explain it to them, and for me, it hurt. I was sick of the news telling our stories. That’s when it really hit me, and I started to get excited about the business.
I told my daughter, since the narrative is so negative about Muslims and Muslim women, and we’re supposedly “oppressed,” and this and that, we could sell knafeh, and with every knafeh, we’re sharing our story, and we’re spreading love and unity with every bite. She got excited and I got excited. I think that’s when it started to be so easy for me to take orders.
“Our goal was to share this with people who don’t look like us and who don’t know about us, so that they could share our story with their friends and family”
At the beginning, I’d still be like, “No, I’m not selling it.” But once we had the purpose, it was like, “Yeah, we’re ready to take this on,” and it became more exciting. It wasn’t just about selling knafeh at this point. It was about our purpose like, Who are we going be able to touch today?
Our goal wasn’t just to sell to Muslims. Our goal was to share this with people who don’t look like us and who don’t know about us, so that they could share our story with their friends and family, and it just kind of creates this beautiful connection around the world. People ask me, “How do you deal with racist people?” And I’m like, “I love it, because that’s my opportunity to educate them.”
Racism and all that comes from ignorance. Sometimes people just need a little explanation and to hear your story and your truth. You don’t understand how many people I’ve had tell me, “I’m so sorry, I used to think Muslim women were so backwards, or not smart or didn’t speak English, and you have changed my whole way of thinking about Muslim women or Muslims in general.”
At our first pie content, this guy was like, “Who dropped you off?” and I was like, “Oh, I actually dropped my husband off, and then I came,” and he was shocked. He was shocked that I spoke English. I think I was the only nonWhite person at the contest.
I remember after they called the winners, and I got first place, I was just like, You know what? I’m going to offer him some knafeh because I could tell he wanted to try it so bad. From there, he apologized for his rude comments, and he was blown away by the knafeh. “He was like, I’m going to be the biggest knafeh customer.”
That’s when I knew, more than ever, that I was in this for the long haul. This is my mission to get people like him to go from ignorance to being loving and kind. Imagine it took just me offering him a piece of knafeh. Food is something that just builds bridges in such a beautiful way. It’s amazing how it can change people and change hearts.
“That’s why I know Knafeh Queens is more than just knafeh. Every day I wake up, and I’m like, “Whose hearts are we going to change today for the better?”
If those negative people can learn one thing, if me fighting their hate with kindness can hopefully change their hearts, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but even in one, two, or even 10 years, then I feel that’s worth it to me.
That’s why I know Knafeh Queens is more than just knafeh. Every day I wake up, and I’m like, “Whose hearts are we going to change today for the better?” It has been beautiful spreading the love of knafeh and finding fulfillment through spreading edible joy.
So our number one thing is just building bridges within families and communities. Nothing makes me more happy than to know that someone shared their knafeh with their neighbor who never knew what knafeh was, someone having an interfaith meeting and providing our knafeh, or sharing it with their coworkers.
That’s what brings us the most joy truly. It’s not just spreading joy in our small community in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s beyond that. It’s reaching people, even people in the UK, Germany, Dubai. It has been amazing to see how far our story has been able to go through our knafeh.
Mashallah, it’s so great to see the achievements you have made and continue to make as a Palestinian American Muslim woman. What is the message behind the name, Knafeh Queens?
You’re gonna laugh. The name was not supposed to be Knafeh Queens actually. That was all Allah. I surveyed about 30 people and asked, “What should we name our business?” I would say 95% of people responded, “Girl, you’re the Knafeh Queen. It has to be Knafeh Queen!”
Even though, I wasn’t crazy about the name, it grew on me, and I was like you know what, we can show everyone that they are all royalty. Everybody that buys our knafeh, everyone is royalty. Anybody that comes through, whether they’re poor, rich, whatever their background is, we treat them like royalty.
That’s a big reason why I wear the crown, by the way. I love when my customers wear it, or if we go to a pop-up, I love seeing little kids wearing it, or moms who are having a rough day, and I’m like, “Listen, you’re a queen. You don’t have to have a special title to be a queen. Everyone’s a queen, or a princess, or a king in their own way,” and they get so excited. Our slogan is “Serving royal happiness and unity with every bite.” That’s a huge thing for us.
That’s beautiful. And I think you’re doing a great job of really staying true to that. It goes back to that point you made about Palestinians being so hospitable and I think that really shows true in your business. You’re sharing more than just a dessert. You’re sharing part of who you are and your heritage.
Oh, Big time, big time.
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How has your business grown from the start?
It’s very exciting for us to see how much it’s grown. People thought we always started with a perfect vision, a perfect model, a business plan, and a website. We didn’t have any of that. We just had the purpose. I wouldn’t have this business without the support of my husband and my kids. It’s a team effort. He was there from the beginning helping me, when we didn’t have any workers.
I remember the first knafeh we shipped was a fail. It arrived so messed up. That customer was so adamant about us shipping her our knafeh because I guess her friends in California had tried it, and they were obsessed, so she just wanted to get her hands on it. So I’m the type that I like to try. So I’m like, “Okay, we’ll ship you.” The tray, I guess, was really bent, and the knafeh all went to one side. It was all mashed.
But that mistake led me to learn what’s the proper and the best way to ship, and how do I get the best shipping method? And I learned how to do that. Then, people started getting good knafehs in the mail.
People were ordering through DMs, believe it or not. I was writing people’s addresses down, their names, and everything. I was doing everything. I was writing down the label. But I don’t regret that because I got to really connect with my customers doing that. I have a family relationship with my customers because of the way I deal with my customers.
Even now that we have a website, every now and then, I’ll go down a list and call a bunch of different numbers, and I’ll just say, “Hey, this is Knafeh Queen, and I just wanted to thank you for ordering,” and we’ll just connect for 10 to 15 minutes, and they love it.
I think I didn’t want a website because I was scared I would lose that connection that I was having with all my customers. By ordering through DMs, they were able to ask me questions, and they were messaging me, “Oh my god, it was so good.” When you have a website, you kind of lose that, and I was determined not to lose that.
I’m big on customer service. We have a five-star review on Yelp, and it’s beautiful because if you look, they’re all like Ann, Bob, Kara, it’s all people who don’t look like me. It’s a dream come true to know that we are doing the work that we wanted to do, which is build bridges through our knafeh. People who have never heard of knafeh now know what knafeh is, and people who have never heard of Palestine now know what Palestine is.
I’ve literally had so many customers say, I thought Palestine was Pakistan or I didn’t even know Palestine existed. And then we get to share our story. So, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
It really is and is something you should be so proud of.
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I’ll never forget when I told mama, we made it on the news. Spectrum News did a piece on us. Anytime we have a big moment, I tell her, “Mama, your knafeh is shipped to New York,” and, “Mama your knafeh is now in Florida,” or now it’s in grocery stores.
It has been so nice to see a piece of Palestine, the story of Palestine, the story of knafeh, the story of Palestinian hospitality, our resiliency, and just the beauty of Palestinians being spread all over the world.
My husband’s African American. So, my kids have it bad both ways. Having a Palestinian mother and a Black father, they’ve been able to learn about the injustices for both Palestinians and Blacks and how there are so many parallels, whether it’s the prejudices towards Black people or the misconceptions about Palestinians. Through Knafeh Queens, my Black Palestinian daughters are able to break both of those barriers. We’re hoping that through our business, we’re able to continue to change the narrative for both.
I get to teach my children through knafeh. Who would think knafeh can do so much, like teach children lessons, business lessons, and customer service lessons? The other day, my younger daughter Kareemah sees I was busy. So I was like, “Hey Kareemah, you deal with this customer and give her her order, and make sure you do good customer service.” She literally walked in with $10 tip!
She was like, “Oh my gosh, she said I did such a good job. And I was so helpful.” She was so excited, and at eight years old, she learned that what you put out there, God gives you back in tenfolds.
So I always teach my kids, the energy you put out there is the energy you get back. Sometimes, even though you put good energy out, someone will be rude, but it’s okay. You still continue your positive energy. You always fight hate with kindness.
And people ask us, “How do all these stars order from you guys? I’m like, “Just stay true to yourself.” And believe it or not, when we actually catered to the Hadids, I told my daughter “Listen, when we meet them, I want you to treat them just like you treat everyone else.” Surprisingly, a lot of these celebrities like that. They love that we’re just so normal.
So, that’s been interesting, and a really big learning moment for for my kids. I tell them, “God gave them a talent with singing or extra beauty, but everyone has a certain talent, and whether a person decides to use that talent is up to them. Our talent is knafeh, and you all have your own talents. So that’s why it’s so important to give everyone that you run into love and respect because everyone is special in their own way.”
So, we’re not excited because celebrities are our clients. We’re excited that someone with a big platform can heighten our story. If they share our story with their followers, then how amazing is that? So it’s always about staying true to ourselves. We have a piece of Palestine in the U.S. with us, and we want to share that Palestinian story through our knafeh.
Wow, that is so humble of you! You guys have done a great job of growing this business as a family, staying true to yourselves and making an impact. What are your future goals for your business?
Inshallah, our goal is to franchise it. We want our first brick and mortar out here in LA, and then it’ll be easier to franchise from there. But we’re hoping within two to three years, that would happen.
What’s your favorite knafeh memory growing up?
Oh, wow. That is a hard one because I have a lot. I think it’s sitting with my siblings, parents, family, and everyone sharing beautiful stories, laughing, joking, and just eating knafeh. There was always some happy and joyous occasion around it.
I don’t ever remember sitting with my family eating it and there was bad news. It always brought joy. But maybe it was that seven year-old moment where I realized, I got this, and I could make it from A to Z. That probably would be my most memorable day for sure.
Aw I love that, and I still can’t believe you were only seven! I can relate to that because whenever I go to Palestine, knafeh is always the dessert that is given out at graduation, or when someone gets engaged, married or has a baby. So we always associate it with joy for sure. In a previous interview, you mentioned that you want to be “the Muslim Opera,” can you elaborate on that?
A big part of our company is giving back, so we donate to companies all the time, to hospitals, nonprofits, and orphans. For me, it has always been my dream to never turn anyone away that says, “I need help with this.” I want to be able to be like, “You get this. You get that, and you get that.”
“As we grow, I want to be able to use my platform to encourage people to give. I feel like when you give, God gives you more.”
So that’s what I mean when I say the Muslim Oprah. It’s just to help anybody and everyone that needs help, and hopefully, even like a step up from Oprah, to get rid of homelessness all over the world. If every billionaire in the world donated, we can get rid of homelessness all over the world. Imagine that.
As we grow, I want to be able to use my platform to encourage people to give. I feel like when you give, God gives you more. I remember once we gave so much that I had literally pennies left over in our account. That was risky, but Allah promises us that you always get it back in tenfolds.
Subhanallah, that next morning, I woke up with a customer putting in a huge order. It was like 1,000 cupcakes. So I was like, Oh my goodness, Allah is so good. And we had a few people messaging us to get their events catered. It was so amazing! I literally made that money back and way more.
Alhamdulillah, we give a percentage of our profits every month to charity. Hakeemah Cummings reached out to me to help them with a fundraiser for women who are divorced, and she wanted me to raise $1,000. We ended up raising six or eight thousand dollars within a couple of weeks, Alhamdulillah.
I feel like money is nothing if you’re not using it right, and at the end, we are going to get tested with our money. Every month a huge percentage of our sales we try to donate, obviously after our payments and certain things are taken care of. What’s a huge chunk of money sitting in a bank account if there are so many people who are struggling that you can help?
I always tell my kids, because I think when you share these experiences with them, they are going to have a connection with giving, and know that they’ll even receive more with Allah. I think it’s beautiful, and I tell them, “Sometimes you don’t get it back in money, but Allah protects you with your health or he protects you in other ways.”
So rizq doesn’t have to be just money. It could be through other things like through a person in your life. I consider so many people that are in my life a huge and amazing rizq, so that’s what I mean.
Wow mashallah, that is so true and so inspiring. May Allah increase your rizq, Inshallah and reward you for all of the good you are doing. What advice do you have for other Muslim women who may be interested in starting something similar, or another business of their own?
Just start. Don’t question and don’t talk to people who aren’t motivating. Always assess why someone told you not to do something.
For us, we didn’t invest a lot of money in the beginning. We didn’t spend $2,000 on our website or $3,000 on branding. We still actually haven’t spent a penny on marketing by the way. Marketing is all me.
Don’t let all those doubts and all those whispers tell you you can’t do it. You got to believe in yourself. Just start, and everything you’ll learn. Yeah, you might have some hiccups, but you’ll get back up and all those falls will allow you to be stronger. Through every mistake, you’re going to learn so much.
At least for me, every mistake we’ve had, Subhanallah, I was able to learn so much. So start at least by sharing that idea with close friends and family. And get advice from people that you really trust and that typically give you good advice.
My sisters were all encouraging me. My best friends were definitely supporting me, and they’re like, “Girl, please run with this.”
Also, make istikhara. Ask God for guidance because without having him in the forefront, I feel like your idea or your business will never thrive if God isn’t at the center and front all the time.
Subhanallah, I agree. When we remember Allah, and look to him for guidance, He will lead us to the path we are meant to take and put barakah iA in everything we do.
My last question is: Knafeh or Chnafa?
Hahaha, why?! Oh, man, that’s a question I always run from! We always refer to it around my family as chnafeh. But you have to be falahi to know what chnafeh is, right? So, I guess let’s just say with my family, its chnafeh. With business, it’s knafeh, haha!
No matter which way you pronounce it, be sure to try Knafeh Queens’ amazing knafeh that is loved around the world, and is literally spreading joy and unity with every bite! You can order on their website, knafehqueens.com, and use our exclusive discount code amwmagazine for 10% off!
Also make sure to follow Knafeh Queens on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to stay up-to-date on all the latest yummy things coming up, and for positive content that will always bring you joy and leave you craving more knafeh!