NAT Hana Muhammad Rafeeq 12-1663999367687
Hana's free iOS app, called 'Hanas', contains stories for children. She was inspired to come up with the app as she has realised that many parents do not find time to read stories for their children Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: An Indian girl in Dubai who developed an iOS app for iPhones at the age of eight and has been congratulated by Apple CEO Tim Cook for her achievement at such a young age.

Meet Hana Muhammad Rafeeq, now aged 9, who introduces herself as “the youngest Apple iOS developer”. Though Gulf News could not independently verify this, Hana has pointed out online reports that indicate that her claim seems to be valid.

Moreover, the CEO of Apple himself has congratulated her in his reply to her mail in which she had explained her app and other achievements.

“I created and published an Apple mobile application at the age of eight,” Hana wrote in the email to Cook, a copy of which has now been shared with Gulf News.

10,000 lines of codes

“I got introduced to coding by the age of five and it seems I am the youngest in the world to achieve this. In addition, I almost avoided using any third-party ready-made codes, libraries, or classes in my app. I hand-wrote more than 10,000 lines of codes for this app. Please have a quick preview,” she wrote, sharing the YouTube links of her works.

Giving further details about her, Hana wrote that she is an Indian girl, born and brought up in the UAE.

“The reason for this writing is for my parents to say I did something extraordinary and let the Apple leader know how passionate [I am] in technology, especially Apple. Just to make the world aware that coding is not that impossible, instead it is an essential subject to include in early stages of child education, [with] the same priority as human communication language.

“The future is all about communication, not only between humans but also with the machines, animals, cells, microbes and planets. So the digital opportunities are never-ending, it’s just begun.

“If you feel my stories and thoughts are worth your time, please revert back or else just ignore. I really understand the value of time,” her email read.

The next morning, Hana was woken up by her parents after they saw Cook has replied to her email.

“Hana, Congratulations on all of your impressive achievements at such a young age! Keep at it and you will do amazing things in the future. Best, Tim,” read his reply.

“I was so excited to have his response as appreciation to my email,” Hana told Gulf News.

Her parents were happier as they consider the tech leader’s reply as an affirmation to the claims that she has made in her email. “They [at Apple] have the mechanism to verify the claims. There are many kids developing apps. I hope her expertise and hard work at this age stand out,” said her father Muhammad Rafeeq.

He was prouder to reveal that Hana’s instructor in coding is her elder sister, 10-year-old Leena Fathima.

hana and leena
Hana (left) celebrates her ninth birthday with Leena with a cake modelled after her app just weeks after its launch Image Credit: Supplied

How they learned coding

The sisters have been largely homeschooled by their parents, especially for the last four years. Explaining how they got into coding, Leena said it all had started when their father, a project management consultant, was busy coming up with an edutech company and asked their mother Fathimath Thahira, who had done BCom with computer applications, to learn coding to help him with his startup.

“While my mama was learning coding, I popped my head into the screen. I started coding at the age of five and I developed a website at the age of six when I was familiar with HTML and CSS. The website’s name is lehanas.”

On her website, Leena introduced fruits, vegetables and animals for kids and also supported the flood relief efforts in the family’s home state Kerala by providing the link to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund.

“When I created my website, my sister also popped her head into the screen. So, at that time, I started teaching my sister how to code.”

Though their entrepreneur father's startup dream couldn't take off yet due to lack of funding and their mother went on to work for a fintech company, the young siblings remained enchanted by the coding languages. Implementing the learning methodologies adopted in their father's project, they said they went on to study coding and other subjects on their own.

“We don’t have any subscriptions to any tutorials. But we used to refer the internet for documentation and videos. And we have our own knowledge gaining process set by our parents,” said Hana.

The sisters are now experts in coding languages HTML, CSS, C, C++, Swift and the latest SwiftUI. They are also learning human languages English, Spanish German, Arabic, Hindi and Malayalam.

With big dreams to change the world in their own ways, the sisters want to offer free coding classes to orphans through a foundation named after them. “When we teach one orphaned child, we want that child to teach ten other orphans in turn. Creating such a project is our dream,” said Leena.

also read

About ‘Hanas’ app

Hana’s app on App Store is called ‘Hanas’, with a purple and pink butterfly logo. The free app contains stories for children including short stories, bedtime stories, moral stories and classic stories. “This application will help parents and children because there is an option to make audio stories, so the parents can make audio stories. When the parents are busy, the children can play those audio stories,” said Hana, who turned 9 weeks after launching the app.

She explained that she was inspired to come up with the app as she has realised that many parents do not find time to read stories for their children.

“My mom used to read out bedtime stories for us. But, nowadays we see in movies and real life that many parents are unable to do it. So, I hope they can record the stories during their free time using my app, so their children won’t miss hearing the stories from their own parents.”

Hana has added her own audio stories as well “so that the children can listen to my audio as a friend”.

“I have also made a beautiful interface with a lot of options for customising fonts,” said Hana who wishes to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next year.