I first met Heba Subeh Hyder when I discovered she was one of the finalists alongside me for “The Annual Nisa Hub Writing Contest.” Once I read her story, I found what fierce competition she was! She is a talented writer, and I got to know this loving wife, mother, and published author of “How Much Does Allah Love Me?” You should too:
R. Tell us about how you were inspired to write “How Much Does Allah Love Me?”
H. It’s no secret that my initial inspiration for this book was my multiple sclerosis diagnosis just under four years ago. I’ve blasted it all over my social media.
I felt awakened to my real purpose after receiving this life-altering news. Serving Allah in any way possible was something I wanted to do. I’ve always been a “practicing Muslim.” However, I have fallen short of going above and beyond for Him. Consequently, I felt a desperate need to do something for His sake. Even though this disease takes many things away, it also made me realize how incredibly blessed I am to be a fully functional human being and that no matter what I’ve done for Allah in my life, I’ll never be able to do enough. But I figured the book was a start. I have a deep love for the Creator, and I just wanted to share it.
I want to familiarize other children with Allah in the way in which He would be pleased. My focus is on nourishing their fitrah so that they’d be confident in who they are as Muslims. As an ongoing student of Islamic knowledge, when I learn something, I want to share it with the world. I figured this was my way of combining my love for writing and our beautiful deen and hopefully, benefit our children in their duniya and akhirah إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ. All I can hope for is for Allah to accept my efforts.
R. What is it about this book kids can relate to?
H. The book has such beautiful illustrations! They’re so bright and colorful, and full of imagination coming to life! Maymunah, the main character in the story, is of an interracial family. She’s half-Black, half-Indonesian. In the world we live in now, everywhere you look, especially among Muslims, you see children that are similar looking to Maymunah. I wanted those children to feel included in my book. And ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ, according to the feedback I’ve received, I made the right decision. I also tried to explain Allah’s love for humanity in a way that children would understand.
As adults, we tend to struggle with comprehending Allah’s love and not until we become parents, ourselves, do we hear that Allah loves us more than our mother does; we genuinely begin to internalize that love. But what about our kids? I had to take something simple enough for them to envision, such as the number of stars in the night sky, or the blades of grass in the meadow, and let them know that Allah loves them more than that number.
R. Tell us about your publishing history and journey, the hurdles, the leaps, the finishing line…
H. ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ I feel like this has been such an incredible journey for me. I knew what I wanted to do, so I set out to do it. So I made the intention, brainstormed, took notes, organized my notes and thoughts, researched, and wrote the manuscript. I envisioned everything as I was writing it.
Then I submitted to publishers and was contacted by Prolance (my current publisher) and ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ became a published author.
I then had to find an illustrator, and what I did with that might be a bit unconventional. Instinctively, I went to my alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona University, and contact the Muslim Student Association. I asked if they have an art or graphics design student in their midst, and they directed me to my amazingly talented illustrator, Aatena Hasan. For me, it was important that I pay it forward and make Muslims, especially young Muslims, known for their talents. I want us to tell our own stories, not others to do it for us. And I am hoping to provide that little push in the right direction to contribute to the success of other Muslims.
Let me tell you; I thank Allah for this young lady because she made my words come to life in a way I could never have done ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّٰهِ! As for hurdles, I did not realize how hard and time-consuming it would be to market my product. It’s a full-time job. As an author, published is never the last step. That’s when your work begins. You spend countless hours marketing on social media, contacting schools, bookstores, and the likes, and looking to collaborate with the right people. We are not in it for the money, and that is a known fact from the very beginning. I work hard and make dua that Allah accepts my work, and I’m on this journey as an investment in my akhirah.
R. What books/authors do you enjoy reading?
H. I know people are expecting to see sci-fi fiction or fantasy or something of the sort, but I genuinely enjoy reading non-fiction Islamic and inspirational books. Books like “A Temporary Gift” and “A Place of Refuge” by Asmaa Hussein, “Lessons from Surah al Kahf” by Sh Yassir Qadhi, Seerah books, “Stories of the Prophets” by Ibn Kathir, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley, and so on.
I love to delve into these stories and see what I can learn to better myself as a Muslimah. I do have to give the nod to all these beautiful children’s books, though, as I’ve enjoyed reading them tremendously; even though my daughters are older and past that age, I still buy the books to support our Muslim authors, and to gift them to others.
Oh! And how could I forget “That Can Be Arranged” and “Yes I’m Hot In This graphic” novels by the hilarious Huda Fahmy! We also recently finished a book called, “When Stars Are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, that highlights Mohamed’s life and journey alongside his brother in a refugee camp in Kenya. It’s so heartfelt, and even though it was a bit hard to digest because of the hardships that they went through, I strongly urge everyone to read his story. It makes us grateful for everything we have and pushes us to help any way we can.
R. Where can we get “How Much Does Allah Love Me?” Is there another one in the pipeline as this is a series? When can we expect that release?
H. You can purchase “How Much Does Allah Love Me” from www.maymunahsmusings.com. I also have other stockists of my book in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Nigeria, the UAE, and soon in the UK and Australia, إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ! You can visit my highlights on Instagram for more stockist information. If you’re interested in stocking it, contact us, and we’ll make it happen!
Book 2 is definitely in the works and should be released at the end of the year إِنْ شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ if everything goes as planned. However, it’s 2020, and you never know what other curve balls can come our way. It’ll include another attribute of Allah, more adventures, and we will reveal new characters. Please visit my Instagram and Facebook pages to find out more!
R. Tell us about The PFH Convention.
H. The PFH Convention is an annual convention that primarily features a big group of women bosses who are owners of a multitude of businesses. These businesses range anywhere from fashion to signage to books. Everything you can think of buying, it’s there at PFH! It was founded by powerhouse woman herself, Hassanah ElYacoubi, who wanted to bring Muslim women together to showcase what they have to offer.
This year is different, as is the case for everything in 2020. The convention will be free for all to attend and virtual on Saturday, July 25, so you can watch it and shop from the comfort of your own home, you just have to register for it as soon as possible at PFH7.eventbrite.com. There will be substantial cyber sales, and I and a few other businesses will be giving a presentation that sheds light on our journeys and products, inshallah. Stay tuned for a special sale on my book and an exclusive sneak peek of book 2.
R. Tell us about your upbringing and how it led you to become a writer?
H. My upbringing had a hand in my becoming a writer of Islamic children’s books. I am a Palestinian-American, but the culture was not too ingrained in my siblings and me. I grew up Muslim, and that is all my family, and I focused our energy on. However, my generation, for some reason, was taught that Allah was this angry Being who will throw you in Hell-fire if you disobey His commands. So we did things out of fear and fear alone.
When I grew older and started to investigate and research more on my own, seeking the aid of scholars, and attending classes, I fell in love with Islam, and a deep love for Allah blossomed within me. I realized that He is all-Merciful and All-Loving and that while we must fear Allah in some ways, there’s also hope and love for Him that should reside in our hearts as well. We have to showcase a healthy balance of love, hope, and fear in Allah. And that is one of the main driving factors of my book series.
R. How can we follow your journey (links, blog)?
H. I’d be honored to gain you all as my friends and followers on Instagram and Facebook under the handle @maymunahsmusings. I’m most active on Instagram, so I encourage you all to follow me there to get the latest news on my books. I also post many reflections on my page that I’d love to share with you. You can find articles I wrote as well as other work in the link in my bio on Instagram. I’m pleased to have met you that way, Rumki. We participated in the same writing contest by Nisa Hub, where our stories were featured. Your account was fantastic, and so well-deserving of its first-place ما شاء الله and I was honored to have held second place to you.