In The Hot Seat With Zohayma Montañer (@storiesofthesahaba)
Here at Brimah and John, we have numerous inspirations! One of which are fabulous women, with a passion and a drive to do what they love and what makes them happy. These women are forging a path for themselves in their chosen fields and are an inspiration to us all. So what we like to do, is sit them down in the hot seat, shine a spot light on them... and get to know them a little better.
Sister Zohayma is one of those people you can be guaranteed to learn from, an award winning visual artists who uses her platform to educate and spread dawah! I came across her on tumblr, where I spent hours trolling through her page reading her anecdotes and stories of the Sahaba. I'm confident after reading her feature you'll feel the same way I do. Sister Zohayma is what I'd call #goals...
Tell us about stories of the sahaba, what made you start sharing the stories?
I would like to consider myself as a bibliophile (has a great love for books) and in this case of historical (islamic) books.
We all know when you love books, your sanctuary would be book stores, so when I was in college, whenever I had a free time, even if it was just 30 minutes, I’d go and kill time at bookstores.
After few times of coming over there, I’ve noticed how books can really influence the youth, teenagers or even adults but I thought to myself, there’s really something missing here, even though I see religious books out there, one about Islam has scarcity in it but maybe because I was living in a western country.
And when you come home, your nieces and nephews would start talking about these books they have read about this characters, and when you mention a name of a sahabah they would answer you back like who is that, Osama Bin Laden? So that rang my bell.
If this happens in my own home, then definitely it happens too in other homes, so I wanted to bring awareness, I wanted to let other Muslims know about these people, these very great people, the people of Khair ul Qurun to motivate them and inspire them.
So basically, Stories of the Sahabah is memoir that is based on the concept of Al Muhasabah (self inventory).
It is memoir that kindles the heart that aims to put in the stories of people (ones mentioned in this ayah: “Sirata allatheena an'aamta alayhim ghayri almaghdubi alayhim wala addalleen”) into the hearts of those who read it. So in return, it gives one’s self time to gather pondering thoughts of asking how they are doing with their worship, closeness to the Qur’an, faith, deeds and spiritual growth.
Some of your sahaba are lesser known, how do you find their stories?
That is one of the basic aims of this blog, to let the lesser known Sahabah be known. The very names of these people are not even written in books that are widely distributed.
For one, the fall of Rome was the Rise of the Golden Age of Islam, but we don’t find that in history books, historians would mention the fall of Rome alone but would not mention the rise of the Muslims.
In my journalism class, we were taught that it is from the small people that big stories come. - I wanted to write in the service of Islam, and writing requires thorough research.
I usually read 3-5 books before I would actually blog about it because such stories of lesser known Sahabah RA are not actually chaptered separately, you’ll find their stories attached to the stories of the known Sahabah RA, so it really requires thorough research. Alhamdulillah.
Who is your favourite Sahaba/Sahabiat?
I consider this the toughest question that I always encounter since I have started this blog.
Every Sahabi is a definite favorite, because each one portrays and delivers such a beautiful and inspiring story, but let me mention five.
1) Everyone’s all time favorite: ‘Umar Ibn Al Khattab Radiyallahu Anhu
2) The Living Martyr: Umm Waraqah Radiyallahu Anha
3) The Wife who never gave up on her husband: Umm Hakeem Bint Harith Radiyallahu Anha
4) The Man who recited the whole Qur’an in One Raka’t: ‘Uthmaan Ibn Affan Radiyallahu Anhu
5) The Caravan that never left Islam: Banu Mazeenah
Tell us about love letters by the sand?
Love Letters by the Sand is a gift which contains three boxes (which can be defined by the following):
• First box: Survival Kit
It is a survival kit from single life to married life. For I have scrupulously chosen stories that can really put a light of inspiration and guidance to those who are venturing into the blessed gift of nikkah and how to adjust once they have arrived within this beautiful bond from Allah Azza Wa Jall.
• Second box: Scar Healer
Yes, they say wounds can be healed but scars would stay but in this book, with the most beautiful love stories that are centered with the love for Allah Azza Wa Jall, such scars would heal because the love for Allah Azza Wa Jall can heal anything. in sha Allah.
It is indeed a book that is dedicated to those who have been broken, have been refused of marriage, forced into marriage and to those who are finding it hard to accept the Qadr of Allah Azza Wa Jall when it comes to the cases of the heart’s desires.
• Third box: The Scent of Halal Marriage
This is the main theme and aim of the book, to showcase the beauty of halal marriage, so that when the teens and the youth and even the adult people who would read the book would be inspired on venturing into nikkah in the most halal way.
And for a fact, I have written this book, while incorporating my own story. How beautiful was it that I found myself, from stages that came from darkness to light. Indeed how beautiful is the guidance of Allah Azza Wa Jall.
I wrote this book from the heart which was ecstatic to broken to shattered to depressed to moving on to consoling to picking up broken pieces to telling Allah to healing with Allah to reconnecting with Allah to pleasing Allah and to finally finding Allah.
Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah.
What's your favourite story from love letters in the sand?
You would have to really read the book to know why I love the story of Umm Ruman and Abu Bakr As Sideeq Radiyallahu Anhum
What other books have you written?
Love Letters by the Sand is my first book, but I have written 3 Ramadhan Journals for the past 3 years now. Alhamdulillah.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years inshaAllah?
Married with a loving husband, teaching Qur’an to our kids and being a very obedient and patient wife. in sha Allah.
What are your top 5 pieces of advice to get closer to Allah?
1. Tell Allah everything.
2. Allah is watching.
3. The angels are recording.
4. Death is approaching.
5. Your Qur’an needs reading.
What is your favourite Quranic Ayah/ Hadith and why?
Everything that I do, I base it on the hadith of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wassalaam saying: "Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does a job, he should perfect it [Al Bayhaqi]
And these five verses that I remind myself everyday.
Myself is my responsibility.
“O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do.” 5:105
Work to gain. Make effort.
“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” 13:11
Aim for that “great reward”.
“Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom's weight; while if there is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward.” 4:40
“Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned.” 21:35
My ultimate goal.
“O Soul at peace, Return to your Lord, Well-pleased, well pleasing, Join my servants, enter My Paradise.” 89:27-30
What is one thing you know now, that you wish younger you knew?
The Arabic Language.
Tell us about something you've always wanted to do, but haven't yet? Something on your bucket list maybe.
Build an Islamic university, with a huge masjid and a huge library. But seriously, that’s a very big project but everything is possible with Allah.
I would really like to build an art school and make islamic books easily accessible for kids in remote areas. in sha Allah.
Whenever I look back at my childhood, I still cry to the fact that I wasn’t able to learn about my deen that early, but Alhamdulillah Allah is the Best of Planners, so since then after learning, it has been my advocacy to help provide to kids materials that would help them learn about Islam at such an early age.
And we ask Allah for Help in everything that we do.
Any advice for the sisters out there carving their path in life?
Protect your Hayaa.
I have seen a lot of sisters who are doing great jobs for the Ummah, but the pressure of the society and fame lures them to deliberately become inconsistent on this part which is very alarming.
Value your worth, there will be people that would be mentioned in this dunya for fame but there would be also people that would be mentioned by Allah for their good deeds and the values they have showcased in the akhirah, so make your choice, which world would you like to be mentioned in?
Take inspiration from the Sahabiyyat, not a single photo of them existed nor were they taken into stages to perform but their names linger even though they have been gone 1400 years ago. Allahu’akbar.
How beautiful is it that whenever your name is mentioned the first word that comes to describe you was “She was very modest.” Subhan’Allah. May Allah Azza Wa Jall raise the status of every woman who dresses to value her worth, who chose to cover in a world when covering became hardest. Amin.
And just because Jannah is the goal, you've made it to Jannah, what's the first thing you'd love to do in sha Allah?
See my Rabb. in sha Allah.