Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Winning Woman: Saher Ahmed

Asalaam aleikum, the intros are always the hardest bit for me, i don't think i'll ever learn how to summarize in a few sentences how amazing these women are. Meet Saher, a final year student at University of York, (England) a 21 year old young lady whose values on life and Islam have truly inspired me and i hope they inspire you as well. Here's what we talked about.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, who is Saher?
I’m 21 years old, born in Pakistan but raised in England. My mother moved to England with my brother and I when I was 7 years old. I’m currently a third year student, in my final year at the University of York reading PPE (triple honour BA - Philosophy, Politics and Economics).
2. What is it that you do as a student?
I work for the university and have done throughout my degree since first year as a Student Ambassador, providing tours and helping run and organise conferences, open days, visit days by students of all ages and parents etc. I’ve done projects with children in rural areas to inspire them towards higher education and have often spoken about my experience as someone from a low socio-economical background and my journey to higher education. I did my best to take all opportunities presented to me, and grabbed a few out of my reach - but they all made me who I am today and helped me have the mindset that I, as a Muslim, Pakistani woman can do a degree like PPE. I’ve never come across another hijabi in any of my classes, and some were up to 300 people. I’ve never even encountered any hijabi who does my degree…
As a Muslim sister who observes the hijab, I’ve often been looked at to ‘represent’ the views of Muslim women in my classes when discussing politics and even religion in my philosophy classes. I have always done my best to keep educated so that I can help remove misconceptions and help others in their curiosity.
At the end of my first year (July 2015), I became the President of the Islamic Society at the University. It required me to lead a committee, starting with just 4 people and reach to 13 alhamdulillah, in order to provide weekly events and holding annual events such as (hosting) a Dinner which is attended by the community and not just students to keep ties between Muslim students strong with the masjid and communities, and Discover Islam Week - a national and even global week (a.k.a Islam Awareness Week), hosting talks by scholars in topics of Women’s Rights in Islam, Removing misconceptions about Jihad, talking to reverts about their journey etc.
I held the post for a year and then stepped down but remain involved, especially until December 2016 in making sure the new committee transition smoothly.
3. What’s the hardest and the best part about your role as a president?
I first refused to run for presidency when I was suggested it by the previous president, but I prayed to Allah and decided to run with the main motive being to improve my imaan. The hardest part was talking to university officials about problems faced by Muslims on campus, last year the UK conservative government released a law regarding ‘Prevent’ which enforced all institutions to keep an eye on ‘radicals’ and it was mainly targeting Muslims. Furthermore in times of global Islamophobia, talking to university newspapers was sometimes difficult as I had to make sure I represented the Muslims on campus and their concerns and it was a huge responsibility. The best part was being involved in the Muslim community and doing the best I could with my committee to provide an atmosphere where they could learn about their religion as well as where non-Muslims could attend with ease.
4. Do you have other hobbies or side-hustles, if yes, tell us more about that?
Sports and fitness were a big part of my life, they still are but I don’t play sports anymore and have stopped working out due to university life and personal reasons - insha’Allah will start again soon!
I take part in MUN conferences - Model United Nations, taking part in them through the university delegation. The last one was 13th-17th March 2017, I just returned yesterday. It will probably be my last one, WorldMUN is considered the olympics of MUN and is hosted by Harvard University. It changes location every year, this year it was based in Montreal, Canada. I’m personally quite cynical of the UN and believe it needs major reform, however I recognise its efforts and all that it has achieved. I believe it’s important to know something before attempting to change it. I’m not sure if I ever want to change it from within and be part of that world, but I want to, in terms of career, go into the humanitarian field or environmental awareness. I’d like to work in community development, mainly regarding education of children and women.
5. In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I remember the strength Allah has given to me in all the past years, I grew up without a father and went through a lot with my relationship with him and my parents separation. He passed away last year and due to circumstances, I had to go to Pakistan alone and he passed away without my brother and mother being able to be there. Dealing with that alone, as well as maintaining presidency I doubted if I could continue my studies and my role as President. I believe the support of family and friends is crucial too. I always ask Allah for guidance through prayer, He is my ultimate provider and my helper, I believe firmly that He will always guide me to the right path if I ask Him for guidance. Islam is truly beautiful, it provides us with tahajjud and istikhara as well as the 5 prayers to ask for further guaranteed guidance.
Even if I do say so myself, I’ve been through a lot in my life, including near-death experiences twice, the only thing I need to build myself up is belief in God. And it always helps when friends and family are there to remind me to place my trust in Him no matter what.
6. What does success mean to you?
Success to me would be remaining on Allah’s path and dying in a state Allah is pleased with. I went through a phase in life where I was unsure of faith and religion in general, I believe most people do, and alhamdulillah I got through it with a better understanding of myself and Islam.
In non spiritual terms, success would be to do as much as I can to help humanity, to provide ease to my mother in every stage of her life and to do justice to all my relations. I would like to live a life in which I don’t get influenced by society and chase the world, I always pray for Allah to keep me on His path, this includes keeping a balance between this life and the next. I pray I never get too attached to this world and lose that balance.
7. What quote or saying or book do you live by or rather inspires you?
The Qur’an and hadeeth are what I live by, and they inspire me to be a better person every day. One of the many quotations dear to my heart: ‘la tahzan innallah ha ma’ana’ - do not be sad, Allah is with us. [9:40].
Due to my degree and just the type of person I am, the state of the world often depresses me, there are days and moments where I feel disgust to the extent I don’t want to talk to another human being or leave my room. In those moments, I remind myself of that quotation, knowing that ultimately Allah is the source of sabr, of justice, and of healing the wounds of those wronged gives me hope and strength to keep fighting in a world that wants to close your eyes and desensitize you.
8. Which of your traits are you most proud of, why?
I suppose it would be the ability to reflect deeply, and to forgive myself. One of the things I fear for myself is not being able to ask God for forgiveness because I feel I’m not worthy. Everyone has whispers from the devil, telling them there’s too much shame in facing your Lord after the sins you commit, but we need to always remember His mercy and forgiveness. I am most proud of this because it allows me to always pick myself up, to start again and to continue living my life with hope and a smile on my face. It also allows me to remind my friends and family of the same, reminding them to reflect on all the good and learn from the bad.
9. What characteristic do you most admire in other women, career women or otherwise?
The ability to recognize their strength as a woman, too often we forget our value in not only society but self-worth too. Their ability to know how gentle and caring they can be as well as how much of a backbone they are to society, a backbone which is not stiff or callous, rather soft and flexible. In the global atmosphere we live in today, we need the touch of a woman to heal those around her, to encourage those who feel they’re too broken to continue and to share their strength in leading a community/society, economically, socially and politically.
10. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received in your life and what advice would you give to girls who look up to you?
I am always flattered and don’t feel I’m worthy of the praise I am given so when sisters especially tell me they admire me and look up to me, all I can really say is that you should always aim to better yourself in every way possible - spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally etc. Be the best version of yourself possible.
The best advice I heard from a scholar was ‘even if you can’t move a step forward, maintain your position and do everything possible to not take a step backwards.’ No matter how long it takes to move forward, be proud that you haven’t gone back to your old ways, to the weaker version of you.
Also, when you make the intention for something, get up and do it there and then, don’t leave it until the voices in your head (and the devil) tempt you away from it.


  1. Masha Allah Really inspired

  2. Such an inspiring post, Masha'Allah thank you for sharing

    1. makes me happy to see people get inspired. :) thank you for reading