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Being Her! – Interview With Sara Asif

Heart-to-heart questions about her childhood, leaving the banking sector, women issues and more!

  1. What were you like as an adolescent? How did you come towards Islam?

I was considered a reasonably average adolescent. Being the eldest of my siblings, I was expected to be the most well-behaved – which I was! My mother says if they told me to sit in one spot, they could trust that I wouldn’t move until asked. Those things obviously change as you become a teenager, and being an adventurous soul, I enjoyed my fair share of mischievous activities. But I was never a rebellious kid. 

I came back to Islam much later in life. Growing up, I saw my Dada (grandfather) pray and fast, which would motivate me to follow along. But nothing beyond that. By my early thirties, I began feeling a sense of emptiness and was struck by the same existential question most people in search of spirituality face- “What is the purpose of my life?”. I had always been very proactive, but things started to seem relatively meaningless after a while. I felt there had to be a greater purpose to my existence, and in the absence of any mentor figure or sense of direction – I turned to the Quran.

  1. Your busy routine seems to keep you on the go. How do you balance your time between ibadah (worship) and other dawah (call to Islam) activities?

It definitely took some time to strike a balance, and if I were to be completely honest, it’s an ongoing struggle. I aim to set aside the early morning hours for my ibadah. It’s the best time to focus on yourself and your spiritual rejuvenation before the daily grind. As for the rest of my daily routine and dawah activities, I like to make schedules and to-do lists to help me stay focused. Having your tasks laid out in the front can help you manage them a lot better. It’s something I encourage my kids to do all the time, and they’re probably getting a good chuckle reading this.

But like I said, sometimes all the planning in the world can still throw you off track, especially when your three-year-old granddaughter comes to visit you after months! That’s when it truly becomes a struggle to manage everything. 

  1. Your ‘Being Her’ series for women on YouTube has broken records! How do you come up with such fantastic content?

Being a woman helps generate a deeper insight into the potential strengths and weaknesses of our gender, which is fuel to what sparks these topics, usually.

I’ve also had the privilege to give dawah to many teenagers and contemporary women in our society. A lot of those talks have led to conversations that have helped me better understand women’s roles and needs, which I then tried to address during this series. 

  1. How can women find the strength to raise strong and morally sound children if they are trapped in a toxic environment/family?

As women, I think it’s crucial that we drive our strength and sense of self-worth independent of those around us. Yes, while it is critical to have a sound support system that makes raising children a lot easier, in reality, not everyone has that. 

I feel it’s essential for a woman facing such a situation to connect with Allah (SWT) and rely on that relationship regarding her problems. The fact is, nothing is impossible for Allah (SWT), and He is the maintainer of relations and the ultimate decider of your children’s future. So why not rely on Him? 

Having said that, being stuck in a toxic relationship and environment can have a lasting impact on children, and Alhamdulillah our religion has never been against the idea of counselling and therapy. We need to be able to openly talk about these issues and seek appropriate help when required. 

  1. After so many setbacks from COVID, how have you come out better and stronger?

If there’s one thing Covid has made me realise, it’s that we are not in control of life as much as we think we are. I talk about being proactive and productive, but the reality is that everything I do and everything I have is made possible only through Allah (SWT). Post-Covid, my health took a massive toll, and I couldn’t carry on giving dawah on the same level as before. But that didn’t mean Allah (SWT) ‘s work stopped. SubhanAllah, it’s a blessing from Him that He granted me this opportunity to work in His way. It’s a privilege that should never be taken for granted. 

Rather, I believe this humbling experience has allowed me to get back to work with a renewed sense of purpose. 

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Eat less sugar; your older self will thank you!

There is a hadith that talks about seven people who won’t be deprived of the shade of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgement, one of them being the person who worshipped Allah in their youth. 

Sometimes my kids like to joke around that I thoroughly enjoyed my youth and turned to religion only when I was older. But the truth is, I see all these young, energetic and brilliant people around me dedicating their time and energy towards Allah (SWT) ‘s work and how I wish I could’ve dedicated my own youth to serve Allah (SWT). That’s what I yearn for in my younger self. 

  1. How can unmarried sisters stay hopeful and spend their time effectively while they face rejections and toxic comments?

Making sure that we as women derive our sense of self-worth independent of those around us. Focus more on how you appear to Allah (SWT) rather than to society. 

  1. How can women unleash their potential within the boundaries of Shariah, keeping in view new days ideologies like feminism?

Women (and men!) need to connect with the Quran and Sunnah and realise that women’s rights and status in society are fully protected and, in fact, promoted in our religion. We have the examples of many strong, independent and pious women in the history of Islam to look up to as role models. Women like Aisha (RA) and Khadija (RA), who had performed at their highest levels yet bowed down the lowest in front of their Lord. Once we know just how liberating our religion is, we won’t feel the need to turn to any other movement. 

Unfortunately, our society has been distant from our deen (religion) because we have stained our so-called “religious practices” with a kind of patriarchy that goes against the actual teachings of Islam. Hence, we are turning to Western ideologies for our rescue. Therefore, I think it’s essential for both men and women to seek education and familiarise themselves with the actual teachings of Islam.

  1. You were working in the banking sector before turning to dawah. What was the main reason that caused your transition?

The transition wasn’t overnight. I had originally quit banking because I wanted to spend time with my daughters and not miss out on their formative years. In the meantime, I kept myself occupied with side projects and hustles. The transition to teaching Islam came after I went through a self-education journey and realised I had to share what I had learned through my experiences with those around me. 

The youth have always interested me; personally, the enthusiasm they bring to the table is incomparable! I also feel like my past allows me to connect with the youth, coming down to their level of challenges. 

  1. What are your hobbies for rebooting yourself after a tiring day?

There is nothing like a bar of chocolate and a good cup of black coffee; I wish I had something healthier to say.

  1. What advice will you give to females who have to suffer from a toxic company and endure harsh criticism?

Your self-worth comes from Allah (SWT). Do not let other people’s opinions dictate who you are. 

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