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Trailblazers: Muslim Women Share Insights on Breaking Into Their Industries (Part 2/2)

by in Culture on 31st August, 2023

Muslim women are a rapidly growing demographic in the global workforce  bringing forth a myriad of skills, knowledge and experience to their roles. From professional services to the creative arts, Muslim women continue to prosper, excel and challenge the unconscious biases and stereotypes that may accompany them along the way! 

In this interview piece, 10 inspiring female Muslim professionals shed light on their different career trajectories and offer up crucial insights on how others can successfully break into their profession. 


You can read Part One here.

Caveat: all the views expressed in this article belong to the individuals listed and can not be attributed to their employer or company. 


Maab Saifeldin

In-house trainee solicitor

Industry: Law


Hard Skills

  • Legal training (Law degree plus LPC or SQE)
  • Ongoing Professional development

Soft Skills

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Organisational skills
  • Prioritisation

1. Can you tell us about your role and outline the background to your career path? 

I studied International Law at Lancaster University.  After many rejections, I got my first paralegal job at a personal injury law firm where I worked for two years. In that role I had my own workload of litigated and non-litigated Road Traffic Accidents. In parallel, I started studying the Legal Practice Course (LPC) part-time for two years and then worked for two other litigation law firms. At the end of my LPC, I successfully interviewed for an in-house training contract alhamdulillah, which is now my current role. I am finishing my first year of training and in 2024 I hope to qualify as a solicitor under the Solicitor Qualifying Exam (SQE).

2. What excites you most about your work and/or role?

I get excited about the different problems that are sent my way. I have always loved helping people and solving their problems. Working in-house allows me to solve both business and legal questions which is as I get to build on my commercial awareness and business skills. As a naturally curious person, I like that I get to understand the priorities of different departments in the business. This helps me  build my knowledge and continue to learn and grow. I also love that I get to meet and expand my network.

3. What does your typical day-to-day look like? 

My day differs as it largely depends on my work-load and my emails. I usually start work around 9 am. While I have my coffee and breakfast, I create my to-do list for the day which helps me stay organised. The rest of the day consists of responding to emails, asking for updates on projects and project management. I also do legal research and drafting of legal documents.

4. What advice would you give to other Muslim women wishing to enter your field?

My advice is to identify your strengths, the value you can bring to the organisation and to learn to sell yourself. The fact you are a minority entering a not-so-diverse industry can be daunting, but don’t let it hold you back from being confident in who you are. Make sure to do your research on what being a lawyer is and connect with female Muslim lawyers. Networking will take you very far in your career, so learn the art of networking effectively.

Zahra Al-Faloji

Surgical and Aesthetic Dentist

Industry: Dentistry (Sweden)


Hard Skills

  • Undergraduate dental education
  • One or two years supervised practice
  • Ongoing professional development

Soft Skills

  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Solutions-oriented

1. Can you tell us about your role and outline the background to your career path?

I am a general dentist focusing on surgery and aesthetic dentistry. When I was younger, my dream was to become a dentist and I have always liked working with my hands like moulding clay, sewing etc. It was difficult to get into dentistry in the UK due to the competitive process so I decided to move to Europe. Lithuania offered a dental programme that required an entrance exam which I took and passed. Although I faced some issues with racism and discrimination, I persevered to achieve my goal. When I graduated, I moved to Sweden where I studied the Swedish language and started working in different clinics before landing my current role. 

2. What excites you most about your work and/or role?

The most exciting moment is when my patients see their teeth after a treatment and have a big smile on their face. I greatly enjoy helping patients by getting to the root of their problems via diagnosis, making a treatment plan and sending them home pain free.

3. What does your typical day-to-day look like? 

My day starts when the first patient enters at 7:30 am and ends at 4 pm. I see patients of all ages, from kids to elderly. I provide dentures, endodontic treatments, and prosthetic aesthetics. I also conduct wisdom tooth surgery and am currently specialising in implantology where I will do implant surgeries for patients.

4. What advice would you give to other Muslim women wishing to enter your field?

My advice is to go for it! Dentistry is a beautiful career and I have discovered that many women want to be treated by female dentists. I get that request from both Muslim and non-Muslim patients. Don’t let anything get in your way from fulfilling your dream.

Sabeehah Motala 

Senior Technical Advisor at GIZ

Industry: Advocacy and development, South Africa 


Hard Skills

  • Qualifications in law, politics, international relations, sociology and/or development studies
  • Understanding of theories
  • (feminism, de-colonialism, intersectionality)
  • Project management

Soft Skills

  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Stress-management

1. Can you tell us about your role and outline the background to your career path?

I currently work as a Technical Advisor for Germany’s development cooperation company, GIZ, in a programme supporting anti-corruption in South Africa. I drive active citizenry around corruption, with a focus on gender and human rights. 

I am from South Africa, and come from a family with strong values of justice, equality and human rights. My family has a legacy of activism during the anti-apartheid struggle, which instilled in me a strong desire to always  advocate for those values. I studied law at SOAS as a means of pursuing a career in human rights, but found that London was not the most welcoming place for those wanting to get into public interest law. After finishing my degree, I returned to Johannesburg and interned at an NGO called Lawyers for Human Rights, which is an organisation with a rich history of activism. I provided legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers, but I was shocked to discover the level of corruption happening in the refugee system. I realised then, that my true calling was in contributing to the end of corruption in South Africa.

2. What excites you most about your work and/or role?

In South Africa, corruption is a mammoth task and most people have almost lost hope in resolving it. I’m lucky, I get to meet many people who are invested in addressing the challenge, and who espouse values of integrity and accountability. It is always wonderful to meet like-minded people who are ready to serve the broader community. The anti-corruption space is also a high intensity, fast-paced environment, so keeping up and adapting to politics can also be exciting! Under the umbrella of supporting active citizenry, I  have a lot of freedom in terms of the activities I can choose to execute. My activities currently involve a variety, from research, to hosting conferences, to supporting art as activism.

3. What does your typical day-to-day look like?

A lot of networking!  I get in touch with people and organisations interested in anti-corruption on a daily basis, discussing their experiences and the work that they do, figuring out how to collaborate and support that work. I also do a lot of problem solving, for example, how to capacitate youth organisations on anti-corruption, or how to get gender-based violence organisations working on sextortion. In practical terms, it’s a lot of emails, virtual calls, meetings and then when activities are underway, attending workshops, conferences and other events.

4. What advice would you give to other Muslim women wishing to enter your field?

I think working in development or social justice aligns really well with Islamic values of solidarity and justice, so I would encourage all Muslims to pursue social justice in some form or other. I think a space like anti-corruption can sometimes come across as a male-dominated, political space, often involving white collar crime and issues of financial irregularities. It also helps to not be too strict with a career path – there are a multitude of career options out there, constantly evolving, and you may find that studying something different at postgraduate level is a positive change. I started out wanting to be a lawyer, and now here I am, doing my passion, but in a different job entirely.

BluesfortheHorn 

R&B Singer, songwriter / topliner 

Industry: Creative 


Hard Skills

  • Vocal training
  • Musical score writing
  • Lyricism
  • Marketing

Soft Skills

  • Resilience
  • Approachability
  • Networking

1. Can you tell us about your role and outline the background to your career path?  

My artist name is Bluesforthehorn and I am a R&B singer, songwriter and top-liner. I think a lot of people know what the first two are but haven’t heard of the latter.  A topliner is similar to a songwriter who creates unique melodies and harmonies for producers and artists to help them shape or create lyrics to their projects.

I’ve always loved music, singing, and performing, and I’ve been involved in performing arts since school, including Christmas plays and drama productions where I had significant roles. I started taking my music seriously a few years ago and began writing my first music project whilst recovering from a broken ankle. Fast forward to now, my music is being played on national radio and I’m receiving a lot of support from those in the music industry and I’m still here! I am privileged to have released a new body of work for my second EP titled PAINFUL LOVE.

2. What excites you most about your work and/or role?

I get to be creative and free every single day with it. I could be washing the dishes and a melody would pop up in my head. I would rush to record it down on paper. Some of the best songs I’ve written often come from spontaneous bursts of creativity. Examples include my singles just say or hold your pace.

As an independent artist who isn’t signed I think there are a lot of advantages too. I get to release as much or as little music as I want. I’m not restricted to statistics, financial figures or followers. I  know some of my peers who are signed, unfortunately feel a little restricted and ‘trapped’.  Being independent gives me the freedom to just create. I also think meeting your supporters is fantastic – I recently performed at an event at Rumi’s cave and a lovely Muslim sister approached me about how she really enjoys my music and message. It’s moments like these that are so heart-warming and rewarding.

3. What does your typical day-to-day look like? 

I think it’s important to know that most songwriters and artists, especially those who are independent, have a 9-to-5 job or work part-time to help keep themselves financially stable. There is no shame in having multiple jobs to sustain yourself. As long as you are also doing something that you love and it makes you happy, it is worth it. Typically a day as a singer or songwriter normally starts at 5-9pm and involves studio work (where you’d record during the evenings or weekends), song-writing for myself and other artists, booking performances at festival and events, administrative tasks (e.g. scheduling meetings with my music publishers on the latest updates with my work) and digital marketing to develop my online presence.

4. What advice would you give to other Muslim women wishing to enter your field?

Being a black woman in the music industry is hard, but being a black Muslim woman is even more difficult. So I would say just have fun creating. Don’t force it and always be true to yourself. Building your network is vital. If you are someone that thinks you could be a great songwriter, then ensure you’re connected with other talented songwriters to expand your professional network. It is also good to have a mentor – try to seek out people that you admire and ask about their journey and connect with artists and repertoire (A&R) representatives who are responsible for finding talented artists for a record label or music publisher to sign on.

I think my role can be controversial but ultimately, intention is so important right? I do this to represent black Muslim women, to represent my story as a working-class woman from London expressing myself through my own lived experiences and reflecting the lived experiences of others. 

Shahnaj Miah 

Litigation Lawyer, London Borough of Waltham Forest 

Industry: Law


Hard Skills

  • Legal training (qualifying law degree plus LPC OR SQE)
  • Ongoing Professional development

Soft Skills

  • Organisational skills
  • Time management
  • Problem solving
  • Team work
  • Attention to detail

1. Can you tell us about your role and outline the background to your career path?

I work as a litigation solicitor for a London local authority. I work in the housing litigation and public law department, representing the Council in all litigated matters whether that is judicial review, disrepair, possession or antisocial behaviour. 

My work in the litigation sector began after completing my undergraduate law degree at SOAS and then going on to study the Legal Practice Course (LPC). When completing my law degree, I was particularly interested in criminal law at the time but soon realised it was actually  civil and contract law that enticed me much more and have thus pursued a career in litigation since. I worked for a private firm for four years before completing my training contract and then qualified in public law and judicial review, focusing mainly on homelessness and possession work.

2. What excites you most about your work and/or role?

The most exciting part of my role is dissecting a legal case, finding creative ways to defend, or bring about a legal challenge on behalf of the council and going on to see how the case transpires. No two cases are the same. I particularly enjoy anti social behaviour and fraud work as it gives me a sense of fulfilment when achieving results for my client.

3. What does your typical day-to-day look like? 

I work from home so I log on, check any urgent emails and then get on with my case work, deadlines or other correspondence. I also have team meetings as well as client meetings where I share progress on my cases and express any other thoughts about the case. I attend court proceedings in legal cases where required but other than that the typical day is usually spent on case work. I typically have 80 cases to juggle throughout the year!

4. What advice would you give to other Muslim women wishing to enter your field?

As a working Muslim woman we have many roles to fulfil in our work and private life. I would advise that you look for ways to progress and never shy away from a challenge. This field is enjoyable when handled correctly with other pressures on your time. I am a young mother who is pursuing this career and I admit juggling it all can be overwhelming, but the reward is even greater.  As long as I plan in advance, write my deadlines down and work towards those, I find everything fits into place. Organisation and attention to detail is very important in my field.

As you can see, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to career success – the inspiring Muslim women who have shared their career journeys in both Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview piece beautifully illustrate the importance of shedding light on different employment opportunities, in a bid to help others climb the same career ladder. A huge thank you to the awe-inspiring Muslim women who agreed to be featured in this article.

Najat Jebari

Najat Jebari

Najat is a business development manager at an international law firm and a part-time writer. She graduated with an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree from SOAS, University of London and previously worked as a paralegal for a trade association before transitioning to a business services role in the city. Her interests pertain to the socio-cultural issues impacting Muslim women in the UK and the importance of media representation in advancing diverse and inclusive narratives. IG: @Najat_Writes