Looking back, how do you remember yourself as a child?
I remember being a very shy little girl as a child.
Tell us something about your father’s journey to Islam.
My father was brought up as a Christian in New York, where he used to attend church with his family until he got to high school. When he got to college, he was studying Christian theology, and in one of the classes, they were talking about the proofs of the existence of God. As he was listening, he wrote in his notebook: “God is ONE.” This was very significant, as it was indicative that he was not convinced with the concept of the trinity, and he was leaning towards the belief that God is One. When he began studying Islam in college, he started reading the translation of the Quran, and as he says in his own words, he was amazed. He knew that this is not a man speaking; the words and the manner of speech is not of a man; it was too powerful. After reading the Quran for a while, before he even knew much about Islam and before taking Shahadah, he started telling people that he was a Muslim.
What led you to become a fitness and self-defense trainer?
I moved to Pakistan with my husband and children about four and half years ago, and one of the things that I very quickly learned was that there was this huge lack of awareness about health, our bodies, and even personal safety at every level. A very good friend of mine that I had recently met at that time encouraged me to get into teaching self-defense to girls and women, and I have not looked back since.
Who was your inspiration as a teenager?
Honestly, I do not think I was specifically inspired by any one person or idea. We moved a lot throughout my childhood and teenage years, and because of that I came across many people who were inspiring in their own ways. I would say my religious beliefs and the many amazing people that I came across through my teenage years inspired me in different ways.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to defend yourself?
The answer would be yes and no. Alhumdulillah, I have never had to physically defend myself, but I have had to use situational awareness and following my gut instincts, critical concepts that are stressed upon in self-defense, to avoid what could have been a potentially dangerous situation.
And that is basically what self-defense is. I always say that the best and most ideal way of defending yourself is by identifying danger and getting away, before it even gets to the point where you have to physically defend yourself.
What is your vision for yourself and how does your husband support you?
I hope to be able to continue this journey and grow in it as much as I can. One of my future goals is to be able to offer self-defense and personal safety seminars and classes all over Karachi Insha’Allah. My husband has been, Alhumdulillah, as supportive as time and resources allow. He gives me the space and time I need to be able to continue what I am doing, which would not be possible otherwise.
What dreams do you have for your kids?
To be strong in their faith, to exemplify good character as they grow, and to be the best version of themselves.
How important do you feel is fitness for women, and why do you think it is so underrated in Pakistan?
Fitness for women is very important from so many points. Physical fitness helps increase stamina, strength, and endurance, which can positively affect how a person goes about her daily activities. No one likes to feel tired and weak, but that is what ends up happening, because we usually do not take care of ourselves. It is also known that when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which is a feel-good chemical and can help in relieving stress, improving your mood and even regulating emotions. I think lack of knowledge and awareness has not allowed us to realize the importance of physical fitness, and I hope it will slowly change, Insha’Allah.
A message you would like to share with the girls and boys of this generation.
I would like to tell young boys and girls two things. First, be strong and clear in what is right and what is wrong, and do not let what you may be doing now muddle up rights and wrongs. Second, find your strength and work hard to become the best at it.
Interview conducted by Amal Hanif and Nabeeha Shafi (students of grade 8 at Fajr Academy).