Welcome to the Productive Professions interview with Sister Tasnim Nazeer. Throughout the Productive Professions series we hope to inspire our readers to pursue professions that are beneficial to the Ummah, and to cultivate skills that are useful in society. Enjoy!
Sr. Tasnim is a freelance journalist/reporter for BMG’s Global Islamic Finance Magazine. She has written for a variety of print and online publications including The Muslim News, CNN, The Huffington Post, How-To Books and writes her own column on Aaila, The Muslim Family Magazine. Her work has brought her nominations for the Asian Woman of Achievement Award 2012 and also for the Muslim News Award for Excellence. She is also a mother of three children, masha Allah!
1. Assalam alaikum Sr. Tasnim. Please tell us what motivated you to enter the journalism and writing field, and how you made your entrance. What were your first experiences as a new Muslim journalist/writer?
From an early age I have always enjoyed writing a variety of texts from articles, stories and poetry and this love of writing spurred me to eventually study Journalism at university. My main motivation for entering into a career in Journalism was because I wanted to give a voice to those who often felt unheard and dispel myths surrounding Muslims within the media.
I first started out by writing human interest articles for local papers and getting as much work experience within the media industry as I could by submitting articles to various print and online media. I began writing for a Sri Lankan International newspaper and went to Sri Lanka personally to visit the victims of the tsunami who had still not received aid and were inflicted with hardship. It was both an emotional and rewarding experience which motivated me to continue until this day. I soon began to realize how the pen has the ability to raise awareness about an important issue and hopefully create a positive change.
After building up my profile of published articles within a variety of print and online publications I then got a job as a Freelance Journalist for Business Media Group’s Global Islamic Finance Magazine by the grace of Allah (swt). I have been working there now for a few years whilst being married and managing a young family and also continue to write for many Islamic and international publications on the topics of Islam, human rights, parenting and world news.
2. How long have you been in this field and how has the journey been so far? Please share some of the highlights with us.
At the age of 15 I had my first article published in a local newspaper and seeing my name in the paper really made me and my family happy. Ten years later at 25 I am still inspired to write especially on the topics of Islam, Alhamdulillah. Some of the main highlights of my career so far have been being nominated for the Young Journalist of the Year 2011 at the Muslim Writers Awards, as I was really surprised to be shortlisted. I then was nominated by American Muslim Magazine MB Muslima as the 40 under 40 inspirational Muslims which was another major highlight in addition to being shortlisted at the Asian Woman of Achievement Awards 2012, Alhamdulillah.
I think that seeking the praise from Allah and writing with good intentions in order to portray the positivity and peace that Islam promotes would be better than any highlight of my career.
3. What are the challenges you faced as you were moving along and what tips would you provide to all those who are hoping to join this field? How would a Productive Muslim go about it?
One of the main challenges that I found when writing for mainstream publications is that there will be some editors who are under the perception that Muslim journalists would be delivering biased reports. As a journalist, neutral reporting is part of the job and ensures professionalism. Journalists, regardless of their faith, know what is required of them. I believe in giving a fair report portraying both sides of the story, after all being truthful is part of our emaan.
Many people from socially diverse backgrounds often find that they are misrepresented within the media and that is why there is a need for more varied reporting of issues surrounding the communities at large. Portrayals of Muslim women have the potential to impact discrimination and rights of the community and this can only be done if there are more writers from diverse backgrounds.
I would encourage Muslims who are interested in journalism to go for their goals as it is an extremely rewarding line of work and it offers the opportunity to nourish your writing skills, and report on a variety of issues around the world. I never thought that I could get this far by being a journalist but by hard work and sheer perseverance I have tried to build a place for myself in this competitive industry.
If you are interested in getting into journalism try to get on a course either at university or if you are in college it may be helpful to study subjects such as English or Media Studies. Work experience can introduce you to the practicalities and discipline of the job and so I would recommend trying to get your foot in the door. The more experience you have with writing can really help to build up a solid portfolio and showcase your writing abilities. I wish all budding journalists the best of luck!
4.What kinds of skills do you develop as a writer and journalist, and how have they helped you outside your profession?
There are a variety of skills that you develop as a journalist and writer which can be utilized in every day life. Time management skills and staying organized is very important for a journalist as it helps to meet deadlines and stay on top of things. Effective time management is something that we can all utilize in daily life and is especially beneficial when we want to stay organized.
It is worthwhile having good listening and communication skills. I think it is important in life to be able to listen to others, as well as express your own views which shows mutual respect.
It can also help to have good preparation skills just like how we wake up for Fajr we have to be disciplined to get up early in order to wake up in time, and that means preparing ourselves either by keeping an alarm or some type of reminder to wake us up.
Developing writing skills further and widening your reading is a skill that can be adapted to use every day and it is one of the skills I have developed throughout my career.
5. For someone who is considering this field, what’s a typical day in the life of a journalist/writer like?
As I am a Freelance Journalist I primarily work from home and occasionally go into the office but I have worked in such an environment before and it has been very hectic meeting deadlines, interviewing and writing up reports however it can also be extremely rewarding.
You often find that after you have written an article you will feel a sense of accomplishment meeting the deadline and voicing a worthwhile story. Some of my main duties throughout the day would be researching for a story, preparing the news or a feature article, writing up press releases, editing and proofreading, uploading and selecting images to go with articles and perhaps one or two short interviews in a single day.
My typical day as a journalist is coupled with looking after the kids and husband, as I am at home, so that means lots of nights staying up till the early hours and lots of early morning research long before Fajr! However, by the grace of Almighty Allah it is a very nice experience to write especially if you enjoy it and if you have the support from husband and family, it is a great career and can enhance each day with Allah ’s blessings.
6. There are many women out there who are interested in pursuing a career while raising a family. Are there any experiences or tips you’d like to share with women, especially mothers, who aspire to do what you have done?
Every Muslim woman has a talent of their own and I think that they can most definitely balance family and a career especially with Journalism and writing as you can easily freelance from home. I think the key to raising a family whilst pursuing a career is by effectively managing your time and knowing your limits to work. For me, my husband and children come first and then my work because I cannot neglect the responsibilities of the home and I want that time to spend with them. Having time with the family and pursuing a career in Journalism is not impossible as you can work during children’s nap times, when they are asleep, when they are busy wanting their own ‘me’ time or any other time that is best suited to you. In addition you can choose which publications you want to apply for and they may be flexible on deadlines so you know when you have to get your work done and therefore make time for it.
I started out small working very hard to publish in print media then went from print to online and then onto some major international papers. Contact editors and send them an email outlining your experience in writing and your unique writing style and who knows this could be the start of a successful writing career, inshallah!
It can be very rewarding pursuing a worthwhile career from home and managing the family so I would encourage anyone who is interested to go for it and if you do need any advice please contact me via my website www.tasnimnazeer.com and I will be more than happy to help.
7. In a more general sense, how do you maintain balance between the different aspects of your life productively?
In order to create a balance between the many aspects of my life such as family and work I think it is first important to realize the purpose of this life which is to work towards Al Akhirah and pleasing Allah in everything we do. I always start the day remembering that any sustenance or any hardship is from Allah and this helps me to prioritize and organize my day effectively to ensure that I conduct my time effectively working, and with the family in order to achieve a balance.
Praying Salah really helps obtain the balance in life as most of my work is centered around prayer. I wake up early before Fajr doing work and after Fajr and I tend to think of the prayer times and relate them to what I am going to do. Again what I am trying to convey is that although I am very active as a Journalist I do not want to neglect the most important part of life which we have to be productive in and that is pleasing Allah . Due to this I think that I have been able to achieve more and I think any mother, wife or husband can achieve and create a balance between work and the family.
I think that Muslim women can work and raise a family effectively especially with creative industries such as writing. I have written voluntarily for many Islamic print and online publications and this is very rewarding. I think by utilizing our time for da’wah work such as writing on the topics of Islam is doing something constructive that will please Allah and also helping us to further achieve in life.
8. What are the most significant productivity lessons that you have learned through your career?
Some of the most significant productivity lessons which I have learned through my career have to be effective time management. As a journalist and writer you have countless deadlines and in order to get everything done within a certain time frame it is imperative to stay organized.
I think it is a good thing to know how to utilize time and stay concentrated. As journalist I have learned to stay disciplined in sticking to deadlines and ensuring that they are met. In addition, preparation is also key to getting tasks completed and I think it is a skill that we can all adapt in our everyday lives.
It also helps to get up early for Fajr as this provides the best start to the day and can also help you refresh and energize yourself so you are ready for the day ahead.
Mainly, if we use our time productively we can fit in time for all the important aspects of our life and ensure a good balance and that is the key to being productive in this life and working towards the next permanent life.
9. Do you have any message or values that you’d like to share with our readers?
I would like to encourage anyone who is interested in writing and Journalism to go for their goals and it would be especially beneficial if you write on topics which can have some benefit such as Islam. I believe that Allah provides our sustenance and we can achieve anything Allah wishes us to. Sometimes there are hurdles and sometimes things are made easy but that is how life is.
It is important to recognize your talents and see how you can utilize those talents for the sake of Allah . I never thought that I was a good writer and I still think I should improve to this day, despite my husband encouraging me that I am good. However, I wanted to write about topics such as Islam in addition to other human interest stories which can benefit Muslims and creative a positive image of Islam within the media. Insha Allah I hope that Allah keeps the Ummah united and keeps us sincere in our intentions to productively achieve, for the sake of our faith.
For more information contact me on my website: www.tasnimnazeer.com.