Raffia Arshad- Family Law Barrister, Author, Lecturer and Motivational Speaker- Nottingham, England, UK
|1. How did you start your career?
I have always wanted to be a Lawyer. Since the age of 11, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. As I enjoyed courtroom advocacy so much, the right step for me was to qualify as a Barrister. The competition is extremely tough with over 400 applicants for one job. I managed to secure a series of scholarships to fund the Barrister course in its entirety. Each morning I wake up and go to work I am very thankful to Allah for the wonderful job I have and the ability to make a difference in the lives of people. I love my work, but it does not make me who I am. I have been a Barrister for almost nine years now and within the next few years will be taking my judges exams as that is where I see my future role.
|2. I highly applaud your efforts to put just as much work into studying Islam as you did for your university education. Did you feel in any way the two complemented each other?
The pursuit of education is very much encouraged in Islam. I believe all practicing Muslims should continually seek to better themselves in both deen and dunya. The successful Muslim is the one who has deen in his or heart and the dunya in his or her hands.
|3. As a Muslim woman with a career like yours, how do you explain the position of women in Islam to a non-Muslim?
The position of women in Islam is explained by my own actions. Every Muslim should be a walking advert for the deen. My work, my dress, my character insha’Allah are all embodiments of what Islam teaches.
|4. How has your experience been wearing hijab in High Court?
I am in a highly competitive elite profession. It is unusual to see Asians in this field, let alone a practicing Muslim woman. Muslim women have received a dispensation from wearing the wig, although some women do still choose to wear the wig and a hijab. The courts have been very accommodating.
|5. What do you feel is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is my ability to be in an elite and demanding profession without compromising my duties to my family. Despite being in the High Court, I will still manage to cook dinner, clean my home and make sure my son is on top of his hifz. I have always said and continue to believe that women should take care of their homes first and then go out to work. There is no point in helping society if by neglecting your household duties you become one of the problems of society.
|6. What advice do you give to young Muslim women who are also looking to go into law?
Preparation is the key to anyone looking to achieve anything. 90% preparation, 10% execution. It is an extremely competitive field therefore you should aim to be the best candidate. The courtroom is not for the faint-hearted so if you’re a shy person and unable to think on your feet, this career is not suited to you. It would be advisably to get as much work experience as possible before making a firm decision.
|7. What advice would you give to mothers who are also balancing a career and motherhood?
The advice I would give to mothers looking to balance work and family life is to put their family first, have tawakkal in Allah and everything else will follow.
|8. What misconceptions about Muslim women would you like to see change?
The biggest misconception about Muslim women is probably that the hijab subjugates them. I loved the comment made recently by Tawakkul Karman, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize who said:
“Man in the early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.”