Zahra Pederson: Muslimah Life Coach and Influencer
By Ruqyah Sweidan / Arab America Contributing Writer
Zahra Pedersen is a Denmark-based certified life coach, writer, author, podcaster, motivational speaker, and philanthropist. She founded her Muslim personal training company, The Healthy Hijab, in 2014. Her main focus is on helping Muslim women create better lives for themselves and their families. Her approach is comprised of faith-based teachings and a holistic understanding to mental health. To help women break free of self- and socially- imposed limitations, there must be a collective movement for empowerment. Zahra is also a great proponent of patience, gratitude, and love.
In 2006, Zahra was diagnosed with stage four cancer at the age of nineteen. The rigorous treatment and trauma of the experience led Zahra to suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Because Zahra did not want to introduce more drugs into her body, she pursued natural ways to self-heal. Thus, her passion for nutrition, fitness and holistic health was born.
Zahra is one of many young and influential British Muslim entrepreneurs who has gained an international following. Zahra’s goal was to fill a gap in the health and fitness market. There was not a niches that catered to the modesty of Muslim women. Thus, the Healthy Hijab was created to help women find women-only environments to train. They could also do some comfortably in the privacy of their homes. The community’s goal is not to attain ‘beach bodies’, bur rather to look and feel good in a way that is unique to the individual. Now, Muslim women active wear has become more popular
Challenges and Triumphs
Zahra, unfortunately, faced challenges in starting her center. She did not get much help or support from others because a business like hers was unfamiliar to many. Therefore, Zahra was tasked with creating just the right product that would attract the audience she was hoping for. Looking back, she realizes that she was proud to have been the first to break the ice. Zahra also does not wear the hijab, which made it difficult to gain her audience’s trust. Nevertheless, she continues to be authentic and sincere in her desire to help women who do dress modestly.
Zahra works with clients who are 20 to 35 years old – with occasional exceptions of teenagers or elderly women. They are pro-dominantly driven and independent. She is regularly taking on new clients as well as saying goodbye to others when they have learned what they needed from her. This is a success for Zahra. She wants all women to feel empowered enough to continue bettering themselves on their own when they are ready. Zahra has people reaching out to her for her services from all over the world. The online programs and courses that she is designing now are meant to keep a consistent quality of service despite the distance between her and her clients. Prior to the pandemic, Zahra hosted Muslimah boot camps and fitness retreats to encourage unity and bonding among Muslim sisters.
Impact of the Healthy Hijab
Zahra’s company is not merely a source of income. It is also the embodiment of her genuine want to help people in need, especially Muslim women. Being a Muslim woman on any social media platform opens her up to both positive and negative responses. Having experienced the naivety and ignorance of both Muslim and non-Muslims only motivated her to continue breaking the mold. She believes it is imperative to shed light on subjects that are not often discussed often in the Muslim communities. These include mental health, not wearing or removing the hijab as a Muslim woman, interfaith discrimination and more.
The Healthy Hijab has been around for less than a decade. Yet, Zahra is proud to report that her company is a success. She has gained recognition on TV, radio, lifestyle magazines and newspapers. Zahra has also been invited to get involved with charity work and collaborate with other female Muslim lead startups. She has also spoken at and hosted women’s only events in the UK. Her business is now strong and continues to grow. They people she interacts with inspire her as she inspires them.
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