Q&A with a Muslim Influencer: Sara Salih

Updated: Jan 8

People are turning to mindfulness and positivity to find better ways of handling the daily stress of life. The blue skies, clearwater, and sandy beaches on Sara’s Instagram page (sarasalih__) remind us that appreciating Allah’s creation will leave you feeling calmer. Allah swt says, “Verily in the remembrance of Allah, do hearts find rest.” (Quran 13:28)

Sara Salih has contributed to the past three battuta issues. Her articles have resonated a lot with our readers who are curious to know more about Sara Salih. So, without further ado, let’s get started with our Q&A.

Sara, welcome! Our readers are so curious to know more about you. Tell us, who is Sara Salih?

My response could turn into a profoundly philosophical answer! I’m a writer, traveler, and advocate for personal development, emotional healing, and mental health. I encourage others to use travel, inner reflection, and anything unique to them for their self-work, spirituality, and therapy.

HalalTravels’ motto is, “Traveling starts with an inspiration.” How about you? What inspires you to travel?

I have this deep desire to see and step foot on every part of this Earth. I believe Allah swt gave us this world to seek Him and praise Him by any means continuously, and travel happens to be the way I love to do it. Whenever I travel, I feel closer to Him and have a renewed sense of awe and appreciation. I think it happens because seeing His Creation everywhere I go, mainly when I’m far from home, reminds me of how small I am. It gives me perspective and makes me feel better that my troubles back home aren’t as tough as I make them out to be. And anyway, we all want to have fun - that’s all the inspiration you need.

As a Hijabi traveler yourself, how can Muslims “be distinguished” when they travel?

I appreciate this question because I believe it’s our duty to be walking examples of our faith wherever we go. A Muslim woman can be easily identified, and I think it’s essential to be indeed different or ‘be distinguished’ as you put it. Not because we’re putting on a front, but because we genuinely care to do right by others, every place we visit, the environment, the animals, and nature. Where others may litter or choose unsustainable options, we should do the opposite. Where there may be hostility, we can be cordial. We owe it to Allah swt to respect every part of the world He has offered us. I meet a lot of people in my travels, and I try to leave a positive imprint wherever I can.

Your page is very informative, and I see you always attempt to portray social media as an illusion. Please elaborate on this.

Naturally, we all feel more comfortable sharing the good, fun, and exciting things happening in our lives. Still, it becomes problematic when that’s all we see outside of us. We live and experience our struggles and trials. When we try to ‘escape’ onto social media, we only see how extraordinary and ‘perfect’ everybody else’s lives are. It’s damaging, and more importantly, it’s feeding our minds wrong and untruthful information. So when I share a beautiful photo, I like to tell people if I was feeling miserable or going through something challenging when I took it because that’s the reality of life. There’s always good and bad happening at the same time. It’s never purely sunshine and rainbows - or in the case of my feed - sunshine and beaches.

You thrive in nature. How so?

Ah, I love nature! As I mentioned before, being anywhere that reminds me of Allah swt is golden for me. And that’s not to sound like I’m so pious because it probably stems from a personal gain of feeling calm and just more like myself when I’m around water - whether it’s a lake or the sea. It brings quiet to my mind and peace in my heart in a way that I don’t feel anywhere else. It helps me think and reflect on who I am and what I’m doing with my life, and somehow I feel like anything is possible, so I always get my best ideas there.

How do you travel a lot with a full-time job?

Alhamdulilah, a few years ago, I shifted to parttime work to travel more. However, I have many family commitments, which is a full-time job! I would do regular 3-day weekends away, which was great. Still, it left no time to recover from the workweek and the intense weekend adventure. I appreciate more extended getaways now, so I save up my annual leave. It’s easier to take only a few days off and get a week or 10-day trip out of it.

How do you handle your packing? Is there something you can’t travel without?

Oh, I’m the worst packer. I’m a blend between the Arab who takes their whole house with them, then acts innocent at baggage check-in, and the Brit who believes she knows how to travel light and has a categorized packing list in her bullet journal. I leave my packing to the night before, and it’s an organized mess. I end up with all the absolute essentials for the trip and one or two things that I would not use! My phone would probably be the only thing I can’t travel without - it’s my planner, navigator, emergency lifeline, and has my inspo photos. Everything else is replaceable.

Have you started 2021 the right way? What are your travel plans once things start going back to the new “normal”?

I’d like to believe I have. I’ve focused on listening to what I want to achieve and work on this year. I’m taking giant leaps, Alhamdulillah. I can’t wait to travel again. I already bought a big travel book which advises where to go and at which time of year. So as soon as restrictions lift, I can take the recommendations accordingly. I want to visit Greece and the Philippines this year, though. They’ve been on my bucket list for a while.

Happiness and positivity are indeed an inside job! Do you agree? Why?

Absolutely yes. I always thought I understood this, but I wasn’t practicing it. I kept waiting for things in my life to change before I could feel happier. I’d find myself making excuses and telling myself that I still had so many other problems that have to be solved before I could be satisfied. If I carried on like that, I’d have been waiting forever. Happiness is something you can choose to feel at any moment, and I used to think this was unrealistic. How can we ignore our issues and be happy? But it is true. It doesn’t matter what’s going in your life. Be openminded to the possibilities you want to embrace, keep hope alive for the change you want to see. But appreciate this current moment for all that it is teaching you, grow from it, and choose to be happy.

Does traveling make you more attached to Allah swt?

Of course! When I travel, I usually experience a special feeling when I walk through crowds or watch people go by in whichever destination I’m exploring - a city, a beach, wherever. I think to myself - wow, Allah swt knows everything about that person’s life, and that person and that person.

He knows their whole story, their pain, their struggles, their joy, yet they’re just in the background of my travels, and I will probably never see them again.

Every single person is seen and known inside out by Allah swt and can be comforted and protected by Him only. Knowing this and then remembering all that He has given me makes me feel super grateful and attached to Him.

New York or Rome? Which one is your favorite? You have to decide today!

So much pressure! But I would have to say Rome. It has everything - culture, history, beauty, ruins, charm, warm people, and the best pizza and gelato. Plus, I love all things Italian!

I was hoping New York would be the top choice, but you may be right. Pasta, pizza, and gelato will sway anyone’s decision. I appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions. Please feel free to share any final thoughts.

Life isn’t always a breeze, and sometimes we go through tough times that we can’t see any way out of. Still, I believe nothing is impossible if we open our minds and hearts to the possibilities and Allah’s swt infinite Power.

And I read something recently that I love and have started to practice - “Live your life like something amazing is always just around the corner.” It makes exciting things happen every day!


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