Eram Saeed, a transformational coach, went viral a few years ago with her motivational videos that struck a chord with the average Pakistani woman (and a small percentage of males). The end goal for Eram was not to earn through storytelling, but to genuinely touch lives with her impactful words. What makes Eram a good motivational speaker is her ability to merge mind sciences with Islamic teachings. Most of her content centres on spiritualism and issues affecting Pakistan’s dysfunctional society.
Eram, what pulled you towards motivational speaking?
ES: I wish I could say that it was a very well-planned endeavour but it was more incidental. After living in Texas for 27 years, I moved to Lahore to live close to my family. Then COVID-19 hit and during this time, I noticed that there were some very disturbing trends taking shape in Pakistan, especially with regard to the rights of women. This was disconcerting to me because having lived in the US, I saw the side effects of the feminist movement in Pakistan.
One might say that in my 27 years in the US, I had lived a life that could be the poster child of the western feminism movement. I ticked all the boxes. I was an independent woman, had financial freedom without the help of a man, a single mom who raised two kids, and had made my mark in the online business industry that was mostly male-dominated. I had a life that you would call the American dream.
However, I realised that living such a life comes with a heavy price in a sense that you have to do it all alone. The process ultimately becomes exhausting. In my years of research, I discovered that Islam offers, in the empowerment of women, a much more balanced and much more sustainable system than what the western society set out to accomplish.
In 2019, I came across jargons like mera jism meri marzi (my body, my choice) by women, who I felt were hurt and angry and trying to fight for their true rights as Muslim women. They didn’t know what role model to follow. They were leaning more and more towards the existing western model, which the West already knew was broken and resulted in increased stress and anxiety rates among women.
Because I was a motivational speaker for entrepreneurs in America, I decided that I would make some videos that may be of help to Pakistani women. I was a speaker. I was an interviewer. However, most of my motivational speaking and coaching were meant for spiritual entrepreneurs. I didn’t realise that I was going to connect with the hearts and minds of Pakistani women.
So, I conducted a few unplanned motivational talks just to see if maybe a few hundred people would watch. Within a couple of months, my team and I were shocked that our videos had received over 100 million views! I became a phenomenon and went viral. I then realised that the market was in dire need of such motivational talks.
You are a transformational coach. Can you please explain what that means?
ES: Yes, I am a transformational coach. I use motivational speaker as a term to describe myself because people relate to it more. So, understanding “transformational coach” may be more difficult. I am not interested in delivering motivational speeches that may sound great, make people clap in the end and then have them leave and forget everything. Those speeches are not life changing.
By the grace of God, I am blessed with a business that I have had for over a decade in the US that does fairly well financially so I don’t need to make money off of speeches or speaking engagements. Hence, I routinely decline almost every request for a public appearance. What I am interested in is transformation. People come to see me because they are miserable in their lives and just can’t figure out what their purpose is.
I want them to be able to turn their lives around. This is what my life journey has been about. By using and understanding certain tools and techniques and principles, I was able to completely change my life and that is what I would love to see happen in other people’s lives. I want them to be able to get over trauma, depression or whatever is holding them back.
What themes do you grapple with when communicating with the audience?
ES: The themes my team and I draw on typically come from viewers’ feedback. I am perhaps one of the few motivational speakers who actually pays a lot of attention to what the audience is saying. I read a lot of comments and engage with a lot of the viewers. If I don’t engage, I usually ask my team to pull a bunch of comments for me to read so that I can get an idea how the audience is digesting the information I am sharing with them. That gives me insight into other areas where they may need my support. Majority of my themes are centred around women’s issues, although 30 percent of our followers are men. They follow quietly. They typically don’t speak up but we find them in our courses.
Who is your target audience?
ES: Well, that is a great question because I have been trained as a marketer for over two decades and that is one of the first things a marketer does; identifies a target audience, which has taken me a while to recognize. You have to understand that my goal was never to become an influencer or to gain followers. Becoming famous has also never intrigued me that much. I am actually quite shy and a pretty private person. What really makes me happy is to see positive results in people’s lives.
While I am happy to create free videos so that my knowledge and experiences could be of service to others, the people that I really want to work with are those who are ready to take major steps in transforming their lives. This is my sweet spot, and this is where I shine. I have the training, the experience and am a living example of my own teachings.
So, my target audience are intelligent, educated women who are deep thinkers; those who wish to transform their lives. They see the power imbalance, the injustice and confusion in the status quo, but they just can’t seem to figure out how to rise above it all.
In other words, I am describing to you the Eram of about 36 to 38 years of age who felt all of these things but once she had direction, she took off! I call these women eagles who have been led to believe that they are ducks. They were born as eagles and they are meant to fly.
What platforms do you use to share your stories with the world?
ES: At the moment I use Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can visit my website EramSaeed.com for my social media pages. For the future, my team and I are planning to launch a podcast across various distribution platforms.
Does a lot of preparation go into your videos or do you improvise for the most part?
ES: I almost never prepare for the videos. Usually my team prepares a list of questions, and when the camera starts rolling, they hit me with the questions and I start speaking. I hate to prepare. I like to be in a constant flow because with flow comes guidance.
Out of all conversations, which conversation with the audience have you felt most connected to, and why?
ES: Conversations that I feel most connected to are when anyone – be it a man or a woman – becomes very vulnerable and shares his or her trauma and pain. I feel connected to the confusion of not understanding what is going on or feeling disconnected from God. People going through all this leave the most lasting impact on me because their transformation is dramatic. Majority of their misery, disillusionment or their confusion is caused because of two things:
Their inability to understand their own thinking and to control their own thoughts.
Lack of a deep, loving and compassionate connection with Allah.
Once you have these two configured, a majority of people will find their life becomes easier than before.
What techniques do you use to transform or impart change in people’s lives?
ES: That is a great question. You are asking me to basically give away the essence of two decades of learning and training, which I obviously can’t do in this interview. But I can summarise it for you.
I basically combine some of the world’s best techniques from mind sciences with spirituality. I have learnt thousands of tools and techniques over my two decades in this field. I combine techniques of modern mind sciences with Islamic spirituality. I believe that without the spiritual component, no course that is solely based on mind intelligence will work.
When you include Islamic spirituality, healing takes effect at a level that is unfathomable in how we normally think. In order to have emotional intelligence and balance, you must first understand how you think. Then you will be able to control the way you think in a manner that is more useful and beneficial to you. A majority of us never evaluate our thinking. Many of the problems that we are facing in our lives are because of the way that we think. If you become familiar and intimate with the way that you think, you learn to control your thinking. Eventually you will become a master of your thoughts.
When you combine Islamic spirituality, for example, I teach deeply about some of the basic concepts in Islam such as tawhid (oneness of Allah):
How do you make Allah your best friend?
How tawhid is the end of all misery?
How faith in Allah is the antidote to all fears…
This combination takes away the fear of the future, the trauma of the past, and will build on a person’s self-esteem.
One thing I can tell you is that you can’t impart change in others without having done extensive work on yourself. When a person is vulnerable in sharing his or her deepest trauma or pain, it becomes sacred. You must treat it as sacred. What your client deserves at the time is your undivided attention and holding a space for them. You are there for them, 100 percent. You must take yourself completely out of the equation and that is not easy to do unless you have done a lot of work on yourself. You are there to serve a child of Allah who Allah loves very much and that is why He has brought that person in front of you. Whether that is a man or a woman, it does not matter. I am merely a facilitator who is holding the space for the client with zero judgement.
They are there to heal their heart and you have to be a vehicle for Allah’s mercy. You also have to remember that whatever healing takes place, it is not yours to take credit for. You are not doing any of this work yourself; you are simply being used. The moment you start to take credit, you will become egotistical and that is when the whole process falls apart.
How have people responded to your motivational videos?
ES: Honestly, the response has been unbelievably overwhelming. I consistently, on a daily basis, get comments and messages from people who say that my videos have impacted their lives in a very big way. I used to think that my videos affected mostly women, but that is not true.
Just last week, my cousin told me a story that brought me to tears. He was part of a meeting where an older gentleman was being welcomed back after a very long hospitalisation because of cancer. He recovered from it. He shared with the staff how the illness actually helped him get closer to Allah. The illness became a blessing for him. Obviously, the entire office was inspired and wanted to know how he turned this adversity into a blessing. The gentleman then shared that he had regularly watched the videos of a lady that motivated him into re-evaluating the adversity and forced him to see the good in his disease.
My cousin asked the gentleman what the lady’s name was. He said “Eram Saeed.” This moved my cousin immensely and he told him, “She’s my older sister.” At this point, the older gentleman held my cousin’s hands, gave him a hug, and said “Please tell your sister that I am so grateful from the bottom of my heart because she literally saved my life. I was deep in depression and her videos helped me to see the blessing in this disease and also find a deep connection with Allah.” Obviously, I cried when I heard this story!
Every time I make a video, I ask Allah, “Please use me as a vehicle to deliver whatever message your children, makhlooq, need to hear in order to heal their heart.” I can’t take credit for the messages for the videos, or for the information that I share because there are books filled with words of wisdom, and compared to them I find myself to be nothing, not even a particle of dust. So, if what I am saying is having an impact, it is only because of Allah.
To conclude, any message you feel that is important for our readers?
ES: The most important thing you need to know is that number one, you are deeply loved by Allah. His love is unconditional. I know that we have been told that Allah only loves those who do good deeds and people who sin are not loved by Allah. This is not true. Only prophets were perfect and even they made mistakes.
We have a right to Allah’s unconditional love. It is a right given by Allah. Yes, there are consequences for good deeds and bad deeds but that does not stop Allah from loving us. We translate Allah’s love through understanding of humans but Allah is not human. All it takes is a choice for a certain decision and tauba (repentance), and we are at Allah’s mercy again.
Number two: if you are a woman, please know and understand that as far as your humanity is concerned, you are created equal to a man. If you have been told anything otherwise, it is not coming from Allah and his Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). In Allah’s eyes, in His book, and through His Prophet (PBUH), only one message is given, and that is that men and women are equal in Allah’s eyes, as far as their humanity is concerned.
Muslim women’s rights have been hijacked for over a thousand years now because of some deliberate and some not-so-deliberate hiding of the facts. It is upon us women now to take back what is rightfully ours. This is jihad (struggle) because we are fighting for our rights bestowed to us by God.
Remember a strong nation cannot be raised by weak mothers who see themselves as victims or as an inferior creation of Allah. Islam gives women a very high stature and sees women as the future. Islam is also a religion for people with high self-esteem.
INTERVIEW: HAIDER RIFAAT
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF ERAM SAEED