Shabnam Masood is opinionated – even bossy… but under the no-nonsense sass is a shy girl worried whether people like her and if she’s doomed to never get a man.
Shabnam is family-oriented. She has an idealised image of her own family – mum, dad and her three brothers. She wants them to be perfect, which they definitely are not. This impacts on her own ideals for the future – she wants to find the perfect man, have the perfect children. She sees herself as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice – which is her favourite box set. She hasn’t bothered to read the book.
Shabnam likes to gossip. She loves knowing other people’s business and is bad at keeping a secret - which will often get her into trouble. But her loose lipped-ness isn’t based on maliciousness – more wanting people to like her. This keenness to be liked probably comes from being a middle child. Her elder brother Syed was spoilt and Shabnam was left to her own devices. This also gives her an independent streak.
Shabnam likes to be independent but contradictorily loves being part of her family and, with Zainab in Pakistan, feels she has a responsibility to whip them into shape. She’s quite nostalgic about how her family used to be before they ever moved to Walford and would like to get the money and status back.
When she was younger Shabnam considered herself a bit of a ‘rebel’. She shunned her parents’ traditions but in reality Shabnam wasn’t a rebel - she just didn’t know who she was. While in Pakistan, Shabs did a degree in pharmacy, funded by her grandparents, to give herself a career to focus on. She also got more into Islam – 'cos everyone else was – and now wears a designer hijab. It’s more of a fashion thing than a faith thing, but she does now have more interest in the Qu’ran and her culture.
When it comes to men, Shabs is a disaster area. She could’ve had a match made for her in Pakistan but she is romantic and wants to find her true love. However, by saying that, she can avoid dating and meeting men. Though she’s bossy and opinionated when it comes to her nearest and dearest, around strangers (particularly blokes) she’s shy and nervy. Shabnam sets herself an impossible list of qualities she looks for in a man, which means that she can self-sabotage virtually every potential suitor.
Shabnam has a big heart. She champions the underdog and always fights for a cause. She made many female pals in Pakistan and is a loyal, but indiscreet, friend.
After organising a memorial for her mother, Shabnam wasn’t happy to find that Masood had invited Carol, resulting in her expressing negative views about their relationship, and eventually splitting them up! Having left to stay with her aunt, Shabnam was soon called back by Fatboy to save the Masood family!
Hitting the ground running, Shabnam’s first task was to help with the family income and find a job. Unwilling to settle for anything short of a pharmacy, after learning about the possible market closure, she soon accepted a role at the Minute Mart.
Shabnam, the daughter of Masood and Zainab, appears initially as a university graduate, who is undecided what career path she wants to follow. She has aspirations to travel and makes plans to leave Walford but is forced to rethink when she discovers her parents are struggling financially. Shabnam's lack of direction, friendship with Dawn Swann and recreational activities anger Zainab, causing friction between mother and daughter. Zainab tries to set Shabnam up with Jalil Iqbal and invites him to stay with the family and work in their post office for a while. Shabnam is initially against this as she remembers Jalil as a "geek" from her childhood, though when she sees him, she is attracted to him. Zainab sets them up with a romantic meal, listening in on their conversation using a baby monitor. Shabnam discovers that Jalil has a girlfriend, though Zainab sees a picture of her and says she is ugly and that her make-up looks like it has been done by Edward Scissorhands. Shabnam later bumps into Jalil on a night out in R&R nightclub, where they flirt. Jalil and Shabnam later share a kiss, but during a conversation with the Masood family, he says that he thinks modern Muslim women like Shabnam provide "great entertainment" but are not marriage material. Zainab is offended by this and sends him away.
Shabnam and Zainab have an argument about Shabnam's behaviour after Zainab catches her poledancing in a club. Zainab is ashamed that Shabnam wants to embrace British culture more than her family's traditional Muslim culture. Zainab warns Shabnam about the dangers of going against her people's culture and society's rules, relaying an incident in Pakistan, where a girl was burnt as punishment by her family for secretly dating a boy her family felt was unsuitable. After hearing that story, Shabnam is unable to feel proud of her culture; however, Zainab has many positive things to say about the Muslim culture too. Shabnam feels confused; she does not know where she really belongs, so she leaves Walford to find her roots in Pakistan.
Shabnam returns to Walford after attending her grandmother's funeral, but leaves after arguing with Masood. She soon returns when she hears about Masood's downward spiral so she moves in with him and Tamwar. She gets a job working with Denise Fox, at the local Minute Mart. A market worker, Kush Kazemi, tries to impress her, but she is not interested. She befriends Stacey Branning. She soon gets closer to Kush, and they kiss and have sex. She tells Stacey that she had a daughter named Roya who she left on her aunt's doorstep and was adopted. The father is Dean Wicks. Shabnam develops feelings for Kush and when he gets her to admit it, he says he feels the same. They date in secret but Stacey finds out, and then Masood also finds out through gossip. Masood is against this, so Shabnam lies that Kush has proposed to her. Kush says it is happening too fast and Masood orders him to leave. Kush later admits that he is unable to commit as he is still mourning his dead wife. Shabnam admits that she only pushed their relationship through lying because she loves him. They resume their relationship and take things more slowly, and tell Masood of their plans, who comes round to the idea.
When still Kush refuses to commit, Shabnam enlists her aunt Fatima Inzamam's help to find a husband, but she is dismissive of her suitor, Asim Hussain, when he mentions children. Fatima tells Shabnam she knows about her child. When Shabnam sees Dean upset, she assumes that Stacey has told him he fathered her daughter. Shabnam shocks Dean by falsely claiming that their daughter died but he soon guesses that she is lying. Kush and Stacey grow closer and they kiss, and she tells him about Roya, which shocks him. After Kush asks Shabnam why she did not tell him, she decides to marry Asim but Kush interrupts and proposes marriage to her; she accepts. Dean's mother Shirley Carter finds out about Roya and tells Masood, who is furious with Shabnam. Fatima tells him where Roya, who is now called Jade Green, is. Shabnam meets Kush's mother Carmel Kazemi and gets on well with her but is angry when Masood reveals her secret, though Carmel is understanding. Dean exposes Shabnam's lies at her engagement party. She has a bitter argument with Masood and bans him from the wedding though they soon reconcile.
Shabnam is attacked by a gang of girls, and is found lying injured by Jade. In hospital, Shabnam tells Stacey that she felt no connection to her daughter when she saw her. Following an examination, Shabnam is informed that she is five months pregnant. She worries that Kush will leave her and believes she will be a bad mother, especially after Shirley's boyfriend and Dean's father Buster Briggs asks for her help in gaining custody of Jade. After Shirley tells her she will regret not knowing anything about her daughter, she tells Kush she is pregnant. Shabnam is unaware that Kush and Stacey have kissed. After she and Kush announce the pregnancy to their families, Shabnam decides to make a statement to the police about the girl gang, and tells Shirley she will support her and Buster in their attempt to gain custody of Jade.
Following Kush's stag party, Shabnam tells Masood she has not felt the baby move for a few days. Masood takes Shabnam to the hospital, where a doctor confirms the baby has died. Following an induction, Shabnam gives birth to her stillborn son, whom she names Zaair (which she states means "the visitor"). Grieving, Shabnam decides to return to Pakistan. Kush tries to comfort her, but she says they have no future and they fight about it. In anger, Kush tells Shabnam to leave and never come back. However, Carmel and Masood persuade them to reconcile for Zaair's funeral. When Shabnam sees Jade visiting Dean, she realises she wants Jade in her life. Kush protests over her suddenly making that decision so soon after Zaair's stillbirth, but she goes to Jade's social worker anyway and tells her that she wants Jade back. Shabnam and Kush marry, shortly after Shabnam discovers that Martin Fowler is not the father of Stacey's unborn baby. Unbeknownst to Shabnam, Kush has discovered that Stacey thinks he could be the father.
Shirley and Buster learn that Shabnam took Jade without permission and Shabnam pleads with them not to tell the judge, to which they agree. However, Shabnam and Kush decide are not ready to look after Jade as they are still grieving Zaair. Shabnam informs Shirley of her decision, and Shirley and Buster win custody of Jade. Shabnam sees Carmel give Stacey a gift and becomes suspicious. Shabnam secretly checks the gift, one of Kush's old babygros, and Stacey gives birth a son named Arthur Fowler. When Kush holds the baby, his behaviour makes Shabnam realise that he could be the father. She confronts Stacey about it, but Stacey says that Kush is not the father. Shabnam finds out that she has severe scarring in her uterus and is unlikely to conceive naturally. She turns to Jade for comfort.
Stacey disappears with Arthur, and Shabnam overhears Carmel and Kush talking about Arthur being his son. She tells Kush that he will resent her for not giving him the family that he desires, and although he pledges his love for her, she says she needs to be alone and tells him to be with Stacey, Martin and Arthur. Kush begs her not to leave, insisting that his love for her is real, so she decides that they should tell Martin the truth about Arthur's paternity. However, when Stacey's mental condition worsens, Shabnam and Kush decide to wait. Shabnam visits Stacey at the hospital and realises that Stacey wants to see Arthur, so she goes to Martin and proposes that they move Stacey and Arthur to a mother and baby care unit. While Martin and Shabnam begin to look for an available unit, Kush suggests they move away to start a new life together. Shabnam realises that Kush needs Arthur and urges him not to make the same mistakes that she made with Jade. She tells Kush that she will leave on her own, and tells Masood she plans to go to Pakistan. Carmel tells Masood it is Kush's fault because of Arthur's paternity. When Shabnam tells Jade that she is leaving, Jade says she is being abandoned again and dismisses Shabnam as her mother. Masood urges Shabnam to stay for her last chance to be a mother to Jade or she will never forgive herself. However, she changes her mind and tells Shirley, Buster and Jade that she is moving to a nearby borough so Jade can visit her at any time. She then plants a tree in Zaair's memory, and says her goodbyes to her family, after which Shirley and Buster tell her that they want Jade to live with her, which she accepts. Shabnam makes Kush recite the triple talaq to end their marriage, and although Shabnam says that they must lead separate lives, she admits she still loves him. Shabnam and Jade leave Walford in a cab.