Tahira Sayed was born to vocalist Begum Malika Pukhraj and Syed Shabbir Husain, an eminent writer She belongs to a Punjabi Syed family from her father's side. Tahira was made to learn singing at age of 12. After two years of rigorous classical music training by a professional teacher, Tahira was instructed in music by her mother. Tahira was the youngest child in her family, she has a sister and four brothers. Her sister, Tasneem, is married to Pakistani lawyer and senator S.M. Zafar.
She obtained her primary education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary where she passed her Senior Cambridge examinations. She went on to graduate at Lahore College. She read law at the Punjab University,Lahore obtaining an LLB degree, before enrolling for Masters in English at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore; she later dropped out of the college.
Syed received her initial training in music from Khan Sahib Akhtar Hussain. She first appeared on air in 1968–1969 on Radio Pakistan,and Pakistan Television and her popularity increased in the 1970s and 1980s. "Yeh Alam Shauq Ka Dekha na jaey", "Chanjar Phabdi na" and "Abhi to Main Jawan Hou.n" are some of her most popular songs. She has been the recipient of various musical awards in recognition of her achievements as a singer. In April 1985, she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine.She has received the P.T.V Lifetime Achievement Award and will be given the Pride of Performance Award in March 2013.
She was married to Naeem Bukhari for 12 years before their separation, she has a son, Hasnain and a daughter, Kiran, both of whom are lawyers by profession. Kiran is married and working in New York City.