Tahira Sayed was born to vocalist Malika Pukhraj and Shabbir Husain, a Punjabi government official and writer. Syed obtained her primary education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary where she passed her Senior Cambridge examinations. She graduated from Lahore College, then studied law at the Punjab University. After obtaining an LLB degree, she enrolled in a Masters Program in English at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, but later dropped out of the college.
Syed began singing, at age of 12, to please her mother. After two years of rigorous classical music training by Akhtar Hussain,Syed was instructed in geet and ghazal by her mother. Her final teacher, Nazar Hussain, taught her voice modulation and raggi (singing using the throat).