An aspiring lawyer killed minutes from her home was “on the road towards her dreams”, her aunt said in an emotional tribute.
Her aunt Farrah Naz said Zara was loved by everyone who knew her and helped the community.
“Zara was incredibly giving, supportive and insightful as to what people needed around her, she was empathetic and fearless,” Ms Naz said.
“The one word that would describe Zara if I had to use one word would be independent, that is what she valued more than anything, her independence.”
Ms Naz said her niece – known to family members as Zash or Zasherooni – was conscious of the dangers women faced following the recent murders in London of Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.
But she felt “safe” walking in her local community where she was “known to everybody”.
Ms Aleena had completed her Legal Practice Course and got a job at the royal courts of justice just five weeks before the attack, her aunt said.
“We told her you are going to be a force to be reckoned with, you are a force to be reckoned with and now the world is going to see it. She was on the road towards her dreams, she had her foot on that step, both of them firmly planted on that step.”
One of the reasons she wanted to become a lawyer was because equality for women was something she fought for, her aunt said.
“She never saw herself as less than a man. She never, ever assumed that a man would see her less than either,” Ms Naz added.
Ms Aleena's work included helping to resettle refugees fleeing violence whilst “always supporting the family” and having fun with her friends. She said: “She had a great balance, but she did do a lot of things. She really pushed herself, Zara never sat down.
“She was working, studying, thinking, planning, dreaming but she wasn't a dreamer, she was acting towards her dreams.”
The family have been inundated with condolences and offers of support by members of the community, including various faith groups, friends, and the families of other women including Ms Henry, Ms Smallman, and Ms Nessa.
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for a silent vigil for Ms Aleena on Saturday afternoon, to “walk her home”.
Weeping, she added: “We will never get through this, but it (the walk) will help us.”
Jordan McSweeney, 29, of Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, east London, appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday accused of murder, attempted rape and robbery. He entered no pleas and was remanded in custody.
He will next appear at the Old Bailey on 30 September for a plea hearing.