Jemal Sharah is of Lebanese and Irish descent. After the death of her father and brother in 1975, she travelled overseas with her mother for some time before completing her education at Sydney Girls' High School and the University of Sydney. In 1994 she joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra.
Sharah began writing at a young age and saw her first poems published at seventeen. Her poetry has appeared in many periodicals, including Island, the Sydney Review, the Adelaide Review, Quadrant, the Bulletin and Arena. Her first book of poems, Path of Ghosts (1994), was nominated for a number of prizes and won the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry. Sharah's poetry has been highly praised by many poets, including Les Murray and Robert Gray. Her poetry has appeared in many periodicals and anthologies.