Restrictions on meeting in public have led to a shift in how young Muslims find love, with many looking past a perceived “stigma” and turning for the first time to dating apps and websites.
When lockdown first came into force in March, the traditional method of being introduced to a spouse via family connections had to be put on hold for many single Muslims.
Now a younger generation has used lockdown as a chance to experiment with online apps in the hope of finding romance.
Muzmatch, which describes itself as the “world’s largest Muslim dating app”, saw the number of users logging in spike by 13 per cent in the two weeks after restrictions began.
There was a 12.6 per cent increase in matches (where two members like each other) in those same weeks and a 45 per cent increase in downloads of the app in the week leading up to the lockdown announcement on March 23.
The app differs from the likes of Tinder and Hinge with features such as religious filters and the ability to add chaperones to chats.
One of those to benefit was Yorkshire man Sultan Akhtar, 25, who met Aisha Rosalie, 23, on Muzmatch at the start of March, just weeks before restrictions came into force.
Both had only been on the app for a short while but said they knew within three dates that they wanted to get married.
Sultan said: “It put things in perspective. I had a lot of time off work and in that time we were able to get to know each other, which obviously did help.
“Otherwise I would have come home from work and been a bit tired, and we would have only been able to spend a few hours rather than entire days.
“Even if it is on the phone, it did help us understand each other quite quickly.”
Aisha, a trained actor who runs a podcast and YouTube channel, said: “We didn’t see each other for three months, we spoke every single day. We were just so topsy turvy because we didn’t have that in-person contact.
“When you take your time to sit and think, wow I want to be with someone. I want to share everything I am going through, I want to share my successes and my failures with someone – being in lockdown forces you think like that.”
She added: “In Muslim culture, it is not normal to date – for me it was always about marriage.”
Although their families were initially unsure of their union, they were married in a small nikah ceremony in July.
Aisha, who comes from an atheist background and converted to Islam following a trip to Turkey, said apps like Muzmatch were her only chance of finding a Muslim husband who was serious about marriage.
‘There has been a culture shift’
Fahima Mohamed, a relationship coach for SingleMuslim.com, said a culture shift had begun within the community and the number of Muslim couples meeting online, via apps and dating agencies, would only increase.
She told the PA news agency: “With what is happening right now, even if lockdown is not as restricted as it was, people are not going out as much and meeting as much.
“Before, you would meet in families, and people would do things together – this has had a great impact.
“It’s part of the culture to meet with family, and to have massive weddings and to have so many other occasions where people do tend to mix, and that is obviously all taken away. So the only other best bet is going to be online.
“It’s here to stay, especially once people realise it’s given them more control as to who they want to look for and what is the choice out there.”
However, one couple who spoke to PA asked that their names be changed because they said a “stigma” remains in the Muslim community over meeting online.
The couple, who are now engaged, said being bored during lockdown was one of the reasons they ended up spending more time online and being matched.
Halal dating guru Thanna Alghabban, who runs an Instagram offering dating advice, said: “The biggest change is that people who weren’t really open to online dating, during lockdown they have come to terms with it because there really was no other way to meet anyone.
“I also think for a lot of people, standards have dropped with regards to suitable partners. They are more willing to overlook an orange flag that they might not have before.”