Wedding season has just passed, and almost all the new couples that I have come across met their spouses online. Muslim matrimonial sites have burgeoned in the last few years, ranging from the standard sites such as SingleMuslim.com, to sites that aim to match personalities such as HalfOurDeen.com, to sites aimed at only practicing Muslims such as PureMatrimony.com, to sites for specific ethnicities such as MauritianMuslim.com and to even pay as you go sites such as Muzmatch.com (to name but a few)!
However, the taboo of advertising oneself online and this being a “desperate last attempt” remains. Parents are still sceptical of using this method, worried about other people's opinion and also uncomfortable about stepping outside the traditional methods of family and friends. For this reason, this topic is rarely discussed to the detriment of those using this system and those who want to but are not sure how to start.
Therefore, the purpose of this article is to kick start a discussion with some basic advice. The content of this article was created from the experiences of a disparate group of sisters who have all been online for a considerable time, some of who have been successful. Of course marriage – like any other social issue – can never follow one template and there is no “one-size fits all” solution; everyone has specific circumstances, which cannot be fully incorporated in an article. Hopefully through comments, people – especially brothers as this advice is gleaned from sisters –can add their own stories to help and encourage others.
This is probably the most difficult yet the most important piece of advice. Many brothers/sisters have the impression that they will find a spouse online and once they are happy, introduce them to their parents. In reality, parents want to be involved from the start. Think for a moment about your future children – you raised them and know them well and you want a role in deciding who their future spouse should be.
Remember, marriage is not just about two people coming together; it is also about two families joining. Even if the parents disagree with finding a spouse online, it is important that they have an active role in your search and they know whom you are speaking with. One of the main reason parents are sceptical of matchmaking online is the lack of control and the fear of the unknown. By getting them more involved it will ease them into the process. Not just for basic safety measures, but because the process of getting married is not a one man job. The family plays a vital role in judging the character of your prospective spouse and his/her family. Since you can come across literally hundreds of profiles online, it is wise to inform your family after compatibility is established, but definitely before a more serious bond is formed..
Moreover, when families are involved on both sides, it dramatically increases the level of seriousness and eliminates those people who are online for fun. If the person you are speaking to refuses to tell his parents about you, then that is a sign that they are either not serious about marriage or not serious about you. Informing parents does not mean a marriage invitation, it means that you are seriously considering this person for marriage and want your family to consider them and give their input as well. Also, if your parents do not agree to the person at this stage for whatever reason, it is better to end it early without too much emotional attachment. It may cause family drama to let them know early on, but the emotional damage to get to know someone and end it after many months of chatting away due to parents not agreeing is far worse. Also emotions are high throughout the process, and families help the prospective couple see clearly and to remind them not to expect perfection if they are being too selective.
“”I was speaking to this guy online who would always whisper, as he did not want his parents to know he was online looking for a wife! Not only that but he lied on his profile about his ethnicity and height and sent me a dodgy picture, again to remain anonymous. I ended it immediately, as there was no guarantee that even if we were compatible his parents would accept me. Why should I invest my time and energy in someone who does not have the courage to tell his mum he wants a wife!”"
“”My spouse first spoke to my mum for a short time, and only after her approval was he allowed to speak to me! From the start, my mum was involved which made her happy. Also this pushed him to get his family involved early on too. Both families were happy as they got to know each other and their presence ensured we both remained focused on getting to know each other for marriage and not wasting time.”"
”"I got to know this guy for 6 months and alhamdolilah we both liked each other and wanted to get married. He knew his parents would not be too thrilled but since both of us were of the age where we did not require parental consent we both continued. Also he said that no matter what his parents say, he would marry me. Yet his parents simply refused and he went back on his word. We were both devastated. Make sure families are involved near the beginning of the process. You might think your parents would be happy with whom you are speaking to but you could be wrong.”"
Don't put all your eggs in one basket:
Simple advice – matrimonial sites are only one method. Don't reject other methods such as matrimonial events and contacting match-makers or even traditional methods such as recommendations from family.
”"I was on the Internet on a handful of websites, attended many matrimonial events and my family and friends were also on the scavenger hunt. Alhamdolilah, after sticking with this method for 5 years, (early years probably not as active as the last few!) I found my husband through the recommendation of a friend. If I have one tip to give to any girl – don't put all your eggs into one basket. Give everything a try and definitely sign up to more than one website. The good news is once you have one profile it is a copy and paste job! Many people reading this might feel a bit embarrassed for being that active. Why? You are searching for halal marriage, and as long as you keep your parents actively involved at all stages and stay within the bounds, there is nothing wrong with actively looking for a spouse – it is half your deen and natural to want to settle down and start a family. If you want to get married, then stop moaning and get proactive.”"
Be Wise on the Net – what goes online, stays online:
If you are serious about finding a spouse, then you need to invest time crafting a decent profile and finding the right pictures to represent yourself. When you are preparing to look for a job, the first thing you do is iron out your C.V. Similarly, you must put in the time and effort on your profile so that it shows your personality and what you are looking for. A good litmus test is asking yourself, “If my uncle read this and saw my photo would I be embarrassed?” Inappropriate photos or comments in your profile will not only attract the wrong type of people but can also come back to haunt you. There is no point in lying, be honest and upfront. Sisters – you are looking to attract a prospective spouse, so while you should point out your qualifications, don't forget to also write about your personality. Brothers – if you are not financially stable, then too, be upfront about it and state your plans.
With that all being said, never judge a person by their profile. It is easy to write a good/bad profile. Give people a chance. Some people are better communicators in person, rather than on paper. For others, it takes a little time for their personality to shine through.
Moreover, there are many people who go on these sites just for a good time. There are liars, cheaters, time wasters and –for lack of a better term – downright psychos! Always be on guard; never give out personal information too soon. Family involvement early on helps to eliminate these types. If you cannot speak to your family, it is useful to always talk through your experience with someone else. A third person may find it easier to spot liars and stories that don't quite add up.
“”I spoke to this guy who seemed down to earth and genuine but when it came to getting the parents to speak over the phone he came up with many stories. While none of the stories were actually far fetched, the point is a serious guy will get his parents on the phone for a quick initial conversation. I didn't spot the inconsistencies at first, but it was only after talking it through with family I myself realised something was not right. Also I started getting prank messages from a different number. It got so messy that I ended up calling the matrimonial site for help. Alhamdolilah I blocked his number and ended all contact and he hasn't bothered me since.”"
Emotions, Emotions, Emotions!
In any method, but more so on the Internet, you can either get desperate or depressed. After scouring through hundreds of profiles for years it is easy to fall into either one of these two camps. Seeing profile after profile, going through initial messages and conversations, you feel the need to just settle for the next person that accepts you. Or the opposite experience of repeatedly going through the process yet not finding anyone that suits you can leave you feeling hopeless.
The Internet generally gives you quantity, not quality. First and foremost, strengthen your relationship with Allāh and increase the intensity of your du‘ā’. Also use friends/family for support. Many people hide this from their friends, but it is at times like these good friends keep you sane and focused. [For more information about getting over a prospective spouse please see Picking up the pieces: Love drug syndrome article].
“”I had been looking for a few years on the Internet, and then found a guy who looked decent in theory – he was educated, financially stable, practicing and he found me attractive. The only issue was that I did not find him attractive in neither personality nor physical appearance. In short, I was desperate – I had to make this work. I tried so hard to convince myself but I found myself doing everything I could just to avoid speaking with him. At that point I realised, if I can't even speak to him over the phone for a minute, how can I marry the guy!? Alhamdolilah, a few years later, I met Mr. Right. In short, don't force yourself. Listen to your instincts. The right guy will come when the time is right insha Allāh.”"
“”I was on the internet looking for a spouse and I can honestly say, after Allāh's help, the single thing that helped me get through it was my best friend. We both were in the same boat, and hearing that we both were having similar experiences made us feel normal. We both encouraged each other to continue, especially on those days when I just wanted to give up and accept a life without a husband or was about to continue with a guy out of desperation.”"
Level of Piety and Manners:
A very common description of a future spouse is “practicing” or “religious”. Yet the definition of “religious” varies from person to person. For example, some people classify praying 5 times a day as very religious; others see it as a starting point. It is impossible to determine the level of piety by a profile – this only happens when you get to know the other person better. Some people act overly religious, others hide it and yet others need the right person to bring it out in them. The point is that this is an aspect of a person that has to be seen over time. . In short, don't judge a person by their profile, but by the way they conduct themselves whilst interacting with you and your family.
“”This one guy refused to speak to my dad. My dad just wanted an initial light conversation. That one refusal told me all I needed to know about his manners and respect towards elders.”"
The above is a short – but by no means exhaustive – list of advice by sisters who have had experience in finding a spouse over the Internet. Some successful while others not. Matrimonial sites are just another method of looking for a partner and just like any method has its pros/cons and do's/don'ts. However due to the stigma attached, this topic is hardly discussed. Insha Allāh it is hoped that this article will help break some taboos and lead to some interesting discussions.