What I learned at the world's biggest Muslim Speed Dating event

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Could Muslim speed dating work for me?FilippoBacci - Getty Images

From ghosting to catfishes and painfully terrible first dates, trying to find a partner isn’t easy right now. Then, throw religion into the mix and things get a little more difficult. As a south Asian Muslim woman growing up in the UK, dating has always been a bit of a taboo subject for me. But now, as my friends and family are getting engaged, married and having kids, I often find myself wondering about the best way to meet a potential match. So, I decided to go to the biggest Muslim speed-dating event ever to see what I could learn about finding love.

Speed dating as a concept is something most of us are pretty familiar with: you chat to a potential partner for ten minutes or so then again, and again, and again. Usually in groups of around 20 people. But, at this event run by leading Muslim dating app Muzz, more than 1,000 single Muslims came together in the hopes of finding the one. The odds looked good so, as an inexperienced dater I thought I’d try it out too.

Personally, I’d describe Islam as pretty unique when it comes to dating and relationships. Sex before marriage is prohibited, like in other major religions, but dating in the modern sense of the world is also advised against.

This isn’t just because dating often leads to sex, it’s also a no-go for reasons of spiritual health and wellbeing. For example, many will relate to how all-consuming relationships can be and the harsh pain of heartbreak, so Islam advises that people get to know each other with the serious intention of marriage, and that those who do fall in love and are compatible should get married.

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“Love and relationships are very important in Islam,” explains Rakin Niass Fetuga, an Islamic studies expert and relationship coach. “Many young Muslims feel pressured to be in a sexual relationship… but relationships outside of marriage are discouraged because they need to be blessed by God. Getting married is not only physical, with two people joining together to live as one unit, it’s spiritual,” he continued. “When you marry, you pledge in front of God and everyone present that you will be a faithful and good partner."

So, for many practising Muslim women like me, we’re looking for husbands - not boyfriends, sneaky links or one-night stands. This is where apps like Muzz comes in, the app’s PR manager Sofie Ahmed tells me.

“Having an app for Muslims by Muslims is so important because we get it. We know how important marriage is in our cultures and religion and how difficult it can be to get married,” she says. “The feedback we get from members is [that] they find it difficult to meet other Muslims. They don’t go to bars or clubs but also don’t want to go down the arranged route, so with apps like Muzz and events like this, they have control.”

At the speed dating event (which really was huge, BTW), attendees shared their thoughts on the struggles of finding a partner as a young Muslim. “Finding other people who are looking for something serious is a challenge, as people are on different journeys with their faith. But I want to find someone who is a like-minded Muslim, as my faith is a big part of who I am,” one attendee told me.

“As marriage is so much more final than dating or being in a casual relationship, a lot of pressure is put on finding the perfect person and it’s hard to take that leap” shared another.

“Navigating dating is interesting because you’re often the first in your family to do it, so having that conversation with my parents was tricky but they were supportive as my intention is marriage. Previously, with women, we used to get married for financial stability and now we’re far more independent so there’s less of an impulse to get married anyway, and it’s hard to find someone who can bring as much to the table” added another.

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So, the verdict I know you’re all waiting for, how was my experience of Muslim speed dating? Drum roll, please… Surprisingly for me, it was pretty good. I haven’t dated much in the past, so I really didn’t know what to expect, but I found that people were open, friendly and easy to talk to and I was able to have some really eye-opening, meaningful conversations that helped me think about what I want in a future partner.

For example, I’ve realised I’d probably struggle to be with an introvert and I’m seriously put off by flashiness and crudeness. Alas, while I didn’t leave with a potential husband (or even a number for that matter, maybe I’m just too picky!), I was able to build up my confidence with dating and ask myself if I’m really ready to get married anytime soon - or if I want a few more years of travelling, friends and enjoying single life before I consider lifelong companionship.

In the Quran, Islam’s holy book, God says: “We created you in pairs,” showing the sacred importance of love and relationships in the faith, which is something I really value. So, while I’m not seriously looking for a husband right now, maybe Muslim speed dating is something I’ll take up again when the time feels right.

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