Muslim dating has come of age with its own “a modern Muslim woman with an age-old dilemma”. She is seeking Mr Right but with no sex before marriage and no alcohol. In Britain, these women are part of a growing demographic: educated, independent career women, who struggle to find a partner, especially over 30. British Asians have long been early adopters of the technology to find marriage partners. Even the old aunty network of helpful family matriarchs has gone high tech, I’m told, with handwritten notes replaced, with Excel spread sheets of available “boys” and “girls” aged 20 to 55. Though originally Hindu-focused, the biggest marriage websites, such Shaadi.com, have separate Muslim sections. MuslimandSingle.com has a quick checklist on religiosity: Do you conduct salah (the five-times-a-day prayer ritual)? How often? Eat halal?
It seems there are reformations and counter-reformations under way in modern Muslim dating: Some websites encourage modern women to embrace the concept of the “submissive” first (or second) wife. Other couples though are quietly using the nikah (Islamic wedding contract) to try out cohabitation before the finality of a civil marriage. Some forward-looking imams want doctrine updated to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslims, just as Muslim men can. Struck by “the huge numbers of confident college girls wearing wild and elaborate hijabs, loads of makeup and kissing their boyfriends in public”. Many women develop an assertive Muslim identity at university. Some may seem conservative, from their dress and religious practice, but meet and choose their own husbands on demonstrations or political events. They have married men from different ethnicities, challenging their parents’ racism and obsession with family background. After all, in Islam, all are equal. It’s a fascinating new combination of values from faith and the secular society in which they grew up.
The women interviewed say the biggest challenge has been to find a man on the same Islamic wavelength; not looking for a “submissive” wife nor so “liberal” that they’re drinking and sleeping around.