Rather than leaving the decision to their parents, people are increasingly turning to a higher power to select a match: and that’s not necessarily Allah; it’s algorithms. UK-based muzmatch currently has over four million users from 190 countries; Germany is its fifth biggest market, with over 250,000 registered. According to muzmatch, 100,000 weddings have occurred thanks to their services to date.
“The dating apps show what a huge desire there is among the Muslim youth to make friends, to have sex lives, to change,” Ates? says. This is a trend that she has observed among students: “It exists in universities where young Muslims might agree to marry temporarily so that they can have sex,” she says. “They believe that they have to be ‘legal’ in front of God in order to have sex and so they set up a time frame – next semester or until the summer holidays or until the end of their degree when they have to move to a different city to continue studying – and they get married and they have a lot of sex.”
After all, the goal isn’t “till death do us part”, with a divorce planned as soon as the lovers go their separate ways. “Most parents have no idea about the temporariness of it,” Ates? notes.
He is from a religious family and while he no longer prays multiple times a day or visits a mosque regularly, he still says Islamic values are important to him. Matchmaking efforts by the parents were unsuccessful because they kept setting him up with women he had “nothing in common with”. Meanwhile, his tight work schedule didn’t leave him a lot of free time to socialise.
“I use several dating apps,” Khaled says. “Muslima is interesting because you can meet people from all over the world, they advertise that love doesn’t have to be limited to your own country. But I have no desire to leave Berlin so I would rather look for women in my area,” he says. “I am also on muzmatch, which is a lot more marriage-focused than just simple dating, following all the rules a traditional match would.” He has chatted with a few women but only dated one: “a less religious girl, for a month, who was nice but she made it clear that she would want a lot more of my time and attention than I can offer right now.”
Khaled is looking for more than a hand to hold or a peck on the cheek. He welcomes the changing dating scene around him, including the fact that more and more liberated Muslim women are not afraid to date and even have sex with partners outside of marriage. “I never really thought it made sense to marry someone you barely know and have never touched before. What about the chemistry?”
Online dating has experienced a boom in Muslim communities across the globe. Muzmatch boasts over 250,000 users in Germany alone.
But muzmatch is not at all designed for casual hook-ups, Sara Shah, a representative for the app, insists, stressing that it helps Muslims to find partners for life. “We don’t like to compare ourselves with the mainstream dating apps out there,” she says. “We were founded on the belief that it is difficult for Muslims to meet and get married – our aim is to make it easier for people in often-ignored communities to find life partners. The ultimate goal is marriage!”