Muslim Dating Sites and the Technology of Marriage, Part IV

Monday and Tuesday, we examined some Muslim matrimonial sites. Yesterday, we conducted an experiment looking at how these sites functioned and how our subjects fared. Today, I’ll digest all this information and figure out what it means for Muslim women.

Something to keep in mind when joining this websites is the fact that men tend to be, in general, older. Furthermore, many of the men on these sites would like to engage in polygamy at some point in their lives, and they aim to let the women know up front in their profiles, particularly in MuslimMatch.com. Also, women who have successful careers and who are wealthier than many of these men may become an economic target rather than a marriage partner.

Whether these technological advancements in terms of marriage are more modern or not is questionable. It is still easy to see that representations of femininity and masculinity remain fairly consistent. Men still expect to marry younger women, who have never been married and who don’t have children. They also expect to be attractive to Muslim, North African and Arab women without any sense of romance, softness or even interest in the partner. However, it is assumed that a man should deal differently with Western girls.

Some men on these sites view marriage as a tool for financial and social advancement. Thus, financially stable women in the West, who are single and don’t have children, and despite their religious practices, have better opportunities of finding a husband in these websites than other women. There is no telling how stable or fulfilling the marriage may be.

The popular image of a Muslim man looking to marry and financially care for a ‘proper’ Muslim woman, whose faith is an important trait may no longer be viable. Only few men, at least in these sites, felt compelled by a woman who aimed to fulfill a “traditional Islamic” role, whose priority was her religious beliefs, and who aimed to find a religious man for marriage.

Religious traits and gender roles seem negotiable only through economics. Men in the site demonstrated that they could give up religiousness and traditional female roles to be with a successful Western woman who would become an engineer.Moreover, social taboos still play a role in these sites, which makes a divorced woman, less attractive despite her financial accomplishments.

Looking at these dating sites, it is possible to see that matchmaking technologies have evolved. However, cultural and traditional conceptions of marriage are still around. Many Muslims still hold to the ideals of traditional femininity, which according to one participant includes “Being a source of love and happiness to the family” or masculinities, which means “supporting and protecting the family,” even when these contradict their realities.

Nonetheless, things have changed a bit. Social and financial constraints have transformed marriage, in some cases, into a social mobility tool not only for women, but also for men. Marriage for love, the common Western ideal, seems to remain a taboo for many Muslims on these sites, especially when it comes to communicating with women from non-white backgrounds.

These dating sites also reflect the tensions that arise between East and West and the so-called traditional issues in Islam. The role of women has considerably changed in the last several decades and a new tension between working women and traditional notions of femininity has arisen. Yet, there is a disconnect between what Muslim women expect from their husbands and what men think they should be providing. While many still think that their only role is to be the “breadwinners,” Muslim women may be looking for something else beyond financial stability: arguably, most Muslim women want a marriage that does not only provide the basics of Islamic guidelines, but also stronger connections with their partners. The question is whether Muslim dating sites can reconcile these tensions. Or can be reconciled at all?

Readers, what are your thoughts on Muslim matchmaking websites?

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    I feel these dating/marriage sites can be useful for sisters/brothers who may not have family guidance and input to help them navigate the path towards marriage (reverts, orphans, etc). But I also feel it’s up to those of us who are friends of these sisters/brothers to step up to the plate and help them with the process as well. Likewise local Muslim communities should be involved as well if the brothers/sisters seeking marriage seek it. Otherwise it’s hard to really go through this alone; one thing I’m wondering about is whether we can nowadays find out a potential bride/groom’s history, behavior through online activity.

    Whereas before you had to go by what family members would say about a person (which is sometimes misleading unfortunately because families don’t like to divulge anything negative), now you or someone you know can “spy” on a person through social networking sites, online resume records, emails, etc. to discover things you may feel are important to know about that person. Finding out such details about a person is only allowed during times of marriage after all so I feel online activity is one way to find out but I guess it’s best to ask a scholar to make sure it’s allowed Allahu ‘alim.

  • Humayra’

    BTW, straight Muslims aren’t the only ones who are looking for someone who could be “marriage material,” or who try to balance Muslim traditions, family expectations, and their own lived realities. Some gay and lesbian Muslims have civil marriages (or civil partnerships) in countries which allow this. And for some, having a marriage or registered partnership which secular law recognizes is insufficient, and they get Islamically married as well.

    The BBC has a progam which they say will air today on the trend in the UK among some Muslim lesbians to hold (same-sex) nikahs. Should be interesting. I hope that MMW will review it:

    http://news.pinkpaper.com/NewsStory/4864/18/02/2011/bbc-radios-5-live-to-examine-trend-of-lesbian-muslim-weddings-this-weekend.aspx

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    I forgot to mention earlier one thing when I talked about using online tools to “spy” on potential brides/grooms. I believe that while doing this we should take care not to spy too much! So if the potential b/g puts up the latest pics of their day out with friends we should make sure to respect privacy and not pry too much into how they spend their day out with friends/family members, especially if we see them nothing out of the ordinary. If word gets back to their friends/family members that you’ve been viewing their pics online (particularly women) they may not appreciate that!

  • Anon

    Assalaamalaykum, I’ve joined most of these sites over the years and eventually leave them one by one. The same with a few friends of mine – also sisters in their late 20s & 30s who are finding it difficult to find someone in their small communities. The majority of men on these sites are like what the reviewer found… overseas in search of visas, looking for second wives, separated (usually still married) and looking for something better, serial divorcers, older men looking for very young and very white wives or other freak file worthy things. I end up becoming fed up and deleting my profile after awhile but then somehow end up back on one hoping beyond hope that there’s someone decent out there looking.

    I think the medium of online dating is just not conducive to looking for a Muslim husband. It attracts freaks and liars, makes it extremely easy to be shallow (just search on face color, weight, age, height, doctor etc) and even sites that claim to weed these out by forcing ppl to fill out many forms and pay up front are the same, just in the guise of being more Islamic or intellectual.

    A concerted effort needs to be made by Imams, Mosques, Community members and families to find better solutions for us. Otherwise as you see there is an epidemic of older sisters AND brothers btw that are unmarried.

  • http://knightleyemma.wordpress.com Emma

    I know a FEW ppl who’ve had success on Shaadi.com. Others didn’t marry, BUT did date some “nice” guys they met on Shaadi. And yes, those women were single, successful, and had no kids. As for the MORE conservative singles, how about a Muslim speed dating event? (These are pretty new to DC area, I hear, but have been going on in NYC.) Or, how about mosques having a singles night where ppl come and chat, eat, and discuss matters?

  • Pingback: What no one says about marriage? Marriages of convenience PART II « New Muslim Walking Around


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