How do you make an app that reforms the ‘hook-up culture’ we’ve come to know and love into something halal, everlasting and ultimately something our parents would approve of? Thirty-year-old Shahzad Younas, a British-Pakistani entrepreneur says he has the answer: MuzMatch, a matchmaking service takes its cues from Tinder, but caters exclusively to Muslims.
The app retains the fundamentals of Tinder — you are presented with a series of possible matches and you swipe right or left on your phone to signal interest or dismiss each candidate. But MuzMatch has features that speak to the hearts of a more conservative clientele; you can create a profile that describes your religious sensibilities and select ‘Sunni’, ‘Shia’ or ‘Just Muslim’, specify the extent to which you practice religion and whether you have a beard or wear a veil.
The app also has a wali feature, where messages and photos of the match are automatically forwarded to a prescribed guardian, normally one’s parent to keep the courtship as halal as possible. Younas says he wants to help Muslims ‘choose their own romantic destiny without breaking religious rules’. “Women on other dating apps are faced with weirdos and creeps,” the MuzMatch founder said. “We will ban anyone sending disgusting or inappropriate pictures and messages.”
While such apps open up the next frontier in courtship, ‘Muslim dating’ is a phenomenon that does have precedent. Nuptial websites like shaadi.com or muslima.com have millions of customers. A labyrinthine set of questions, profile features and algorithms work to get one the perfect match, whether their deen has lapsed or been reborn. Tinder-like apps are a natural progression from such matchmaking sites.
More broadly, an app like MuzMatch is perhaps a rebuff to that cacophony of Western voices that demand the ‘Muslim world’ to modernise. What better way of being ‘modern’ than to tell the story of how you met your partner online, or on a date, even if the parents did come along? The Muslim world has moved on from the monopolies that the Mrs Qureshis and Siddiquis held in matchmaking, and for the better, without necessarily removing the shackles of parental or societal consent.
It is capitalism’s unscrupulous ability to adapt to obstacles like culture, people’s preferences, habits and moods that make it the most powerful institution on Earth. For instance, instead of selling a car with interest, ‘Islamic banks’ buy it and sell it to you at a ‘profit’, ensuring that you buy your price inflated-car the way your religion would apparently want you to. One can get halal tour packages to Turkey, Malaysia and the UAE, skipping the skimpy beaches entirely and focusing instead on the breadth of Islamic history. For only Rs6 per day, you can get your daily hadith on your cell phone. You can get your non-alcoholic perfumes, red wine vinegar substitutes, impure silks and Burberry hijabs. Name a product and there is a halal option that you can find in the grocery store aisle, and now, the App Store.
Currently MuzMatch is working on an android app and will also offer a wide range of languages in the future to cater to Muslims across the world. Like banking or holidays, when there’s a particularly ‘Muslim’ way of doing things, there is indeed a market to get it done, keeping Muslim sensitivities — and a nice paycheck — in mind.
Muzmatch has features that speak to the hearts of a more conservative clientele; you can create a profile that describes your religious sensibilities and select ‘Sunni’, ‘Shia’ or ‘Just Muslim’, specify the extent to which you practice religion and whether you have a beard or wear a veil
Saim Saeed is a freelance writer. He tweets @saimsaeed847
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 29th, 2015.