Fawad Habib arrived in the UK last year on a student visa and he met his soul mate, Farhana Choudhury, within two months of registering on SingleMuslim.com. The happy couple held their nikah in May, followed by their registry office wedding in July.
The newlyweds kindly invited SingleMuslim.com to their home in Leicester, where they told us all about their journey to marriage.
Fawad and Farhana, please tell us a bit about your backgrounds.
Fawad: I am from Abbottabad, Pakistan and I arrived in this country last year to study. I got my Masters qualification in Pakistan and I am taking a Masters of Business Administration. I like playing cricket and travelling. I have two brothers and one sister. I am the youngest one, I'm 25. My brothers are married as well.
Farhana: I'm 24 years old. My family is originally from Bangladesh but I was born and raised in the UK. I finished my childcare qualification and I'm working in the social care sector. I'm interested in travelling too.
First of all, who knew that you were registered on SingleMuslim.com?
Farhana: My sister was the one who told me to sign up to SingleMuslim.com, so my mum, my brothers - my immediate family - knew.
Fawad: My brothers knew and now probably everyone in my family knows that I found Farhana on SingleMuslim.com and that I am happy.
Were you registered on any other matrimonial websites?
Fawad: Yes, I was registered on others but I never became a paying member because I mostly used SingleMuslim.com. I got many messages from other members all over the world so I decided to become a Gold member so that I could read messages and send messages to other people. I sent many messages. Some people just ignored them; they behaved very rudely. And at first Farhana sent me a very awkward message but afterwards I had a very good response from her.
Farhana: I wasn't on any other sites. I was introduced to SingleMuslim.com three years ago. My sister had seen an advertisement on a bus. I got a profile up and running but I was looking for a totally different person to Fawad. I wasn't searching for a Pakistani man; I was searching for a guy with a Chinese, Japanese or Malay background.
Back then I was arrogant and, even as a Bangladeshi girl, I thought that Bangladeshi, Pakistani or English men weren't right for me because they would treat their wives poorly. I had brothers across the world asking me, "Why Chinese or Japanese and why not Bengali or Pakistani?" I just wanted someone different and it was unexpected after three years on the website to get a message from Fawad. First of all I was rude to him but he opened my eyes to the fact that not all people are the same and you can't categorise them. Everyone is an individual.
Had you tried any other avenues to find a marriage partner before joining?
Farhana: No, not really.
Fawad: I never thought about marriage back in Pakistan. I had a plan: finish my studies then go back and marry, like an arranged marriage. But then I used SingleMuslim.com and searched for my partner through that.
So, could you tell us about your journey? Who made first contact?
Fawad: I read her profile and sent her a message. I just explained about myself and said that I'm interested in marriage. I asked her why she specified the people that she did and said that she can marry anyone as long as they are a good person. I sent her a message accidentally. I saw many profiles. I read that she was really religious and bubbly. She was online and I found her through Quick Search. At first she didn't reply so after one and a half hours I sent another message saying "There are other people in the rest of the world!"
Farhana: I think people found it strange. It's not very common for a Bangladeshi woman to want to marry a Chinese or Malay guy. I had loads of messages the same as Fawad sent but in his message he wrote things like Insha'Allah and Alhamdulillah and these little things made me think that I should keep on talking to him. At the first message I thought, this guy has no chance with me! But he sent me more messages after an hour and a half, then 20 minutes, then another 15 so I thought that I should just reply. I was very rude. Thinking back, I'm ashamed now. I've always been praying to find a husband who's gentle and caring and I guess after three years of waiting I found him! I said, "Bengali men and Pakistani men, you don't know how to treat women; you won't let them do this and that and I can't live like this!" I really convinced myself that I could not marry a Pakistani guy.
Fawad: She was scared and she has a lot of Pakistani friends that guide her. Soon we regularly sent messages to each other. We chatted daily through SingleMuslim.com. Afterwards we exchanged MSN Ids and we saw each other on the webcam. Then Farhana insisted that we meet. We met in Birmingham near the Bullring - we always met there. I met her for the first time in January; it was my birthday.
Farhana: That day he was two hours late! I was going to go but then he popped around the corner.
Fawad: To be honest, I was new in this country. I hadn't been there before so I didn't know the exact location.
Farhana: We went to a cafe and I forgot to get him a birthday present so I told him that I was his present for today! (Laughs.) We chatted, had a coffee, then we went home.
Would you say that it was love at first sight for you?
Farhana: To me, yes. As he came around the corner, you could say that my jaw dropped! (Laughs.) I haven't come across a 25-year-old who is so mature. They way he replied to my questions, the way he treated me and his manners were really good. It all pulled me into his little trap. Yes, first of all I'd thought "No chance" but he slowly but surely changed my mind!
Fawad: Yes, you can say that. When I went home, I talked with my family. I told my mum - she's my best friend - that today I'd met a girl. She asked what she looks like and if she wears hijab, things like that. I said, "Yes, she prays five times a day and she told me all about her family." Then my mum and my sister spoke with Farhana. My mum said, "If you are happy, then you have my permission to get married."
Farhana: I told my sister and my mum after I'd met Fawad.
Farhana: After our fifth meeting we decided that we didn't want to do seeing and doing any sins so the best thing to do would be to get married. And we did in May this year.
Fawad: I went to see Farhana's parents twice. My family was not here. My brother had been here for ten years but he went home so he told his friend to visit Farhana's family with me. I met her mum and brothers but no one can judge someone for marriage in just one day.
Farhana: My father died when I was young so my older brother and my mum were the ones that spoke to him.
How important was it to you to have your families involved?
Fawad: My parents gave me moral and financial help for the wedding and they came to the UK for 15 days. The visit had been pre-arranged.
Farhana: It was good. They didn't expect a marriage but it just happened.
Fawad: You could say everything happened accidentally! (Laughs.) Farhana's mum had agreed to the marriage but said that they could not do it quickly. Then my brother spoke to her and they decided that we didn't need a big celebration. So at the mosque we had her family and my family and a few friends.
Tell us about your nikah day.
Farhana: It was held at the local masjid here in Leicester. It was short notice! It was really quick and so easy - about 15 minutes max! I always wanted to marry inside a masjid because I wanted it to be special. I just wanted to follow the Sunnah as well - a few people attending. That's a good thing. Prophet Muhammad (á¹£all Allahu Ê¿alayhi wa sallam) had a small wedding and so should we. There are all these big wedding these days; I'm not into that. We just did nikah then we came home again.
Did you do a lot of preparation for your nikah?
Farhana: No, actually. I didn't wear a tradition red lengha (gown). I wore a white dress with white hijab. Especially in Bengali weddings you don't find the bride wearing hijab but I wanted to be different. The only preparation we did was my shopping and that probably took an hour or so. Fawad knew what he was going to wear. And then the catering - that was just a local restaurant. Yes, it was quick. We kept it very simple. It was small and nice.
Did you encounter any problems along the way?
Fawad: My family is very flexible. There were no problems from my family; they were happy. Farhana always talked to my family and now she chats with them on webcam.
What makes your relationship special?
Farhana: Allah plays a big part in our marriage and through Islam we are closer to each other. Our marriage revolves around Islam and this is how a marriage should be.
Fawad: Her behaviour is childish. I really like this because I am the youngest one in my family, and young at heart.
Farhana: We're relaxed around each other, we're both happy, and we like the same things. We talk about Islam, we talk about life. He teaches me. Before I met him I didn't know anything about IT but now he is teaching me computing, Alhamdulillah.
Farhana, you found out about SingleMuslim.com from your sister. How did you find us, Fawad?
Fawad: I searched on the internet through Google.
How long were you on the website before you found each other?
Farhana: I was on SingleMuslim.com three long years before I found Fawad!
Fawad: I joined in October or November and then it was two months before I met Farhana. We met on SingleMuslim.com in December.
What did you think of the website?
Farhana: With SingleMuslim.com it's so easy, especially for a woman, to put up a profile. It's just straightforward. It's safe; some sites don't seem as safe. You can access your account from your mobile. It has galleries you can search for people all around the world so it makes it very interesting.
Fawad: SingleMuslim.com is a very good website; it's not like the others. SingleMuslim.com provides a chat facility and also the galleries. You can find the people who are online very easily and you can easily chat.
Farhana: It's very flexible and it's a halaal environment. My family accepted that I was on SingleMuslim.com because we're not actually meeting the people, just browsing through the profiles to see if they're compatible or not. You can even send gifts to people that you're interested in so it's really good.
Did you use the features such as LiveChat?
Farhana: I used LiveChat with Fawad. It's easy; you didn't need to install anything. You can see other members and talk to them directly.
Did you meet any other potential marriage partners before you met each other?
Farhana: Because of the profile I put up, I was amazed that no one of that background sent me a message! But I did receive lots of messages from other Muslim brothers. Fawad was the first person I was interested in. I don't know if it's destiny. I just believed what he was saying to me through the messages and I had in the back of my mind, "What if he is going to be my husband? You just can't let the chance go." The message from Fawad changed my heart.
Fawad: No. Many girls replied rudely, like "We're not interested in people born in Pakistan". I am very soft-hearted.
Farhana: I think it's the British mentality; some people are just afraid of people from abroad.
How do you feel about males paying whilst females receive Gold Membership free of charge?
Farhana: I think it's a good part of SingleMuslim.com that women get the profile up and running for free. It's such a big bonus. Even if the men have to pay for their profile, it's such a small fee. And it's actually helping: by donating money you are helping the website to grow and I think that's more important.
How do you think that SingleMuslim.com has changed your life?
Farhana: I would like to say a big thank you to SingleMuslim.com because if it wasn't for this website I would still be in the dark and arrogant towards other people. I am very grateful to Allah that someone has created a website for those people who are lost so that they can find someone easily. Because of SingleMuslim.com, I travelled from darkness to light, completing half of my deen too. It really helped me. It has had such an impact on my life.
Fawad: I am very thankful to SingleMuslim.com because if I hadn't joined, I wouldn't have met Farhana. This is the best matrimonial website and I recommend it to everybody. Allah will make it easy for them and they will reach their destiny.
Farhana: It's a step forward from arranged marriages. You're more flexible and you have more freedom in who you choose.
Fawad: Islam gives us the option to choose our own partners. The days of forced marriages from our traditional heritages are finished. Marriage happens only once in a lifetime so everybody has the right to decide for themselves.
What advice would you give to other members who are still searching for a marriage partner?
Farhana: Don't be in a rush and have patience. Make your profile a bit catchy and rely on Allah. Only Allah has written your destiny. He or she will come.
Fawad: It's up to Allah: some people find someone very quickly, others take time. Through true communication you can get your goal.
Would you share with us your plans for the future?
Farhana: We want to go travelling, that's the main thing. Travelling to Fawad's homeland and to other countries, seeing different cultures and how people live. I'd even be interested in teaching English abroad if we have the chance.
Fawad: It's my wish that my first trip as a married man will be to Umrah. I am very grateful to SingleMuslim.com for giving me the opportunity to visit Allah's home. I'm really excited to go there.
Farhana: I'm excited, definitely. I always had a feeling that I would go there with my husband. It's like Allah has accepted our marriage. Perhaps a gift for being patient?
SingleMuslim.com founder, Adeem Younis, presents the newlyweds with their free tickets for Umrah as a thank you for sharing their story with us.