Umair and Zainab started communicating on SingleMuslim.com in March and married in September. The happy couple recently visited our Wakefield offices to share the story of how they met, their special journey to Nikah, and the big role that technology has played in their relationship. Over to you, Umair...
Umair: My name is Umair and I registered on SingleMuslim.com back in November. I'm 29 years old and I work at Gatwick Airport as an administrator. I'm from Pakistan and I've got a twin brother back home in Islamabad. I also have a sister and my mum; my dad passed away. I've got lots of relatives in the UK as well and I was studying here. In January I'll have been here for two years.
Zainab: My name's Zainab and I'm from Glasgow. I'm 22 years old and I'm currently a student of Business Finance in my third year at university. My family's originally from Pakistan. My dad was born in Scotland but my mum is from Pakistan. I've got a younger brother and sister.
To begin, who knew that you were registered on SingleMuslim.com?
Umair: My mum and a couple of friends knew.
Zainab: A friend who recommended the website to me knew, my mum knew and she plucked up the courage to tell my dad. Then my brother and sister found out and the grandparents found out, my uncles found out...
Were you on any other websites?
Zainab: No, just SingleMuslim.com
Did you use any other avenues to find a marriage partner?
Zainab: No, not at all.
So, over to you. Please tell us about your journey to Nikah.
Umair: I saw Zainab's profile and messaged her first. That was in January but I was waiting for a reply for two months! She didn't have any pictures on there but her profile was unique and she presented herself very well. Her words showed exactly what I was looking for and yes, I kept on waiting for a message. It came in March! The basic attraction was that she had family values. That's important to me. She seemed honest in her writing and that's why I waited for her reply.
Zainab: I was at university and at the beginning of January there was coursework for submission and I didn't really think about going on the website. I used to go on it whenever I had free time. In March I was at home with nothing to do so I logged in. I had lots of messages and when I read Umair's I noticed that the date was two months before and I wondered whether he was still on the website or if he'd met someone. But I gave it a try and I responded to his message. Within an hour he had replied! I replied back and went downstairs to help my mum and when I went back upstairs I had another message! We sent about six or seven messages that night.
His message was quite lengthy, that's what I liked, and it was a personal message to me. It meant a lot. He'd put what he was looking for and that he'd found that quality in my profile. He was honest from the beginning and I didn't see anything that would make me step back or make me think that he wasn't genuine. I asked lots of questions and about his caste – he didn't know himself so had to ask his mum. The caste didn't matter to me but I knew my parents would ask and I wanted to ask everything so that I could answer their questions.
Umair: I got a reply that suggested she was serious about marriage. I knew I was older than her so I asked if it would bother her or her parents. After about two weeks I asked if I could have her phone number.
Zainab: As soon as we exchanged phone numbers we were communicating more. We never Skyped or exchanged photos – just text messaging and calling.
Umair: I do remember one of Zainab's messages: are you ready to see my photo? (Laughs)
Zainab: Well, I thought, he's been messaging me and he hasn't even seen my photo!
Umair: There are a lot of profiles on SingleMuslim.com that are without photos. If you are looking for a good rishtka then you don't go for the face, you go for what she is first and go for the photo later on.
Zainab: We added each other on Facebook as well – you can then have a look at what they've been up to and see if they're genuine or not. (Laughs) After about a month we decided to meet up. We thought we'd meet halfway so I went with my friend. At that point I didn't tell anyone else where I was going apart from my sister. We met at the Trafford Centre and I was really nervous.
Umair: I was nervous too. There was a fear of rejection obviously. But we had a very good time.
Zainab: But we ran out of time because we were supposed to meet at three o'clock and
Umair got there at five! I was about to leave. By that point I was angry and upset.
Umair: I slept in! It was Zainab that woke me that day. She called and said, "I'm halfway. Where are you?" I said, "Really? I just woke up now." That's why I was late. She thought I was joking!
How did you recognise each other?
Zainab: I was on the phone to Umair and he said he was by Jack and Jones so I walked towards him thinking, this could be the person I'm marrying! He put the phone away and walked over. I couldn't really tell what he looked like from his photo. I thought he was a bit short. (Laughs) We spent about an hour and a half talking and walking around the Trafford Centre. On the drive back home I was so confused. I kept thinking that he was genuine and really nice but could I spend the rest of my life with him? Marriage is such a massive part of your life and you have to get it right.
The first time you met, would you say it was love at first sight?
Umair: Yes, kind of. I really liked her from her photo and she was prettier than that. I was observing her – I wanted to know everything about her before making a decision. It was just a very short time that we spent together. I told my mum everything and she wanted to talk to Zainab's mum as soon as possible but I said that wasn't possible until Zainab told her mum about our meeting.
Zainab: After the meeting I plucked up the courage to tell my brother the whole story. He said, "He's from Pakistan – talk to mum and dad." It's a culture thing that we have to get married into our cousins in my family so this is the first marriage that has happened outside family. It was quite difficult for my parents. Although they knew I was on the website, they didn't think I'd get serious. They'd always told me not to marry anyone from Pakistan – he had to be from the UK because the whole visa procedure is long and they didn't want me to get into that.
My mum asked me everything and I showed her his photographs. She asked his age and I told her he was 29. Then there was silence and she said, "I'll have to talk to your dad." She said I'd have to agree with whatever my dad decided and I was okay with that. My dad's first response was no because of the caste and his age but I convinced my dad to talk to him. Mum spoke to him on the phone. The first time Umair came to my house, my mum and dad were unsure. At that point my grandparents were in Pakistan, about three hours away from his house, so they went and met his mum and they gave positive feedback. Then my dad decided that we'd go to London the week after to Umair's auntie and uncle's place. This was the beginning of June, then my dad started arranging everything.
Umair: I was quite nervous meeting her dad because I hadn't spoken to him on the phone. He had so many questions! At first I had a problem understanding what he was saying because he had the proper Scottish accent. But then he realised and made himself clearer. He wanted to know about my qualification, my values and about my visa. He asked if I would take Zainab to Pakistan and I said she could stay where she wants. Then they decided that Zainab's grandparents would visit my mum.
My mum wanted to come to the UK to join in the marriage and we had planned for it to take place in November but Zainab's dad wanted us to get married as soon as possible and to do things Islamically. He had strong vibes that we were going to talk to and see each other so he planned it as soon as possible. It was within a month.
Zainab: In that time we were planning for Umair's mum to come over but it didn't work out.
Umair: This is the first wedding in our household. My mum was really excited and wanted to know everything about it and about Zainab. She was speaking to Zainab's mum regularly on Skype!
Did you face any obstacles?
Zainab: Dad was concerned about Umair's visa and another obstacle was that we really wanted Umair's mum to be here. We're going to Pakistan anyway for walima so she can be part of it, but his family were watching the wedding live on Skype. His cousin had Skype on during the Nikah and afterwards at the restaurant.
What makes your relationship special?
Zainab: We have a lot in common. I think the most important thing is that he's honest. He's not scared of what he says – whether it's wrong or right, he's still honest.
Umair: I like everything about her. If I have to be precise, it's that she is very family-oriented. She's not exactly like I've seen other girls over here.
Tell us about your wedding day...
Zainab: On the day all my aunties came over to get ready. They hired a beautician for them and I hired one for myself. I didn't take a trial because I trusted her. She came at 6 am and started getting me ready and by 12.30 she was still getting me ready. When I looked at what she'd done, I was so disappointed with my hair and makeup that I started crying. I think I would have done a better job myself. But overall it was a good day.
Umair's family drove up to Glasgow that day – they left London at 5am. Umair came up the day before and stayed at a hotel with his friends and cousins. We went to Glasgow Central Mosque and we were waiting for Umair for about half an hour because he was late again! (Laughs) Then we went to the restaurant – it was one of the new ones in Glasgow and everyone liked it. His cousin was going around the restaurant, Skyping us to Pakistan!
Umair: Even the mendhi went on Skype! On the wedding day we didn't speak or exchange messages till the Nikah. Then I saw her in her wedding dress and I thought Oh wow! I don't know why she kept saying she was disappointed with her makeup – she looked very beautiful. Everything went very well. It was well organised and the food was good although we didn't have time to eat much of it because everyone kept taking photos!
Now on to the website. How did you hear about SingleMuslim.com?
Umair: I heard about it through one of my friends. He was searching for his brother.
Zainab: My best friend had told me about SingleMuslim.com. She said, "If you're looking to get married then this is the place."At the time I wasn't really looking, I was only 18. It was only really when I started university that I felt it was the right time. I wanted to get married around 21 or 22.
What did you think of the website?
Umair: It is easy to sign up. Guys have to pay and girls don't, so I had to fill in all the information for that. That was easy. And the good thing is that you can block people who annoy you.
Zainab: Yes, that's a good feature.
Umair: You can filter your search to the kind of person you're looking for and you hit the exact match. You can upload photos and also hide pictures that you don't want to show at first. I think this is a good feature.
Zainab: Yes I think that's good as well because you don't have to put a picture of yourself on the profile. You can keep that private until you feel comfortable with someone and want them to view it. I found the website really good. I read most of the success stories and the ways that people have met and they make it seem that it really can happen for you. You just have to wait until the right time, I think. I met Umair when I least expected it. You don't know what's planned for you – it could happen today or a year from today – you just don't know.
Did you find many suitors on the website?
Umair: No, Zainab is the only girl I met in person. I did lose hope in January and February when I was hoping for a reply from her. But right from March it began and we married masha'Allah.
Zainab: There were people that were suited but I didn't really make the effort to go and meet them. I just stuck to messages. No one approached me the way Umair did and something clicked. I felt as though he was the one.
How did you find the other users?
Umair: I think people are genuine. I saw profiles where people mentioned that they were divorced or had children. If you're genuine and honest and looking for a person to start a life with then you obviously wouldn't lie at the first step.
Zainab: I think some people are on there to pass the time but friends have said that this is the most genuine and the most successful website, with the most success stories too. And if men are paying for a website, they will be more genuine.
Would you make any improvements to the website?
Zainab: It has all been really positive. But something I thought of when I was messaging Umair is that I had to keep logging in, even if I'd left the page open and then came back to it. It would be good to be able to access it quicker – maybe have some sort of app for your phone?
Umair: I think the reason for that is to keep it secure. If the session does not expire and the page is open then people can mess about with it. I would say the opposite, that it's a good feature. It secures your information.
How has SingleMuslim.com changed your life?
Zainab: It has changed my life in many ways. Before I just used to think about myself! (Laughs) Each time you have to make a choice, you have to think about two people's points of view, take advice from one another and tell each other.
Umair: Obviously you've got your life partner with you now. Zainab really takes care of me and she makes me feel so valuable. I'm very happy and I feel complete now. Before, I was alone over here but now I have got a family and I am very lucky to find Zainab through this website. This is a Sunnah that you have to fulfil. It's amazing – it's a beautiful relationship.
Zainab: SingleMuslim.com gives you good vibes that you're doing everything right and you're encouraged to get your parents involved. People respect one another, and it's halaal.
Would you recommend SingleMuslim.com?
Zainab: I would definitely.
Zainab: I would recommend it to my friends; I would recommend it to everyone – all ages, divorcees, people with children...
Umair: People really do need a platform like SingleMuslim.com. I know people who can't really find a good match and it has been a problem for many years. To be able to link up people, like Zainab from Scotland and me in London – I would never ever have looked in Scotland because it's 400 miles away! I think the website is doing a very good job.
What advice would you give to brothers and sisters on the website who are still looking?
Zainab: I would say to be patient and don't lose hope. You'll find the right person.
Umair: Yes, be patient and wait for the right time. I've shown that the reply can come – but it may take two months! (Laughs) Approaching the search in a positive way will give you positive feedback and help you find the person you are looking for. And when you fill in your information it is according to Allah's will. Whenever God has decided, you will find your match.
And finally, what plans do you have for the future?
Umair: At this time we are just focusing on the walima which will be happening, insha'Allah, in Pakistan in December. I've got a very good job now and we're waiting for Zainab to finish her studies and move back to London so that we can start a normal family life.
Zainab: I have to go back to uni and in between my exams we're going to Pakistan. Next year, insha'Allah, I'll be moving to London properly. Umair will be working so I'll probably start working too. I'm really excited – I can't wait!
Umair: And we are definitely looking forward to Umrah. I want my mum to come along with us. She's looking forward to it.
Zainab: Yes, I'm really excited as well. Alhamdulillah, it'll be a great way to start off our marriage and to get to know her as well.
And so SingleMuslim.com founder, Adeem Younis, was delighted to present the newlyweds with their free tickets to Umrah as a thank you for sharing their story with us.