MORE AND MORE awareness has been raised regarding the phenomenon of ‘marriage bandits’ – those men, often portraying themselves as ‘religious,’ who approach women with convincing proposals of marriage, charming them into shady arrangements resembling (barely) ḥalâl hook-ups rather than serious commitments. Shortly after, victims of these predators will find themselves used and abused, their Islamic rights disregarded, and their stories discredited if they try to come forward with what happened to them.
However, while keeping in mind that the blame for such abuse lays squarely on the shoulders of the predators themselves, we must also acknowledge that the women involved are individuals of agency.
It is undeniable that they are often vulnerable (especially new Muslims or those without a strong Muslim support system), but we must also recognize that at the end, the marriage does not take place without the consent of the women themselves. It is rare, if ever, that these marriages are ‘forced’ in the sense that these women literally have no choice whatsoever.
We women cannot act as though we’re completely helpless in these situations. There are certain measures that women should take as a matter of course to ensure their own safety. It is unfortunate that this is an issue that even exists – much like rape or domestic violence – but at the end of the day, it is a harsh reality that must be faced and which we should be prepared for. If we want to empower women to take control of their lives, we must be ready to take responsibility for the decisions we make as well.
That being said, what are the proactive measures women should take in order to not be as susceptible to the appalling schemes of marriage bandits?
If an individual approaches you for marriage – whether it’s someone famous or not – the first rule of thumb should be: be aware and be wary. Especially if it’s a well-known daʿi or influential individual in the community, don’t be star struck. Keep your wits about you. Maintain an attitude of professionalism at all times; don’t communicate with them privately, without your wali or someone you trust CCed at all times.
Don’t fall for flattery. Many women suffer from low self-esteem or have deeply rooted insecurities, and someone who provides praise and reassurance immediately gains their trust. Always remember that you should never base your self-worth and confidence on others’ opinions of you – develop your own self-esteem. Know that someone who is preying upon your fears or weaknesses is not someone who sincerely cares about you.
Know that just because someone is a shaykh or a daʿi, it doesn’t mean that they are perfect, that they practice what they preach, or that they are good husbands. They are human, they can be good and they can be bad, and even the good ones have flaws. Never allow yourself to be blinded by an idealistic fantasy of being “the Shaykh’s wife” – the reality is very, very different.
Simply put, don’t rush. Don’t advertise your insecurities or your loneliness in marriage advertisements. Do your research with your wali, and don’t be embarrassed to do a thorough background check, including finding out about past relationships and doing credit checks. If it is an individual who travels a lot, find out about places he has spent time in and try to find out what his history is in those areas.
The concept of the wali – a guardian or helper – has unfortunately been maligned, minimalized, or abused amongst many Muslims. While a wali’s duty is to have the best interests of a woman at heart when seeking for a prospective spouse, it has become all too common for walis to fall into one of two extremes: either to be completely negligent, or to be unreasonable and entertain offers that only suit their cultural or personal biases.
Women need to be educated as to the Islamic reasoning behind having a wali – no, it’s not to reinforce the patriarchy, even if it is abused in that way – and seek out a good wali.
Ideally, the qualities of a good wali are that he is of both good religious practice as well as character (so obviously, not someone who outwardly looks religious but engages in abuse, financial fraud, or other distasteful and unethical practices); that he should not have a conflict of interest regarding the proposed marriage (i.e. he’s not the would-be-groom’s best friend); that he is sincere and truly cares about the woman’s best interests; and that he understands the seriousness of the responsibility. It should be noted that a wali’s role does not end upon the performing of the marriage contract; should any issues arise within the marriage, the wali should be present (or at least accessible) and ready to advocate for the woman.
One way to ensure that a wali will do his job appropriately is to have a way to hold him accountable. Should you get screwed over because you trusted the wali to do a thorough background check and he didn’t, you should be able to report his negligence to those who have some kind of authority or influence over him. Of course, this is easier said than done and impossible for some due to community politics and lack of accountability in our communities in general, but it is something that should be seriously considered before trusting any random Joe or brother Bilal to play such an important role.
If the proposed arrangement is one that involves polygyny – and especially secret polygyny – then first of all, watch out for red flags. If he says that he needs to keep you a secret for his reputation, or because his first wife “can’t know just yet” – then know that he is being less than forthcoming, and that he cares more about his image and self-satisfaction than your well-being, or his wife’s.
Polygyny already has a horrific reputation in the Muslim community because of how terribly it is practiced – don’t perpetuate that nightmarish cycle. Insist on your right to have a recognized marriage, and to communicate with his first wife directly to ensure that she is aware of his actions and that you are not harming her with the decision to become a second wife. If he gets angry, upset, or defensive about this, then that is enough of a red flag – shut down the conversation and don’t look back. Lying and deception does no one any good, least of all you.
On the other hand, check your own attitude. There is a tendency for some people to paint all second wives as naïve victims, and while this is true in some cases, it is not true for all. There are numerous examples of women whose attitudes regarding polygyny are worrisome in and of themselves. “It’s my right to marry him,” is a common phrase, and “I don’t need the first wife’s permission.” If one goes in with such a callous perspective, then to be blunt, Do you really expect to be treated any better? If you are considering becoming a second wife, then know that your decision will directly affect another woman’s life and marriage. Live according to the principle of iḥsân (excellence), and you will receive such in return:
Is the reward for good [anything] but good? [Sûrat Al-Raḥmân, 55:60]
Being vague about mahr, or promising something like “I’ll teach you my knowledge” or “take you for Hajj” are also indicators of a lack of commitment. One of the wisdoms behind the mahr is that the woman has a financial fall-back to depend on, should things unexpectedly go sour; as such, don’t give into pressure that, “The most blessed marriage is the one with the smallest mahr.” Ask for a reasonable amount that will show that you’re serious and expect seriousness in return.
It cannot be emphasized enough that you need to take your time and do your part in vetting an individual for marriage. If someone is pressuring you to ‘hurry up’ or threatening to move on and speak to another woman instead, then know that you can do without such an individual.
Among certain groups, there are women with children who take part in serial remarriage – with devastating consequences for the children. As a mother, you cannot make rash or weak decisions based on your immediate emotions. Your (re)marriage(s) will impact your children seriously, and often, not for the better. Making a mistake once or twice can, perhaps, be considered forgivable… but if you’re on round 3 or 4 and you’re still on the marriage carousel, going from one man to another, then the serious problem here is your poor judgment.
There are many, many, many cases of women who have made this mistake and whose children ended up scarred, traumatized, and more often than anyone would like, left Islam completely. Children are vulnerable and deeply affected by having men enter and leave their lives so abruptly even when the men themselves are good; but when those men are sociopaths, abusers, or just downright callous, the trauma of witnessing one’s mother (and themselves) at the mercy of these individuals can be overwhelming.
If you’ve already gone through a painful marriage and divorce, don’t rush into remarriage. Take time to heal, focus on your spiritual and emotional well-being, and that of your children. While marriage may seem like a quick-fix solution to financial or other issues, know that it is not always successful. It is far better for your – and your children’s – mental and spiritual health to seek long-term solutions involving counseling, education, building healthy support systems, and working towards financial stability. Again, this may be easier said than done, but it is also less likely to result in your children’s faith and psyches being damaged.
It should be noted that the above points do not necessarily apply to everyone’s situations. There will always be times when, despite one’s best attempts at precaution, predators will still find a way to weasel their way into manipulating and abusing others. In such cases, one should not be afraid to step away as soon as it’s clear what’s happening, and to report the individual to the authorities or those within the community who are likely to hold the person accountable and possibly prevent them from committing such abuse with others.
In conclusion, the best way to avoid becoming a victim to predator shaykhs and marriage bandits is to educate yourself, have self-respect, and be very, very cautious. Don’t be easily swayed by charm, false promises, and the appeal of fame. Know that marriage is a serious undertaking, a commitment that requires one to be educated about both one’s Islamic rights as well as real-life skills, and above all, sincerity. Place your trust in Allah and seek His guidance every step of the way.
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My name is Halima and I'm from Gauteng, South Africa and my husband (Arshad) is from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; we are both South African Indians.
He liked my profile on muzmatch on the 8th of April 2018 and on the 9th we started chatting and Alhamdulillah, today we are husband and wife.
About a month before I joined muzmatch I remember speaking to my mother in the kitchen as we cooked supper and she had full confidence that I'd be getting married soon.
I told her that I felt that maybe I'm just not meant to get married and be happy, taking into consideration that I personally felt like one could never find a decent man whose intention is to make Nikah in this day and age.
My Moulana had recommended that I join Nikah/Muslim match-making groups and muzmatch populated amongst my searches, so I downloaded the app and registered. After a while I had lost hope so I deleted the app from my phone but did not deactivate my profile.
It was a Monday morning, I had woken up to get ready for work,
I checked my phone and I had an email notification from muzmatch which read "Arshad likes you".
I was quite surprised; I looked at his profile and his biography was quite captivating but it seemed so surreal - this was too good to be true.
I used the link in his bio to view his Facebook profile, we had a mutual friend which was my cousin that also resides in Kwa-Zulu Natal, so I felt a bit more assured that this is definitely real considering that I had started to think that this could potentially be a catfish.
We started chatting that very morning and there was an instant click. It felt like we were long lost friends because of how well we understood each other and could complete each others sentences. We had the same interests and the same intention; we could speak for hours on end without running out of things to say.
We had realized that we are most definitely soulmates.
Within 2 weeks he called my parents to ask for my hand in marriage. In July 2018 (21st), I booked a flight to visit him and his mum for the day and after spending time together we knew that this was the right decision and that Allah SWT had created us for each other.
We then saw each other once again in August 2018 (25th - A surprise for my 21st birthday planned by him and my mum); and again in November 2018 when he flew up to attend my younger sister's wedding with his mum, younger sister and brother-in-law.
Slowly the long distance had become difficult, our younger sisters were both already married and settled and we started wondering when would we actually get married. In February this year he decided to relocate to Gauteng and found a temporary job.
His dad visited my parents and they decided to set a Nikah date, Alhamdulillah once the date was set everything fell into place by the will of Allah. He found a job as a PC Engineering lecturer and we were able to find our own place with our parents help and support.
Today I am happily married, living my dream with my husband and I have wonderful in-laws that love me as much as they love Arshad.
The most important quality I wanted in a husband was someone that could take my family as his own and Alhamdulillah I found that in Arshad.
We are now a huge happy family Alhamdulillah.
Jazak'Allah muzmatch! Arshad has found me due to the creation of this wonderful app (He always says that he found me, not the other way around).
I would advise everyone to put their trust and faith in Allah SWT, never give up hope that Allah SWT will send the one who is meant for you when the time is right - for Allah is the greatest of planners. May all the other individuals find their spouses through this app as well Insha'Allah.
Halima & Arshad
My name is Yasmeen and I found my husband, Taymoor, on muzmatch on the last day of last ramadan. We were both divorced.
The first time we talked on muzmatch was in June and we got married one month later in August 2018. I always wanted to send our story to inspire others who are searching for a good husband and wife.
We are both Egyptians, from Cairo, we even work & live very near to each others in New Cairo city. I am a digital marketing manager and Taymoor is an IT manager. I am 37 years old and he is 40.
I have a daughter who is 12 years old, and I was searching for a real Muslim man who would be a good husband and father. Finally I found Taymoor, who is a good man and a good Muslim, he is very kind.
I am telling my friends that I found someone who really looks like me from the inside. He was divorced and also has a kid, who is 5 years old. When we first chatted on muzmatch we spoke for over 6 hours, he was surprised much we got on, he even thought that this was a prank!
I couldn't believe that I finally found the man I was looking for. The first time we met, was after Eid al futr, in the House of Cocoa, as Taymoor knew that I loved chocolate. We talked about ourselves for over six hours, I did not want to leave and neither did he.
After we met I told my family and friends, and he did too. He and his family visited us and we got married in only two months, I never imagined that I would find my soulmate and marry him that fast.
I always wanted to find a man to trust and love, after being a single mom for years, I found out that my dream man was hard to find, but alhamdullah I found him on your app.
Alhamdullah, we are very happy together, my daughter lives with us and his son visits us on the weekends. You cannot imagine how much I am now recommending muzmatch to all my friends.
It didn't even take me long to find my husband. I used the app for almost one month or less.
I am so happy alhamdullah now that I married a real muslim I always wanted.
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My name is Sara and I just wanted to thank muzmatch and let you know that I finally got engaged on 24th December 2018 and found my Fiance - Ghazunfar on the App.
We are really happy Alhamdulilah and just wanted to thank you for creating a platform for Muslims to find a suitable match for marriage!
I believe it's a real blessing because initially we matched but we didn't talk as he hadn't read my messages and was not appearing online. After around 4 weeks, I unmatched however after some weeks I logged in and I came across his profile again. After some giving it some thought I decided to rematch and give it a try again.
The next day he replied to me and the is history. Its been a almost a year since we matched on Muzmatch and we have set the Nikkah date which will be 1st March 2019 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Our families are very happy and we are looking forward to entering into the blessed union of marriage Insha'Allah. We just wanted to say keep up the good work, may Allah bless you and request that you keep us in prayers.
One last thing to everyone using the muzmatch App - please do not give up, there is someone out there for us all!
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