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Body Shaming and Online Dating

Reconstructing Beauty

While the beauty, fashion and entertainment industries make big money on selling the newest standards of beauty and physical appeal, we as a society are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with our appearances. We are feeling more self-conscious, more deficient and even less beautiful. Why?

Because we’re being told—implicitly or explicitly— that we are not enough. We’re not good enough, thin enough, or attractive enough; that our skin does not look young or light enough. We are always broken, blemished, or scarred, and we need fixing. There is always a new standard or method for enhancing everything from our skin, hair, lips and nails, to almost every inch of our body—and it’s impossible to keep up. So many succumb to society’s pressure to conform, and they go to great lengths to surgically alter their bodies, inject foreign objects in them, starve themselves or follow strict diets or exercise programs—all in an effort to look more beautiful and desirable.

Islam encourages outward beauty, cleanliness and beautiful dress. We adorn our bodies with nice clothes and maintain good hygiene because this is what God loves. We also do our best to eat healthy and stay fit because our bodies are an amanah (trust) from God, and because better health gives us more energy to serve God and society better. These are all admirable efforts, when done moderately. What I am addressing here is how we view the natural physical form of our bodies; what we were born with or what developed over time because of genetic influences.

It is important to remember that God is our Maker—He made you the way you are—your unique colour, shape, hair and facial features. In His eyes, you are beautiful—no matter what society says. He says,

Surely, we have created the human being in the finest stature.” Qur’an | 95:4

He fashioned you in your mother’s womb, brought you into this world knowing nothing, and then beautified your heart and mind with faith, wisdom and intelligence. Even before you were born, He honoured you; He created your father, Adam, with His Own Blessed Two Hands, breathed His spirit into him, and made the Angels prostrate to him out of respect.

Throughout your life, He showers you with beautiful gifts; He provides you with experiences that inspire you, teach you, and make you feel joy, connectedness and love towards Him and others. He gives you a lifetime to invest in the beauty of the Eternal life with gorgeous homes, companions, flowing rivers, and blessings that you cannot even imagine. Now, who could dare touch your feelings of self-worth after that?

Underneath the superficial layers of different physical features, skin colours and types of dress, all of us have hearts and souls that long and plead for the same deep connection with their Creator. As Ibn Al-Qayyim (may God have mercy on him) says,

“Truly, in the heart there is a void that cannot be removed except with the company of God; and in it there is a sadness that cannot be removed except with the happiness of knowing God and being true to Him; and in it there is an emptiness that cannot be filled except with love for Him and turning to Him and always remembering Him; and if a person were given the entire world and what is in it, it would never fill that emptiness.”

So no matter how much we alter and reshape our physical form, it will not fill the void in our hearts that is reserved for God. When we follow our desires and the ever-changing whims of creation, we chain our souls down to the lowly, fleeting life—and away from God. But when we connect our hearts and minds to the Eternally Permanent One, Al-Baqi, our souls are freer to draw closer to Him. Reflect for a moment on this hadith (narration) of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him):

“Prayer is light; charity is a proof, patience is illumination; and the Qur’an is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his/her day and is a vendor of his/her soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.” [Muslim]

When our souls are liberated, we see Reality for what it really is; that physical beauty fades, and that the beauty and light of our faith, character and actions are what bring us true bliss and deeply satisfying relationships in this life, along with a more permanent relationship with God and eternal bliss and in the Hereafter. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would supplicate,

“O Allah, as You have made my appearance beautiful, make my character beautiful,” (Allahumma anta hassanta khalqi fa hassin khuluqi)

Beautiful character is in sincere intentions, in our positive attitude, and in a graceful smile. It’s in showing abundant gratitude and forgiveness, in overlooking people’s faults, in giving generously of your love and time to support others, and in treating people with respect, mercy and gentleness. As Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,

“Gentleness is not in something except that it adorns it, and it is not stripped from something except that it ruins it.” [Muslim]

So, rather than striving to perfect a body that will, one day, end up covered in dirt, how about we turn to what truly matters? Instead of facelifts and breast enhancements, perhaps we ought to focus more on uplifting our faith and morality; and instead of dwelling over fat layers and contemplating liposuction, we might want to work on suctioning the arrogance, pride and anger from our hearts; and instead of eyelid surgeries—yes, those exist—we would prosper more if we considered the virtues of lowering our gazes and turning our faces and hearts toward God’s light and guidance. These are the changes that yield the most beautiful, long-lasting effects in this life and the Next.

“So direct your face toward the religion, with pure faith. This is the natural disposition God instilled in mankind—there is no altering God’s creation. This is the upright religion, though most people do not realize it.” Qur’an | 30:30

We recently received a message from a muzmatch user about body image and body shaming. If you would like to write for us, email us: marketing@muzmatch.com

Subject: Body Shaming and Online Dating
Salaam,
My experience: I hit it off great with this guy. He and I had a good thing going. We met in person, everything was great. Until he began ignoring me. After a race to talk to him, during the conversation it was deduced that it was my thin figure that was the ‘problem’. I even got the classic it’s not you, it’s me.
I felt awful about myself, like I wasn’t good enough. After a lot of tears and pep talks, I learned that this guy was right about one thing: it’s not me, it really is him. A huge lesson I learnt: whether you’re a guy or a girl, don’t ever let someone bring you down to the point where they are making you question your worth and value. Allah (swt) created all of us in different shapes and forms. Nobody is perfect.

It may sound cliche, but what matters on the inside goes a longer way than what is on the outside because as time goes on, we’re all going to change externally. It’s called life.

But just remember – Allah has created us in pairs. We will all find that right person insha’Allah. Sometimes it’s a struggle and feelings get hurt, but in the end when we find the right person, we will be grateful for past relationships not working out. And if you’re reading this and nobody has told you: you are beautiful whether you’re short, tall, thick, thin, dark, pale. And if someone thinks otherwise, then they are not for you!

Source of inspiration for this article: Virtual Mosque

6 months ago

Get married, free, on muzmatch.

Debunking Desi Myths: It's never too late to get married

A series where we tackle the many myths that permeate within Muslim dominant cultures (mostly South Asian ones, but it's definitely not exclusive to this region). The thoughts and views in each article belong to the writer/contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of muzmatch.

“Don’t wait too long okay, or it will be too late for you” said my mother days before I turned the ripe old age of 23. “Too late for what?” I asked foolishly. She replied back with the inevitable monologue of the importance of getting married at a respectable, young age because with each year that passes by, I drift away from being a suitable life partner for a man. My counter argument of the importance of shaping a career for myself was met with scoffs and an insistence that “a job will always be there, but marriage isn’t always guaranteed”. And that’s when I realised, I would probably never fit into the world my mother lives in and the social narrative she’s been immersed in.

Growing up in the midst of a British school as a girl in a strict Muslim Pakistani family resulted in the unavoidable struggle of juggling two very different cultures and the image of the subservient daughter that my parents projected onto me. Surrounded by peers who were going out on weekends, dating boys at 16 and wearing miniskirts, I was always looking on as if something in my own life was missing. Maybe it’s the notion that the grass is always greener on the other side, or maybe the grass was actually greener on the other side. Regardless, the double life I started to lead helped to shed the image of me my parents had and I started to choose my freedom over my traditional family’s expectations.

Pakistani society is one in which culture and religion are often so interlinked that differentiating between the two becomes impossible. For example, from a young age, girls are told that they will only be valued in relation to a man. That no matter how much she accomplishes individually, the most imperative thing to achieve is to get a ‘good rishta’ and settle down. Being single and above the age of 25 is often seen as a failure and probably a sign that there must be something ‘wrong’ with the girl. However, this is much more about culture than it is Islam because even Prophet Muhammad’s ( عليه السلام) first wife was about the age of 40. Instead it is the Pakistani culture that perpetuates shame to girls who remain unmarried for a long period of time. But it begs the question: would the same be asked of a man? Is anyone going to tell him that he’s run out of time to find love?

A Pakistani man’s identity is very much different from a Pakistani woman’s; assumptions that one would make about a man are far removed from those one would make about a woman. A young unmarried Muslim woman is assumed to be less valuable and less worthy than a man. There is the assumption that her life has yet to have begun in spite of everything she has achieved thus far. And there is the notion that the dreams she aspires to achieve are only possible after she finds a man. How many times have young Pakistani girls heard the sentence “you can travel anywhere you want to, but only after you’re married, with your husband”. With options such as these, how much is the decision to get married really the woman’s?

But this isn’t a tirade against the patriarchy (well, only a little). We can all agree that obviously not every family and every Muslim girl shares the same thoughts. Some girls never want to get married. Some girls want to get married the minute they turn of age and that’s amazing. Because they’re doing what they want. Yet, in a conservative South Asian family, the marriage market is not a fun one to be in. You always feel as if you are on display and you need to be taken off the shelf before the expiry date. And if you are a little chubby and don’t know how to make the perfect round roti – all hell would break loose. Because aunties want a girl who acts the part as the daughter in law they can show off to their community; in a Pakistani society, reputation means more than people are willing to acknowledge.

Now on the other hand, being part of a generation within the west where being single and career focused is celebrated becomes utterly confusing. The age at which people get married is increasing each year as the current generation becomes more focused on experiencing the joys of uncommitted life before finally settling down, if they even do. But that first paycheck, the first promotion and the simple feeling of independence can arguably be as fulfilling as a marriage.

It would be a logical conclusion to make that I seem like I never want to get married, but the thing is I do want to one day. But I want it to be on my terms, with someone of my choosing and at an age that I decide I’m ready to share my very full and thriving life (fingers crossed) with someone who adds to it rather than consumes it. With halal dating becoming more and more embraced, men and women can get to know each other with the intention of getting married. Therefore, we have more choices than we ever had before. But that’s the point. It’s our choice to make, not anyone else’s.

I’m 23, Muslim, and Pakistani, and am not married. But I am not unique. To those trying to survive in a culture where single women are told they can’t survive by themselves, you’re not alone.

Written by Anonymous  

*Help muzmatch end forced marriages by donating here -> http://bit.ly/muzmatch-charity.

We are going on a 25km hike to raise money for these women, so sponsor us now and help save lives!

2 days ago

8 Muslim Influencers You Should Be Following Right Now

From travel to health tips, Muslim influencers have taken the world by a storm. Although everyone's heard of the likes of many fashion and beauty influencers like Dina Tokio or Huda Kattan, other categories have gone a bit under the radar. There are so many brilliant Muslim storytellers in the online sphere which we wanted to shine a light on!

Nadir Nahdi  

Born and brought up in London, Nadir's creativity has really taken off in 2019. His breakout documentary 'Finding Nenek' explores issues of identity, culture and family as he goes on a journey to find out who his Grandmother was and essentially where he comes from. As a captivating storyteller, Nadir helps bring to light the issues around not knowing our roots which a lot of us have faced at some point.

I'm not Western enough to be Western, Eastern enough to be Eastern. I grew up yearning for a sense of belonging, searching for somewhere to feel home.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

As a true disrupter, Suhaiymah (also known as The Brown Hijabi) isn't afraid to call out the islamaphobia and racism that is still present in our society. After graduating from Cambridge, Suhaiymah regularly writes and speaks about topics ranging from Islamophobia, racism, feminism and poetry. Her work has been featured in the likes of Al Jazeera, ITV and the Islam Channel; her most recent accomplishment is the launch of her debut poetry collection 'Postcolonial Banter' which is available this month! She's dedicated, fierce and nothing's going to stop her from standing up for what she believes in ♥️

Halima Aden

No doubt, Halima Aden is the most influential on this influencer list, but she's arguably also one of the most inspiring. Born to Somali parents, Halima was brought up in a Kenyan refugee camp until the age of six after the family home in Somalia was tragically burned down. After settling in Minnesota in the US, Halima was the first to do many things... The first Somali American to be crowned homecoming queen in her high school. The first woman to wear a hijab in a US beauty pageant. The first woman to wear a headscarf and burkini on the swimsuit cover of Sports Illustrated. As a woman and a Muslim she's breaking down barriers wherever she goes, meaning she's definitely one to watch.

That's the thing, the stereotype is that Muslims want to come to this country and they want to change the rules, they want to change everything. That's the opposite of what I want. I just want to participate.

@BeardedPashtun

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Imagine children going to the mosque with their parents for Jummah and seeing the Imam turn up in a cool sports car whilst wearing the nicest clothes in that entire room. Imagine them seeing the Imam being the most popular guy there but still he knows every child’s name and works with them on a regular basis. How many of those children would be inspired and want to follow in his footsteps? One of the reasons I believe Muslims in the UK are not reaching their potential is because our leaders are not putting in the work that they should be. And you know what? I don’t blame them. Why would you put in so much effort and work tirelessly for a community who doesn’t care about you but still expects you to work 7 days a week, 365 days a year for £14,000. Start having these conversations at your mosque. Turn that 14k into 140k so the work carried out for us reflects such a salary. And don’t tell me that we haven’t got the funds for it. If we can pay £100k for a chandelier then we have money to train our Imams and increase their salaries. I recently visited a community of Muslims in the USA. When I visited their mosque, I asked the Imam why there wasn’t a dome or a minaret because the building (although huge) didn’t look like a mosque. I was told that the community worked out that a dome would have cost around $40k so instead of spending that money on something that wouldn’t have much use, they decided to build a gym with showers and locker rooms in the mosque for the youth instead. That is the mentality we MUST adopt! Muslims in the UK have the money. We just don’t know how to use it efficiently and the entire community suffers as a result. Start having these conversations, people. We need to change.

A post shared by 3953 ✍🏽 (@beardedpashtun) on

Currently at 4414 followers on Instagram, Fahd, the man behind @beardedpashtun is growing rapidly. Aside from an epic handle name, Fahd's aim is to ultimately 'create posts that start conversations exploring potential solutions for issues that we face as young Muslims living in the West'. He's taken this initiative to the real world as well with monthly gatherings in Birmingham where young Muslims can freely talk and build a community that many of us yearn for.

Don’t learn about Christianity from the Imam and Islam from the priest. Be fair and just.

Aida Azlin

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Thought: Found these photos that were taken a year ago, in a back alley in Seoul. K was telling me “Aida, look! Pastel walls! Your favourite!” But this is not about why I’m attracted to walls (or pastels for that matter), it’s more about acknowledging the blessing that there’s someone else in this world who is mindful about your preferences, and your likes and dislikes. It’s about being grateful for having someone else who cares about the little things that makes you, you. - Love can be in the big things, but it can also be about the small things too. When you find someone who catches and remembers even the smallest details of you, perhaps that might be “the start of something beautiful”.

A post shared by Aida Azlin (@aidaazlin_) on

Singapore born Aida Azlin has grown a solid community of Muslim women over the years through her beautiful love letters every Tuesday where she discusses topical issues, her thoughts and reflections of today's society. With 100s of testimonials for her letters on her website, it's clear that she connects with others on a seriously deeper level; such as one woman professing "I want to read Aida's letters over & over as it reminds me of who I am. I’m Allah’s."

Aïcha Sebaa

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Rx: a quote + cup of tea to cool off both internal and external heat = relaxed heart from self awareness + chrysanthemum mint⁣ tea 👌💦⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 💌 Share this daily reminder quote with anyone who could use it:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ "If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say:⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ‘He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned'."⁣⁣⁣ ~ Epictetus⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Life is too short.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ What else would you tell your younger self?⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ 👭 ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣🔥⁣⁣ #laheat #oceanbreeze #tea #pinkiesup #mint #herbalist #stoic #sunnah #quotd #bewell #selfawareness #selfhealers #bekind #sundayfunday #motherhood #mood #healthtips #reminders #renewal #newday #drsebaanotes #acusanctuary #peace ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣

A post shared by ♀️ Wellness w/ Aïcha Sebaa 💌🍃 (@drsebaa) on

As a board licensed acupuncturist and clinical herbalist, Aïcha helps women in all phases of their life starting from acne issues as a teenager to menopausal conditions when women get older. Aïcha's childhood love of nature led her to a career in natural and East Asian medicine as she believes that the human body is self healing and capable of much more than we tend to give credit to. Follow along on her social media as she instills her knowledge of all things health and wellness.

Despite the challenges that we all go through, fortunately, the human body is brilliant and has its own resilient self healing capacity that we just need to recognize and tap into.

Elena Nikolova

Ever wanted to find out how to do Ummrah for a lower price, or find more Muslim friendly travel destinations? Elena Nikolova is the answer to your questions. Her travel blog has grown to become the largest website covering Muslim and Halal travel.  As seen in the likes of BBC, Islam Channel, Business Traveller Middle East, Thomson Reuters and others, she's definitely making her mark. She's even written a book all about travel hacks on how to make your Ummrah experience under £300 if you really want!

Abdul Aziz

We end our fabulous list of influential Muslims on a light hearted note because Abdul Aziz aka Bin Baz is probably the funniest guy in the Middle East. He's best known for his short few second videos about his everyday life in Dubai. Whether he's pranking his friends or teaching Logan Paul Arab traditions, he's always having a laugh and will definitely make you smile.

6 days ago

The Struggles of Halal Dating

If you’re twenty something, single and not living under a rock then you’ve probably tried meeting someone online. Now this can be a struggle for everyone. But when you’re twenty something, single and Muslim, it gets hard. As if being a Muslim in this day and age wasn’t hard enough you know?!

Young Muslims normally grow up in fairly traditional households, with their parents, aunties, uncles, neighbours and random people on the street asking them when they’re going to be getting married. I mean, you grow up with your parents telling you off for even talking about the opposite sex, let alone speaking to them. You grow up with dating being such a taboo subject and the words boyfriend or girlfriend were just never in your vocab. But then one day, you turn 21, have just finished uni, and suddenly your mum turns around and is like, “so when are you going to bring home someone suitable to marry?”. Don’t worry, we’ve all experienced the whiplash you get when someone goes from 0 to 100 and its annoying AF.

Alas, with technology and apps, young Muslims have found a way around this and the threat of having to settle for marrying their cousin that’s 3,000 miles away. Known as ‘halal dating’ Muslims can now with a simple click of an app find someone they think might be the one (and someone who hopefully thinks the same). They can get to know them whilst sticking to their Islamic values. When Muslim men and women date one another, it is with the intention of marrying one another or deciding against marrying. But in a world where most dating apps are still predominantly western, the struggle to maintain the halal in halal dating is hard work.

Avoiding the players

Online dating is FULL of people just looking for a casual, one night only sort of relationship (if you can even call it that). Being Muslim and trying to date halal is hard when you go through the effort of chatting to someone for a while only to find out that they aren’t looking for anything long term (let alone marriage lol). Also don’t get girls started on the 2am’ers who come around asking ‘what’s up’ and if ‘we’re free’. Let’s just all be thankful to Allah that Muslim dating apps like muzmatch are a thing now or we’d all be single forever.

Trying to find the one

You know what’s hard? Trying to find that one Pakistani guy from the same region as your family who ticks your parents’ boxes but also ticks your boxes as well. Like finding someone who shares your sense of humour, you find attractive and not just looking to find a girl who wants to stay in the kitchen all day while singlehandedly taking care of the kids. Actually, you know what’s worse? Finding the one for you and it turns out he’s not Muslim…

Keeping those urges in check

Look, let’s not beat around the bush shall we, we all have urges and they’re not going away any time soon. It’s a struggle going on dates, trying to get to know the person you might potentially marry and having to jump ten feet apart if your hands happen to brush against theirs. Just remind yourself that it’ll be worth the wait.

Telling your parents that you met someone on the internet

To be honest, most Muslim parents have come a long way considering they grew up with entirely different backgrounds and social norms, but it will never be easy explaining to your dad how you met your future husband or wife on an online app. Or explaining how the whole ‘don’t talk to strangers on the internet’ mantra just isn’t really a thing anymore.

When they ask for pictures

This one is more applicable to the girls really but it can also happen to guys, I’m not here to discriminate. Sometimes you’ll be chatting away to someone and they suddenly ask if they can see some more of you. Now this can be as innocent as just asking for another picture of you out and about to see what you look like. Or it can be less innocent, if you get what I mean… at least it weeds out the ones who aren’t serious about you.

Finding someone right before Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is all about being mindful and carrying out one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s definitely not about getting to know the guy you just started talking to. Meaning that you’re basically out of commission for a month out of the year and the only date that’s going to be acceptable is the one you eat when you break your fast.

These struggles are only scrapping the barrel but you get the idea. Have fun #keepingithalal girls and boys and remember that your date might be hot, but Jahannam is hotter.

10 days ago