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Why British Muslim women struggle to find a marriage partner

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Why British Muslim women struggle to find a marriage partner

Older, unmarried female Muslims outnumber their male counterparts for many reasons. Fussiness is not one of them

The Guardian

'Muslim women, unlike men, are restricted as to whom they can marry. Marrying outside the faith is often only considered permissible if the men convert.' Photograph: Michael Kemp/Alamy

A few years ago, at the behest of my mother, I attended a Muslim marriage event in Glasgow. These are events where Muslim men and women meet for the purpose of seeking an ideal marriage partner.

At the event, there were around five women to every man. Well-turned-out women sat around dejected, twiddling their thumbs, waiting to speak to the select few.

Sadly, it's not an isolated example. Up and down the country, hundreds of women in their 30s and 40s within the Asian Muslim community are struggling to find a marriage partner.

Nearly all Muslim singles events are female-dominated, unless organisers artificially construct a level playing field by selling equal numbers of male and female tickets.

In the latter case, there's always a stampede for female tickets. December's Canary Wharf Professionals Muslim marriage event saw the female ticket quota sell out three weeks before, whereas the male ticket quota only sold out days before.

Moreover, the average age of women at such events is typically higher than men. Rooful Ali, founder of Emerald Muslim events, believes that the average age of women attending tends to be early 30s, while for men it is late 20s.

Such occurrences are symptomatic of the growing Muslim spinster crisis, which has been brewing for some time and is rooted in cultural, rather than religious, trends.

First, there has always been a tradition for British men originating from the Indian subcontinent to marry women from their country of origin. Families encourage their sons to do so for a host of reasons, including the cultural expectation that girls from "back home" will stay with and look after their in-laws.

The second trend is for Muslim men to marry "women of the book" (Christian or Jewish women), which is permissible in Islam. Men are more likely to work and socialise with British Christian women than their female Muslim counterparts, which leads to a higher chance of such marriages occurring.

Both trends lead to a shortfall of available Muslim men.

For Muslim women, marrying men from their country of origin is rarely considered an option as they tend to want social, economic and intellectual equals or superiors. Men from their country of origin tend to have different mindsets and struggle to find jobs no matter how well qualified they are, thereby leaving women as the main breadwinners. This situation can often create a strenuous dynamic in relationships with men from patriarchal cultures.

Muslim women, unlike men, are restricted as to whom they can marry. Marrying men outside the faith is only considered permissible in most communities if the men convert.

Moreover, in line with national trends, Muslim women academically outperform the men. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission's How Fair is Britain? report, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are more likely to be employed as professionals than their male counterparts. This means that professional Muslim women have an even smaller pool of intellectual and economic equals to choose from.

This is exacerbated by the fact that Asian men are likely to choose partners of lower economic and intellectual status as they traditionally grow up with working fathers and stay-at-home mothers, and generally choose to replicate this model.

Unfortunately, these imbalances are not widely acknowledged – many label older unmarried women as fussy. The effect on women is crippling. Many become depressed as a huge amount of importance is attached to marriage, and unmarried women are made to feel that they've failed.

Any real solution would require a complete cultural shift in mindset by parents, community leaders and imams. This will need geographically, socially and economically fractured communities to work together to achieve change – no easy feat. Until they do so, many women who want to marry men of the same faith will continue to struggle.

I am an Indian citizen living in Britain ..none of my family members live in India..some live in UK and most live in Middle East.I am allhamdulila well educated and  mashallah have a well paid job.I can't ask anyone to look for a girl on my behalf back in India because none of them are there.I have tried matrimonial bureaus back in India and they seem to get  me the wrong ones(none of them want to wear hijab...for some reason they think Allah will forgive them if they don't wear hijab in UK).

I tried looking in UK with the help of family members and sites like singlemuslim...purematrimony...but  our wonderful sisters want "British born &  bred men" be honest I can speak better English and allahamdulila have better manners then most of the "British born & bred Asians"( The latter part is unfortunate... I wish Muslim men & women have good characters& manners but my experience has taught me this isn't the case with the majority) . Muslim sisters in UK  seem to have one requirement.."British born & bred"....I don't think so they care much about deen or for that matter duniya!!!

  I am now considering marrying some one back home even if she doesn't wear hijab but is willing to do so in future.From my experience, I have observed that religious sisters put more emphasis on " British born & bred husbands " then sisters who are not that religious.

My advice to our "British born & bred" Muslim sisters is please don't paint everyone with the same brush..don't think everyone are visa seekers ... there are genuine people out there looking to get married and unfortunately some of them are stuck between their countries  and Britian.  I apologise in advance if I have offended anyone.

Assalaam Alaikum,

Brother I can totally understand the troubles you're having. But one of the reasons sisters put this emphasis on "British born and bred" is like you said so that they know for sure these guys aren't just marrying them for their visa. They also hope these brothers have the same expectations as they do in issues like working outside the home, being active in public life, raising children, finances, cooking, household chores and so on. A brother who is born and bred overseas has different expectations many times. Some brothers overseas have the mentality that a woman's world should revolve around the husband's and that she has to obey him no matter what. They are also afraid of these brothers and their in laws abusing them or not treating them right. (Yes it happens in Britain too, but this is the perception.)

Many of the studies coming out these days about Divorce among Muslims has this as one of the major reasons for divorce:  girls in Western countries marrying men overseas. It's just very hard for both people to adjust.

I think as a brother you should also consider these factors if you're trying to marry someone from overseas. Putting someone in a different environment changes a lot of things.  I would emphasize that one should not marry someone expecting them to change for the better. They can easily change for the worse.

It's better to marry someone who's at around your same level of practice and dedication to Islam, that way you can grow together.

I think you should try attending some of these matrimonial events they have in Britain, also become active in your Masjid and the different Islamic activities there. Let some of your friends and married brothers and sisters know that you are looking to get married. Sisters are always quick to recognize a good brother and always want to try to find someone good for him :)

InshaAllah you'll find someone good.


I understand your point  but Allah has given us a powerful tool known as Istikhara which is not being used often.Since there is no guarantee that "British born & bred " men are totally compatible for a British sister and non -British men are totally incompatible, sisters& brothers shouldn't generalize but treat every person as a different individual and do istikhara before you take any steps forward. But unfortunately British sisters don't bother doing Istikhara for a non- British brother ...they just freak out as soon as know you are not a British citizen.

 It is reported in Trimidhi  "Be careful regarding Allah and you will find Him before you. Recognise Allah in ease and He will recognise you in hardship. Know that whatever misses you could never have hit you and what hits you could never have missed you. Know that victory comes with fortitude, rescue with constriction, and ease with hardship."  

We as muslim believe in destiny and if something has to happen then IT WILL HAPPEN.This keeps me going and searching but I have changed my strategy...I have decided to look back in India again through some other matrimonial bureaus  and  look for a match in the middle east through some of my relatives .....Not sure of going to matrimonial events in Britian as I anticipate the same problem of my nationality. I have been introduced to sisters in UK through family members  but these sisters are not religious therefore never fancied them.....Inshallah I am hopeful that Allah will not leave me in such a state for long, after all he is the best of planners.

Salam: BrotherIslam87

I frequent London for work, Im based in the Middle East. Kashmiri people find it utterly challenging to meet people of same background in this part of the world. So, Ive decided to give the marriage event a go whther in NYC or London, Unfortunately no events in Dubai.

From your post below, and from your experience of these events: are you suggesting there is  nationality discrimination? If you could please further elaborate.


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