Safe space for singles to mingle

Safe space for singles to mingle
Novel venture: Co-founders of Halal Speed Dating Syed Azmi (left) and Zuhri are confident their platform will be a success.

Now 35, Hafiz (not his real name) finally feels ready for the next stage in his life - to start a family. But he has no idea where to even begin.

"First, I have to find the right person to be my life mate. All this while, for about 10 years or so, I had been focused on building my career. I spent 16 to 17 hours a day at work, meeting clients and other business appointments. The last time I met anyone and went out on a date was three years ago."

His only options, he feels, are to marry a colleague, go online or finally let his nosy aunt matchmake him with her brother-in law's daughters and nieces or some distant cousin.

"That means marrying inside your family, urgh," he laments with a shudder.

Hafiz is the type of candidate that the new "dating agency" in town Halal Speed Dating wants to attract to their matchmaking events.

The idea for Halal Speed Dating - a speed-dating event in a respectable and dignified way based on the sunnah (traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad in Islam) - is the brainchild of three entrepreneurial friends Norhayati Ismail, Zuhri Yahya and Syed Azmi Alhabshi.

As Norhayati puts it, Hafiz's experience is the reality now."Many people work long hours and have no time to meet anyone new or go out on dates. I was also working 16-17 hours a day and had no time to go out and meet people, much less date.

"I definitely didn't want to marry my workmates. Imagine meeting your husband in the office as well. But when I could not meet anyone, everyone kept berating me that it was pathetic I couldn't find anyone with over 1,000 people working in the same office!"

The 40-year-old says she was lucky to meet the right man for her online, and now wants to make the process easier for others with Halal Speed Dating.

"If you meet someone online, you won't be sure if there is chemistry between you, if your family are compatible, and worse, you might meet someone dangerous."

And that was how the idea came to all of them - when they started talking about how difficult it was for them to meet their life partners.

She says the conversation started with their usual teasing of Syed Azmi about still being single and joking about finding him a wife. Before long, they were exchanging their own experiences of meeting their other halves.

Things then started clicking, says Syed Azmi who is always looking for radical ideas for a business endeavour."Norhayati met her husband online, in a dating chatroom, and Zuhri, 34, met his wife in a kind of speed dating event in a Muslim setting - it was organised by the religious authorities as part of their adult education course on love and marriage.

"I thought, if their stories are interesting for me, wouldn't it be interesting for others?"

Adds the 38-year-old bachelor, after bouncing the idea off each other, they came up with the plan to combine a Muslim setting framework with speed dating.

"The Muslim setting here means a respectable dating process. We are not saying that other matchmaking events are undignified or not respectful of the participants.

"We just wanted a matchmaking process that is based on Muslim etiquette, that is taaruf - to get people to meet and get to know each other with the aim of marriage in a dignified manner. No hanky panky," explains Zuhri.

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