Muzmatch wants to share Tinder's appeal, but not its hookup connotations.
Finding a match on Tinder can be an arduous process for anyone. If you're Muslim and looking for a match that fits with your faith too, finding The One can present even more barriers.
A new app aims to "fix" the Tinder concept for Muslims. Muzmatch, which launched for iOS this week, works in a very similar way to Tinder in terms of mechanics—you can only talk to each other if you both swipe right—but with a few tweaks.
It's aimed specifically at Muslims who are looking for someone of the opposite sex with the intention of marriage. It might attempt to share Tinder's appeal, but it distances itself from any hookup connotations.
"I took what was good from Tinder, which is kind of the swipe aspect, then added a lot more features to make it more conducive to the Muslim market," said Shahzad Younas, Muzmatch's London-based creator.
Online matchmaking could be particularly useful to Muslims looking to meet new people. While non-Muslims might meet in a bar or club, men and women generally don't mix so freely in Islamic society. "In the Muslim culture it's not that prevalent," said Younas. "People don't generally go to bars that much—obviously they don't drink—so that kind of avenue's gone, and a lot of people do find it hard to just meet someone."
On the Muzmatch app, users create a profile that includes, among other things, a description of how they describe their religion. You can select "Sunni," "Shia," or "Just Muslim" and specify how practising you are, and whether you have a beard or wear a veil. "I wanted to cater to people who are very religious to people who are not so religious," Younas said, describing himself as somewhere in the middle.
An example profile pictures a woman with the description: "Single Muslim Beautician who wears Hijab. Very practising and always prays."
Additional features address concerns Muslims may have around other dating apps. Users don't have to make their photos visible and messages are automatically screened for a list of offensive words to help prevent abuse, in addition to a reporting system that lets people flag creeps.
You can also opt to have a wali, or guardian, who is able to read your messages too (the other person is notified if you are using this feature). This follows an Islamic principle whereby women have a custodian, often a father or brother, to help them find an appropriate husband.
"I'd probably guess that 80 percent of people won't use that feature," said Younas, "but there will be 20 percent who will find that important."
Although many of these features were designed particularly with women in mind, they are available to men too.
Another problem Younas noticed in the Muslim online dating world was that people from other countries would pretend they were from the UK. To prevent this, his app verifies people using a phone number, as it's hard to get a British number if you live elsewhere. That also acts as a safeguard against spoof profiles; unlike Tinder, Muzmatch isn't connected to your Facebook account.
It's certainly not the first dating site or app designed specifically for Muslims, but Younas hopes these features will set it apart. He has experience in the scene, having previously set up a Muslim matrimonials site while working as a trader with Morgan Stanley.
He quit his job to work full-time on the app, after deciding that a mobile platform would work better and noticing that a lot of services aimed at Muslims were "a bit flaky" on the quality front. With a degree in computer science, he put it together himself, and is now working on an Android version. The app is free, and Younas is considering adding targeted advertising or an events aspect once he's attracted users. Since the app launched yesterday, he said about 100 people have joined, mainly from the UK.
Younas ultimately hopes to go global. "A quarter of the world's population is Muslim," he said. "Even if you can capture a small percentage of that it's still a massive number."