SingleMuslim.com met Adam Riyadh (28) and Safiyya Abba (25) at their home in Greenwich, London. Although the couple married in August, they have only recently celebrated their Walima. The happy couple tell us about how they met - and their two big days!
Adam and Safiyya, thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Could you please start by giving us some idea of your backgrounds?
Adam: My father is a white revert, who was born and brought up in the UK. He was a Christian and he accepted Islam in his twenties. He's very practising, Masha'Allah. My mother is from South Africa but her ancestry is Malaysian, so I'm half English, half Cape-Malay. I have a large family: one brother and three sisters. All are older than me apart from a little sister. They're all married with families and most of them live abroad. I spent a lot of my childhood in Saudi Arabia because my father was working in the Middle East. I've been working in recruitment for the past 4 years.
Safiyya: I was born in Manchester and we moved to London when I was very young. My parents are both from Kenya but my great-grandparents were originally from India. I've got two younger brothers. I studied computing at university and I head up a technical support team for an affiliate network.
How did you hear about SingleMuslim.com?
Safiyya: My mum joined me up. She just came across it through Google and told me she'd found this really nice site. She started the profile for me but I took over then. We were very open about it, although my dad didn't know at the start. I told him when I found Adam.
Adam: It must have been through a Google search. I knew of other websites but I wanted something more Muslim-focused. I was just checking what Muslim matrimonial sites were around. I took a look at one or two but it was SingleMuslim.com that made me get my credit card out. I thought I'd sign up for three months and see how it goes.
A lot of people think, "Don't go on the Internet!" but, in modern times, you don't have a wide enough network to search or the time to meet with people, as well as wanting to keep it very halaal. The way that you approach people on a website is quite Islamic; you're not speaking to them as such, you can just leave a message.
Adam, did your parents know you were on the website?
Adam: I have a good relationship with my parents so I let them know. They knew I was looking for a wife and my mum had been looking for a potential partner for me as well.
What other avenues had you explored in order to find a potential partner?
Safiyya: We're a close-knit family. We have a few select friends that we socialise with; otherwise we don't have a wide circle of people that we know. My mum and dad did try with family and friends but it just wasn't the right avenue for us. We just needed a wider search, I guess.
Adam: My mum has been responsible for match-making five marriages already, just through people she knows – she has a wide network of friends – but there just wasn't anyone in the network that I was interested in. I wasn't at the stage where I was praying all five prayers a day and I felt a little bit bad about that, but all of the sisters my mum knows are very practising. I was praying one or two prayers a day and I wanted to get better than that. I wanted to find someone at my level that I could grow with, hence I moved to something with a wider spectrum of people.
Safiyya: We just matched. We both felt that we definitely could improve in terms of our religious activity. Hopefully, in time we'll get there.
Tell us about your journey...
Adam: I was checking who had been checking my profile...
Safiyya: And that's where I come in! I just happened to stumble across it... a few times! Then Adam messaged me. He made first contact.
Adam: I just put "Hi! I noticed you've looked at my profile a few times..."
Safiyya: Yes, 27! (Laughs)
Adam: "Your profile seems to be interesting. Would you like to know anything more?"
Safiyya: That was in January. We spoke to each other on the site by message a few times and he seemed pretty intelligent and down-to-earth. It was probably a good couple of weeks before we spoke on the phone. He was about to go on holiday to see his sister in Kuwait so we spoke for about ten minutes, then we emailed each other while he was away.
Adam: We arranged that when I came back we'd speak more or arrange to meet face to face. We thought we'd meet up sooner rather than later because then you can tell immediately whether the person is going to be good for you or not. We'd sent emails, had good, intelligent conversations, got to know a bit about morals and we ran through some scenarios, such as what's your parenting style, how would you react to certain situations. I think that scenario-based questions make it easier to judge a person. Then we met up.
How was your first meeting?
Adam: It went really well. She was really nice, she was good-looking, the conversation that we had was fantastic and I came away with a very positive feeling.
Safiyya: I totally agree. I knew from when I first met him that this was definitely the one for me!
Was it love at first sight?
Safiyya: Probably, yes! We got on very well. He seemed really likeable. Great looks. As for the religious side of things, he wanted to improve where he was at, same as me. We both wanted that same thing. We met a couple more times before the families met.
Were your family pleased for you, Adam?
Adam: I told my mum about Safiyya and she was quite positive but she knew some very religious sisters and was trying to steer me in that direction. I explained that that wasn't what I wanted; I wasn't at that stage. So she agreed to meet the family.
Would they have influenced you if they had said "no"?
Safiyya: At that point we knew we were right for each other. If the parents had objected, we would have talked it through with them but, ultimately, it would have been my decision. I value my parents' opinions very highly but I don't think that I could have said goodbye to Adam.
Adam: I have the utmost respect for my parents and place great value on their feelings. However, if I feel strongly about a person and they're ticking all the boxes that I'm looking for, then unless they can come up with a valid reason, I'm not going to be happy to drop things.
So were both sets of parents supportive?
Safiyya: My dad rang his dad and invited them over and they came for tea. That went well.
Adam: Everything went well, Alhamdulillah. We both got good vibes from each other's families and my parents were happy with things.
Safiyya: After that we went to Adam's place for dinner and vice versa until we decided we should do a Nikkah. Both parties felt that we didn't want to continue our talking without it being halaal.
Adam: I'd had a dream a few months down the line, around June. I woke up and I felt one hundred per cent sure that Safiyya was the right one. I had tried praying Istikhara (Islam's special prayer for guidance) but wasn't sure if they'd worked. But then I woke up and felt like it was a promise that I would be married to her. I just knew that everything would work out and it has, Alhamdulillah.
Safiyya: We met in February/March time and had our Nikkah in August here at home. Just immediate family came but there were still about 60 people. We had a web camera set up so that Adam's brothers and sisters could log in and see the ceremony. The Nikkah was lovely. I'll always remember it being at home. That was important to me.
Adam: Because my brothers and sisters live abroad, they couldn't be here for the Nikkah, so we had another ceremony and a Walima recently and they were here for that.
Safiyya: We did the Nikkah just before Ramadan, so we didn't have time to get the paperwork done for the registry. Then we thought we'd wait and do it at the same time as the Walima.
What makes your relationship special?
Safiyya: We gel together. We have a fun side, we have a serious side, we're intelligent, and we know what we want. We're a right match.
Adam: Safiyya has a very caring and loving nature and they're key things I wanted in a partner. I wanted somebody who I could mesh well with and feel like the relationship is a two-way street, both cherishing each other. Alhamdulillah, I felt that her personality just fit.
Excellent. Did you meet anyone else on the site before you found each other?
Adam: I wasn't on the website for very long. I met a couple of girls but I could tell after the first meeting that they weren't right for me. Then I met Safiyya and that was it! I was going to approach the whole process like work, like a job interview – you don't hire the first person who comes along and I‘d planned to interview loads of people – but Safiyya has intelligence, Masha'Allah, looks, personality; I know when I've got a good deal!
Safiyya: I was on the site for a while on and off and within that time I had spoken to quite a few brothers but only met up with a few. Straightaway I knew they weren't the right match for me.
Back to the website then, what were your impressions of SingleMuslim.com?
Adam: SingleMuslim.com was easy to use and seemed to have a large number of people who were active. The database seemed up-to-date. There was also a wide variety of people; some extremely religious and then others who perhaps don't wear hijab or aren't so practising. There were a lot of similar-minded people on the website, which I enjoyed.
Safiyya: Also, the functionality of the site was very good. You can hide your picture if you don't want everyone to see it. That was great for me, as a girl. I definitely think that it was easy to use and it's easy to search – you can really get down to the nitty gritty, such as whether you want him to have a beard or not, or something simple like finding someone in Greater London. There's loads of information on the site too, in case you need advice on anything.
Adam: On the whole, we were both impressed with it.
Safiyya: And we'd definitely recommend it. I've recommended it to loads of people!
How do you feel about males having to pay for SingleMuslim.com?
Safiyya: I love it! For me, it's good because it means that a man would be serious enough to pay to use the site. You know you're going to get genuine people on then. Otherwise it'd just be like Facebook.
Are there any changes you'd make to improve the website for users?
Safiyya: I think it has everything one needs to find the right person.
Adam: Safiyya mentioned to me something that I think could be changed: sometimes people you've never spoken to request to see your picture if it's in a private gallery but they don't leave a message. That's quite disrespectful. If they had to add a comment when making the request, perhaps users would prefer that?
What advice would you give to others who are still searching on SingleMuslim.com?
Safiyya: Just be honest about what you're looking for, who you are and where you want to go. Fill in as much information about yourself as you can. Adam had good information. Insha'Allah, it'll work for them too.
Adam: It's all a case of how someone markets himself and what he does to his profile to find the type of person he wants to attract. So if someone isn't finding anyone, then it's probably down to them not putting the correct information in the profile. Think about the content and the language of what you're putting and how you want to portray yourself. Include your values; it helps other people narrow down what type of person you are or not. Also think about how much information you want to give away in your profile and what you want to keep for the conversations.
What are your plans for the future?
Safiyya: We're living with Adam's parents. Adam and I are both family people; we like being around family. In terms of immediate plans, we're pretty stable where we are.
Adam: Insha'Allah we'd like to start a family. We want to become more Islamic, more practising and see where we go from there.
And there'll be your Umrah, of course.
Safiyya: We'll hopefully try and go at the start of the year.
Adam: Yes, I'd definitely like to go. Hopefully, a year later we'll go on Hajj as well.
And on that note, all that remains is for our happy couple to be presented with their complementary Umrah tickets by SingleMuslim.com founder, Adeem Younis.