The pandemic may have killed weddings, but the search for love goes on.
Dating during the pandemic has been hard and although traditionally Muslims don't date, as it is considered forbidden, they still rely on social events to find a partner. Parents, aunties and uncles will look for a suitable match either at weddings, dinner parties or even religious events, but since COVID-19 put an end to those, many turned online to find a match.
Muslim matchmaking apps like Muzmatch and Minder have been growing in popularity for the past several years. But the pandemic saw an even bigger spike in downloads and usage.
Minder, a Muslim matchmaking app that launched in 2015, reported a 20 per cent spike in downloads worldwide during the pandemic. Muzmatch, which launched in 2014, reported a 45 per cent increase in downloads globally and 16 per cent in Canada in March.
The latter also saw an 8.7 per cent increase in matches, meaning more people were using the apps than there were before.
200 per cent increase in swipes in Canada
Hawaya, a relatively new matchmaking app that launched in Canada in March, saw a 200 per cent increase in swipes from its Canadian users between May to June.
Yasir Sherazi downloaded Minder at the beginning of the year but didn't start using it until after the pandemic hit.
"After the pandemic I got more interested in this app and started using it more," he said.
The Calgary resident started swiping on potential matches in June after he realized the pandemic was here to stay.
"You are more at home and not going out so much and not meeting so many people, that is my main reason. It's kind of [a] very limited social circle so that's why," he said.
Sherazi's reasons echoed many users who have recently taken the plunge into online matchmaking. After seeing the increase in downloads, Muzmatch decided to survey its users asking them if the pandemic was making it difficult to find a spouse and 83 per cent said yes.
I think it's a great story to tell that you met during a pandemic, definitely. - Sara Shah, Muzmatch
That was a response the app's team found quite surprising.
"We thought that there might be some time for introspection or people would find that the environment might be a little bit a bit too sad to find love," said Sim Ahmed, product marketing for Muzmatch.
"But I think if anything, uncertain times makes people want to find some sort of stability and certainty and there's nothing more certain than having a loved one that you can really hold onto and connect with."
In search of that connection, Sherazi has had a few matches but they failed for a myriad of reasons. First, he wasn't in the same city as most of his matches and neither were willing to relocate.
Unlike its mainstream cousins Tinder and Bumble, the Muslim apps are not location-specific. So Muslims in Alberta can match with any users in the world. According to Muzmatch, the top three countries that most Canadians match with outside of Canada are the U.S, Morocco and the U.K.
His second reason is that despite more people on these apps, there still seems to be a stigma attached to matching someone online as it is still considered akin to dating, which is forbidden in Islam.
"Even under these conditions, people are using these apps, but they are not that serious," he said.
He said he gets better responses through WhatsApp groups than he does on the apps.
On Facebook and WhatsApp many groups exist for the sole purpose of matchmaking. Families of men and women would post entire autobiographies which include everything from their name, career, family and location to even their height and weight.
Sherazi said because those profiles are mostly controlled by adults in the family, they have better communication and faster response times.
Although getting comfortable with the idea of using apps is slow, Sara Shah, communications for Muzmatch, said they are seeing more and more people willing to talk about their matches openly.
"I think it's a great story to tell that you met during a pandemic, definitely," she said.
Shah said the company is currently running a campaign asking users to come forward if they did find their soulmate during these unprecedented times.
"Some have come forward already. We've had two successful couples so far," she said.