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Summer Reading: Cool New Muslim Fiction Novel

Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

As-salamu alaykum. Do you enjoy reading fiction? Looking for some good summer reading? Check out my new novel Pieces of a Dream. It’s available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

This is “Muslim fiction” taken in a new direction, featuring an Iraq war vet and San Francisco cab driver named Louis, and his journey to the Islamic faith. It’s a difficult path, compounded by his mother’s rejection, even as he tries to help his gambling-addicted father, and falls in love with an African-American Muslim woman named Khadija.

If you’ve already read the short story on MuslimMatters.org, this is much more complete, with new chapters detailing Louis’s interactions with his sister, his parents, and an old enemy from the Iraq war.

Buy a copy now, and please remember to review it on Amazon or Goodreads when you’re done!

Pieces of a Dream

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Muslim Matrimonial Websites: My Experience

Wael and daughter

Wael and daughter

Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

I’ve been single (divorced) for several years now, so in that time I have tried my share of Muslim matrimonial websites in order to try to find a new partner Insha’Allah. Here’s my review of the sites I tried, and my overall view of the Muslim matrimonial experience.

Disclaimer: I am naturally biased, since I am the founder of Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials, and I happen to think it is a good website and a leader in the Islamic matchmaking field. With that said, here is my list:

1. Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials

Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials

Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials

Zawaj.com was founded way back in 1998. It was one of the first three Muslim matrimonial sites in existence. The other two are gone now, which means that Zawaj.com is the oldest continuously running Muslim matchmaking site. Of course in that time the site has been constantly improved and upgraded.

Zawaj.com has had literally hundreds of success stories in uniting Muslim singles from all over the world in matrimony. In addition, the website has hundreds of articles about marriage in Islam, family issues, Islamic advice and special features.

I have not actually used the service myself in looking for a wife, because I felt it would be a little creepy to contact a sister and say, “Hi, I’m the founder of this site and I’m interested in you,” ha ha. With that said, I believe in Zawaj.com and I think it’s a good service and a good value.

2. Muslima.com

There are a few drawbacks to Muslima.com. One is that the site is owned by non-Muslims. It is basically a branch of Cupid Media, which is a global “dating” conglomerate. Second, I got scammed by a woman on Muslima.com a few years back. She was a Russian scammer who posed as a beautiful and kind-hearted Muslim woman. Once I began to develop feelings for her, she began to weave a story about how she needed money to apply for a visa to come see me. I looked her up online and found out she is a known Russian scammer. I do not blame Muslima.com for that. The fact is that such scammers are a plague in every area of online activity.

On Muslima.com you can send messages free of charge, but cannot read your received messages unless you sign as a paid member.

Leaving those factors aside, Muslima.com seems to be a popular website with many members from all over the world. In particular they have a ton of members from North Africa – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

3. Qiran.com

Qiran.com is a large company based in Canada, with additional offices all over the Arab world and in Pakistan. Qiran.com is kind of the opposite of Muslima.com in the sense that a free member can respond to messages sent to him but cannot initiate any messages. You can “show interest” free of charge. The layout is not quite as easy on the eyes as I would like. Overall, however, it is a good service.

4. SingleMuslim.com

SingleMuslim.com

SingleMuslim.com

SingleMuslim.com is more expensive than any of the other Muslim matchmaking sites in this list, with a one month membership costing $49.00, and 3 months for $99.00.

The signup process is interesting in the sense that it is clearly an Islamic site, designed for Muslims from the get-go, with questions – for example – about how regularly you pray, and whether you eat halal. Also, it allows passport style face photos only – no body photos. Profile pages are large and easy to read.

I’ve noticed that SingleMuslim has a preponderance of members from the UK, and not so many from the USA or other countries.

On SingleMuslim you cannot send OR receive messages unless you join as a paid member. So it’s not a terribly useful site for free members.\

On the whole, it’s a good website if you’re willing to pay the high membership fees and if you live in the UK.

5. Shaadi.com

Shaadi.com has a huge membership base but is focused largely on India and the subcontinent. It is not an exclusively Islamic matrimonial website but is open to Indians of all religions. So if you are looking for someone from India, Shaadi.com is worth a try.

* * *

I hope you find this list useful. If you’ve tried any of these services, please leave a comment and share your experience. May Allah grant you all good spouses who will the apples of your eyes and the comfort of your hearts.

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Zawaj.com in UAE News

Reprinted from The National of UAE
January 15, 2015
By Hala Khalaf

Dozens of Islamic matchmaking sites are widely accessible here in the UAE, including Qiran.com, ­SingleMuslim.com, Shaadi.com, MuslimMingle.com and ­Zawaj.com.

The defining cultural and religious difference between these sites and popular western dating sites such as Match.com or eHarmony that are blocked is that they advocate matchmaking with an acceptable end in sight: marriage.

Set up in 1998 by the American-Egyptian Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj means “marriage” in ­Arabic.

“Islam teaches that marriage is half of your religion,” says Ahmed, a 37-year-old member of SingleMuslim.com, referencing a hadith by the Prophet Mohammed. “It’s a cornerstone of our faith, so there’s nothing wrong in pursuing it, even in a way that is modern and more fitted to the 21st century.” Ahmed, who lives in Alabama and has family in Dubai, has been a member of the site for 13 months and has already “met” a few contenders.

“It’s not discouraging; having a religion in common with someone doesn’t actually guarantee you have anything else in common, so you still have to put in the effort to meet someone, but at least by using an Islamic site, I’m attempting to meet the ‘right’ kind of someone for me,” he says.

“I don’t really meet Muslim people in everyday life; I don’t go to Muslim events and my social circle isn’t particularly Muslim. For people such as me, these types of sites are a solution far better than Tinder, which I think has everything but marriage in mind.”

As for singles eager to meet other singles in the hopes of landing a date, there are certainly a number of niche sites available, including Arabdating.com, Arabelove.com, Arabicdating.com and Lovehabibi.com to Arablounge.com and Arabmatchmaking.com.

However just like the western sites, they are blocked in the UAE.

* Hala Khalaf

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Ramadan Mubarak! Happy Ramadan 2016 / 1437

Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Mubarak!

The month of Ramadan has just begun, by Allah’s grace.

It’s a strange time right now. Everyone I know is still emotional over Muhammad Ali’s death two nights ago – may Allah have mercy on him.

Ali’s passing was not entirely unexpected: he was elderly, and suffering from Parkinson’s for decades. But there are people who are such towering historical figures that you almost expect them to always be there.

Muhammad Ali inspired an entire generation of youth by standing up for what was right; he spoke out proudly as a Muslim, as an anti-war icon, and as a self-thinking black man at a time when that kind of strength was desperately needed.

But this is the life of this world. Everything and everyone ends, and in the ends are beginnings, though they may be hidden at first. In a purely chronological sense, Muhammad Ali’s life ended, and – like a soothing balm or a consoling embrace – Ramadan begins. Is there a better time to pray for his soul? Is there a better time to be inspired by his strength?

My daughter, who will be ten years old soon, will attempt to fast the entire day for the first time this Ramadan. The days are long and the weather is hot here in Central California. Insha’Allah she will succeed.

Meanwhile, the suffering in other parts of the world continues unabated. I’m thinking particularly of Syria, where some cities have been under siege for years, and populations are starving.

Every Ramadan I have a mission for myself, something I want to work on and change. My mission for this year is charity. Ramadan is a time of sacrifice, giving up what we desire for ourselves so that others can eat, be clothed and survive.

I want to ask you, brothers and sisters, to please donate generously to those for whom even a meal, or a roof over their heads, or the promise of security, would be life-changing.

Here are some organizations that assist Syrian refugees, Palestinians in crisis, people suffering from drought in East Africa, Haitians still homeless from the earthquake, and others.

Will you help them? Remember that when you give to Allah Most High, He gives back more to you. It’s a guarantee, and I have seen it in action in my own life.

Global Giving Foundation

International Rescue Committee

Islamic Relief USA

Life for Relief and Development

American Refugee Committee International

Save the Children

UNICEF

Together we can make a difference, Insha’Allah.

Oh Allah, make this Ramadan a time of peace and faith and safety. O Allah, for You do we fast, and in your name we break our fast. All praise is due to You, who fed us, and gave us to drink, and made us Muslims. Purify us during this month, relieve us from our burdens. You are the Most Forgiving, so forgive us and and guide us forward. Ameen!

Wael Abdelgawad
Zawaj.com Editor
Fresno, California, USA

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Eid Mubarak – Eid 1435 AH / 2014 CE

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak!

As-salamu alaykum and Eid Mubarak to all our readers,

I was feeling sad today because my daughter is not with me on this Eid. She is with her mother in another city and will return next week, Insha’Allah.

Then I remembered our brothers and sisters in Gaza, Myanmar and other places who have suffered violence and genocide. For some, their children are gone and will not return. May Allah ease their suffering and reward them with Jannah.

Let us thank Allah that we are alive to see another sunrise, to see our families and friends laugh and enjoy the blessings of Eid, and to have another day to ask Allah’s forgiveness, pray, work, and think. Another day to strive to be better Muslims, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, and better human beings.

We Muslims are people of patience and truth, and if we adhere to that path then Allah will never abandon us. Rather He will guide us, ease our hearts, and open opportunities for us.

On this day of celebration, may Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, tyranny with freedom, and fill our hearts with the hope and tawakkul (trust in Allah) that is sorely needed by our Ummah.

– Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj.com Founder

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Ramadan Mubarak from Zawaj.com!

Wael and Salma

Wael and Salma

Ramadan Mubarak, brothers and sisters!

Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadan has arrived. It’s a time when we strive to purify our hearts and renew our intentions in every aspect of our lives, bringing our lives into the service of Allah the Most High.

What are your goals this month?

Mine are:

  • To grow closer to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
  • To become more steadfast in my salat.
  • To be more patient with my daughter, especially when she is difficult.
  • To assume good intentions on the part of others. Not to be suspicious or to think the worst of the people I love.

These are some of the issues that I struggle with in life. Ramadan presents me with a special opportunity to work on them, Alhamdulillah.

Please make dua’ for me and for my daughter Salma. She is seven years old and will be eight next month, Insha’Allah. Alhamdulillah she is an intelligent, playful and loving child. But I’m a single parent, and sometimes I feel like it’s a struggle to raise Salma as a good Muslim. I do my best. But it’s hard.

The good part is that I believe in Allah, and I regard Him as a Merciful, Forgiving and Loving God. I believe that Allah wants good for all people. He gives us the tools and abilities we need to make this world beautiful. The rest is up to us.

Ramadan is a gift. It’s a special tool in our toolbag, that allows us to transform the world – for one month at least – into a place of worship and light.

Ramadan Mubarak dear friends.

Wael Abdelgawad
Zawaj.com Founder

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Arab Singles Face a Difficult Road to Marriage

Challenges Facing Arab Singles Who Want to Marry

By Wael Abdelgawad

Arab singles face a tough time finding a partner, getting engaged, getting prepared for marriage, and then actually getting married.

I should know, since I am one of them. It’s a multi-dimensional problem. First, there’s the challenge of actually meeting someone. It’s not like there is an Arab singles club that you can join, although some organizations are putting together periodic singles events in major cities. And because of cultural customs and taboos it can be next to impossible to meet a single Arab of the opposite sex. Arabs are a small minority in Western society (unless you happen to live in Dearborn, Michigan), which makes the selection pool that much smaller.

Arab singles at a conference

Young Arab women and men at a conference in Dubai sponsored by the British Council and Young Arab Leaders program. Such events are a great way to meet compatible Arab singles, even if that is not the primary purpose of the event.

Secondly, once you actually meet someone, you’re very aware that in our cultures you are not dealing one-on-one. It’s not only about your expectations and hers/his, or your personality, hopes, dreams, and hers/his, or your “qualifications” and hers/his.

No, unfortunately (in my opinion) it’s about the families. This presents a major obstacle, because many Arab families have rigid expectations for their son or daughter’s marriage partner.

They may also have certain Arab engagement customs  that must be adhered to, and if either family is perceived to be deviating from those customs, then the Arab bride or groom might be forbidden from continuing.

There may also be some element of nationalism or even racism that prevents a single Arab youth from courting someone who may be appealing and have a wonderful character, but does not come from the “right” country or culture.

I realize that the involvement of the family in the courting and engagement process is designed to protect the prospective bride or groom, and to prevent anyone from getting into an improper relationship. But it can be overbearing to the point where it becomes counterproductive and destructive.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for young Arabs in the West to get married secretly, or elope, or marry a convert (whose families typically have little say in the matter).

Then there is the economic hurdle. For Arab singles living in the Arab world, the financial hurdles are like crossing the Sahara on ice skates. Young single Arab men who may be unemployed, or even if they are employed are probably earning a meager salary, are expected to provide the bride with a nicely furnished apartment, not rented but owned. This is a virtual impossibility for many Arab youth. As a result there’s a lot of frustration among the youth of countries like Egypt and Morocco.

Arab woman in hijab

What are the options for intelligent, professional Arab singles?

Then there’s the wedding. Couples are expected to have lavish weddings whose cost is borne by the families. It makes no sense. The result is a society of desperate single young Arab men and women.

For Arab singles in the West, finances are usually not as much of a problem, though the expensive weddings can still be a burden. I strongly advocate simple, humble weddings that emphasize the religious and spiritual nature of marriage. The families can take all that money they would have spent on a big wedding, and instead give it to the couple to establish their new home.

So what are the options for Arab singles seeking a life partner?

Of course I am biased, but I feel that Zawaj.com is a good start. You can start out by creating a profile here. I said earlier that it’s tough meeting someone because it’s not like there’s an Arab singles club you can join, but on the internet there is, and it’s Zawaj.com. Zawaj.com is a well-established website with a good reputation. The Zawaj.com program has recently been upgraded so that it offers you a wonderful variety of communication tools, including a private internal messaging system, message boards, chat, and even video chat if you like. It is a safe, comfortable environment in which to meet someone special.

There is a huge photo gallery of Arab singles, both men and women, including Arab-American singles, Palestinian singles, Egyptian singles, Syrian singles, Lebanese singles, Kuwaiti Singles, Saudi singles, Iraqi singles and more.  It’s free to register and create a profile, and you can start sending Flirts to other members right away. If you find someone special who intrigues you, you can purchase a Platinum membership and send that person a more detailed message or your contact info if you like. Meeting professional, attractive Arab singles could not be easier.

Join Zawaj.com for free today and get started.

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Eid Mubarak 2012 / 1433 – Happy Eid from Zawaj.com!

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak!

As-salamu alaykum,

Tomorrow morning, Insha’Allah, me, my mother and father, and my daughter Salma – who is six years old now – will wake up early and put on our best clothes, Insha’Allah. We’ll get in the car and stop at the donut shop at Shaw and Blackstone, because they have the sweetest, plumpest, shiniest donuts in town. Each one gleams like a seashell in the glass case. I’ll buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a mile-long line and elbow people to get ahead.

We’ll go downtown to the Fresno fairgrounds, and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We’ll recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. We’ll pray the Eid Salat, then I’ll strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. My daughter will pester me, saying, “Can we eat the donuts now?”… “Not yet sweetie, when the khutbah is over.”

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I’ll see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone will be wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts, or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of being connected to every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, Salma will open her presents: a new pair of shoes, a toy bed for her dolls, and a game called “Trouble”. My mother will make cookies, and we’ll put some decorations on the walls. Then we will write a letter to Hawa, an orphan in Sierra Leone who we are fostering. She is eleven years old. I want Salma to understand that part of being a Muslim is caring for others, and remembering them always.

I try to make the day special for Salma. It’s difficult. Everywhere we go, we see Halloween decorations and advertisements. When I tell Salma, “Three days left until Eid!”, she counters with, “And nine days until Halloween!” But I try.

I will also talk to Salma about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world. In Palestine and Syria and Burma they are fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid, or shiny new shoes. Many have no food to eat at all. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet, they are resolute. They will not stop until they are free.

These are the real heroes of Eid-ul-Adha. I feel small next to them. I weep when I think of their struggles. They are the ones living the spirit of Ibrahim (as). They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

That is what Eid-ul-Adha is all about. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

Wael
Zawaj.com Editor
October 25, 2012

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Eid Mubarak, have a blessed and happy Eid!

Eid Mubarak with heart

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak to all our faithful readers, first time visitors, brothers and sisters, and friends.

I thank Allah that I am alive to see another sunrise, to see my daughter laugh and learn, to enjoy all the blessings that Allah has given me, and to have another day to ask Allah’s forgiveness, pray, work, and think. Another day to strive to be a better Muslim, a better father, and a better human being.

We Muslims are people of patience and truth, and if we adhere to that path then Allah will never abandon us, rather He will guide us, ease our hearts, and open opportunities for us.

On this day of celebration, may Allah ease the hearts of all who are suffering, replace pain with comfort and joy, sickness with health, oppression with liberation, tyranny with freedom, and fill our hearts with the hope and tawakkul (trust in Allah) that is sorely needed by our Ummah.

– Wael Abdelgawad

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Love for your partner what you love for yourself

Muslim couple enjoying an evening together

Imam Zaid Shakir writes:

As Salaam Alaikum,

To summarize the duties of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam, we should love for our brother and sister what we love for ourselves.

This is an incredible teaching that if implemented would go a long way towards improving relations between us. This spirit of love is especially important between husbands and wives, as we often treat each other as abstract enemies as opposed to Muslims, first and foremost.

– Imam Zaid Shakir

This is an excellent observation and insightful piece of advice. Many of us are familiar with this hadith but have not thought of it in terms of husband and wife.

When we want for our spouse what we want for ourselves, it takes our marriage to a new level of love. We begin to think about our partners needs and wants, we pray for our partner just as we pray for ourselves, we work for our partner’s material and spiritual success as much as our own.

We also forgive them for their mistakes just as we would hope to be forgiven. We praise them for the good they do, thank them, hug them, and when they need it we correct them in kindness. That’s love, and it’s what a good marriage is made of.

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Look Beyond the Packaging: How to Choose a Husband, Wife or Friend

Majestic tree

The most beautiful things in the world don't come in packages

By Wael Abdelgawad | Zawaj.com

Is his hair nicely styled? Is he the perfect height?

Is her makeup just right? Does her body have the perfect curves?

This is packaging, it’s irrelevant.

American, Pakistani, Mexican, Egyptian, Bengali, Indonesian, black, white, brown, this is a veneer. It’s unimportant in the long run. When you’re sick and battling to recover, it’s not an American who holds you and tells you that it will be okay, who makes you chicken soup with lemon and ginger… It’s a human being, a husband or wife who loves you.

We must get beyond superficial and meaningless classifications like race and nationality.

Does he wear Armani suits cut just right? Are his shoes sleek and shiny? Does her clothing drape elegantly on her figure?

You know what? That Armani suit can’t stand on its own. It needs a hangar just to stay upright. That elegant clothing can’t raise your children right.

We must learn to look beyond appearances. I’m not saying that appearance is irrelevant, but how much of our attraction is based on true human beauty, and how much is based on distorted standards and poisonous imagery pumped into our brains by TV, movies, advertising, magazines and billboards? In other words, to what degree have we been brainwashed?

The world of advertising teaches us to focus on the wrong things. Consultants are paid millions of dollars to design the perfect package for a box of cereal or an energy drink, just the right shape and bright color to catch your eye and entice you to buy. Meanwhile, the product – as often as not – is actually bad for you, consisting of empty calories, sugar, chemicals and dyes. They are teaching us to make choices based on packaging and image, and what they are teaching us is entirely ruinous and wrong.

Human beings, however, are not consumer products. We’re not disposable. When you marry someone you’re in it for the long haul. You’re with them when they wake up in the morning with crust in their eyes and hair stuck to one side of the their head; when they get laid off from their job and you don’t know how the bills will get paid next month; when they’re depressed, tired, sick; when they make mistakes, when they say and do the wrong things, when they lose their temper, when they’re afraid or insecure…

This is as serious as it gets. This is life, and the right package won’t get you through it, won’t help on you the path, won’t hold you up when you’re weak, or put a smile in your heart when you’re down. The package can’t do that. Remember that when you buy something, the package ends up in the trash. If you choose someone for the package only, you may be bitterly disappointed when the storm comes and no one is there to keep you safe.

These are lessons learned through heartache and disappointment. These are lessons I have learned.

Look deeper. Find a gentle heart, a strong backbone, a striving spirit. Look to what the person does, how they live, how they treat people, how they relate to the Almighty. Look to that shimmering soul inside, and discern whether it’s a selfish and bitter soul, or loving and true. Look beyond the packaging to the person inside, and trust your fitrah-based instincts, and you’ll find yourself a rare happiness, and a precious partnership.

The most beautiful, powerful things in the world don’t come in packages. Mountains, trees, ocean, sky, stars… their true attributes are bared to the world. They don’t need packages because they are beautiful and profound in their essence.

By basing your life choices on matters of substance, you’ll avoid social and financial traps that ruin so many. You’ll build friendships as real and solid as mountains, with people you can trust with your honor, your heart and your life. You’ll do work that matters, and leave a legacy that improves people’s lives in unforgettable ways.

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