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Marriage is 50% of a Muslim’s faith, but is it tougher these days?

Jonathan A. J. Wilson | May 6, 2011 | 8 Comments
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In the UK the media’s been full of stories and coverage about the Royal Wedding. One of the topics of discussion was on how Kate and Wills met. These all got me thinking about some recent discussions that I’ve observed, surrounding Muslims at university and matrimonial websites. Having looked at some more cultural websites, I’ve also found the importance of skin colour curious. Self-descriptions and drop down menu selections read like those from inside an interior design magazine, or pot of paint from a DIY store, like: butterscotch, and wheat.

Source: Flickr_By Podknox Wapste

Thoughts for this blog entry: Is it more pious to find your soulmate and spouse from behind the safety of a computer screen over the Internet, or for example in the lecture theatre?

Professional Muslims in developed countries, like everyone else, appear to be delaying marriage, whilst they establish themselves in careers. Cohabiting and relationships are popular in wider society – however for Muslims, they remain a taboo.

So:

  • is this a perfect market opportunity for online businesses looking to help Muslims get married
  • is it a societal phenomenon which needs tackling through challenging the idea of delaying marriage
  • are there other marketing perspectives?

Almost like in Logan’s Run, for online matrimonial websites, I’m sure there is an optimum age for males and females, where they become ‘attractive’, or past their sell-by date. If they are ‘interesting enough’: in that they have the degree, the job, they’ve passed the colour wheel chart for their skin colour – now the waiting game starts. Anecdotally, it would appear that in comparison to men, females suffer increased scrutiny and competition with regards age. Also amusingly, I remember a student of mine remarking that he wanted a wife who was ‘slightly’ less intelligent than him, so that she wouldn’t cause any problems (-_-)

The challenges for such websites, seem to be: whether you have enough ‘eye candy’ to attract other new consumers, and how cultural versus ‘Islamic’ do you make the website. My gut tells me that this market is a moving feast. At best, you can help people to meet and get married – but then you’ve lost your best customers! Also, there always seems to be a new website launch, promising amazing things. In comparison to other non-Muslim websites, where marriage is not the hallmark of success – instead, introducing you to potential girlfriends/boyfriends, which may lead to something, is. Therefore, the chances of repeat business and loyalty over a longer period are greater.

Furthermore, with numerous other social networking channels, perhaps for modest Muslims there are plenty of other more discrete and organic methods of finding a better half? Social and marital networking thrive on ideas of:

  • Authenticity
  • Calibre of participants
  • Fit
  • Reciprocity and kinship
  • An oxygenated and steady flow of regular unique visitors

It appears to me that these are a big ask of any Muslim matrimonial service, but fairly attainable for other special interest websites.

So this brings me onto my second point: is the lecture theatre the hotspot? Can it be transformed into a two for the price of one deal: education + marital soulmate? Islamically, getting married sooner, rather than later is preferable. However, many would testify that their parents have been acculturated to the developed nations’ model – of holding out until their child accrues a form of personal brand equity.

I would argue that a marketer’s perspective concurs with Islam – in that early marriage amongst Muslims is preferable. This is because they refrain from engaging in relationships until marriage. So, if soon to be Muslim professionals get married earlier, then they also make themselves open to the consumption of a wider portfolio of consumables earlier. Therefore, Marketing opportunities surrounding existing non-marriage related activities potentially pose greater critical success factors than matrimonial websites. They can link individuals, through broad-based interests and data, which drive long-term loyalty. This is also not to mention on top of the assertion by Muslims, that half of their practice and understanding of Islam can be achieved through marriage. So anything that drives this, will in turn acquire favourable perceptions.

With these in mind:

Symptoms:

  • Parents are gatekeepers who need to be tackled
  • A wider issue also appears to be societal norms, which are adding baggage to the perceptions and rituals of marriage that create barriers and delay people tying the knot
  • Professional Muslims it could be argued are attempting to achieve social mobility, a by-product of which could be the delay of marriage, in the hope that a ‘better’ spouse is found. Furthermore, this suggests individuals are also embarking on a course of accruing a form of personal brand equity

Marketing initiated Remedies:

  • Universities could be the ideal marketplaces for Muslim matrimonial events, looking to set the agenda for the most ambitious conspicuous and socially mobile Muslims. This reciprocally could yield benefits and loyalty traits directed towards the academic institution
  • Imagine companies like Amazon suggesting your potential soul-mate, based upon collected search and purchase habits
  • Or even perhaps supermarket loyalty card schemes could hold the key to valuable parental and child traits, which could be used to match families

(^_^) – how scary?!

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Comments (8)

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  1. Jafar says:

    Hi, this was a great article on your take on Muslims Marriage. The symptoms and remedies are very informative.

  2. Rashid says:

    I find this post very interesting you seem very wise brother, as if you are speaking directly to me. You see I am feeling this way right now. I married young, to a girl of South Asian origin (Pakistan) and I am from the horn of Africa facing much adversity and pressure. 4 years later while studying for my masters degree I met a woman from my country, very beautiful woman pious and thoughtful we had much in common. My wife is not aging so well and gets very stressed out. We do not have children and now I am wondering if I got married too soon before I gave myself a chance to find my true soul mate. I don’t know what to do, do you have any advice my brother?

  3. Jonathan A. J. Wilson Jonathan A. J. Wilson says:

    Muhammad Ali once said “wisdom in knowing when you can’t be wise”; and I think that it would be foolish of me to offer you any specific advice – because I don’t know you, your situation, or the people that you speak of properly.

    However, I can offer some general advice, which has served me well in business and would probably help in your situation too.

    – Pray istikhara (the prayer of guidance)
    – Remember, any partnership takes time and effort and every one is different. However loyalty, trustworthiness, patience and perseverance are attributes which you should look for in each
    – Consider and seek out what will make you a better person first and foremost, rather than what will make you happy in the short term.

    Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote to meditate on, from Sun Tzu’s ancient Chinese classic The Art of War:
    “Burn your bridges”.

    In the West we’re told not to burn our bridges, however here the opposite is being suggested. The argument is that to be in two minds, is to be in grave danger. If you embark on a decision, whatever it is, and there is no turning back, then you will always find a way to succeed.

    So whatever you decided to do: (1) never look back at what could have been; (2) understand that there is a lesson to be learned – and failure is also feedback.

    ma’salaama Bro!

  4. Rashid says:

    This is very good advice you will be helping many people and of course prayer has helped me in many situations. The qualities you mention are very important but physical attraction can also be beneficial in a marriage, I know as Muslims we do not talk much of this though. I just have one thing to say about burning bridges and I hope I understand you properly, I am not so sure that this is always the right attitude, we can miss out on future opportunities with good people by doing this. We are all human after all having good days and bad days and personal difficulties that may improve in the future.

    Anyway, I see you are a lecturer your students are very fortunate, keep spreading the knowledge.

    Shukran

  5. Jonathan A. J. Wilson Jonathan A. J. Wilson says:

    Dear Rashid,

    I think the reason that Sun Tzu’s battle strategy texts also work so well within business strategy:
    (1) is because they provide frameworks for thinking and reflection;
    (2) they are not so much about the corporate world just being a ‘war-zone’ of sorts; and more about the fact that objectives and outcomes need to be constantly appraised – in connection with resources, time and a dynamic environment

    In business we often talk about SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Within this paradigm ‘bridges’ can be built and burned. However, it’s rare for us to ascribe such hard evaluative measures and objectives on friends and family. And so, they perhaps hold less relevance here, other than a very general perspective.

    I do agree, from a Muslim context ‘attractiveness’ at times appears to be something, which raises interesting philosophical arguments. From one perspective, everything that is created and designed could be argued as possessing beauty. However, pragmatically this is invariably collaborative and in the eyes of the beholder.

    If we consider the branding of Islamic or Muslim commodities, then there remain challenges as to how far marketers can and should go – in articulating wide-ranging perspectives of attractiveness and emotions.

    Much of what I am writing has little to do with marriage; but as someone who specialises in marketing, perhaps this perspective can add a little extra food for thought.

    I think that rather than my students being fortunate, I am fortunate that they continue to stretch and challenge my thinking…

  6. Kelly Grill says:

    You envision marriage as a “trap” leading spouses to lives of greater and greater consumption. Is this what Allah intended for us?’ Take a look around to see the effects of hyper-consumerism. We are destroying the earth and directing its inhabitants towards more and more haram behavior. Maybe Allah destines some Muslims to be unmarried. Alhamdullah.

  7. Jonathan A. J. Wilson Jonathan A. J. Wilson says:

    Salaams Kelly,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Maybe it didn’t come across in my piece, but I’m a supporter of marriage. If it is a ‘trap’, then what a great one – as it’s “half of a Muslim’s faith”.

    From my perspective, consumption is part of human existence. So I don’t see it as a bad thing, rather something that should be managed with good intention.

    For example the internet has gifted many of us with added consumption opportunities. Consumers can check where to get the best deal, share experiences and in effect police how marketers behave. Also, there’s plenty of free information and content – which means that consumption doesn’t have to hurt the pocket. iTunesU is a great example of where we can all download lectures from the greatest unis across the globe – from the comfort of our homes and totally free.

    If we look at the Muslim market, comparably there are products and services, which of course are courting our consumption, but in return there’s some great value to be had.

    Really my piece was questioning two things:
    – finding a spouse online
    – the phenomenon of Muslims delaying marriage

    In these areas I feel that there are opportunities to manage that process better and for the greater good.

    All the best

  8. Jonathan A. J. Wilson Jonathan A. J. Wilson says:

    Check this article:

    “…But as the dating industry grows in popularity, consumers are becoming more sophisticated. Brands that want to grab the opportunities in this competitive growth market need to be wary of adopting a one-size-fits all approach.

    Culture clash

    Match.com managing director Karl Gregory believes that it is vital to take into account cultural characteristics when expanding internationally. “Every territory we operate in approaches its market differently, which is why we have developed local teams on the ground with local expertise to run our international businesses. European countries don’t traditionally have the dating culture that the US does, but that is changing, particularly in the UK,” he explains.

    In the UK, humour is a major part of everyday interaction, adds Gregory. The marketing of dating sites needs to embrace this trait so that people can identify with the characters and scenarios presented.

    Elsewhere, the Japanese are interested in blood types, particularly when it comes to which combinations are best for romance and the marketing of dating sites reflects this preoccupation.

    In Germany, the educational achievements of potential matches are considered a priority and are flagged up on dating sites, while Australians are attracted to fun up-beat images of dating rather than ones of settled happy couples. Match.com’s Gregory points out that in the US, a person’s political affiliation often comes into play, which is relatively unimportant to UK daters.”

    http://www.themarketer.co.uk/trends/online-dating/?utm_source=%201N9JP3F&utm_medium=email&utm_term=How%20cultural%20awareness%20and%20niche%20targeting%20can%20win%20brand%20love&utm_campaign=MB4309

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