Sheikh & Atia - Married Thursday 5th March 2009
A Gift from God
We are often amazed by the unique circumstances that bring SingleMuslim.com members together and our latest success story is no exception. Sheikh Iqbal and Atia Shah, currently living in Nottingham, married within a month of meeting on SingleMuslim.com. Our happy couple shared their story with us when we met up at Oulton Hall in Leeds on 11th May 2009 and began by filling us in on their backgrounds...
Atia: I was born in Pakistan and my mother and father came over in the 60s. We came to London and have been there ever since. My parents worked hard to bring up my sister and me, and we chose our own professions. I did my Master's in film and video. I worked as a journalist in California. I stayed there 6 years and worked for Pakistan Link, a weekly newspaper. Before that, I did some acting, both theatre and on television. I also did some directing and producing with my own theatre company. I've now started scriptwriting and I'm working with an old friend, trying to get a production company set up so that we can produce films.
Sheikh: I am Vice-President of Pakistan People's Party from Sargodha. There were so many problems there that I came to the UK in 2007. I'm a businessman now. My family is also in the UK, I have a lot of family and friends here.
How did you hear about SingleMuslim.com?
Atia: From a search engine. I think it was Google. I was looking for a Muslim website and it just popped up. I'd never heard of it. I wasn't happy with other Muslim matrimonial websites and thought there must be something that I like out there. So I tried it and I liked it! It was different, but I found that the majority of people on there are much younger than me. But then I didn't know that I was going to meet someone much younger! I registered in January and on 5th February Sheikh contacted me.
Sheikh: One of my friends recommended this site. I registered in, maybe, April last year (2008). I contacted so many ladies, but I liked Atia! I registered on other websites but I didn't like them.
Atia: People seemed to be more honest on SingleMuslim.com. On other sites, I came across a lot of false people who weren't really interested in marriage. Also, the others websites weren't up to date and you couldn't do certain things - you'd try to talk to someone and there was a problem. Always a problem somewhere.
Who knew you were on the website?
Atia: I didn't tell anyone.
Sheikh: Everybody knew. Insha'Allah, they were very happy for me. My friends said it was a very successful site.
What features did you like about SingleMuslim.com?
Atia: I liked the Live Chat but, obviously, you don't know who you're talking to until you look at their profile. I was actually talking to someone else on Live Chat when Sheik suddenly came on and said "Hello". I looked up his profile and saw his picture and I thought he looked quite nice. Then I told him, "You're too young for me!" And he said, "No, I don't mind. I'm not bothered about age."
Sheik: I came on at 12.30am.
Atia: That night (5th February), we chatted and chatted and chatted - a couple of hours maybe. I think he asked me for my phone number. I don't give my phone number out to just anybody but I felt I could trust him. Two days later he asked me to marry him! I said, "Are you nuts?" But then I said, "Yes, if I like you when I meet you!" After that we spoke every day - day and night - on the phone and via webcam. I couldn't find my webcam so he sent me his.
We decided to meet on 13th February. I had sent him a Valentine's card a few days before then. He hadn't seen me yet, as I had missed delivery of his webcam, but he had seen my photo. I booked my train tickets on 7th February to travel on 13th February to get married in Newport.
When I was on the train I kept texting him and I wasn't getting a reply and, when I arrived, he wasn't there! I got really worried. I phoned up other friends that I knew in Wales and I went and stayed with them. I was cursing him, thinking he was messing me around, but my friends asked, "Why would he do that?" He phoned me at midnight and said he was in a detention centre! Some jealous people had reported him to the police.
I was panicking - I thought he was going to leave the country. Sheikh's solicitor asked me to send my passport or driving licence to prove that Sheikh was connected to me so that he could stay in the country. They were thinking we were getting married. I spent just a few days in Wales but, while he was in the detention centre, I spoke to him every day.
Sheikh: She talked to me every day for 2-3 hours until I came out on 26th February. She has helped me so much.
Atia: I was going to meet him in the detention centre but friends told me, "Don't go there - you don't want to meet him in a place like that". I did whatever I could but, eventually, he got out because he was innocent. Every day he sent me a text: "I pray that Allah will give me Atia - gift of God".
Sheikh: Somebody complained that I was not legal. My documentation was okay but I had to attend a High Court case. After that, we decided that I would come to Nottingham.
Atia: He came in the evening on 5th March.
How did you feel when you saw each other for the first time?
Atia: It was very strange. I thought, he's very quiet. It's not going to work out!
Sheikh: The first time I saw Atia, I liked her. I was a bit nervous.
Would you describe it as "love at first sight"?
Atia: No, it wasn't like that. We were a little bit hesitant, trying to break the ice. I met him at the bus station and we gave each other a little hug but not like a proper hug. He's not accustomed to that so he was a bit shy. I took him home to chill out a bit but we were so quiet in the car.
I said, "Welcome home!" I didn't know what else to say! I'd bought him some chocolates but I didn't know that he didn't like chocolate! He gave me a really beautiful pen set from Harrods.
He said, "Shall we get married now?" We talked and talked and I looked into his eyes and they were very sincere. The sincerity made me feel that I wanted to marry this man. He really does love me and it felt really good.
Sheikh: Then we went to get the Nikkah (marriage contract). We had already spoken with the Mulana (Muslim priest).
Did anyone know you were going to have Nikkah?
Atia: Nobody knew I was getting married - it was a secret. We did tell one person who was teaching me Koran. He was trying to help us. The Nikkah was around 10 at night.
Who were your witnesses?
Sheikh: Just two guys. Atia: The Mulana arranged everything.
Sheikh: I phoned my sister that night. She asked why I had married without telling them but they knew very well that I liked Atia. They didn't mind and my family arranged the Walima (wedding banquet).
Atia: After the Nikkah Sheikh stayed a few days. It took a while for him to move in though.
Sheikh: We went to London to meet my sister.
Atia: They gave me the traditional treatment of putting Metai (Asian sweets) in my mouth.
How did your families react to the news of your Nikkah?
Sheikh: Alhamdulillah, both families were okay. Alhamdulillah, our life is successful, Insha'Allah.
Atia: My family were okay. They just didn't like not knowing about it.
When did you hold the Walima?
Atia: 18th April. It was just very small and we had it at a restaurant.
Sheikh: Both families were there, but my friends in Glasgow couldn't come.
Atia: We'll have another small Walima just for them.
Sheikh: We'd like to go to Pakistan in a year or two and have a big Walima! My father and mother love Atia.
Atia: They sent me a lovely Langa (traditional Asian wedding dress).
Back to SingleMuslim.com, what do you think of the website?
Atia: We got married on 5th March and that day you took a payment from Sheikh's account. I thought I had deleted his profile so I rang to ask for a refund. Someone said, "You got married - that's a success story! We can't refund the money but we can give you tickets for Umrah! We were overjoyed at that! We didn't know that you did that.
But I liked your attitude and telephone manner when I spoke to you. That was very professional. We feel that the site is very professional.
Sheikh: The website was very easy to use.
Atia: I liked everything about it. It's good.
Sheikh: It's a very nice format and I liked the Live Chat.
Did you find any other potential matches on SingleMuslim.com?
Atia: Two or three. I was going to meet up with one of them but I decided not to because I met Sheikh.
Sheikh: Yes, many! Atia was the first one I met in person.
Atia: The people on SingleMuslim.com were good.
Sheikh: Yes, they were very nice. There were no problems and the ladies were serious about marriage.
How do you feel about paying for the service when it is free for females?
Sheikh: It's okay.
Atia: I think most men won't mind. Women like being treated like a lady - the gentleman should pay!
How important to you is family involvement?
Atia: Very important. We didn't involve them but it was spur of the moment. I did tell my sister I'd met this guy and she said he was too young for me. My mum said, "Don't trust him, he's too young." But I explained that the Prophet (peace be upon him) married someone older than him. It depends on the personality. I was looking for someone in their 40s but your members seemed much younger.
Sheikh: I don't care that my wife is older.
What makes your relationship special?
Atia: I think it's love and respect for one another. I have a lot of respect for him. He's very sweet. He's got a very warm heart. He's lovely!
Sheikh: She's my darling! Alhamdulillah, she has started praying now.
Atia: He sits there smiling at me while he's praying so I thought I'd have a go.
What are your plans for the future?
Atia: We hope to be together, Insha'Allah.
Sheikh: Insha'Allah, we will start a business this year. Alhamdulillah, I have experience in rice importing.
What advice would you give to others who are still searching for a marriage partner?
Atia: We'd tell them to join the website - definitely. We have already told people.
Sheikh: Some friends of mine from Sargodha, who now live in London, have also married through SingleMuslim.com. I advised them that it's a very good site. On the website, be decent and respectful and, if someone rejects you, don't get upset.
Atia: Yes, just move on. They may just feel that they're not suited to you. Being honest is very important.
Sheikh: I am thankful to you. We are very happy. Alhamdulillah, God gave me Atia as a gift.
Atia: That's what Atia means "Gift from God".