More than 500 hopeful Muslims looking for love thronged a packed hall in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital, to take part in the nation’s first halal “love camp”.
The one-day camp, dubbed “Kem Dapat Jodoh” (Find a Soulmate Camp), was organised by a local training and entrepreneur consultancy firm, NDA Training Consultancy, to help Muslims find their other half. The event was exclusive to Muslim singles, including those who are divorced or widowed.
The crowd that showed up on Saturday (3 March) comprised young working professionals, housewives and retirees. Around 30 per cent were divorcees, and about 20 per cent were widowers.
The event sparked a nationwide frenzy after its promotional pamphlet went viral across various social media platforms. For RM100 (S$33), participants would spend the day listening to talks by motivational speakers on self-improvement and personal grooming, while interacting with the opposite sex in a “dignified” manner.
The most anticipated session was the “Taaruf”, a 5-minute introductory or speed dating session where each female participant took turns to get acquainted with the male participants before moving on to her next preferred candidate. Imagine a scene in The Bachelor, but instead of getting a rose or a proposal, both the man and woman could exchange numbers only if they felt comfortable with one another.
Unlike online dating platforms, the Taaruf session helps weed out Casanovas and dishonest individuals. According to the camp’s organiser, 40-year-old Nor Daayah Abdullah, she believed many detest the idea of online dating as they are afraid of being scammed or catfished by a cruel prankster.
One of the event’s drawbacks was the uneven ratio of participants as the women outnumbered the men. There were 447 women and 100 men, which left the women with fewer eligible candidates to choose from. Nor Daayah noticed the huge discrepancy and was disappointed with the no-shows from men. She assumed the men could have experienced cold feet and changed their mind at the last minute.
“Despite the low turnout from men, we remained positive for our female participants. Men can be a bit egoistic. Some are shy, so if they have no friends to go with, they refused to come alone,” said Nor Daayah.
Helping others find their soulmate
The heartache of coping with the death of her beloved husband drove Nor Daayah to set up this halal love camp. Nor Daayah was married to her late husband for nine years before he passed away two years ago. The pair met when they were both working at the same company.
Determined to help others find their soulmate, the businesswoman organised the Kem Dapat Jodoh in hopes others would be able to experience the same love Nor Daayah once shared with her late husband.
“I had difficulties finding my ‘jodoh’ (soulmate). My principle is, if I’m facing difficulties, I believe I should assist others first, help them find their soulmate and God willing, everything will fall right into place for me,” said Nor Daayah.
She pointed out that the participants were required to submit certified documents as proof of their current marital status. She stressed that all the applicants were genuine as each application underwent a stringent vetting process.
“We require all applicants to present their original certificates such as divorce certificate or death certificate of their spouse on the actual day of the camp. If we find nothing suspicious about the applicant’s current marital status, we will issue a certificate to verify that the applicant is single,” shared Nor Daayah.
Shariah-compliant matchmaking is not a new phenomenon in Malaysia. In 2015, a team of young Muslim professionals founded Halal Speed Dating, a matchmaking service catering to Muslims. Since then, the team has organised several speed dating sessions involving dozens of young Muslims who were eager to meet like-minded individuals in a religiously compliant manner. Those who took part in the speed dating were chaperoned by their parents or relatives to ensure their loved ones met the right candidate.
After receiving an overwhelming response for the first Muslim-only love camp, Nor Daayah is planning to organise six halal love camps within this year in six different states. She is even thinking of organising a two-day-one-night camp which offers programmes to test individuals’ patience and willpower in completing group activities based on Islamic teachings.
Finding love for the third time
The halal love camp caught the attention of 64-year-old Singaporean, Shah Idil Shahbudin. Shah, who was married twice, was persuaded by his older brother to attend the camp. The father of eight remains hopeful of finding a loving companion for the third time. The aircraft engineer said that he is searching for an ideal candidate who can write and speak Arabic fluently.
He fully supports the idea of having a programme to encourage permissible interaction between Muslim women and men as many elderly folks such as himself tend to feel lonely as they age. After the sudden demise of their spouse or unsuccessful marriages, many are living alone but programmes such as this halal love camp offers a second chance for the elderly to find someone they can spend the rest of their lives with.
“It’s about time we have a programme like this because we are living in such a conservative society. When both men and women are busy working, it’s very difficult for people to meet. But here, we can be honest with each other. It provides a platform for us to communicate and interact,”
“I hope this camp can be extended to Singapore because Singapore needs it more due to our competitive nature. Everyone is busy working, it’s impossible to meet anyone,” he quipped.
For single mother of two, Norila Mansor, it was her eldest daughter who quietly registered her to attend this love camp. Norila, who currently works as a social worker with an orphanage in Perak, was deeply saddened after her divorce with her second husband of 14 years. She threw herself into work to distract herself and kept herself occupied with raising her two teenage daughters.
“I guess my daughter saw how lonely I have become since the divorce but I’m not putting my hopes up on finding my soulmate here. Even if I can’t find anyone compatible, I’m just here to gain some knowledge on how to be a better person,” Norila said.
“My daughters want what’s best for me and they want me to be happy,” she added.
Ahmad Zafran, 29, received a Whatsapp message from his friends regarding the Kem Dapat Jodoh and thought it was a practical joke. After unsuccessful attempts with several dating sites, he decided to enter the halal love camp to possibly meet his future wife. The recruiter together with his friends felt that the camp was a great avenue to socialise in an amicable environment.
“I hope to meet someone who has a lot (of things) in common with me. I need to spend more time with the person to know if we are compatible. We can’t rush these things,” said Ahmad.
“Besides, women these days are career driven and independent. I’m sure they would want someone who is equally successful,” he added.
With more Kem Dapat Jodoh in the coming months, Nor Daayah hopes to see at least 30 per cent successful matches. She added she wants to organise a massive wedding celebration for the happy couples with help and support from the government.
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