A Muslim Dating App Powered Their Connection
When Jafreen Momtaj Uddin and Shakil Sarfaroz Rabbi matched on Salams, a Muslim dating app, in June 2021, they immediately began a two-hour online conversation that Ms. Uddin described as “extremely comfortable.”
“I was visiting an aunt in Philadelphia that day,” said Ms. Uddin, 36. While one of her parents drove, she exchanged messages with Dr. Rabbi, also 36, “for the duration of the ride.”
“It was a very easy and very enjoyable conversation,” said Ms. Uddin, the executive director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York. A graduate of Columbia University, she holds a master’s degree in global history from N.Y.U.
Dr. Rabbi, an assistant professor of English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., found the exchange equally pleasant.
“We just kept talking and talking, it was one subject after another,” said Dr. Rabbi, who graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., and received two master’s degrees, one in English literature from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, and the other in English, rhetoric and composition from Penn State, where he later earned a Ph.D.
With Ms. Uddin, “I could speak my mind freely,” he added, “which wasn’t always the case for me in previous relationships.”
They arranged for a first date the following month at the Longwood Gardens in Chester County, Pa., a halfway point between Ms. Uddin’s home in Montclair, N.J., and Mr. Rabbi’s in Laurel, Md.
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“I thought he was at least worth that trip,” said Ms. Uddin. “I’m very traditional, I always knew I wanted to end up with a man who was South Asian Muslim.”
The date lasted for several hours as Ms. Uddin, who grew up in Montclair, and Dr. Rabbi, who was born and raised in Bangladesh, got to know each other better while walking amid the gardens filled with cherry blossoms and roses, tulips and azaleas, daffodils and wisteria.
Early on, they realized that the distance between them and their busy schedules would make seeing each other difficult. So “we had to learn how to take advantage of quick day trips whenever possible,” Ms. Uddin said.
Their second date took place just a few days later, when Ms. Uddin gave Dr. Rabbi a daytime tour of Montclair. It went smoothly until the couple realized that they were running late for Dr. Rabbi’s train back to Maryland.
“We had 15 minutes to get to Newark Penn Station,” recalled Ms. Uddin, who managed to deliver Dr. Rabbi to the station just as the Amtrak train was chugging into it. With no time to spare, he dashed aboard as the doors were closing behind him.
“In hindsight, that 15 minutes of chaos has become symbolic of how we approach our relationship and partnership together,” Dr. Rabbi said. “No matter what the world throws at us, we will make it together.”
The two, who still reside in different states (they are “trying to figure it out,” Ms. Uddin said), became engaged in November 2021, on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Dr. Rabbi delivered his proposal in the form of a handwritten letter that asked for Ms. Uddin’s hand in marriage.
“One really expects no less from an English professor who is proposing to a woman who runs a literary nonprofit,” said Ms. Uddin.
They wed on Jan. 30 at Crystal Plaza, an events venue in Livingston, N.J. Imam Shahid Hoque, an officiant with Muslim Wedding Service, led the ceremony in front of 200 vaccinated guests, who included the bride’s parents and the groom’s mother. (His father is deceased.)
“I come from a huge family,” said the bride, noting that she has 20 aunts and uncles and 100 cousins who live within a 20-mile radius in New Jersey. Dr. Rabbi, she said, “fits right in with every one of them.”