Are you dying to know what a couple's relationship is really like? Elite Daily's series, ILYSM, celebrates couples who met on dating apps and dives into the inner workings of their relationships. How did they know they were falling for each other? Who sent the first awkward message? What's the one thing they fight about? Are they astrologically compatible, and do they care? By the end of each story, you'll love them both so much.
If you’re convinced it’s impossible to find love during a pandemic, feast your eyes on Isma’il Mustafa and Mariah Zaini’s love story. Isma’il, who works at an online startup, and Mariah, a doctor, first met on Muzmatch, a dating app for Muslim singles, in July 2020. Even though Mariah lived in Singapore and Isma’il in England, they started talking every day, video-chatting and meeting each other’s families — all completely online. By the end of August, before they ever met in person, they decided to get married. In October, Isma’il flew to Singapore to meet Mariah, they had their first official date, and in November, they tied the knot.
In some Muslim cultures, it's customary for couples to court for a short time before getting engaged, as they only date if they're serious about marriage. When Isma’il and Mariah started falling for each other online, they knew they were ready to move forward.
Here’s their story:
Bibliophile, aspiring author, lifetime learner, and the luckiest husband in the world.
Linguist, athlete, adrenaline-junkie and med-geek wannabe.
Which app did you meet on?
Isma'il Mustafa: Muzmatch.
How long have you known each other?
Mariah Zaini: Five-and-a-half months.
How long have you been dating?
MZ: We don't really date before marriage, but we spoke on the phone every day for months after matching on Muzmatch.
IM: We've been married since November.
Do you live together? Are you engaged? Do you have a pet you share? Any other relationship markers?
IM: We live together here in Birmingham — my wife joined me here from Singapore. We have a pet bonsai and make an effort to always pray together.
What initially attracted you to each other’s profiles?
MZ: I liked the photo he put up and his cute nickname, Isy. Then after a few chats, I realized he was such a gentleman and fell head over heels.
IM: Her profile was criminally lacking in detail and she only had one photo, but I liked her smile in her photo, how gentle-natured and kind she looked, and the character I could feel in her words — humble, free-spirited, and relaxed.
Who sent the first message, and what was it?
IM: I said, “Assalamu Alaykum [Peace be upon you]. It's a pleasure to match with you!”
How long did you exchange messages or texts before your first date?
IM: We got engaged before meeting in person, so we didn’t go on a real first date until I flew to Singapore for our wedding — though I video-chatted with Mariah every day and she got to know my parents and sisters that way, too. We started talking in early July (weeks after matching), and a month later, at the end of August, I proposed. I flew to Singapore in October and we tied the knot in November.
What was your first date like?
IM: Perfect. We went to a mall in Singapore. First to Starbucks, then to the famous Sultan mosque, and then to a local eatery where we shared a traditional meat dish and drank lychee and rose syrup drinks together.
MZ: It was nerve-wracking for me, because we weren’t married yet and it’s not considered appropriate to go on dates. It was definitely weird seeing him IRL after only video-calling for several months, but he was pretty chill about it.
Describe the DTR (define the relationship) conversation.
IM: I can't remember. We've had so many conversations and I fall in love with her each and every day.
If you're Instagram official, what was your first photo together? Can you provide a link or screenshot?
MZ: I haven't posted anything on my Instagram except reposting stories from the wedding day. Just too busy with married life.
IM: We're IG official but I put up this cool artsy image of us rather than a photo.
Describe the moment you first realized you were falling for them.
IM: I was really drawn to her as soon as I saw her profile. We kept it formal whilst messaging but when we started speaking more casually my feelings for her started growing.
MZ: For me, it was when he sent me a parcel of English fudge and a love letter. In the letter, he made it clear that he wanted to move forward with our relationship and asked if I was OK with us getting to know each other better. That’s when I realized he was serious about it, which was big because we clicked on all levels.
Who said “I love you” first?
IM: It was definitely me.
MZ: He did!
What was your first fight about?
IM: We haven't really had one. When one of us is under pressure or upset, the other is always supportive and patient. We adjust to each other’s rhythm and we talk things out.
MZ: A misunderstanding.
What's your favorite underrated thing about each other?
MZ: His baby voice.
IM: There really isn't much that’s underrated about her — she's widely loved and is all-around a great girl. I admire how fun she is with kids.
What was the last thing you texted about?
IM: Just letting her know I was done with a work meeting.
How often do you text throughout the day?
MZ: Rarely now that we live together. We use the chat to send each other important links and stuff.
IM: At least once every time we're apart.
Do you know if you are astrologically compatible? Do you care?
IM: I couldn't care less what the stars think — we make our own destiny.
MZ: I don’t care.
Which TV show do you marathon together?
MZ: Breaking Bad.
What was your favorite date you’ve ever been on?
IM: Our first. It'd been such a long time coming and it was everything I could have hoped for.
MZ: All the night walks we've ever been on are my favorites!
Why do you think your relationship works?
IM: I respect and trust her deeply — the feelings are mutual and we like the idea of using love languages to make our feelings known.
MZ: He is very persistent and I'm very patient. We have goals that we want to achieve together, we remind ourselves to make things work no matter what, and we made a promise to always talk things out. (He makes sure of that because I can be very inexpressive when I'm upset.)
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from each other?
IM: Every day she inspires me to be more brave, patient, and faithful.
MZ: I learned the value of love from him. He is so loved by his friends and family, and I can understand why.
What’s your best piece of advice for people on dating apps?
MZ: Be open and honest about what you want and you might just find a person who's similar to you.
IM: Be sincere. Don't think about impressing other people, but approach them like a human being who you want to learn about. Whatever you experience in trying to find “the one,” reflect on it, learn about yourself and how you can improve. Have faith that there’s someone out there for you who will make it all worth it. If you focus on tending your garden, a butterfly will come.