As imam of one of the Washington region's largest mosques, Mohamed Magid counsels married couples, including those with a problem he sees among Muslim Americans: husbands and wives who were virtual strangers before they wedded.
Islamic practice bans unsupervised dating, and in transient 2008 America, traditional Muslims may wind up far from families who once oversaw the connection of two single people. Many African American Muslims are converts and do not have Muslim relatives who can help with the process.
A few years ago, Magid, imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Sterling, started something new: required premarital counseling for people who marry at the mosque. His wife recently launched a singles program meant to honor modesty and cut to the chase: participants meet in groups to discuss scriptural problems, read stories, and make lists of what they think are the most important characteristics for a Muslim wife or husband in the United States.
Although premarital counseling and singles programs are common for some faith groups, they are new in U.S. mosques, placing Magid and his wife on the vanguard of a drive to update Muslim practices and institutions surrounding marriage. The movement stems from concern among many Muslim American leaders that families are not keeping up with cultural changes, leading people to divorce and marry multiple times, or become alienated either from Islam or from mainstream American life.