EDISON, N.J. -- Islam forbids unsupervised dating, so the recent gathering of young, unmarried Muslims in the banquet hall of an Edison restaurant was billed not as a singles party but as a weightier Muslim Matrimonial Event.
The modern "speed-dating" technique was blended with old religious practices, giving it an Islamic twist with clear rules: Chaperones would roam while the 100 unmarried "candidates" got to know each other through small group talks. An imam would lecture on how the prophet Muhammad valued marriage. There would be a break for evening prayer.
The singles -- 56 women, 44 men -- would take notes to keep track of the candidates each would meet. And there would be little subtlety about the reason they were there.
"If you don't take notes, there will be no follow-up," organizer Khalid Ozair gently chided after the first few rounds of conversation. "And that will defeat the purpose of this event.
"We want follow-up, and we want, inshallah (God willing), that people should get married as a result of this event."
Nervous laughter from the candidates followed, but most of them -- doctors, teachers, computer programmers, engineers and business people who have lived in the United States most of their lives -- had the same wish, to marry someone of their faith.
"I'm interested in marrying someone who is Muslim, someone who has strong faith," said Ali Qureshi, 32, of Manhattan. "Along with that comes someone who has similar morals and values, which is important."
Muslim gatherings like this have sprouted up around the country in the last few years because finding good matches for religious American Muslims remains difficult, singles say.