Singles Program at MANA Conference
Companionships, a program for Muslims singles to meet in a dignified, no-pressure atmosphere, will be held Saturday, November 29, 2008 in Room 202B and begins at 12:00 noon, immediately following Zhur prayer, and ends at 3:30 PM. Light refreshments will be served. The cost of the program is $25. Pre-registration is necessary. Companionships will be hosted by co-founders, Imam Magid, Imam of ADAMS Center; and his wife, Amaarah Decuir, Islamic school principal. (click here to register)
Read about the history, goals and dynamics of Companionships in the article below.
by Amaarah DeCuir
A young man approached the Imam, stating his intentions to find a wife. He needed help finding someone suitable for him and his family. An older sister, divorced recently, needed to find a husband to help her raise her young children. Two exhausted parents were complaining that it was very difficult to find a decent husband for their professionally educated daughter. A new Muslim, after having joined the faith a few months ago, wanted to get married and begin a new life in Islam. The Imam traveled across the country giving talks and lectures about Marriage and Family in Islam, while many of the Muslims in the audiences were seeking assistance finding a spouse, a life partner, a companion.
Imam Mohamed Magid, along with a team of volunteers from ADAMS Center, Sterling, Virginia, established a non-profit organization called Companionships in Spring 2003. After five years of matchmaking, he had over 100 Muslim singles in his files, eligible brothers and sisters who were actively seeking to get married. With a fast-growing community, and requests from singles in other states, it became a necessity to create a program designed to help Muslims find a good spouse.
Companionships was launched on an early Spring morning at George Mason University. Fifty singles gathered together for a weekend retreat to meet one another and participate in discussions and activities about seeking partners for marriage. The workshops were interactive, thought-provoking, and conversations were comfortable. The organizers were young, married couples who wanted to help introduce singles to one another, in the hopes that some of them would marry. The participants commented that the sessions were helpful. The food was amazing! And the hosts were organized and discreet. One couple met at this first retreat, they married a few years later!
Companionships went on to host other retreats at different locations in the Northern Virginia area, before settling in their new location of hosting events at the newly constructed ADAMS Center. The windows and doors are blocked off to ensure privacy for the participants. The Main Hall is decorated for a fun, festive crowd of singles. Food is served all day long to keep the guests comfortable and nourished.
Singles began coming to the programs from as far as Chicago, California, Florida and Canada. Some Muslims complain that they can’t find a spouse in their own community. Others say that the leaders in the masjid do not know how to help singles find a good spouse. And many of our participants are drawn to the leadership style of Imam Magid, they enjoy his presentations and his comfortable attitude during the events.
Companionships staff members intend to host four, full day events for the Muslim community every year, inshAllah. Staff members arrive on site by 8 am to prepare the Main Hall. Tables, chairs, and decorations are laid out to increase communication between the singles and foster a welcoming atmosphere for them. Breakfast is assembled for the early arrivals. The registration desk is opened to process all of the applicants, and assign them to their table groups.
Singles begin arriving at 9:30 a.m., dressed to impress! The brothers are in dress pants with a nice shirt or a blazer, some wear a full suit with a tie. They carry the air of men who are serious about finding a wife, and they are encouraged by the number of sisters who are at the program. The sisters arrive in brightly colored shalwar khameez, dark colored abayas, or a Western look with dress pants and a blouse. Their smiles are nervous as they realize that brothers have actually shown up at the hall to meet women like them.
Companionships hosts escort the singles to their first table assignment, encourage them to take breakfast, and offer to bring over a cup of tea. With “ice breaker” questions at every table, the initial conversations begin slowly, but effectively. As the room fills up, shoulders begin to relax. They bite into their muffins, and drink their orange juice.
Introductions of both brothers and sisters are made as people join their table group for the morning’s first session.
At 10:30 a.m., the Companionships hosts introduce themselves as married couples, volunteering their service for the day. They welcome the participants as Muslims who are actively seeking marriage in an Islamic manner. With all of the distractions that come with living in America, these are the singles who are seeking marriage in a masjid, with the guidance and support of an Imam.
Imam Magid takes the microphone and jokes with them that at this event, “no one will get a proposal today.” He wants the sisters to relax knowing that the men do not have a diamond ring in their back pocket. He wants the brothers to feel comfortable that the girls’ fathers are not standing outside of the door waiting for a proposal by lunchtime. It is very clear to all of the participants that today’s event will serve as a series of introductions. It is the hope of the organizers that many singles there will meet someone that they would consider for marriage.
The first table session begins immediately. Singles have an activity to complete together at their table. With five brothers and five sisters working together to answer a question, solve a game, or create a display that focuses them on the personalities of the other singles at their table. Each Companionships session is seeking to pull out a participant’s identity, not just their name and place of birth. By the end of the hour, the discussion comes to a close and participants stand to move to their next table.
Throughout the day they travel to different table groups, each time meeting a new group of singles in the room. One session is devoted to discussing an ayat from the Quran.
Another session attempts to analyze the relevance of a hadith in today’s society. An afternoon session is used to reflect upon difficulties that many people face in their first years of marriage. Other sessions are used to discuss participant’s personal interests and hobbies. Each one hour block offers a chance to meet other singles, in a group setting, with married hosts supporting the table conversations.
Imam Magid is a supportive host who speaks to the singles throughout the day. He injects his wisdom as to how the sunnah instructs us to find a spouse. He cites examples from the companions, and guidance from our Prophet. He talks about case studies with real couples in the community, some with successful marriages and others that married for disastrous reasons. He reminds the singles not to pre-judge the other participants, and to be open to the possibilities of finding a spouse that is different from themselves.
Lunch time and closing time are not given assigned seats. Participants are instructed to sit where they please, as long as each table consists of 5 men and 5 women. Some singles choose to sit near someone they haven’t had a chance to meet. They make their own introductions and start a conversation with the help of the table’s ice breakers. Other singles prefer to sit near someone they met earlier in the day, and they want to continue the conversation to determine compatibility.
Singles are constantly coming up to the hosts to ask if they can be introduced to someone in the room that they found interesting. Staff members will then seat singles at specific tables, and help to make introductions that encourage more direct talk. Companionships draws together mature adults who are conscious of their manners, and protective of their modesty. Conversations are public, honest, and focused on compatibility for marriage.
By the end of every event, many singles are managing their own follow up plans. Some exchange email addresses or cell phone numbers with one another. Others distribute their parents’ contact information to interested participants. Some ask a Companionships host to set up an introduction on a different day. Imam Magid offers all participants free pre-marital counseling sessions in his office.
In his concluding remarks, he reminds the singles that their intention to get married is an important first step. He encourages them to continue seeking a good spouse, even if the person is not in this Companionships event. He reminds them of the importance of the family in the search process, for they can provide an objective view of the one that they are considering. He distributes his contact information so that family members and singles can discuss this process in more detail with him.
Companionships have provided matrimonial services to hundreds of single Muslims nationwide. Our efforts have been more successful because of the work that other matrimonial services have already begun. Whether a couple comes together through Companionships.org or another organization, we will all benefit with stronger Muslim marriages and better Muslim families.
The website, www.companionships.org, describes our approach to matrimonial services. Plus, singles can register for our Summer event in June 2008 on the website. In the future, singles will use the website to find potential spouses by reading profiles that are posted regularly. Singles of all ages, all marital backgrounds, and from all communities are welcome to join the Companionships Community. We need the continued support of the Muslims, nationwide, as we strive to be a service organization for the singles who are seeking marriage, Islamically.