Muslim matchmaker stays true to Islam
The one-line email that greeted Mohammad Mertaban came straight to the point.
“Mertaban, find me a husband, k? I await your list of potential suitors,” wrote a woman who lives on the East Coast.
Mertaban was not surprised, although he knew the woman only slightly. “If it comes from a brother or sister whom I don’t know very well, I know that she would do it out of frustration, desperation or a strong desire to get married,” he explained later.
An information technology project manager who lives in Fullerton, Mertaban, 30, has grown accustomed to urgent requests — by phone, email and in person — since he began dabbling in matchmaking for friends and acquaintances about eight years ago. Those he helps are observant young Muslims searching for a modern path to marriage that stays true to Islam.
American Muslims regularly speak of a “marriage crisis” in their communities, as growing numbers of Muslims reach their late 20s and early 30s still single. Young religious Muslims tend to avoid Western-style dating, but many also reject the ways of earlier generations, in which potential spouses were introduced to one another by family.
Traditionally, in South Asia and the Middle East, older women — often called the “aunties” — and parents recommended matches by drawing upon their extensive networks of family, friends and acquaintances. Marriage criteria were typically limited to religion, ethnicity, jobs and looks. But in the U.S., their little black books of contacts are significantly thinner and many second-generation American Muslims see such methods as decidedly old-world.
So, many turn to young volunteer matchmakers like Mertaban, who have connections in their hometowns, college circles and vast online networks.
“The aunties don’t really know people very well and I think they’re just shooting in the dark,” said Mertaban, whose parents emigrated from Lebanon. “I think people have veered away from that…”