Algeria mosques fertile ground for matchmaking

Looking at women for marriage allowed: Islamic preacher


Algerian men flock to mosques during Ramadan to perform the extended taraweeh prayers, a nightly prayer in which a section of the Quran is recited until the entire book is completed by the end of the holy month.

This year, however, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of women attending mosques to perform taraweeh, turning the mosque into a somewhat unlikely matchmaking center.

This Ramadan mosques have become a favored venue for men seeking wives and mothers seeking future daughter-in-laws.

"It's true I come here for prayer in the first place, but this doesn't stop me from taking a quick look at women for the purpose of marriage," Amin told after hesitating for a while. "They are dressed decently and come with male guardians, and this encourages me to look. Any one of them could be my future wife."

But men are not the only ones doing the choosing. Some mothers look for brides for their sons among the faithful, like Miriam F. who said she noticed that women who come to the mosque for taraweeh are dressed decently, yet elegantly, and she was thinking of choosing a wife for her son from among them.

Sisters do the same. Khair al-Din Mazgheesh, a civil servant, told that his uncle got married this way when his sister saw a girl in the mosque and introduced her to her brother: "He is now father to a 6 year old boy," she said.

When asked about how appropriate it is from the Islamic point to look at women in the mosque, Sheikh Youssef told that looking is allowed as long as it is for the purpose of marriage and not for sensual reasons.

"I remind the people of the prophet's saying that actions are measured by the intentions behind them."

There are more than 15 million worshippers who attend the more than 15,000 mosques in Algeria, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).