Misyar marriage: definition and rulings
Source: Islam Q&A
Misyaar marriage was mentioned on your website. What is this marriage? Is it halaal or haram?
Praise be to Allaah.
Misyaar marriage is where a man does a shar’i marriage contract with a woman, meeting the conditions of marriage, but the woman gives up some of her rights such as accommodation, maintenance or the husband’s staying overnight with her.
The reasons that have led to the emergence of this kind of marriage are many, such as:
Increase in the number of single women who are unable to get married, because young men are put off marriage due to the high cost of dowries and the costs of marriage, or because there is a high divorce rate. In such circumstances, some women will agree to be a second or third wife and to give up some of their rights.
Some women need to stay in their family home, either because they are the only care-givers for family members, or because the woman has a handicap and her family do not want the husband to be burdened with something he cannot bear, and he stays in touch with her without having to put too great a burden on himself, or because she has children and cannot move with them to her husband’s house, and other reasons.
Some married men want to keep some women chaste because they need that, or because they need variety and halaal pleasure, without that affecting the first wife and her children.
In some cases a husband may want to conceal his second marriage from his first wife, for fear of the consequences that may result and affect their relationship.
The man travels often to a certain place and stays there for lengthy periods. Undoubtedly staying there with a wife is safer for him than not doing so.
These are the most prominent reasons for the emergence of this kind of marriage.
The scholars differed concerning the ruling on this type of marriage, and there are several opinions, ranging from the view that it is permissible, to the view that it is permitted but makrooh, or that it is not allowed. Here we should point out several things.
None of the scholars have said that it is invalid or is not correct; rather they disallowed it because of the consequences that adversely affect the woman, as it is demeaning to her, and that affects the society as this marriage contract is taken advantage of by bad people, because a woman could claim that a boyfriend is a husband. It also affects the children whose upbringing will be affected by their father’s absence.
Some of those who said that it was permissible have retracted that view. Among the most prominent scholars who said that it was permissible were Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz and Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez Aal al-Shaykh; and among the most prominent scholars who said that it was permissible and then retracted it was Shaykh al-‘Uthaymeen; among the most prominent scholars who said that it is not allowed at all was Shaykh al-Albaani.
Those who said that it is permissible did not say that a time limit should be set as in the case of mut’ah. And they did not say that it is permissible without a wali (guardian), because marriage without a wali is invalid. And they did not say that the marriage contract may be done without witnesses or without being announced, rather it is essential to do one of the two.
Opinion of the scholars concerning this type of marriage:
Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about Misyaar marriage; this kind of marriage is where the man marries a second, third or fourth wife, and the wife is in a situation that compels her to stay with her parents or one of them in her own house, and the husband goes to her at various times depending on the circumstances of both. What is the Islamic ruling on this type of marriage?
There is nothing wrong with that if the marriage contract fulfils all the conditions set out by sharee’ah, which is the presence of the wali and the consent of both partners, and the presence of two witnesses of good character to the drawing up of the contract, and both partners being free of any impediments, because of the general meaning of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The conditions that are most deserving of being fulfilled are those by means of which intimacy becomes permissible for you” and “The Muslims are bound by their conditions.” If the partners agree that the woman will stay with her family or that her share of the husband’s time will be during the day and not during the night, or on certain days or certain nights, there is nothing wrong with that, so long as the marriage is announced and not hidden. End quote.
Fataawa ‘Ulama’ al-Balad al-Haraam (p. 450, 451) and Jareedah al-Jazeerah issue no. 8768, Monday 18 Jumaada al-Oola 1417 AH.
However, some students of the Shaykh said that he later retracted the view that it is permissible, but we could not find anything in writing to prove that.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez Aal al-Shaykh (may Allaah preserve him) was asked:
There is a lot of talk about misyaar marriage being haraam or halaal. We would like a definitive statement about this matter from you, with a description of its conditions and obligations, if it is permissible.
The conditions of marriage are that the two partners should be identified and give their consent, and there should be a wali (guardian) and two witnesses. If the conditions are met and the marriage is announced, and they do not agree to conceal it, either the husband, the wife or their guardians, and he offered a waleemah or wedding feast, then this marriage is valid, and you can call it whatever you want after that. End quote.
Jareedah al-Jazeerah, Friday 15 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1422 AH, issue no. 10508.
Shaykh al-Albaani was asked about Misyaar marriage and he disallowed it for two reasons:
That the purpose of marriage is repose as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” [al-Room 30:21]. But this is not achieved in this kind of marriage.
It may be decreed that the husband has children with this woman, but because he is far away from her and rarely comes to her, that will be negatively reflected in his children’s upbringing and attitude.
See: Ahkaam al-Ta’addud fi Daw’ al-Kitaab wa’l-Sunnah (p. 28, 29).
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) used to say that it was permissible, then he stopped saying that because of the negative effects, as it was poorly applied by some wrongdoers.
Finally, what we think is:
That if Misyaar marriage fulfils the conditions of a valid marriage, namely the proposal and acceptance, the consent of the wali and witnesses or announcement of the marriage, then it is a valid marriage contract, and it is good for some categories of men and women whose circumstances call for this type of marriage. But this may be taken advantage of by some whose religious commitment is weak, hence this permissibility should not be described as general in application in a fatwa, rather the situation of each couple should be examined, and if this kind of marriage is good for them then it should be permitted, otherwise they should not be allowed to do it. That is to prevent marriage for the sake of mere pleasure whilst losing the other benefits of marriage, and to prevent the marriage of two people whose marriage we may be certain is likely to fail and in which the wife will be neglected, such as one who will be away from his wife for many months, and will leave her on her own in an apartment, watching TV and visiting chat rooms and going on the internet. How can such a weak woman spend her time? This is different from one who lives with her family or children and has enough religious commitment, obedience, chastity and modesty to help her be patient during her husband’s absence.
And Allaah knows best.
Misyar Marriage: Legalized Promiscuity?
Zawaj.com Editor’s Note: I am against misyar marriage, as I think it is damaging to women and to the family, and robs women of the rights given to them by Islam.
In California, where I live, any contract that coerces someone to forfeit their rights under the law is invalid. That’s a good policy.
A Muslim woman with no resources and few options should never be asked to forfeit the rights that have been granted to her by Allah SWT.
I realize there are numerous social and economic reasons why this this has become a growing trend in parts of the Muslim world.
I believe we must address those reasons and create a climate where it is easy and encouraged for Muslims to marry in the normal Islamic way.
However, the opinions expressed in the article below (and the comments about “Wahhabis” etcetera) are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily express the views of Zawaj.com.
Misyar Marriage: Prohibition does not eliminate promiscuity
BY RAFIA ZAKARIA, APRIL 5, 2010, altmuslimah.com
A Guardian report, published in August 2009 regarding the prevalence of misyar marriage in Saudi Arabia, has generated much hubbub in the Muslim world. There are few religiously-sanctioned occasions for discussing issues concerning sexuality but it seems that in addressing this above topic the Saudis and their Wahhabi fans around the world have found one.
In simple terms, a misyar marriage is the Wahhabi (we will use the term Sunni from here on) counterpart of the Shi’a mutaamarriage. The misyar or “traveler’s” nikah is carried out through normal Sunni Muslim contractual procedures and involves a waiver of certain rights, predominantly by the wife.
Under misyar, the husband and wife retain their homes and arrange for visits for a certain number of nights. The husband relinquishes his right to unlimited sexual access (otherwise assumed in Saudi law) and housekeeping (since the wife does not live with him). The wife, predictably, gives up much more, including her right to the equal attention of the husband (in case of polygamy) and her right to maintenance or nafaqah and housing. In the event of children born to the union, custody goes to the father or his family after age seven.
Misyar is routinely presented as a pragmatic solution to sate the sexual appetites of men in a society where sexual promiscuity is strictly prohibited and even prosecuted through hadd punishments. The argument in favor of misyar normally runs along the following lines: misyar marriage allows those who are unable to provide a home or support a wife full-time an opportunity for female companionship, broadly interpreted.
The female beneficiaries of this “marriage lite” are supposedly the hapless spinsters, divorcees and other marginalized women who otherwise have no hope of male attention or companionship. Through this arrangement, they too can have a shot at marriage, though without most of the rights. Misyar, while socially unpalatable to Saudi jurisprudence because it showcases the centrality of male sexual appetites in Saudi culture, is presented as the low-budget alternative to traditional marriage, which appears to be reserved for virginal brides and rich men.
Misyar then is marriage for discarded women and economically unstable men. Instead of agonizing over the gender iniquities of a system that treats widows and divorcees as unworthy of marriages in which their rights and human dignity are respected, a “lower” form of marriage has been invented to allow them a chance at having some male companionship. The sociological aspects of the fact that these women continue to be marginalized and treated as unworthy are left unquestioned.
Further arguments for misyar marriages focus on their legal defensibility. Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi, quoted in the Guardian report, instructs Muslims to look at such marriages as a “legal relationship between a man and a woman.” The Sheikh requests that a misyar marriage be evaluated on the grounds that it is a contract between a man and a woman that is sanctioned by religion in that the limited liabilities and duties of both parties are clearly stated by both and hence known to and agreed upon by both. This argument rests on the legal premise that when conditions of a contract are explicit, consented to by both parties and within the parameters set by the religion’s tenets, the ensuing contract is then rendered legitimate and binding.
Yet the irony of this line of reasoning is that the legal argument makes no mention of the completely unequal bargaining power of the two parties and the fact that the women have little power to insist on any condition being stipulated in the contract. The fact that a woman acquiesces to a marriage that provides her with fewer rights than those she would be entitled to otherwise, is a testament to her inferior bargaining power both as a contracting party and as a citizen within a patriarchal society. To argue that the contract should be evaluated entirely as a legal entity between two parties consensually coming to an agreement, is to ignore the very gender inequality that led to the creation of the legal instrument in the first place.
Some attention is due also to the moral aspects of misyar marriage. Strictly prohibitive societies like Saudi Arabia operate on the premise that if the state regulates all aspects of life, then the most repugnant moral failings will simply be eliminated. In other words, with the imposition of strict penalties against sexual promiscuity, short-term dalliances will be eliminated and society will be safely ensconced in marital bliss.
The existence of misyar marriages and the fact that they are being advertised on websites similar to western ones proposing sexual flirtations exposes the hollowness of the idea that prohibition eliminates the desire for promiscuity. In the case of Saudis, misyar marriages demonstrate that sexual promiscuity or the desire for “no strings attached” relationships has been far from stamped out. Instead, legal loopholes, under the sanction of faith, have been found to justify un-sated desires.
Finally, there are the tangible human costs of such legal loopholes that cater to male libidos and further subjugate women into destructive choices. In 2008, Saudi Arabia had nearly 200,000 widows most of whom received no support from their blood relatives. The requirement that they produce mahrams to provide them with permission to work and travel often forced them into misyar marriages for the sole purpose of obtaining livelihoods or permission to travel.
Relegated to periphery of society due to the personal tragedies, these women are victimized first by the widespread social denial of their inferiority and second by a legal fiction that uses their misery as a means for providing sexual gratification through a version of marriage that denies what few rights they would be provided with otherwise.
By Aisha Dahiru Atta
For anyone who has ever watched a toddler who has just begun learning motor skills trying to put a puzzle together, you might relate to what I personally call “the mommy itch.” This is the “itch” you get watching your babies attempt new stuff: the one that makes you want to keep them upright when they are taking their baby steps and stumbling all over the place, the one that makes you want to sit in class with them on the first day of school and in this case, the one that makes your hand hover and itch to move your children’s hands ever so slightly so that they can fit the star-shaped puzzle piece into its right slot and stop trying to force it into the circle shape!
Well, I felt a very strong mommy itch when I read an article by Mariam Al Hakeem in Gulf News online (21 May 2005) called, “Misyar Marriages Gaining Prominence Among Saudis.” Luckily, this time I get to indulge my itch.
What Is Misyar Marriage?
Misyar marriage seemingly is a new phenomenon in Saudi where, as in most of our Muslim Ummah everywhere, there is an alarming rise in the number of unmarried women. In her article, Mariam Al Hakeem wrote
Misyar is described as a form of marriage in which the wife gives up her rights offered under the religion, including the right to have the husband living with her in the same house and providing her with necessary expenses. In short the woman gives up the right to have an independent home. The husband may come to see her at her parent’s home at whatever time he chooses for himself, or at a time agreed by the two.
In Saudi Arabia, the dowry paid by most men is exceedingly high and, hence, many of them simply cannot afford to marry one, never mind more than one, wife. Dowries in Saudi Arabia are reported to be as high as a million riyals in the higher classes and 40,000 for the working class. Even for a country as rich as Saudi, these exorbitant dowries are making it impossible for men to afford marriage. I have heard of Nigerian men born and raised in Saudi going back home to marry and bringing their wives back to Saudi.
In Nigeria where I come from, the amount of dowry varies from tribe to tribe but is usually not so high as to be such a discouraging factor for marriage. Yet this form of marriage also occurs here with the difference being that the couple still live together but the woman becomes maintainer of the home. In every way. Is this misyar?
The Qur’an says:
(And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell (live) in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Undoubtedly, in these are signs for those who reflect.) (Ar-Rum 30:21)
(But do not make a secret contract with them except in terms honorable, nor resolve on the tie of marriage till the term prescribed is fulfilled.) (Al-Baqarah 2:235)
The above verse (2:235) is referring to widows in the period of `iddah, but I refer to it because Allah Most High clearly talks about approaching women with honorable intentions and terms. These terms have been stated in numerous verses in the Qur’an and expanded on in the Prophets Sunnah. The different but complementary roles of the man and woman in marriage are very clear in the Qur’an and Sunnah. The man maintains the home and the woman takes care of it and the family. History, though, has recorded that our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) married Khadijah when she possessed far more wealth than he. But they did not live apart. They shared a roof, a home, and a life until her death 24 years later.
It cannot be argued that times have changed and in numerous parts of the world women are economically empowered, more so than the men in many cases. In the West, if the woman takes on the financial responsibility of the family, then the man will usually adopt the role of homemaker. This arrangement affords a balance of roles and a continuation of the family unit itself.
Women Giving Up on Themselves
When we encourage women to give up the rights afforded them by Allah Most High, are we not in danger of doing far more damage to the Islamic family and our value system than we could ever foresee? My personal opinion is that we already have far too many seemingly “functional” families that are functioning dysfunctionally. The problems are numerous and would necessitate another article entirely, but they cut across the many geographical divides of our Ummah: absentee parents, consumerism, media and pop influences, and so on.
When we make it possible for a man to simply visit his wife when and if he pleases at either his or her convenience without any of the expected responsibility, then how are the man and woman to form a bond that is in the way of Allah Most High? When they have children, will he also visit his them only at times that are convenient to him? More importantly, at this point will the woman still bear the sole responsibility of sheltering, feeding, as well as rearing the children in the way of Islam?
There are, of course, many questions to be asked of this prescribed solution to spinsterhood, but the most important one would have to be whether it is legal in Shari`ah. I will not attempt pretence at knowledge of the Shari`ah that would qualify me to answer that, but I most certainly feel it bears serious looking into.
Al Hakeem’s article cites quotes prominent Saudi scholar Shaikh Abdullah Bin Sulaiman Bin Menie, who is a member of the Supreme Ulama Council, as saying that misyar is legal since it meets the requirements for a lawful marriage under Islam.
Shaikh Menie said the conditions agreed by the wife do not affect the validity of the marriage and the wife can still demand her full rights, including having the husband live with her and provide for her expenses. The husband in this case is free to agree to her terms or opt for divorce, he added.
He cited the case of Al Sayida Souda, one of the wives of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), who agreed to give up her right of having the Prophet spend every alternate night with her in favour of the Prophet’s other wife, Al Sayida Aisha.
In Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, Martin Lings (may Allah have mercy on him) writes that the reason Sawdah (Souda) gave up this right was her age. She was old and, recognizing the Prophet’s fondness for `A’ishah, gave up her nights to `A’ishah willingly (272). The Prophet still maintained and took care of Sawdah in every other way, in his home.
Impact on Family
Doubtless, the issue of spinsterhood in our Ummah is one that bears scrutiny. But what of the issue of fairness, kindness, and the indisputable significance of the family in our quest to seek the pleasure of our Most Forbearing and Merciful Creator, Allah Most High? The learned Sheikh Menie says the woman in misyar may later demand her rights and the man may choose to divorce her if he cannot grant them; how can she come back to demand what she willingly gave up? Is Allah Most High not Most Wise in granting those rights in the first place and not making provision for this voluntary sacrifice?—which is only on her part, mind you.
In a situation where the man has fallen on hard times or the like, there is everything right in the woman easing his burden if she is able to do so. But I do not see this form of marriage as such, since the woman does not share a roof with him or enjoy his guardianship in any form right from the start.
Marriage today is truly difficult enough, even practiced as the Prophet’s Sunnah teaches. The first and biggest casualties when there is a problem, continue to be our children, our Ummah, and, by natural progression, our deen. Legalizing a variation on what Allah Most High has allowed and our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught has only ever led to the weakening of our Ummah. History has shown this and we continue to see it.
But Allah Most High alone knows best.
In satisfying my mommy itch, I beg the forbearance of my brothers and sisters. My hand still hovers over this puzzle and I humbly ask that I ever so gently shift the star towards its position on the board by suggesting the simplest beginnings of a possible solution: Let’s pay the dowries exactly as enjoined by Allah Most High and taught by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Lings, Martin. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1983).
Reprinted from IslamOnline.net
Aisha Dahiru Atta is a mother and a wife, and the cofounder of an Islamic school. She runs workshops on parenting and Islamic education in Nigeria. She has a degree in sciences and is working on a master degree in teaching.
She had a secret ‘urfi marriage, and now her family wants to marry her to someone else
Reprinted from Islam-qa.com
What should a girl do who was a virgin and married herself off in an ‘urfi marriage to a man who is already married, at the hands of a sheikh and with two witnesses and the family of the sheikh in his house, with a simple mahr that she accepted but without any papers (it was only verbal)?
Her father is dead and she is grown up and does not have any adult brothers.
The man consummated the marriage with her and had intercourse with her, and they lived together for a while in secret like a married couple, without the knowledge of either family. After that she decided that this marriage could not continue for fear that her family would always object to the idea. Now her family are determined to marry her off to another man of whom they approve and they are determined to ahead with this marriage without knowing of her secret.
What should the girl do with regard to the first marriage? Is the marriage valid and does she have to get divorced from him? How should the divorce be done? Is it by speaking in front of the same witnesses or what? When she gets married to another man, does she have to tell him that she was married before, even though she is going to have an operation to repair the hymen so as to avoid any shame, whether she marries him or not?
Praise be to Allaah.
According to the majority of fuqaha’, in order for a marriage to be valid it is essential for the woman’s wali (guardian) to be present. The wali is her father, then her son – if she has a son, then her brothers, then her brother’s son, then her paternal uncles, then the sons of her paternal uncles, and so on in order of closeness among the male relatives on her father’s side. If there is no one, then the ruler or the qaadi (judge) is her guardian, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no marriage without a guardian.” Narrated by Abu Dawood (2085), al-Tirmidhi(1101) and Ibn Maajah (1881) from the hadeeth of Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Any woman who gets married without the permission of her guardian, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, and if there is a dispute, then the ruler is the guardian of the one who has no guardian.” Narrated by Ahmad (24417), Abu Dawood (2083) and al-Tirmidhi (1102); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ (2709).
Based on this, this girl’s marriage that was done in this manner is not valid, because it was done without the presence or consent of her guardian. The basic principle is that they should be separated, and there is no need for a divorce because the marriage was not valid in the first place. But as some scholars regard marriage without a wali as valid (even though this is a weak view), then divorce should be done. It is sufficient for the husband to speak the words of divorce, and it is not necessary to bring the witnesses who witnessed the marriage.
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: If a woman gets married in an invalid manner, it is not permissible for someone else to marry her until she is divorced or the marriage is annulled. End quote from al-Mughni (7/9).
If he divorces her and her ‘iddah has ended, then it is permissible for her to marry someone else.
This girl has to tell the future husband of her first marriage. It is not permissible for her to have an operation to repair her hymen because that is deceiving the husband. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever deceives is not one of us.” Narrated by Muslim (101).
This is even more important if it says in the marriage contract that the bride is a virgin, as is the case in the country of the woman who is asking this question.
It does not matter how much embarrassment this will cause for her. She is the one who has brought it on herself and entered into this haraam marriage which is shameful in the view of others, so she has to bear the consequences.
But if she repents to Allaah and turns to Him, Allaah will grant her a way out.
We ask Allaah to help us all to obey Him and please Him.
And Allaah knows best.
Misyar Marriage – a Marvel or a Misery?
By Somayya Jabarti, Arab News
Reprinted from ArabNews.com
JEDDAH, 5 June 2005 — To some, it’s an unthinkable act; for others, it’s better than loneliness, but in what is otherwise a conservative culture, misyar marriage goes against the grain.
Misyar marriage is a legal alternative marital arrangement more Saudi men and women are using to offset prohibitive marriage costs and the stigma unmarried women face.
In a misyar marriage the woman waives some of the rights she would enjoy in a normal marriage. Most misyar brides don’t change their residences but pursue marriage on a visitation basis. Some marriage officials say seven of 10 marriage contracts they conduct are misyar, and in some cases are asked to recommend prospective misyar partners.
Most of the women opting for misyar either are divorced, widowed or beyond the customary marriage age. The majority of men who take part in such marital arrangements are already married.
“All the misyar marriage contracts I conduct are between men and women remarrying,” said Abu Fawaz, who’s been a marriage official for four years. “For a misyar marriage all you need is witnesses, her dowry and the acceptance of both parties. Usually the woman either has her own place or lives with her family. Most of the time the woman’s family knows while the man’s family is in the dark about it, be it his first wife or any other family members.”
Results of Arab News Survey
Arab News surveyed 30 Saudi men and women aged 20-40 regarding misyar marriage. Over 60 percent of the men surveyed would consider misyar marriage for themselves with the majority of the respondents in their 20s. Those who would not consider it for themselves would not allow it for kin, be it sisters, brothers, sons or daughters. However, among the men who would consider it themselves, only two would find such a marriage acceptable for a female relative.
“If I allowed myself to marry another man’s sister or daughter ‘misyarically’ then it would only be fair to accept the same for my own female kin,” said Mohammad H. “It’s a double standard for men to accept it for themselves and other men but not the females. After all, if we all took up the same policy then who would we marry — each other?”
The reasons men gave for favoring misyar most often related to cost, with some asking “why not?” “I get to maintain all my rights, but I don’t have to take care of her financially and don’t even have to provide a house for her,” said 25-year-old Rayan Abdullah, an unmarried medical student at the city university. “It’s a great solution — isn’t it? It costs less than having a girlfriend — doesn’t it?” Or is it a male convenience in a male-dominated culture?
“What are the things most of us married men complain about?” asked Ghazi Ahmad, a 38-year-old husband and father of three children. “Don’t all of us constantly complain about the financial burdens, the lack of personal freedom — the routine patterns? Then this is the best marriage ever as far as I’m concerned. Married but not married — perfect.”
The opinions of women respondents about misyar marriage were a sharp contrast to the males’. More than 86 percent of the women 20-40 would not even consider such a marriage for themselves. Only four women — all in the over-40 category — would consider such marriages for themselves or relatives.
Most of the women respondents called it “legal prostitution” or objected to the lack of women’s rights in misyar marriages.
“I’m set in my ways,” said a 42-year-old bank manager who chose to call herself Muna Saad. “I live with my mother and couldn’t tolerate the idea of leaving her to live alone, and I’m comfortable financially. At the same time, I’d love to get married,” Muna said. “I also think it would be amusing for the roles to be reversed and sort of ‘own’ the man for a change and having him owe me rather than the other way around.”
Rooted in Secrecy
Despite optimistic expectations, such marriages are not always blissful. Former and current misyar spouses said it can become a nightmare if
pregnancy results from the union or if there are already children from former marriages. With most misyar marriages rooted in secrecy, the husband is only a ghostly figure occasionally seen. Once a child is conceived, the luxury of secrecy disappears.
“My second misyar marriage was doing fine despite my hawk of a first wife,” said Abu Abdul Rahman. “But that was only until my second wife got pregnant, and then the real nightmare began. She wanted to announce our relationship publicly because it put her in bad situations societally — you can’t be single and pregnant. I had to tell my family and my wife, and all hell broke loose. Now both marriages are on the rocks.”
There can be other unforeseen consequences of secrecy. “I’d been married misyarically for almost a year when members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice paid me a terrible visit accusing me of prostitution,” said a 35-year old divorcee and mother of two who chose to call herself Warda.
“They wanted to drag me to the police station even though I kept shoving the marriage contract in their faces. I had to call my brother — with whom I wasn’t on speaking terms. It was terrible. I hated myself and hated all men — my children were 6- and 7-years-old.”
A social worker who frequents the courts denounced misyar marriage. “The courts are overflowing with problems from regular marriages regarding financial obligations that husbands ignore, custody problems and alimony,” she said.
“There is a horrible, growing problem in enforcing the law upon neglectful husbands and fathers. How can anyone legalize a procedure such as misyar marriage that will make room for more irresponsibility?” the social worker asked.
“Unfortunately, misyar marriage has made it easier for irresponsible, immature individuals to enter a relationship that is supposed to be based on credibility, reliability and respect,” said Abu Zaid, an elderly marriage official. “This isn’t the case. It’s treated as a temporary solution for lust. That’s not what marriage is all about. In regular polygamy all wives have exactly the same rights over the husband, be it financial, be it regarding time spent together or being public. Women think that misyar marriage is for their benefit when in fact on a long-term basis, they pay the price and not just from their pockets but from their emotions, as well.”
Women Being Sold Short
Many parents and children of misyar wives stated that they felt the woman as being sold short in such a marriage. Parents mostly said that the only reason they accepted the situation was in recognition of their daughters as adult women with their own needs and their right to respond to such needs. “I begged my divorced daughter not to marry a suitor who proposed a misyar marriage,” said Abu Fahda. “At the end, I gave in because I didn’t want to be the reason for her having an unlawful relationship with a man. I’m an adult, and I know she has her needs, but I’d be lying if I said that I have any respect for this stranger who comes to my house for intimacy with my daughter. I even have trouble looking her in the face,” he said. “My neighbor’s niece was married misyarically for a while, and then when the husband was done with her he just left her — just like that.”
Abu Fahda’s grandchildren share his sentiments — especially sadness. “I don’t know who this man is — this man who comes to our house and spends time with my mother,” said the 6-year-old boy. “He’s not my father, and he can’t be her husband because fathers and husbands live with their families.”
For sociologists, misyar marriage is a head-scratcher. “What are we telling others about our self-worth, and what are we telling our children about the significance and meaning of family?” asked Dr. Nahid L. “Marriage is about in-depth relationships — not just copulation. Why are more women willing to forgo what is theirs just to be ‘called’ or falsely feel married?”
When marriage was created it was to ensure that no one gets anything for free. “Each, husband and wife, has duties and rights — and even in regular marriages women are already taken for granted. Marriage isn’t just about sex. Misyar marriage is only going to make things worse as far as I’m concerned.”
Some say society msut consider other alternatives. “If they want to really solve the issue of unmarried women instead of making it easier for men to marry repeatedly and cheaply, they should make it easier for Saudi women to marry non-Saudis,” said a school teacher.
“Years ago in college, I overheard one of my son’s friends talking about marriage and girls, and he asked ‘why buy the cow when the milk is free?’ They were talking about loose girls and there not being any need for marriage with them around,” said a university professor. “With misyar marriage, haven’t we just legalized the ‘why-buy-the-milk-when-the-cow-is-free’ syndrome? And we’re supposed to be civilized?”