Tag archive for ‘misyar in saudi arabia’
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.
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?”