Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Temporary marriages are forbidden in Islam, declared grand mufti of Saudi Arabia

No to temporary marriages

RIYADH: Temporary marriages are forbidden in Islam, declared Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, while answering a viewer’s question on Channel One of Saudi TV.

Thinking the mufti was delivering a verdict on “misyar” marriages, many newspapers and websites were quick to point out that the mufti’s ruling was contrary to a fatwa delivered by 60 Islamic scholars at a Muslim World League meeting sanctioning misyar marriages.

Misyar is a form of marriage that fulfills all legal requisites of a normal union, but spouses are not committed to living together in the same house and the woman can give up some of her rights, such as monetary support.

The misunderstanding was perhaps caused by the channel running a banner on the screen saying that the grand mufti forbids misyar marriage, whereas he was only discussing temporary “misfar” marriages, in which men marry while staying abroad with the intention of divorcing their wives when they return home.

In his television broadcast, Al-Asheikh condemned temporary marriages, saying they were forbidden in Islam and only undertaken for pleasure. The concept of marriage involves settling down and making a home and temporary marriages do not allow this to happen, he said, adding that this could result in an uncertain future for children born from such matrimonies.

Speaking later about the mis-understanding, Al-Asheikh said, “My answer was regarding temporary marriages with the intention of divorce.”

While emphasizing the need for men to care for their wives, Al-Asheikh said he does not forbid misyar marriages as long as the legal conditions that constitute a marriage are met. He, however, added that he does not feel such marriages are suitable for women wanting to lead healthy married lives.

On the other hand, people who view all types of nontraditional marriages as corruption in society claim the grand mufti has finally admitted misyar marriages are inappropriate and children born from such unions have bleak futures.

Misfer M., a 36-year-old banker, said forbidding misyar and similar newly introduced marriages is the only way to ensure young people abide by religious regulations with regard to marriage.

“New types of marriages are giving young people an easy way to evade responsibility and legalize strange relationships. It isn’t right that people, even Islamic scholars, justify them,” he added.

Some people say there is no harm in misyar marriages, as long as they meet the requirements of Shariah. Maram, a 42-year-old hospital employee, is divorced and has two children. Maram lives with her children, elderly mother and a young sister, and is responsible for their care.

“No man will accept sharing this responsibility with me,” she said. “I am also unwilling to increase my responsibilities by taking on a conventional husband with full time responsibilities.”

It was because of her particular situation that Maram agreed to a misyar marriage in which she meets her husband during the week and keeps her weekends free for her children, mother and sibling.

Nojoud, a teacher and mother of a five-year-old girl, says there is nothing wrong in misyar marriages. The 28-year-old was recently divorced following a troubled six-year marriage. “I don’t expect my family to accept it as it is frowned upon by society. Provided its name change, it is a very convenient type of marriage for women in my situation,” she said, adding that her ex-husband has remarried and left her with their child.

“A full-time marriage for me means responsibilities in addition to my job and daughter. Such a marriage would most likely result in me neglecting my child,” she added.

Experts mention several reasons for the increase in new forms of marriages. These include increases in dowries and living expenses, leading to an escalating number of unmarried women; rise in the number of divorces; the inability of men to bear the responsibilities of having families and running homes; women willing to be part of polygamous relationships; career women finding it difficult to make full-time family commitments; and the unstable nature of work for men.

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