American in Arabia Muses on Saudi 'Misyar' Marriages: 'Halal Hook-Ups'

Published February 20th, 2012 - 10:58 GMT
As divorce rates climb around the world, it's easy to laugh it off as another social phenomenon in this ADD-ridden age- Shown for illustrative purposes.
As divorce rates climb around the world, it's easy to laugh it off as another social phenomenon in this ADD-ridden age- Shown for illustrative purposes.

A recent study in Saudi Arabia has shown that 35% of marriages end in divorce. This equals to roughly one divorce every half an hour. The noticeable effects this has on Saudi culture are increased expenses in families (for divorced divorcées who go back to the parents' house), young men delaying marriage because of the costs, and daughters who are marginalized (the stigma as a female divorcée puts limitations on women to find gainful employment in the Kingdom or another marriage).

It seems that many of the relationships were bound under a temporary guise of marriage called Misyar. While these are legal and religiously binding, they, in practice, play out as ‘till boredom do we part’. The result is a higher rate of divorces and marriages being treated without much consideration at all, even to the point that many don’t even register the union at the Civil Affairs office. Misyar is the Sunni version (roughly, if you will) of the more widely known Shia practice, Mutta, a.k.a “Hezbollah’s Halal hook-up” ...

"Today, it is also working to fulfill the sexual needs of its supporters, though a practice known as mutaa marriage.

Mutaa is a form of "temporary marriage" only acceptable within Shiite communities, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures. In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal. A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the "Party of God"-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained."

As an American, I don’t have a real platform to stand on when it comes to discussing lasting relationships, since our country’s divorce rate is creeping towards between 40-50% of all marriages. I would like to try and see the possible bright side of these gloomy statistics in Saudi Arabia. Reading about the financial strain that the present scenario is placing on families, it can be anticipated that some social and even civil laws will be lightened to manage this heavy situation.

Since the social infrastructures for women seem channeled towards married and stay-at-home mothers, other passages of industry will need to be created for the growing number of adult women who do not fit these parameters. A quick example would be the law against women driving. (Editor's Note: This practice is more to 'curb' potential female sexual indiscretions) If these single females can’t drive, then most can’t work. If they can’t work, they can’t well invest in their community’s development. A society built only on  the input and sweat of men is, in my opinion, incomplete and lacking. A woman’s touch is needed in more places than just the home.

The other aspect of Saudi culture that will hopefully change is, like family counselor Al Sheik Al Falaja alludes to in the article, men will have to grow up and take responsibility. The article mentions that, as the system works now, men can continue to live as bachelors, being cared for by their wives just like their mothers have been doing. If the wife questions or catches him being unfaithful, the married bachelor can just end the marriage, or so it was called.

The reality of a strong lasting marriage is partnership, unconditional love and patience. While I am not arguing against roles, this idea of the husband being laboriously catered to by his wife is futile and does not seem fair to the women at all. Anyone can be served, but it takes a real man to love and serve his wife.

This disease of stunted maturity and growth among husbands is spreading throughout the world. It sounds like these Saudi men, and American men, need the lecture I got the day before my wedding.

“Son, this woman to be your wife is always to be pursued, always to be treasured, always to be loved. Every hour of every day, ask yourself if you are still giving her chase.”

The women have some changes to make, as well. I’m not saying males are to be held completely responsible for failed relationships. I’m just encouraging men to do their part to change that divorce statistic. Men, instead of every hour,  how about you give your wives chase every half hour of every day.

By Brett Weer

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