Back on 31 March 2007 I wrote about Temporary Husbands Needed for some female students who had one scholarships to study overseas but could not take this up unless they were accompanied by a male guardian (not even their mother’s could go with them, it had to be a male).
A follow-up piece was published today in the Arab News called Mesfaar Marriage Travel Solution for Women. So, apart from the fact that I misspelled mesfaar before, what’s happened?
It seems that some of the women have managed to enter into “marriage contracts”. It also seems that there has been some opposition to this as the mesfaar is considered by some to not be a valid marriage.
After learning about the requirements that women students need to have a male guardian in order to go abroad, some friends and I decided to get married. We announced that we were hoping to marry quickly in order to meet the deadline for our scholarship applications,” said an applicant of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.
Speaking about the name of the marriage, student Zuleykha (not her real name) said: “The name was coined because we announced that we wanted to get married in order to travel abroad. That’s why it’s called the mesfaar marriage.”
According to Zuleykha, mesfaar marriages are perfectly legal and do not contradict principles of Islamic marriage. “They are in accordance with normal marriage conditions, which include the acceptance of the marriage from both sides, the attendance of witnesses, marriage registration, the consent and knowledge of families from both sides and the dowry,” she said, adding, “We don’t care so much about the name of the marriage as long as it’s according to Islamic norms.”
There is much discussion going on about the pros and cons of this, with some scholars noting that as the objective of the marriage is not for creating families then it cannot be valid. Of course all this would not be a problem if it were not for the travel restrictions imposed by the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. It seems that the student is not permitted to travel alone even if the student’s guardian gives permission for this. Male students do not have this problem at all.
Saudi Arabia seems to have a number of “marriages of convenience” now, including:
- misyaar – which is more correctly nikah al-misyaar and from what I can understand means “marriage with the intention of divorcing” or a temporary marriage – perhaps this is a way of having a paramour for a year or so
- zawaj -The real difference between a normal Islamic marriage and Al Zawaj Al O’rfi (commonly acknowledged) is that the Al Zawaj Al O’rfi does not take place in a court, or in the presence of a judge.
- mesfaar – temporary marriage to permit travel
The students do have some selection guidelines however:
“He needs to be single. We don’t want to be home wreckers. He also needs to be employed. Being employed proves that a man is hardworking and can bear the responsibilities of life,” said Zuleykha, adding, “We consider the dowry to be a natural entitlement. Girls who opt for mesfaar marriages don’t want to end up losing anything in case the marriage breaks up.”
This seems to pretty much describe most marriages with the exception of a choice based on the heart that we have in a western environment.
And if anyone was wondering, the necessary parts of an Islamic marriage are:
- The Wali (guardian) of the woman must accept the proposal. He does that by saying, for example, “I accept your offer to marry my daughter”. The proposer then must reply that he accepts that.
- These acceptances should be in the presence of two witnesses.
- The marriage should not be secret, that is, is should be announced publicly.
All this is usually done in a court or in front of a judge.