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March 7, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3643

Saudi Columnist Criticizes Phenomenon of Pleasure Marriages

March 7, 2011
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 3643

In a satirical article in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, liberal Saudi columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi[1] criticized the phenomenon of religiously-sanctioned pleasure marriages in Saudi Arabia.[2] The article described a new form of marriage that has emerged in the country, called 'day marriage,' in which a man, single or married, may marry one or more women and meet with them during his work hours for sexual purposes, all as part of a religiously-sanctioned arrangement.

Following are excerpts from the article:

"We [men] wander around, play and amuse ourselves, looking for a secret woman toward whom we have no obligations and whom we can enjoy without the knowledge of the mother of [our] children. We get rid of her the minute she starts feeling like a married woman in the full sense of the word, one who has some rights with us. Exploiting her [difficult] circumstances, her loneliness and her poverty, we approach her with the heart of a poet, the conscience of a he-goat, the brute strength of an ox, and the cunning of a fox. We toy with her, peel her before eating, or eat her up, peel and all. We call this predatory act a misyar, misfar or mityar [marriage],[3] so that we [can] say that we slaughtered our pretty prey in accordance with Islamic law.

"One of the recent innovations in quick marriages is the 'day marriage.' This is a very practical arrangement, in which you can ask permission [to leave] your place of work for an hour or two, in order to carry out your blessed attack and conquer your 'secret, pretty young girl.' It is best to rent an apartment for her close to your place of work, the better to hold private, intense meetings with her, during which you will address [your] painful issues from every angle. When you return home, and ask the mother of your children to keep the little ones quiet because you've [just] come home from work and are tired to the bone, she will say to you: 'May Allah give you strength, father of my children. By God, if only all employees labored like you, our situation would not be as it is.'

"It is also advisable to print numerous copies of the 'day marriage' contract, in case, while moving your 'day wife' – white as Turkish labneh, fresh as Saudi shakshouka [a dish of eggs cooked in tomato sauce] – between furnished apartments and hotels, you bump into a member of the [Saudi religious police], and he asks you about this woman with you. In such a case, you should keep the conversation brief [by] handing him a copy of the marriage contract, along with a copy of the religious ruling on 'day marriage.' Before he finishes reading [them], take the initiative and say: 'May Allah protect us from the journalists who distort the Islamic faith and try to corrupt the Muslim woman.'

"The greatest challenge you face in a 'day marriage' is keeping track of time, since you can fall into a lake of honey in an instant, but getting out of this 'sticky' and delicious mess involves a tough inner struggle. Even if you do overcome yourself and manage to leave the lake of honey in time, and thus manage [to get back] to your annoying boss before your break is up – [your] 'day' wife is likely to use her cunning and play a tape of [seductive] songs by Bahraini singer Ahmed Aljumairi...

"Another challenge is quickly erasing [all] traces of the morning [meeting with your lover]. To this end, you must arm yourself with a separate mobile phone designated only for the 'day marriage,' and pay rigorous attention to any marks or scents that might cling to [your] clothes. And if you have two 'day' wives – one for the morning and one for the afternoon – you had best to refrain from driving a car back to your home, for the sake of your safety and the safety of others.

"It goes without saying that you come from a respectable family, and that you zealously protect [the honor of] your female relatives, none of whom you would allow to be a 'day' wife... Just because you see [your wives] in shifts does not mean that you would allow one of your sisters or daughters to become [like] a newspaper that is read in the morning and then tossed out in the afternoon.

"One last word [of advice to] the 'day' [husbands]: You should go to bed early, make sure to eat breakfast, and cultivate strong ties with the perfume salesmen. Life is a journey of ongoing struggle. Go forth, predatory lions, toward the field of battle with full resolve and perseverance, and know [that all] hopes are on you, now that our lives are nothing but an amusement park. Have a red day [i.e., a salacious day]."[4]

Endnotes:

[1] Khalaf Al-Harbi, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Watan and the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jazirah, frequently engages in political and social criticism. In the past, he has criticized the phenomenon of underage marriage in Saudi Arabia. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.2623, "Saudi Father Weds Daughter, 10, to Octogenarian," October 29, 2009, Saudi Father Weds Daughter, 10, to Octogenarian.

[2] See MEMRI TV Clip #978, "Bahraini Women's Rights Activist Ghada Jamshir Attacks Islamic Clerics for Fatwas Authorizing Sexual Abuse of Children," December 21, 2005, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/978, in which women's rights activist Ghada Jamshir criticizes religiously-sanctioned mut'a (pleasure) and misyar (visit) marriages, on the grounds that they entail the sexual exploitation of women and even underage girls.

[3] Misyar, misfar, and mityar are types of marriage permissible in Islam. In misyar marriage, the woman relinquishes some of the rights that Islam grants her, such as the right to a home and to financial support from her husband, and, if he has other wives, the right to an equal part of his time and attention. Misfar marriage is a temporary marriage meant to provide a male guardian for female students while they are studying abroad. In mityar marriage, meant to serve the needs of flight crew who are away from home for long periods of time, the man is exempt from living with the woman and from paying alimony.

Additional types of marriage are mut'a ("pleasure") marriage, which is permissible according to Shi'ite Islam, and contracted for a limited period of time; such a marriage can be ended without need for a divorce. 'Urf ("custom") marriage is an arrangement that does not require an official contract and grants the woman no rights. In a "friend" marriage, the girl remains at her family's home, and she and the man do not maintain a shared household but meet whenever and wherever they want. The last type of marriage is aimed primarily at meeting the needs of young Muslims in the West, who wish to have a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship, as is customary in Western society, but with religious legitimacy. Misyaf marriage is practiced among rich men from the Gulf who go on summer vacation in other Islamic countries and marry local girls for a short period of time – a fortnight to two months – without the brides being aware of the time limitation.

[4] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 9, 2011.

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