Is The Saudi Marriage Permission A Product Of Nationalism?

Whilst researching material for my upcoming article, “Why Saudis Marry Non-Saudis”, I stumbled upon Nzingha’s posting on the “Results Of Nationalism”. She lists three reasons why the Saudi Marriage permission laws were administered in her opinion and expounds on each point. I couldn’t agree with her more!

Shaykh bin Baz (rahimahullah) said regarding the evils of nationalism, “Indeed, Islaam has forbidden the calls of the Days of Ignorance (jaahiliyyah). There are many textual evidences that forbid all of the characteristics and deeds of these times of Ignorance, except for those (good) practices, which Islaam has condoned. And from that which there is no doubt of, is that the call to NATIONALISM is indeed one of these calls of Jaahiliyyah. This is because nationalism is a call to something other than Islaam and a support for something other than the truth. And how many crimes, evils and severe wars has such calls of Jaahiliyyah brought about upon the people, causing great harm to their souls, their wealth and their possessions. The consequences of such calls was a break in their (Muslim) unity, a harvesting of Enmity and Hatred for one another, in their hearts, and a splitting between them into tribes and nations!” (Taken from one of his beneficial books Naqd Al-Qawmiyyat-ul- ‘Arabiyyah (pp.39-44), which is a treatise refuting Arab nationalism.)

Tara Umm Omar

By Nzingha
Saturday, February 25, 2006

The concept of nationalism is one that I will never get used to. That a person is better than another based on their nationality, tribe, ethnicity, or gender is a notion that I strongly object to. Idiots are present in every creed, color, gender, and nationality no one holds a monopoly on this. So coming to Saudi and coming face to face with out right nationalism is difficult to get used to, not to mention by inability to handle it in a polite way. It is also something I wish to protect my children from, I don’t want them to be taunted in school because they are Americans and not Saudis. I don’t want them put down because of their tribe versus another’s. I am a stern believer in the words of our Prophet pbuh No one is better than the other based on race. And it is heartbreaking as a Muslim that this exists so strongly amongst Muslims.

How it dictates marriage on a family level is a pathetic state of bigotry in action. “He doesn’t come from a good tribe” will be the opposition to a young woman who has finally found a young man she would like to marry. “She is not a Saudi but some sexually defiled woman of another country” will be the claims of the ‘pure’ woman of a young Saudi males family when he wants to marry a foreign women. While these objections on such a personal level are pathetic and sickening it is one that an individual has to deal with versus some state institutionalized system, well unless you are from Saudi or some other Gulf country.

In Saudi Arabia a man or a woman must seek permission to marry a non Saudi before their marriage. While not all men do this, I know many who have married Americans and sought permission after the fact, the law states it must be before the marriage or it will not be recognized and any children will be born out of wedlock. According to the same Saudi Gazette article I just commented on (see post below) regarding women’s rights, these laws are in place for several reasons.

1. To guarantee the rights of the Non Saudi woman to full rights as a Saudi- This I’ve already addressed below.

2. To minimize the possible divorce cases by Saudi women when they find out their husbands are married to another woman- Now this may seem reasonable on the surface of course it is assuming that a man can’t get married secretly even if he marries another Saudi woman when in fact he can. A man doesn’t have to notify or seek permission from his first wife in order to marry another woman. He can quite easily marry one, two or even three other women and the first wife, or any for that matter have no clue about it even if they are all Saudis. Families will keep it from you, even with registering the marriage there is no law that says a man must notify any wife he has presently. So such policies in no way minimize a divorce rate because men marry secretly.

3. To help reduce the number of spinsters in the Kingdom- Spinsters are basically 25+ year old women who have yet to marry and their hopes of marrying are dwindling down to sheer desperation. The thought if marrying a wife that is older brings the assumption that she won’t be able to have children as easily or as much children. There is the thought that something must be wrong with her if she has not married yet of course but the main reason is deep seeded in the idea of the perfect bridal image. While this is not to say that women don’t get married at a latter age, these women tend to be forced, in one way or another, to settle for any guy who comes around seeking her hand in marriage. No matter how awful, gross, or disgusting as long as he can pay the dowry and give her a chance at married life.

The rate of ‘spinters’ in the Kingdom really won’t change even with the desire of the authorities to force men out of marriage options by limiting who they can marry legally. Spinters, by Saudi definition, will continue to rise simply do to the overwhelming cost of marrying a Saudi woman. Add in the rate of divorce among Saudis, in some places reaching 50%, and any man that can do math would not think its worth marrying a Saudi woman. Until the entire societies concept of dowry and weddings changes and meets the economic and social situations of the majority of Saudis you can rest assured that spinster membership will continue to rise beyond anyone’s expectations.

The average rate of dowry, and I may be on the low estimate here, is about 20,000 SR about 5334 USD which doesn’t seem so bad. Unless of course you add in the engagement gift which is jewelry that is to equal the amount of the dowry. So right off the bat you are out 40,000 SR which is a lot to a young man just starting out in life seeking to find a spouse.

Even this can be arguably doable for most Saudi guys if he spent a few years saving, considering most don’t have living expenses like many young single American guys. Saudi guys tend to live with their families and not pay much into the cost of living in the house, i.e food, upkeep, electricity and so on. So it may take a few years and it could be workable without much strain on the young man, but you have yet to add in the cost of the wedding.

Weddings are an overdone event that do nothing more than turn into a flesh market for young marriageable girls to show off their goods to perspective inlaws. They are also some of the most over dressed events of the year with women spending thousands of riyals for their gowns that they tend to squeeze into with cleavage, hips, fat, and other body parts bursting at every seem. They take place at over charged wedding halls that have to be catered for with the average crowd being the population of a small town. Add in that everyone tends to bring someone not invited and it is filled with the shreeks of unbehaved children who should have been in bed a long time ago. Wedding gowns are to the hilt I assure you, long flowing trains from a dress complete with bead work, and lace that most American women would kill for. Of course only to be sat in on the stage to show off the beautiful bride that this man is to be blessed with just as is if she is some stiff poseable barbie doll.

Of course the event wouldn’t be complete without two photographers trailing behind the bride, careful not to include any shots of the non covered women about to burst the seems of their dresses. As well as live musical entertainment or at the very least a DJ who has no understanding that ‘loud’ doesn’t always mean good. Of course the men’s side of the wedding hall is generally a quick meal, thobes from the closet, and perhaps some small entertainment with a nervous groom, not over the wedding night to come, but the bills that he has just racked up that has put him into debt for many years to come. Think at least 100,000 SR for this blessed event and you’ll begin to understand why Saudi men choose to marry foreign women.

Keep in mind this young couple not only starts their life in debt but will also have to make ends meet in their newly furnished apartment. And if the family goes as most do here she will be pregnant with baby #1 within the next three months adding to the financial pressures of a young Saudi man only seeking to be married and do the right thing. Do keep in mind that most young Saudi men seeking to get married don’t have a small fortune at their disposal. Contrary to the televised version of Saudis they aren’t all millionaires with a harem behind their walls. They are everyday people striving to make ends meet in a society that has an extremely high unemployment rate among Saudi males. The minimum wage which is suggested and supported by the government is totally devoid of any reality when it comes to living in this society for the average family. While it isn’t expensive compared to most US cities, it isn’t exactly the cheapest place in the world either. So for a man to go in debt and spend years saving to get marred is a major accomplishment on their part and also a source of extreme stress for a newlywed couple.

So why would a Saudi man in his right mind go through such lengths to even marry a Saudi woman? This is what most of the young Saudi males we know are talking about. Beyond the fact that their families are very particular on the girls tribe and family name the young guys think it is absurd to go to such extreme wasteful costs to get married. Some feel they are left with no choice but to and yet others take on the choice to marry a non Saudi woman even if it is not recognized by the Saudi government.

There are many Saudi men who will travel to neighboring countries to marry women who won’t demand much in the finance department. This is not to suggest that all of these men go out seeking wives with pure intentions and that many women are not left high and dry in the end or that children don’t suffer from secret and unrecognized marriages. But it does suggest that even with such nationalistic laws in place it does not stop men from marrying non Saudi women. In fact what it does is simply leave women and children as victims with no rights in the end.

Take for example if a Saudi man goes off to a country which doesn’t permit a woman to pass on her citizenship to her children. The man can go and marry her illegally under Saudi laws and the child is not recognized as the fathers. Not only is this denying a child of their birth right, and allowing men to shirk on their responsibilities as fathers and husbands but it also leaves a woman in a situation where she can not help herself nor her child and will be victimized by a man as well as a system that allows for such victimization.

What is left with such rules is spinster Saudi women, men who marry secretly anyway, and victims both women and children from such secret marriages. Add in that it is a system that feeds the ongoing unIslamic practice of nationalism and seeks to deprive Muslim men of their right to marry whom they choose among the halal (permitted) based souly upon nationality and/or race. Not to mention it denies Muslim women the protection to have their marriages recognized that are halal and blessed by her own family and thus become victims of men with ill intentions and allows them to have no accountability.

But that brings us back to the first line of reasoning, the rules in place to guarantee a woman’s rights the same as a Saudi woman, which is no rights for the most part. Anyone else dizzy with this reasoning?

* do let it be known I’m not suggesting that Saudi men are all womanizers marrying foreign women by deceitful means. It does happen but the opposite also happens, they marry foreigners with pure intentions and go on to have great long lasting marriages, even if it happens to be long distance at times.


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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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