Nadia is a Saudi woman who overcame the objections of her family to marry her Turkish husband. After much difficulty, she secured the approval of her brother to do so but getting the approval of marriage was even more difficult. She succeeded because Allah makes the impossible, possible. This is her story which I thank her wholeheartedly for sharing.
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to reach others who may be in a difficult position and just want to know about the permission process. I remember the endless days of waiting when I would scourge the internet trying to find any information-good or bad I didn’t care; all I wanted was info.
I’m a Saudi who has lived most of her life outside of the Kingdom. My mother was a foreigner and so we spent quite a bit of time abroad in the States and Europe. Finally my father brought us back to the ME and we settled in Dubai. I met my husband through his sister, who was my friend in high school. She had told me she had an older bro who would suit me nicely but i just laughed in off. I met him a couple of times during high school but then he moved back to Turkey and I went on to my higher studies.
In 2003 my father passed away and I get a phone call from my friend’s brother. He tells me that he’s ready to settle down and would like to ask my hand in marriage. Of course I’m shocked. The year had already brought so many changes and this could go either way. At first I didn’t think of my family or how they would react. I would live with this man in marriage, not them, and so I decided to get to know him a little better. In early 2004, I felt that I was ready to make a decision and so brought the issue forward to my brother who had become my legal guardian. My brother is an open-minded individual and so didn’t say no outright, but he did have concerns. He was worried about children, where I would live, could my husband support me financially, how religious my husband was, and divorce. It was very discouraging.
I knew my brother only wanted what was best for me and yet having to think about so much negativity when marriage is supposed to be so positive was quite depressing. My brother and I would have monthly conversations (he was in Saudi while I was in Dubai) and we’d go back and forth between all his concerns. I tried my best to keep calm and to really think about what he was saying. I knew that though I felt like this was the man for me, I could be blinded. I prayed istikharah continuously and kept on talking to both my brother and husband-to-be. I felt then that it would be an uphill struggle but I didn’t get quite how much of a struggle it would be.
In fall of 2004, my brother finally agreed to speak to and meet with my husband’s family. This was a huge step in the process. Every time I asked my brother what he thought about the proposal he would just say ‘I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no!’. Such annoying words till today. Nobody else in my family knew about the proposal. This was according to my brother’s wishes since he knew the backlash we would get. After the first meeting, things slowed down. My brother became busy and I grew desperate and so I thought that if I had an elder speak to my brother perhaps that would help matters. So I asked my aunt to intervene on my behalf. It seemed like such a good idea at first and she seemed really supportive and did actually speak to my brother but then she changed her mind. She wouldn’t come out and speak of her disapproval but it was shown in many, many other ways. She did come to my wedding but her disapproval was on her face and till today my relationship with her and my cousins has never been the same.
Finally it was my husband who confronted my brother in early 2005. He told him how unfair it was that he should make us wait without even giving us an answer and that it was about time to make up his mind. My brother requested some time to make up his mind. My brother took a year. A year where the subject was not brought up. I was too tired and demoralised. I kept praying to God. I knew that God would take care of me. I put all my trust in Him. I concentrated on my studies and just tired to deal as best I could. My husband was also patient. It wasn’t easy but we knew that if we were meant to be then it was in God’s Hands.
It was now 2006 and my husband tried one last time with my brother. My brother finally said YES! I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it. I thought the hardest part was over. Silly me, the ride was just about to start. Immediately my brother started the paperwork for the government approval. My husband had to submit proof of identity, residence papers, salary certificate, proof that he wasn’t married, and proof that he had no criminal record. In the summer of 2006 my husband, brother and I made one of our first trips to the Saudi Embassy in Abu Dhabi where the papers were stamped and I was made to sign some paper proving my identity. We went back to the embassy in late 2006/early 2007 where my husband had to sign a paper stating that he would never ask for Saudi nationality.
All this time my brother and husband were continuously looking for some wasta who could help speed up the process. We had all heard the horror stories of documents lost (happened to us twice) and people spending years waiting. My husband got hold of a Saudi prince who assured us his help only if we had got our first denial. But there was no word from the government. There was no way to check how far into the process we were. There was no time frame. My brother would only tell me that it was going good and that since we didn’t have a ‘no’ I should be thankful. It had now been 3 years since I had first brought up the issue with my brother and I was getting impatient. I either wanted the marriage to go through or to just move on.
I looked into marrying with a sheikh only, but in the whole of the GCC they all want government approval first. My husband then researched into marrying in Turkey while waiting for the approval and we fielded the idea to my bro. He was quite against it but after many tears from me, he finally agreed to it at the end of 2007 if nothing had happened by then. Finally I thought there was an end in sight. Thankfully in April 2007 I get a phone call from my brother. We got the permission. I kept asking him ‘Are you sure????’. There were still some legalities to work out. Two more trips were made to the Saudi Embassy and my husband and I both had to undergo medical tests.
My husband and I had our milka-engagement with a marriage contract- in May 2007. There were still issues with my family, of course. Saudis really aren’t good into letting strangers into their private lives. For the first year of our marriage my husband felt like an outsider. We didn’t live anywhere near my family, but still the family connection that is supposed to be there was missing. My husband felt looked down upon and hated having anything to do with my family. This has probably contributed to my taking a distance from them, too. Thankfully things have gotten better. My brothers have gotten round to the idea of having a Turkish brother in-law and are finally getting to know my husband. They are realising that he’s actually a pretty good guy. With my extended family things aren’t so good. My husband isn’t welcome at gatherings and in fact in some cases neither am I.
It was only after my wedding that I realised what my brother had to do to eventually get the approval. Because at the time I was under 25 years and single my approval was almost impossible to get. My brother got it by paying a bribe. It hurts me to think of a country doing this to their own nationals. My country took away a right that God had given me and my country is supposed to be ‘religious’.
Looking back on my experience I am so thankful it is over. I know that it ran the course God had set and that it was all for a reason. I hope it has taught my husband and I something. But I still think the whole approval business is nonsense.