A Buffet Of Unions

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Arab News
1 November 2010

The misyar or marriage of convenience within the country’s borders became a popular variant of marriage after it was sanctioned by some of our sheikhs.

Essentially a license to have multiple partners without much responsibility or expense, it was soon followed by the misfar and other variations as well.

“Misfar” marriage refers to a union contracted so that a woman may cohabitate with her foreign “husband” for the period of time he is visiting a foreign country. These women are usually divorced after a short period that ranges from a week to a month. It is natural that most of these women who are married off come from deprived backgrounds, and for most of them, they have very little say in the matter.

Reports in the Saudi press recently spoke of growing concerns over the number of children fathered by Saudi men in their trips abroad, and abandoned for all practical purposes. And while these overseas amorous urges and paternal distribution of genes is not necessarily restricted to Saudis, the number of wives and children left behind is of alarming proportions.

At a conference in Egypt, Aiman Abu Akeel, chairman of the Maat Foundation for Peace and Development, stated that the majority of men who visit Egypt looking for misfar (tourist) marriages tend to be Saudi, followed by Iraqis, and that the women they marry are predominantly younger than them.

In Egypt, the parents receive up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds from the visitors for sanctioning their approval for a limited time marriage. Most of these girls are below 16 years of age, and do not understand that they are being treated like commodities.

And it’s not just in Egypt that such a growing problem exists. There are abandoned wives and children in significant numbers in many countries by traveling Saudis. In Morocco, there are reports of over 5,000 wives and as many children who had been deserted by their tourist husbands without honor or gratuity.

In Syria, Yemen, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, similar numbers exist making it a growing concern for the Saudi government who is beginning to force moves to make it obligatory for such errant fathers to own up to the responsibility of parenthood. The semiautonomous consultative Shoura Council has been tasked to study the issue of children born of non-Saudi wives and abandoned by their Saudi fathers.

Najeeb Al-Zamil, founder of the Back to the Roots Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that helps Saudi children abroad, said that there are many such children in Arab countries and that the men abandon their temporary wives and subsequent children for fear of discovery by their relatives back home.

He added that many children live in miserable conditions and turn to drugs and illegal activities, deprived as they are of their true identity, although there have been others who have become success stories.

In Morocco, the Saudi ambassador said the problem was compounded by the fact that many Saudis marry Moroccan women without their family’s knowledge, and blamed the misery of these women on irresponsible Saudis.

“We give the children Saudi nationality if the woman can prove that she was married to a Saudi. The main problem we face is dealing with Saudis who do not cooperate with us. We at the embassy feel great pain toward our sons and daughters who have been abandoned like this. I try every day to call their fathers to solve their problems,” he stated.

He added that Saudi embassies have been advised to register children and issue temporary travel documents that allow fathers to bring their children to the Kingdom and arrange passports and ID cards for them. Fathers, however, could be punished for violating the law and that this could be in the form of a travel ban or a prison sentence.

This recent phenomenon following the oil-boom years of sanctioning various fabrications of unions has obviously has had its price in the rising number of abandoned women and children fathered by Saudi men in different parts of the world.

Religious leaders who were quick to sanction such unions between man and woman and legitimizing it to the degree of making it palatable within the framework of Islam should be aware of the consequences. Don’t they possess the wisdom to foresee the tragic end of some of their edicts?

(talmaeena at aol dot com)

Photo Credit: Kazdar

Further Reading: Easier Misyar Tieups

Misyar marriages have suddenly become easier in Saudi Arabia – thanks to mushrooming websites that cater to an increasing clientele interested in these marital arrangements. Taking cue from the popularity of these marriages, a number of agencies have launched websites such as http://www.almisyar.com http://www.aefaf.com to receive misyar marriage requests. Shaikh Rodwan Al Hammadi, supervisor of a website told Gulf News that since they launched this site, three months ago, they received 9,141 marriage requests from men and women from both inside and outside Saudi Arabia. Al Hammadi pointed out that most requests come to them from the Gulf countries. “But we have also received requests for Misyar marriage from Muslims in Europe, Australia and America,” he added. So far the site has succeeded in arranging the wedding for nine couples from different nationalities, he said, adding that the number is expected to increase due to the increase in the requests they were getting.


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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

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