A marriage based solely on lust and in which a degree of autonomy is still afforded: too good to be true? Quite possibly, and it is the exploitation of the notion of contractual marriage that is prompting outcry in Saudi Arabia.
Known by a plethora of terms, including zawaj al mut’aa, misyar is a form of contractual marriage that enables couples to live separately, but unite for the purpose of sexual relations.
According to the report, the women most likely to become embroiled in the union are spinsters, divorcees and widows seeking “a something-is-better-than-nothing option.”
For the man it is a boon, affording “a bit of fun on the side, in secret, and at a huge discount.”
And establishing a misyar is becoming rapidly easier with modern technology as the traditional means of going via the local sheikh is replaced with online adverts, such as the following:
Young man, 21, excellent monthly income, seeks marriage as soon as possible to single girls up to 70 kgs, living in Jeddah.
Saudi clerk, 38, from a well-known family, seeks pretty, white, delicate, businesswoman or clerk for misyar marriage. With Allah’s help, if things work out, the marriage will be official.
Accountant, 30, seeks misyar marriage with Saudi woman. Age, experience, number of children, widow or single or divorced unimportant. What is important is her ability to satisfy the needs of a man who desires things permitted by religion (halal).
The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, however, counters that misyar is an insult to both men and women and a sanction for the trafficking of women.
Reading the adverts above, it is difficult to disagree, particularly in the case of the latter, shiver-inducing request.
The question is, does misyar provide advantages to women? Free from the usual constraints of marriage the woman is possibly afforded a degree of autonomy.
Or is it merely another form of bondage in which a woman’s value is demoted to that of merely a sexual nature?
The usually vociferous clerics are still out on the virtues and vices of the arrangement – not to mention the subtle theological distinction between zawaj al mut’aa and misyar – and I find myself equally subjected to a divided opinion.
Thus I throw it open to you, the readers:
To read the full report by Syed Neaz Ahmad, click here.