RIYADH, 22 June 2003 — “Mesyar” or marriages of convenience are a contentious issue. Fatwa follows fatwa on the matter, some saying they are lawful, some saying they aren’t. Despite these disagreements, they persist, with men preferring them over adultery and women prepared, for the sake of having a man at their side, to give up the right to a home, any claim to be kept in style, and sometimes even to have children. Sayidaty conducted a survey on recently, and found Saudis roughly evenly divided on the issue.
Fahad is from Riyadh and works in Jubail. He told the magazine there was in his opinion nothing wrong with a marriage of convenience. “The traditional marriage is very expensive these days. But I don’t have much money at the moment, so for the time being a Mesyar marriage is the only thing for me.”
He says he spends the week at work and sees his wife at weekends. “My family don’t know about her. I am sure if I ever have to go back to Riyadh I will leave her behind, but not until we reach some kind of agreement.”
Khaled has plumbed for a Mesyar marriage to avoid the responsibility of a proper marriage. “I dream of having a wife, family and children, like everyone else. It isn’t that I am irresponsible.
It’s just that a proper marriage is such a big step, and I just can’t handle the responsibility at the moment.”
He says he has seen many of his friends’ marriages fail. “A Mesyar marriage takes a lot of the pressure off,” he adds, “at least for now.”
Abu Majed is 26 years old and dreamed of having a child of his own. But after five years of marriage he has four children, and he claims he is not happy. He has asked his friends to find him a woman that will agree to a Mesyar marriage.
“My marriage cost me over SR100,000. I feel less like a husband and more like a bank for my family.” He says his wife has stopped taking care of him. “She only pays attention to the children. When I ask her to go out or spend some time with me somewhere else she insists on taking the kids with her. When one of them is sick, she won’t go out at all.”
Abu Majed is therefore back to his bachelor lifestyle. “I spend most of my time with my old friends. I am serious about a Mesyar marriage. I need a woman that will understand me, someone who will go out to dinner with me a couple of nights a week.
“Let my first wife spend time with children if she wants. The only condition that I have for this Mesyar marriage is that she doesn’t have children with me. I have enough children from my first wife”.
Eyad comes from another Arab country and is married to a Saudi woman in a Mesyar arrangement. “Our marriage is more like a business deal that we both agreed to. She wants a husband and children, something that I am willing to give to her. She does not care is she sees me once or twice a week. What I need from her is money and financial aid in this country. It is something that she gives me. We live by this agreement and we are both happy.”
Because of his happy experience with the arrangement, Eyad is matchmaking for his friends as well. “Why do people get upset about this kind of arrangement? There are a lot of unmarried women out there who like Mesyar marriages.”
Saudi researcher Abdulmalik Al-Mutlaq carried out a detailed study of Mesyar marriages. Among his findings were that Mesyar marriages are a legal contract even if women choose to give up their right of housing and expenses. There are advantages to the arrangement. One is to help solve the problem of unmarried women. It also enables men in financial difficulties to get married. For men, it can be a marriage for pleasure only.
Detailed answers were as follows:
Does society accept this kind of marriage?
Don’t know: 11%
Could Mesyar marriages be better than marrying more than one wife?
Don’t know: 18%
Would you consider entering into a Mesyar marriage (for both men and women)?
Does Mesyar marriage help men who cannot afford a traditional marriage?
Don’t know: 6.25%
Does Mesyar marriage comply with women’s rights?
Don’t know: 11.25%
Do men use this kind of marriage for their pleasure?
Don’t know: 6.25%