What’s the difference between a Saudi and a Finnish wedding ceremony?
-In Saudi the groom is the one in long white dress and the bride is wearing black!
-Instead of “you may now kiss the bride” in Saudi it’s “you may now see the bride”.
Ok so as I promised in my previous post about getting the marriage permission in Saudi, I will tell you of the day we went to the judge to get married. We had already been Islamically married in Finland for some while but we had to do the nikah again in Saudi in front of a judge to finalize the marriage permission process and making our marriage acknowledged in Saudi Arabia.
For preparations I had to disguise my 9 months pregnancy belly. I had gotten a very loose fitting over the head abaya for the occasion. Underneath it I wore a tight belly-corset and then four sweaters to try to look more evenly big. It worked, I looked in the mirror and saw a big mass of black with only the eyes visible. I had to walk a little slouched and try not to wobble! Needless to say it was not exactly comfortable or easy to manoeuvre myself in that abaya. I constantly felt it’s going to drop down from my head and my stomach will be exposed or that I would trip on it and fall over! I told my husband I felt like a bowling pin.
We arrived at the courthouse and met our witnesses and the man that acted as my wali(normally that would be my father if he was muslim).This building is solely for marriages and divorces and the marriages can be done from 10 to 12 p.m only. We went to wait outside the judges (Sheikh) room, and I went to sit in the female waiting area as the men handle everything here.
When we finally got into the judges room, I was the only woman there. The judge, his assistant, two witnesses and the wali were there. I felt somewhat awkward but tried to walk in as normally as possible and sat down in front of the judge. Sitting actually masked the belly really well.
The judge shuffled our papers around and then on seeing the conditions we had put in our contract laughed so hard his long beard jolted. I felt humiliated! He then asked me in arabic, why are you denying your husband his right for a second wife? I said because it’s my preference. He then continued to ask why I was asking for such an amount of muakhar(amount paid by husband to wife in case of divorce). I replied in case he takes another wife. The judge shook his head and everyone was quiet in the room.
Then he sent us all out. The man acting as my wali said the judge is not going to marry us because of the conditions, that we should just take them out. I was furious! I said absolutely not, and I want another judge! My husband and I had in fact already agreed to cut the muakhar amount in half before going to the judge from recommendation of the wali. I didn’t think it was the judges business to interfere with our personal decisions in the first place. Whatever the woman wants to add as extra conditions should be fine as long as they don’t go against Islam and of course the husband agrees to them.
We saw other couples going in and out in under five minutes. Finally we got called back in.
Then suddenly he started asking for my Shahadah certificate (certificate that I a muslim).We didn’t have it because on my iqama it states I’m muslim and it should have been enough. The judge started insisting he could not marry us without this paper. He sent us out again. My husband had to go to some sheikhs office to try get some kind of paper without avail. We went back to the judge. He said if you get me the certificate before 1 p.m it’s ok. It was 12:15.
We rushed to the car and drove home like crazy. My husband ran upstairs to get the certificate, thank God we knew where it was! We were back at the courthouse at 12:40. But it seemed like this judge had disappeared into thin air. We searched for him everywhere for about an hour. He clearly didn’t want to marry us and used the shahadah certificate as an excuse to get himself out of it.
So now what? My husband went around the courthouse asking if we could have another judge. He finally found one but we had to wait another half hour to see him. I was getting extremely uncomfortable and hot in my gear and hadn’t had anything to drink in fear of needing to use the toilet and disassembling everything.
The second judge did not laugh at the conditions, but told me he will not include the no second wife condition in the contract. This time there was an interpreter in the room also, although most of what the judge said was not translated. He lectured my husband for a long time about agreeing to this condition. “Islam allows you up to four wives”. As if he wasn’t aware and we hadn’t already discussed everything and mutually agreed. My blood was boiling but I tried to stay calm. The judge was saying my husband can’t know if he changes his mind in the future. The sheikh told me this is not Islam. I said it’s my right to have it in there. I was getting really upset because I felt he was just thinking of the rights of the man ignoring the woman’s. What was it to him anyway, this was our personal issue! He insisted we go home and think things over.
I wasn’t going to back out however much he was trying to intimidate me. So then the judge finally agreed to add it.
Next the judge had a problem with the muahkar. He said this amount is unheard of and against Islam. Really? Actually who is he to say what is a fair amount? Women don’t get much anything here, let alone half of everything like in the west in case of divorce so I wanted to have it there as a sort of insurance. Again the lectures began. He tried to persuade me to take it out. I told him he is pressuring me and THAT is against Islam. He questioned my husband over and over. It looked like he was not going to marry us if I didn’t do as he wished. I was so annoyed at the whole situation. It was unbelievable. I felt like he was trying to strip me of my rights in a room full of men and I thought to myself I am not going to BUDGE.
It paid off. After a long moment of silence the judge agreed after asking the witnesses to testify my husband was in his right mind and not sick or delusional (to agreeing to marry some woman as stubborn and demanding and aware of their rights as me I guess!). The judge read out something in arabic and stated the extra conditions. We both said we agreed and then everyone signed the paper. I tried to get up from my chair as normally as possible and slouched over when I walked up to him to sign. And finally it was over! It was mentioned Finland was not in their system and they had to add it in.
What a relief! We went outside and took some pictures in front of the building with our license. It was very windy and my belly was fully visible now. As we were taking the pictures the judge left the building and passed us in his car :D
I’m not sure were the judges so hesitant because we are a mixed couple or if this the typical stance of Saudi judges. Don’t Saudi women ever ask for these conditions to look after their interests?
In all the whole process took about 5 hours instead of the anticipated 5 minutes! But it was worth it of course, we are very lucky to get the permission in the first place. I will never forget my Saudi wedding day!