Misyar Marriage: The Prostitution and Betrayal of the Female Gender

Misyar marriages have been discussed a lot in the Kingdom’s news lately, causing debate whether or not these marriages are acceptable/legal. The  Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs has recently announced that it will welcome misyar marriage applications for those who want to get married to female orphans under the custody of the ministry. On the other hand, this week a woman in Jeddah was found guilty of immoral and unlawful activities and acting as a pimp for arranging misyar marriages.

Misyar marriage is usually practised as a second marriage, kept secret from the legal first wife, done behind closed doors and lied about, which many Saudi men are masters of. saudi men bw

The term “Nikah Misyar” (translated sometimes as “travelers marriage” or “marriage of convenience”) is not found in the Qur’an, Sunnah or classical works of Islamic jurisprudence. Although polygamy is allowed under certain very strict conditions in Islam, (which you can read more about in this article “Sharing Husbands is Caring“) misyar is not a legal marriage as it denies women their full rights as a wife, such as providing her housing. Often the “husband” only visits the misyar wife (sometimes she still lives at her parents house) for sex, and this is what these marriages are based on, fulfilling the sexual desires of men under the guise of Islam, when in reality what is going on would be more accurately described as an extra-marital affair, infidelity, adultery, fornication or prostitution.

If you’re not familiar with the term misyar, often referred to as legalized prostitution, take a look at the following article which is a re-post from a blog written by a friend of mine, Kimberly Hadley-Mominah. Kimberly is a psychologist by profession residing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and she published this excellent article about misyar on her popular blog “BREAKING MY BOUNDARIES” . The original article can be found here.

 

“For those living outside of the Arab world, the concept of “misyar marriage” is a foreign concept, although the equivalency of misyar in the Western world is that of having an extra-marital affair. A relationship that is often based on meeting the sexual needs and conquest of men, and perhaps women, with no strings attached as far as responsibility on the part of the male.Misyar marriage is a secret marriage contract entered in by a woman and a man, in which they engage in sexual relations, in which the man has no responsibility to provide financial support, no responsibility of any children that may be born out of the sexual unions, as well as there is typically a “time span” in which this secret marriage is valid for. The women that engage in these marriages, may temporarily benefit in terms of materialistic gifts, vacations, love nests that are temporarily erected to carry out the acts of sexual relations, as well as meeting their own sexual desires. Perhaps these women also may have secret aspirations that the misyar marriage will transform into a traditional marriage through time.

These types of marriages are not registered with any type of government agency or authority, and they occur in secret, often away from the knowledge of legitimate wives, family members, or recognizing the temporary union to the public. The Islamic religion strictly forbids sexual relations outside the boundaries of marriage, hence the human creation of the misyar marriage, which allows people to fornicate, perhaps only once or numerous times, while avoiding the worldly consequences or responsibilities of engaging in sexual relations.

In these situations, it would be easy to buy into the worldview of the evil temptress whore, that uses her sexual energy to lure away the family man into lurid sexual activities, but to be completely honest, the only individuals that benefit at the end of day from these situations, are those that advocate the social acceptance of misyar, and the men that engage in the secret “affairs”. I am going to call it an affair, and not refer to it as a marriage for the rest of this piece, because calling it a “marriage” degrades the sanctity of what marriage stands for in terms of respect, honesty, and authentic pure intentions.

In addition, in terms of the Islamic principles of honesty, truth, and compassion, this practice is devoid of any of the aforementioned virtues. Misyar is built on the intentions of secrecy, deception, and in all reality, a lie. A lie not only to the legitimate wives and children of the men that choose to engage in this practice, but also to the women that agree to enter into the practice, as well as the risk of children being born out of these unions that have no legal and social rights of having two parents with the benefits of being recognized as a child of both parents. The women that are affected by this practice either by choice or by being legally married to a male that practices this way of life are victims.

The children born out of these sexualized temporary unions, as well as the children of legitimate marriages in which their father engages in these practice are victims, forever being scarred by the father’s lust, selfishness, and disrespect of the female gender.

Most men and women enter into a legal traditional marriage, with the expectation that love, trust, honesty, respect, and honor will be the pervading values of the union. It is often viewed as a lifetime commitment in which the two people merge their lives in their efforts to form a family, grow together through the different developmental life stages, as well as often have offspring to continue their own legacies into the future. While indeed Islam does have practices that provide routes for men engaging in polygamy, in which they are permitted to have up to four wives, in reality even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did not advocate the practice of polygamy by the conditions in which were set by the act of taking more than one wife.

One of the conditions is the man must treat the wives equally in terms of his affection, and material provisions and gifts. Perhaps a man can give equality by the material possessions and gifts that are given, but the equality in terms of affection is almost humanly impossible. In other words, it is permitted, but do not do it because even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) could not equate his affections equally among wives. In addition, the first wife must agree to the husband taking another wife and if she does not, she is permitted to divorce the husband.

This case scenario illustrates traditional marriages, but the practice of misyar does not even inform the wife of her husband engaging with sexual relations with another woman. The practice of misyar is not only a form of deception and lies to the legally sanctified traditional wife of a man practicing this form of deception, but it also puts the wife’s very health and life in jeopardy. Many countries require testing prior to traditional legal marriage of both the man and woman undergoing testing for the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Two of these STD diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis most often are fatal to those who are infected in the long-term. In addition, other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can cause infertility, or genital warts, which increases a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancers, and least of all the embarrassment and humiliation of being diagnosed with the social stigma of an STD.

The practice of misyar, because it does not require the marriage to be legally registered and is engaged in deceptively, does not entail the male or female to engage in testing of STDs. This is a lethal way to spread the transmission of STD’s not only between the two people that are engaging in the deceitful practice of misyar, but also to the innocent unsuspecting wife who believes she is in a mutually sexually exclusive relationship with her husband. In all honesty, neither the men, nor the women who engage in the misyar marriage are virgins who have abstained from sexual relations in the past, and are most likely to have the highest risk of carrying an STD. In fact, some of the women who engage in misyar relationships have a history of engaging in “secret sexual liaisons”, or misyar, one after another, to finance their style of living. For those of you from Western cultures who may be reading this article, we do have slang terms for these women such as “sluts”, “prostitutes”, or “whores” in all honesty.

The traditional legal wife is also an innocent victim in terms of dealing with the emotional and financial drains of her husband engaging in this type of deceitful relationship. As the husband sneaks off to engage in his sexual liaisons with the “secret woman”, this robs not only the wife, but also any children of time and support in the family household that should be available from the husband/father. In addition, the husband is spending the financial resources and future inheritance of the children as he engages in arranging vacations, apartments, as well as gifts to be given to the “other woman”.

Perhaps the most painful of all of this experience, is to the wife that finds out about the “secret relationship” and the emotional of feeling betrayed, belittled, and the feelings of inadequacy of worthlessness that accompanies many individuals that have experienced their partner engaging in an affair. Infidelity and the long-lasting scars can cut to the very soul and perception of one’s self as they question why their spouse has engaged in this type of relationship, that is if the wife ever discovers her husband’s extra sexual activities. It not only damages a woman’s perceptions of herself, but can also affect her ability in other roles in life, such as a mother, friend, or employee as she tries to work through the negative emotions that are often associated with this type of betrayal.

Although the women who engage in misyar are often portrayed as evil women with the intentions of gaining financial means, or the plots to secure a future legitimate legal marriage, they are also victimized through this practice. These women are typically never acknowledged as a legal wife, nor do they reap the benefits of inheritance from their sexual liaisons, or the security of a legal marriage. They are often used as a temporary escape from the reality of family life, in which men are able to fulfill their sexual desires outside the traditional boundaries of a public marriage with no future obligations to the woman. In addition, the social stigma involved to the woman that engages in such a type of relationship is often that she is “damaged goods”, either because of divorce, social status, nationality, social economic status (SES) that has been relegated to the role of servicing the sexual needs of a male without the benefits of a legitimate marriage.

While some advocate the misyar also is a benefit to these women, examining this practice in regards to these women, they are marginalized, used for sexual pleasure, and are not viewed as worthy enough to legitimize their presence publicly. Their motivation to engage in this type of arrangements may be done in part for momentary financial gains, but I am sure that some of them have the secret hopes that the relationship will develop into a long-term lasting eventual legal marriage, which typically does not happen. The hope of the man acknowledging this “secret women” in the future is bleak, because he has engaged in this type of relationship out of his own sexual lust, but most often will not risk the social condemnation, his legal wife, children, or reputation to have a long-term committed relationship. While he may eagerly profess his love to this woman, you have to question whether he truly has authentic love for anyone to engage in this type of relationship to manipulate and risk his legal wife and children, as well as the “secret woman”. He engaged in a misyar relationship through using deceit and lies, and rest assured this is a character of the individual that carries through in other relationships, including the misyar relationship.

The concept of misyar is built on the concept of “secrecy”. Often when we speak of secrecy, someone is being deceived, lied to, and betrayed. While the women, who engage in these types of relationships with men are often portrayed as the temptress set out to destroy the sanctity of marriage, in reality, the real transgressors in these types of arrangements are the men that are not only betraying their legitimate legal wife and children through their egotistical actions to satisfy their sexual urges, they also are manipulating and using the very women that they engage with in these secret sexual liaisons behind the closed doors of deception and secrecy.

The difference is one woman has chosen to engage in the practice, while the legitimate wife is often kept in the dark of the fraudulent behavior of her husband. The women in these types of arrangements may be marginalized by some type of socially constructed grouping in which they have been categorized either by life experiences, or by birth, but they too are humans with aspirations, dreams, and needs. Those that advocate and practice this type of secretive behaviors are the lone transgressors and oppressors of women and children, as well as illustrating the treachery and sham of dishonesty that humans can choose to engage in by their animalistic sexual urges that rob them of values, virtues, and honesty in relationships.

The practice of misyar is not a practice of Islam, because Islam advocates truth, honesty, humbleness, and respect. The practice of misyar is a creation of patriarchal men, who happen to be associated with the faith of Islam, but have bent the rules to satisfy their own selfish carnal needs, and have disregarded the female gender as human beings worthy of respect. For those who have limited understanding of the Islamic faith, this is not Islam, but is a construction of a practice by humans that seeks to circumnavigate the rules of Islam to quench sexual desires, while avoiding responsibility, honesty, and respect for the female gender.

I sincerely hope that women would stand up for their God given rights and not accept this type of “marriage”, not for themselves, their daughters or sisters. No woman deserves to be treated in such a way.

 

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  • Frederik HaentjensMay 5, 2014 - 4:46 am

    extra-marital affair, infidelity, adultery or prostitution happen with the consent of at least two individuals (otherwise it’s rape). You can have a moral issue with these type of relationships, but don’t blame it because it’s partially legalised. In addition these relationships are not a pure male invention :) women also seek extra-marital affair, infidelity of adultery, as much as men. Partially legalising is a way to control it. Example, what happens with a child conceived from extra-marital affair, infidelity, adultery or prostitution?ReplyCancel

  • Blue AbayaMay 5, 2014 - 7:55 am

    yeah, women also seek extra-marital affairs, but the difference is they can’t “marry” consequent husbands. So it’s a male invention 100%. Partially legalizing it was invented because it gives the cheating husbands a clear conscious, so that they can keep mistresses without being prosecuted.ReplyCancel

  • Blue AbayaMay 5, 2014 - 7:56 am

    Kimberly Hadley MominahReplyCancel

  • Shadia MohsinMay 5, 2014 - 12:28 pm

    So disgusting! Woman need to stand up.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarMay 5, 2014 - 4:40 pm

    Misyar marriage runs counter to the objectives and the spirit of marriage in Islam, as described in this verse from the Quran :”And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts).Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” [al-Room 30:21]. But this is not achieved in this kind of marriage.

    What about the children who are born out of these kind of marriages? The absence of the father will negatively effect the children. Not to mention how the sons will view the value and position of their mother, a mere sex toy.

    This is a sad news indeed, how low can Saudi go.ReplyCancel

  • Umm GamarMay 5, 2014 - 6:23 pm

    Layla, I did some further reading on this misyar topic and found this site http://www.daruliftaa.com/node/6159

    Although I disagree with the author on the validity of misyar marriage, I do agree with a few of his points in the last few paragraphs. However, again I am vehemently against men using women merely for their sexual desires. Allah has created men and women as partners in this world and the word partner I used in every sense of the word. Look into the early history of Islam, look into the lives of the Prophet and his sahabah, most importantly look into the Quran before claiming misyar marriage is a valid Islamic practice. I am afraid for those poor orphans. From one miserable event to another, not unlike Lemony Snicket orphans only without the nice ending.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 8, 2014 - 1:03 am

      Thanks for the comments and link Umm Gamar!ReplyCancel

  • Illyria MxoMay 8, 2014 - 2:07 pm

    Only in a Middle Eastern theocracy…ReplyCancel

  • chic urban dameMay 12, 2014 - 4:21 am

    Assalamu Alaikum. I have been reading your blog for quite some time. I really love it. Alhamdulilah I have made my own blog. Check me out.ReplyCancel

    • LaylaMay 12, 2014 - 11:17 am

      wa aleikum salaam! ok sure will do, thanks for following!ReplyCancel

  • EstelleMay 12, 2014 - 10:22 pm

    Asalamu alaikum wa ramatullahi wa barakatuh,

    I could barely end my reading because it hurts so much to read this atrocity.

    I have no word but to say that my blood was boiling and Allah knows that I am from the peaceful kind of people !

    There is no such things in Islam and I believe men engaged into this practice should be judged for adultery – so do the people who help this disgusting thing.

    Notice that I don’t ask for the women to be judged … because they appeared as victims to my eyes.

    Why ? I read recently a post from http://partytilfajr.tumblr.com/ – that may give you an additional side view to that article, in’sha’Allah.

    “Question : You are so set on the fact that men are terrible. That they’ll never understand, when it comes to the female sector of things. Why do you always make such an over generalization. Should you not encourage men to better themselves and give hope that they can understand? Are you saying you’re terrible? Are you (God forbid) saying that the Prophet (saw) could never understand his wife, or women in general? Where are your facts, sunnahs, hadiths, and/or Quranic quotes on this generalization?

    Answer: Where are my facts?

    The statistics over sexual assault, the threat of violence that looms over our sisters heads, this is unacceptable as a Muslim man, unacceptable.

    Our sisters fear being alone in an elevator with someone they don’t know. They are afraid to walk to their cars alone. They place keys between their fingers when they walk.

    Why? Because of some imaginary monsters?

    No, it is because of men.

    The Qur’an says: “Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter,” [4:34]

    So what have we done? We have simply succeeded in failing our sisters. We have failed. Miserably.

    Do you know what it is like to sit there and try to help a sister who has been assaulted? The idea that the rapist comes from some dark alley, when in reality he is a friend, a cousin, someone she knows and must see again and again and again, do you know what that’s like?

    Do I think all men are terrible? Of course not. I’d like to think I’m not terrible, but Allahu Alem, only God knows, and I know for sure my brothers are incredible men.

    My mother was asked after my brother fought for a person he did not know, to defend them, why she told her sons to protect those who needed our help no matter what.

    She responded: “I raised lions, not boys.”

    The Prophet was a Mercy from God. He knew his wives, he understood them.

    I’m asking the question: do we, the men of today, understand our sisters?

    I don’t think so. That’s why we’re in this mess, that’s why our sisters feel violated, why they feel unsafe, why they feel so hurt.

    There are countless Hadiths and Ayat that point us to protect our sisters, and my question is: have we?

    I answer: no, we have not.”ReplyCancel

  • jwhiteMay 23, 2014 - 2:55 am

    These poor orphan girls! What they need most, upon attaining womanhood, is a loving, kind husband to establish a home with. They need to establish their own family, someone to be a partner to, to have children of their own, to have a happy home of their own. Just because they’ve been without mother or father only means that they long to have a wonderful home of their own, not that they are up for prey for abusers. They do NOT need a creep to use them, abuse them, rape them, to impregnate them. Shame on anyone who would force them into this life style. What is being ‘offered’ to orphan boys–or are there any?ReplyCancel

  • AgungApril 26, 2015 - 4:13 pm

    Why called legalized prostitution ? Who legalized this sort of activity ?ReplyCancel

    • LaylaApril 26, 2015 - 10:53 pm

      the men who practice it, I would say “legalize it” according to their own twisted interpretations of Islam.ReplyCancel

  • Imtiaz Ahmad LoneJune 22, 2015 - 12:56 am

    Miysar Like Mutta is non Islamic act both are illegal its mere for fulfillment of sexual desire another form of prostitutionReplyCancel

  • Legal wifeOctober 1, 2016 - 8:44 pm

    Im so glad ive found this blog,im so affected and can relate in every word written here,im the first and legal wife and now is struggling to come out of the effect of knowing that once my husband had a misyar marraige!its very difficult to deal with the feeling of being lied to or betrayed and the husband seems not so affected because his concept of misyar is its a valid and halal marraige!anyway they are divorced but the trauma is still there and most of all the trust was broken,i am hoping to feel better soon!insha Allah,thanks alot for writing this blog i found it so helpful i feel i had someone who fully understand my side and what i am going thru!ReplyCancel

    • Arabian LauraOctober 2, 2016 - 8:06 am

      really sorry to hear about this experience. I hope everything works out for the best from now on.ReplyCancel

      • Legal wifeOctober 2, 2016 - 8:17 am

        Thanks!we are trying to make things right,but as the sayings goes once trust is broken u cannot undo it..and the most difficult part is the struggle within myself,but thanks to Allah im getting better each day though there are some panic attacks at times but hopefully i’ll get over this!im just really glad i have like this blog i can share my emotions.ReplyCancel

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