JEDDAH: Misyar marriages are usually clandestine and the women in most cases forfeit all their rights. Why should any women accept such conditions? The reason is usually a lack of options to get married traditionally. Some may have passed the most-sought-after marriage age and others may be widows or divorcees.
In the majority of such marriages, the woman always seeks a stable married life. But the kinds of men who seek misyar are usually married and want a second wife without disrupting their first marriage. As expected, the first wife would object to the marriage and things could get complicated, eventually the misyar would end up in divorce.
Men who don’t have enough income to be the breadwinner for two families also seek misyar, instead of taking a second wife through a traditional marriage.
It is interesting to note that a minority of women have turned misyar into a business. These women never intend to stay married to the same man for more than a few months; the cause of this is the lucrative dowry they get from each marriage. And during the few months of marriage they try to extract as much money as they can.
If the husband refuses to divorce at any point in the marriage, they then use what they claim is a very effective way of making him obey: They threaten to inform the first wife of the secret marriage.
One such woman is Siham, who has been married six times (one traditional and five misyar). She said men who are “scared to death of their first wives” are exactly the type she seeks to marry in misyar.
“I only marry men who are afraid of their first wives and are financially well off,” said Siham, who asked to be known only by her nickname, which means “Arrows” in Arabic.
“When I hear that there is a suitor looking for misyar, I check two things — whether he is wealthy and whether he is afraid of his wife,” said Siham, adding that she takes no less than SR30,000 in dowry.
In many misyar marriages the husband usually doesn’t live with the woman and tends to visit his wife whenever it is convenient. All five of Siham’s former husbands have been such.
Prior to the misyar marriage, Siham’s husband-to-be is made to believe that no financial support will be required of him, and that all the marriage will cost him is the dowry.
However, after the marriage Siham reveals her true color. Every time her husband wants to visit her (once in a week or two) she fleeces anything between SR5,000 and SR7,000 from him.
“I make him pay all my expenses, otherwise I don’t allow him visits,” she said. “I believe men have been taking advantage of women in misyar marriages. They take so much from women and give so little, but I’ve turned the tables on them.”
After getting divorced, Siham completes the waiting period of four months and 10 days, which is required by the Shariah before a widow or a divorcee marries again.
Ever since Siham turned misyar into a business, she has been very careful about her dealings. She said she had kept all her husbands in the dark about how many times she had been married.
“I tell them that I have been married once,” she said. “And there is no way for them to find out because after my first marriage, which was a traditional one, my other marriages were not registered in the court.”
Siham says that her first husband abused her for years until she got divorced from him.
But what made Siham think of misyar as a business? Siham claims that she learned of this eccentric trade from some women she befriended.
“I learned from my friends who like me were abused by their first husbands,” she said.
According to Islamic law, a marriage is not legitimate if any of the spouses gets married with the intention of ending the union after a specific period.