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The practice, usually a temporary alliance in which the wife waives some conventional marriage rights such as cohabitation and financial support, has been legally permitted in the conservative Muslim kingdom for decades. A woman holds an Apple iPhone device showing on its App Store an app for facilitating "Misyar" marriage, available in Saudi Arabia, in the capital Riyadh on October 29, The Muslim no-strings-attached "misyar" marriage often done in secret is fast pervading Saudi society — a boon for cash-strapped men unable to afford expensive traditional weddings, but deplored by critics for legitimising promiscuity.
More than a dozen interviews with matchmakers and misyar couples — including grooms juggling other conventional marriages — offer a window into a phenomenon still shrouded in secrecy and shame, despite its proliferation. The testimonies highlight how misyar is seen as a hybrid between marriage and singlehood, benefiting polygamists without the stress of maintaining a second household.
Despite its potential for abuse, it also appeals to some women keen to shun patriarchal expectations of traditional marriages, as well as unmarried couples seeking religious cover for sexual relationships, forbidden by Islam outside wedlock. He told AFP he had three children from a separate, conventional marriage, and visits his misyar wife in her Riyadh home "whenever" he wants.
He did not say what she gained from the secret alliance.
He divorces and marries another, divorces and marries another Saudis, as well as the kingdom's expat workers, can be seen hunting on dating apps and matrimonial websites for such partners. He began searching after sending his wife and five-year-old son back to Cairo at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, mainly due to rising living costs and an expat levy introduced by Saudi Arabia in recent years.
Such marriages are often short-lived, with most ending in divorce from anywhere between 14 and 60 days, the kingdom's Al-Watan newspaper reported inciting justice ministry sources. It is touted by some women as a fleeting escape from spinsterhood or a chance for a fresh beginning for divorcees and widows, who otherwise struggle to remarry.
A close associate of a divorced Syrian woman in Riyadh told AFP she was in a secret misyar relationship because she feared her ex-husband, a Saudi, would legally seek custody of her two children if he discovered that she had remarried.
Saudi clerics say the practice has proliferated sincewhen the then grand mufti, the kingdom's highest religious authority, legitimised it with an Islamic edict. But many question the validity of a furtive practice at odds with the main tenets of Islamic marriage, which requires a public declaration.
A prominent Riyadh cleric attributed its proliferation to men unwilling to shoulder the full responsibilities of polygamous marriage, which is permitted in Islam as long as all wives are treated equally. In a column in the Saudi Gazette daily, columnist Tariq Al-Maeena described misyar as a " to have multiple partners without much responsibility or expense". Some women are forced to pursue court cases against Saudi men refusing to accept children born into misyar relationships.
I advised her to take him to court and fight for her rights. Still, women are encouraged socially to turn a blind eye to their husband's misyar adventures. Fahad Almuais, a matchmaker who says his clients are mostly "polygamists", spoke of one Saudi government worker who kept his misyar relationship hidden from his first wife.
When he began routinely disappearing every weekend, her female neighbour advised the suspicious wife to "stay quiet". The DNA of the label is in tracing the journey of the garment: the product, the services and the foundation of the supply chain, all the way back to the land and the people at the site of manufacturing. Equations is a story of aspiration and social change, of individual ambition and family bonds, told through the lives of two families, the Sikands, a wealthy business clan, and the Kumars, who are the family of their domestic help.
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