A Misyar Marriage is a unique Sunni Muslim innovation. Misyar marriage is defined as an official marital "relationship" between a man and a woman who do not live together, and where the husband is not financially responsible for a Misyar wife. Misyar can be a temporary arrangement, but unlike the Mut'a marriage, which ends on the expiration date of the contract, the Misyar has no certain date for divorce, and it is up to the man to divorce his wife whenever, or if ever, he feels like doing so. The difference between a Misyar marriage and a normal marriage, is that the couple does not live in one household but remain on a visitor's basis.
The need for this type of marriage is, in part, the result of economic reality. In Egypt, most young men cannot afford to get married and support a wife and long engagements are common. A Misyar marriage allows him to marry a girl who then stays with her parents. The bride's parents feed and maintain her, and they meet on occasion for marital relations. Misyar marriage is often done by the poor who hope that someday their marriage will be a normal one where the wife and husband live together.
Misyar marriage has been practiced in Saudi Arabia and Egypt for many years. It was legalized in Saudi Arabia by a fatwa issued by Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Baz and was officially legalized in Egypt by the Egyptian Sunni Imam Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi in 1999. The Mufti of Egypt is a staunch defender of Misyar marriage.
The practive of Misyar marriage is often different from the original intent for creating this institution. Wealthy Kuwaiti and Saudi men sometimes enter into a Misyar marriage while on vacation. They believe that this allows them to have sexual relations with another woman without committing the sin of adultery. They travel to poor countries, such as Egypt or Syria, and meet middlemen who arrange the marriage for them. Some men arrange Misyar marriages online. The middleman brings some girls and they pick the one that they like most. These men pay the girl's family some money.
Families agree to the arrangement because of the money and the hope that their girl will have some fun and visit places that she can only dream about (i.e. luxury hotels and restaurants). They also hope for some gifts and at the end of the vacation and that the rich "husband" will give her some money and divorce her (although divorce was not a part of the fatwa which created Misyar marriage). Sometimes the husband keeps the wife for next vacation and sends her some money now and then. Many Misyar wives hope to win the love of their husbands so that they may live with them. Since the wife knows that she will most likely be divorced, but she does not know when, most Misyar wives take care to prevent pregnancy.
Misyar marriage is opposed by some Islamic scholars inside and outside of Egypt, especially scholars at the al-Azhar University in Cairo. Those who defend Misyar marriage claim that it is in accordance with Islam. They also say that it gives protection to many women who do not find husbands through traditional marriage.
Further reading: Women in Islam
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