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The Misyar Question! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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One of the most charming stories of real Misyar marriage (a marriage where couples may live separately and without financial obligations), is the story of a handsome young Algerian man, whose country’s financial problems ultimately led him to seek greener pastures in London. This marriage case can be classified as a “Nationality Misyar” in accordance with the other known categories: Travel Misyar, Summer Misyar and Studying Misyar. Perhaps his main concern was to alleviate his financial problems and poor living conditions. However, as he had no official residence papers, the young Algerian man opted for the age old trick of marrying a British woman as a means to obtaining citizenship. He had the misfortune of proposing to a particular elderly British lady, in her late seventies, to have “a non-sexual” Misyar marriage. They both agreed, and thus he would pay her an agreed sum of money, whilst she would register him as her husband. Strict British citizenship laws require genuine cohabitation amongst married couples, to the extent that the concerned British authorities may unexpectedly visit the houses of suspected couples, late at night, to make sure they do live together. The authorities even search their cupboards for evidence of a real and stable marital life. Therefore, the young man decided to live with the old lady. However, she was not completely satisfied with the citizenship deal alone, especially when compared to the attractiveness of this young Arab man. Thus, she closed the apartment door, and consummated the marriage. It was such a dark chapter in the life of that miserable young man that it caused him to get up the next morning collect his luggage and returned to Algeria with a one-way ticket.

I remembered the Algerian man’s story while reading the results of an entertaining study called “the Misyar Marriage: Desire or Need?” The study was given to me by my friend Dr. Ibrahim al-Darwish, chairman of the “Ro’ya Center for Social Studies” based in Rass, Saudi Arabia. In addition to the survey, I was also provided with a valuable collection of the research and studies carried out by this centre. Dr. Ibrahim also invited me to an intellectual discussion on the subject, where he presented me with a booklet on the Misyar, as if to say: the study of the Misyar marriage can now be quantified in the language of figures, facts and field surveys.

This study, which surveyed 1500 mosque Imams, concluded that the majority of individuals were not convinced by the idea of the Misyar marriage, for it doesn’t provide accommodation, and lacks love and compassion. However, the introductory abstract of the study states that the majority of senior scholars said it could be permissible, if based on the fundamental pillars of marriage. It seemed as if “Ro’ya Center” was suggesting that the religious scholars’ deep rooted fatwas cannot be shaken by personal convictions or opinion polls.

In my estimation, many people who have a distorted idea of the Misyar marriage do not realise that although the Misyar is abused, it still serves a genuine purpose. The reality is that Misyar, if performed sincerely, is a necessity for a certain category of both sexes, not only women. This group of people have found, through Misyar marriage, a permissible path and solution to their difficult economic and social conditions. As for those who have distorted the image of the Misyar, this is not the way to fight or prevent it. It is like attempting to ban car driving to prevent accidents, or prohibit swimming because of risk of drowning. Those who manipulate the Misyar marriage, seeking physical pleasure, should be criticized, slandered and criminalized. As for those who advocate a universal prohibition of this type of marriage, that’s like saying [according to the Arab proverb] one drowning person can be saved by leaning on the shoulders of another.