New forms of marriage and cohabitation in Arab countries

In Arab countries, the age of marriage has increased. How does it satisfy its young population, in full sexual power?

In Arab countries, the age of marriage has increased. How does it satisfy its young population, in full sexual power? In Morocco, the average age of first marriage is 26 years for women and 31 years for men. Therefore, sexual taboos require young people to have at least 15 years of abstinence before marriage. But Arab societies are tolerant of men and restrictive of women. Prolonged celibacy increases frustration in men, especially in women.

In his book “Marriage and Concubinage in Arab Countries” (Crossroads, 2018), Dr. Chakib Ghisous explains how countries have innovated to get around sexual taboo. In Iran, the Shiite country, during the 1979 revolution, clerics, including Khomeini and Rafsanjani, encouraged “temporary marriage”, which is prohibited for Sunnis. The spouses determine the duration of the marriage: hours, months or more. If a child is born, he has the same rights as a legitimate child. But if the union is not formalized by the mullah, the father can refuse to recognize the child.

In Lebanon, Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Shiites and Hezbollah, called for this union of young people. It is difficult to estimate the extent of temporary marriage because of its secrecy. It is more practiced in student circles, including at times by Sunnis in Iraq, Egypt, Algeria and Turkey.

A “Fatiha” or “customary” marriage complies with the standards of Islam, but is not registered. In Egypt, a form that is sold commercially is signed by the betrothed and two witnesses. The husband keeps it and tears it when he wants to part. This marriage was in decline in Egypt. But the declining age of marriage brings it back to the surface: marrying a minor, a second wife, or just living a legal sex life.

The misyar marriage (traveler’s wedding) appeared at the end of the last century in the Gulf countries. Marriage fulfills the conditions of Islam, but the bride renounces her rights: cohabitation with the husband, equality of residence in the case of polygamy and the husband’s financial support over her. The bride lives alone or with her family and lives separately from her husband. According to the scholars, he visits her whenever he wants and demands that she have sex, which she must accept.

They are often widowed or divorced with children and have little chance of remarrying. Misyar marriage has no basis in jurisprudence because it is a modern legal arrangement. These unions are expanding rapidly, especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

However, according to Dr. Jesus, after the Arab Spring, these confederations reached the Maghreb. Many young men and students, often Salafis, enter into “orfi” marriages to avoid sin, often without cohabitation, secretly from families.

During their holidays in Egypt, wealthy Gulf Arabs hire young Egyptian women or Syrian refugees. The influx of “bridal” tourists is so important that agencies specialized in this field. The contract signed by the spouses allows them to live their sexual lives without the concern of the police. As for the husband, the marriage is temporary, and therefore long-term. It becomes temporary marriage, but it is forbidden between the Sunnah. An average Egyptian broker arranges about 2,000 marriages a year!

In Tunisia, these unions swelled during the Jasmine Revolution among students. The document is handwritten and signed in the presence of two witnesses. It is a customary marriage. But, more often, it is concluded with the intention of leaving, at the end of the study or year. It becomes a pleasure marriage. Also, the lack of alimony and cohabitation makes it “the misyar marriage.” So it is forbidden on the year.

In Tunisia, “customary” marriage is changing, especially in conservative circles. At the end of 2012, 80% of students, boys and girls, sympathetic to the ruling Islamic party, had joined this union.

Between two marriages, young women can restore their hymen, a process that has become popular in Egypt and Tunisia. A fatwa from the Egyptian Dar Al Iftaa (2007) recommends it. The Sunni Grand Mufti of Egypt is based on the religious principle jacketsReputation protection. The fatwa sparked a great deal of controversy. It was approved by the academic and theological elite at Al-Azhar University and allowed doctors to perform this intervention.

In Algeria, customary marriages abound, often secret and for the purpose of divorce. The first cases on campus in Algiers were among students of Islamic jurisprudence. It was possible to organize networks of trade unions with young Syrian refugees in Algiers and Oran.

In Morocco, these marriages arrived at the end of the last century and increased: without deeds or witnesses, as soon as the verdict was pronounced: “Marry myself before God” (I will marry you before God). There are also customary unions of young Salafis, especially students, that last for only a few weeks or months, a good time for the sexual fervor to subside.

What is the interest of women? They live romantic and sexual relationships without guilt. But these unions are often ephemeral. They prefer men and harm women. If a child is born, the woman receives the status of a single mother. She will have to face alone her family, her community, and justice.

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