Sunday, January 21, 2007

Examining alternative 'marriages' in the Arab world

In Iraq, some men practice the "enjoyment marriage," also known as "mutaa." Shiite clerics and others who practice mutaa, say the unions are not much different from a traditional marriage, where the husband pays the wife's family a dowry and provides for her financially.

Proponents of mutaa say such marriages are keeping young women from having unwed sex and widowed or divorced women from resorting to prostitution to make money. Critics of enjoyment marriages, most of them Sunni Arabs, say it is less about religious freedom and more about economic exploitation.

Is a mutaa contract really in the best interest of Muslim families? Dawn.com and the Washington Post examine this ancient tradition.

As I was researching mutaa contracts, I ran across a story in the Middle East Times that describes the misyar marriage, a no strings attached arrangement practiced by some Sunni men.

What do mutaa and misyar marriages say about these men's commitment to Muslim women? Inquiring minds want to know.


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20 comments:

doshar said...

mmm...mutaa and misyar marriages..

I do not know that much about them.. but for at least the mutaa part... I feel that it contradicts the value of marriage... having a soul mate to feel comfort with... to have mercy and compassion between the two partners,

i like your blog. :)

Naomi said...

Doshar, it's so good to hear from you. "Mercy and compassion between two partners." I like how you worded that.

Thank you for your kind words about my site. I like yours. I hope you will stop by from time to time.

Alina said...

I read what you linked to on this type of marriages. I think they are a wrong way to make women more independent and separate economic roles. Using them for extramarital sex like that feels a bit wrong. You want to empower women, then let them work to support themselves. As for no strings attached for women who were not married before, I think it's a way to take advantage of them and ruin future chances of a real marriage.

If you want sexual freedom, that don't require marriage. But don't hide it behind some form of arrangement.

This is how I see it. Great post Naomi, I had no idea about these practices!

Amre El-Abyad said...

well, Naomi mutaa marriage(pleasure) is not Arabic in any way,it is basically a very strange iranian or persian habit!

it is only practiced by shiaa muslims. Here i would like to say that shiism is structurally linked to Persian nationalism as it was nourished in Persia(Iran) as a way of escaping the Arab hegemony under the cloack of sunni Islam

roora said...

I dont know much about mutaa and misyar marriages

But yet so far marriage is more than just feeding the one's instincts. It is more about compassion and mercy. Building a family and having and feeling the tranquility that God had put in marriage.

Naomi said...

Alina, I think you bring up several valid points - certainly issues worthy of discussion.

I realize that as an American woman, I may not fully understand certain aspects of Muslim culture. But it seems to me that one universal aspect of marriage is the sense of commitment and unconditonal love.

Obviously, some men (and women, perhaps) feel differently. Like you, I'd like to know why a system is not in place that allows divorced or widowed women to work so that they can support themselves.

Amre, thank you for your contribution. It was interesting.

In doing my research on this post, I ran across a story in the Arab News that ran last year. The report says that a group of Saudis had been deported from Indonesia for running a mutaa marriage racket. To read the news story, click here.

Roora, I really like how you describe marriage. The best part, I think, is this: "Building a family and having and feeling the tranquility that God had put in marriage."

shirazi said...

I was very surprised to see this article in Washington Post and then lifted by Dawn.com at the start of Muharram - a month of mourning for entire Muslim Umma due to what happened to the progny of the Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) some 1400 years ago.

Different sects interpret this issue differently. Touching this subject at the start when one sect is mourning is very in appropriate.

Whereas I leave the issue to the experts, I believe what ever our last Prophet (PBUH) has said is good for all the times to come, whatsoever.

One more thing, looking around one finds lots of waywardnes. This is one of the best solutions for the prepatuatity of humanity where every one will know who is the father? No?

Sidhusaaheb said...

I do not agree with the kind of marriage described in this piece.

I do not agree either, with the state of marriage in the West, where it is said (a bit of an exaggeration though, perhaps) that people change their cars every year and their spouses every other year.

The casualty, in both cases, is the family unit, at the cost of wholesome development of individuals and, hence, society.

I believe that, universally, marriage should be about life-long commitment.

Naomi said...

Sidhusaaheb, I agree. Marriage should be a lifelong commitment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

EXSENO said...

Naomi,
I'm afraid that arranged marriages are not exclusive to the middle east. They also exsist in other parts of the world. Unfortunately they sometimes work out better for the man then for the woman. The Greeks practiced a form of arranged marriage for years.
By the way how are you doing? How's it going?

Naomi said...

EXSENO, like you, I am aware that arranged marriages continue to exist in many cultures. A friend and I have had some conversations about these marriages.

Thanks for asking about my family and me. I've been looking for some places to stay. I'm considering taking a second job.

My daughter completed her high school graduation requirements in December. I am so proud of her! She decided to remain in high school for the final semester rather than graduate early. She is making some final decisions about college.

The baby is a year old now. He's still a happy, healthy baby. My daugther celebrated her birthday a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful week!

B said...

Hi Naomi

Thanks for visiting my blog

regarding the post- I have never heard about this before. I work in psych and I cannot tell you how many woman and men end up on my unit because of arranged marriages. They have left their families to move to Canada and are treated poorly by the family and spouse once they get here. with the lack of social support resulting in self harm and depression. It's not always positive infact sometimes it's heart breaking what I see. one woman once jumped off a bridge because she was so distraught and hopeless because of the cultural changes and abuse. Sometimes when they get here the men don't want them anymore- it's very sad.
There is always two sides. and also cultural factors of course. and yes I agree us North American's "change cars" quite frequently

Naomi said...

B, thank you for some very important insight into marriages - arranged and "North American style." Also, I'm glad you pointed out that there are always two sides.

EXSENO said...

I'm so glad that your daughter is doing well. That is always a parents biggest concern. It all sounds good Naomi. You go girl I'm right here cheering you on.

Naomi said...

Thank you so much for caring, EXSENO. Your encouragement means a lot to me. :)

Alina said...

Hi, Naomi, just stopping by to see how you are doing. Hope everything is great and your next post is on the way. I've been pretty caught up in my exams, but now that I have the last one tomorrow, I am back at nagging you with the always annoying "when's the next post? is it ready yet?" (personal interpretation of the guru donkey saying "Are we there yet?")

Naomi said...

Hi Alina! Where would I be without my "nagging" friend?? :)

Yes, this site needs a new post. Perhaps I'll get it up within the next couple of days. I've been a bit distracted lately.

Thanks so much for the reminder. You may nag me anytime. :)

Alina said...

Hmm, Naomi, I am sure we have different definitions for " a couple of days" :D How's everything? Ok I hope.

Naomi said...

You're right, Alina. I'm sorry I've been away for so long. I've just been dealing with "stuff."

Thanks for caring. I haven't given up my blog. I hope all is well with you.

Alina said...

Thanks, Naomi. Yeah, all pretty good actually, regardless of all the "stuff" :)