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Marriage with a twist
For Saudi men, expatriate wives come cheap, especially the illegal ones. Arab News investigates the practice of nikahs, and the rights women lose when they enter into them.
March 1, 2009 10:41 by Dana El Baltaji
With an increased number of expatriates in Madinah, Saudi men - often already married – are resorting to marrying young expatriate women through nonstate-recognized nikahs/marriages known in Arabic as Al-Zawaj Al-Urufi.
“The number of expatriates in Madinah – those who are resident, legal or illegal – has far exceeded the number of Saudis here,” said a source at Madinah Municipality, who asked his name not be published.
“Some expatriates try to earn cash by marrying their daughters or sisters to Saudis. This has resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of such marriages,” he added.
Marriage registers – known in the Kingdom as “mazuns” – are accredited by the Saudi authorities and are not allowed to carry out marriages, especially those between Saudis and non-Saudis, without legal permits. Saudis wanting to marry non-Saudis must first obtain marriage permits from the Ministry of Interior, something that can take months to years to acquire.
There are, however, unregistered expatriate sheikhs who are ready to conduct the rites of an Islamic nikah. Such marriages are legal according to Islamic Law, but not acceptable under Saudi rules.
Kamal Muhammad, an IT teacher at a boys’ school in Madinah, said such marriages cost no more than SR10,000. “I learned about them from a friend who arranged an appointment for me with an expatriate man who was looking for a husband for his daughter,” he said.
“The father showed me three of his daughters and asked me to choose one. He made a condition that the dowry should be no less than SR7,000 and that I should stay with her at the same house,” he said.
He added that after agreeing to the condition he made his choice. “The father brought a sheikh who was of his own nationality to write the contract. I paid them SR5,000 and promised to give the remainder of the money later. We then underwent a wedding party that was attended by the bride’s mother and other close relatives. I never expected things to move so fast and to be married within a few minutes for such a small amount of money,” he said.
Kamal said his father-in-law also asked him to pay SR600 each month for his wife’s upkeep. “Of course I readily agreed. Where can you find such a young and beautiful wife?” he said.
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