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In Sunni Islamic law, Nikah al-Misyar (Arabic: نكاح المسيار or more often zawaj al-misyar Arabic: زواج المسيار "traveller's marriage") is a type of Sunni Nikah (marriage contract) that is ostensibly carried out with the objective of allowing a couple to engage in intercourse in a permissible (halaal) manner. The husband and wife thus joined surrender several marital rights, such as living together, equal division of nights between wives in cases of polygyny, the wife's rights to housing and maintenance money ("nafaqa"), and the husband's right to homekeeping and access.
Background and causes
Some people consider that the misyar marriage can meet the needs of young people whose resources are too limited to settle down in a separate home; of divorcees, widows or widowers, who have their own residence and their own financial resources but cannot, or do not want to marry again according to the usual formula; and of slightly elder people who have not tasted the joys of marriage.
Some Islamic lawyers add that this type of marriage fits the needs of a conservative society which punishes “zina” (fornication) and other sexual relationships which are established outside a marriage contract. Thus, some Muslim foreigners working in the Persian Gulf countries prefer to engage in the misyar marriage rather than live alone for years. Many of them are actually already married with wives and children in their home country, but they cannot bring them to the region.
Misyar marriage in practice
The Sheikh of al-Azhar Mosque Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi and theologian Yusuf Al-Qaradawi note, in their writings and in their lectures, that a major proportion of the men who take a spouse in the framework of the misyar marriage are already married men.
Legality of misyar marriage
- The agreement of both parties;
- Two legal witnesses (Shahidain)
- The payment by the husband to his wife of Mahr in the amount that is agreed
- The absence of a fixed time period for the contract
- Shuroot, Any particular stipulations which the two parties agree to include in the contract and which are in conformity with Muslim marriage law.
Moreover, as explained by the Saudi Islamic lawyer Abdullah bin Sulaiman bin Menie, a member of the Higher Council of Ulema of Saudi Arabia, the wife can denounce at any time as she sees fit, her renunciation of her financial rights, and require of her husband that he give her all her rights, including that he live with her and provide for her financial needs ("nafaqa"). The husband can then either do so, or grant her a divorce.
For these reasons, Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawi observes that he does not promote this type of marriage, although he has to recognise that it is legal, since it fulfills all the requirements of the usual marriage contract. He states his preference that the clause of renunciation be not included within the marriage contract, but be the subject of a simple verbal agreement between the parties. He underlines the fact that Muslims are held by their commitments, whether they are written or verbal.
Criticism of misyar
Misyar has been suggested by some western authors to be a comparable marriage with Nikah mut'ah and that they find it for the sole purpose of "sexual gratification in a licit manner". According to Karen Ruffle, assistant professor of religion at the University of Toronto, even though mutʿah is prohibited by Sunni schools of law, several types of nonpermanent marriage exist, including misyar (ambulant) marriage and ʿurfi (customary) marriage, that gained popularity in parts of Sunni world  According to Florian Pohl, assistant professor of religion at Oxford College, Misyar marriage is controversial issue in the Muslim world, as many see it as practice that encourages marriages for purely sexual purposes, or that it is used as a cover for a form of prostitution. Islamic scholars like Ibn Uthaimeen or Al-Albani claim, for their part, that misyar marriage may be legal, but not moral. They agree that the wife can at any time, reclaim the rights which she gave up at the time of contract. But, they are opposed to this type of marriage on the grounds that it contradicts the spirit of the Islamic law of marriage and that it has perverse effects on the woman, the family and the community in general. It should be noted that some ulama have issued fatwas in which they contend that misyar is zina (fornication). For Al-Albani, misyar marriage may even be considered as illicit, because it runs counter to the objectives and the spirit of marriage in Islam, as described in this verse from the Quran :
"And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts)…"
Al-Albani also underlines the social problems which can result from the misyar marriage, particularly in the event that children are born from this union. The children raised by their mother in a home from which the father is always absent, without reason, may suffer difficulties.
Ibn Baaz was asked about Misyar marriage; this kind of marriage is where the man marries a second, third or fourth wife, and the wife is in a situation that compels her to stay with her parents or one of them in her own house, and the husband goes to her at various times depending on the circumstances of both. What is the Islamic ruling on this type of marriage?
"There is nothing wrong with that if the marriage contract fulfills all the conditions set out by sharee’ah, which is the presence of the wali and the consent of both partners, and the presence of two witnesses of good character to the drawing up of the contract, and both partners being free of any impediments, because of the general meaning of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): 'The conditions that are most deserving of being fulfilled are those by means of which intimacy becomes permissible for you' and 'The Muslims are bound by their conditions.' If the partners agree that the woman will stay with her family or that her share of the husband's time will be during the day and not during the night, or on certain days or certain nights, there is nothing wrong with that, so long as the marriage is announced and not hidden."
Shaykh al-Albani was asked about misyar marriage and he disallowed it for two reasons:
- That the purpose of marriage is repose as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” [al-Room 30:21]. But this is not achieved in this kind of marriage.
- It may be decreed that the husband has children with this woman, but because he is far away from her and rarely comes to her, that will be negatively reflected in his children's upbringing and attitude.
- Islamic marital jurisprudence
- Living apart together
- Nikah Mut'ah
- Walking marriage
- Nikah 'urfi
Notes and references
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf : Misyar marriage
- Jobarti, Somayya : Misyar marriage – a marvel or misery?
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf : Misyar marriage et Zawaj al misyar, p 11
- quoted by Al-Hakeem, Mariam : Misyar marriage gaining prominence among Saudis
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf : Zawaj al misyar p.8
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf : Zawaj al misyar , pp.13-14
- Islam and the West: The Clash Between Islamism and Secularism By Mushtaq K. Lod, pp. 58-59
- The Islamic Shield: Arab Resistance to Democratic and Religious Reforms By Elie Elhadj, p. 51
- Mut'a, by Karen Ruffle, Oxford Bibliographies
- Pohl, Florian (September 1, 2010). Muslim World: Modern Muslim Societies. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 52–53. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- Bin Menie, Abdullah bin Sulaïman : fatwa concerning the misyar marriage (and opinions by Ibn Uthaymeen, Al-albany) (in Arabic) Yet another marriage with no strings - fatwa committee of al azhar against misyar
- Otto, J.M. (2010). Sharia Incorporated: A Comparative Overview of the Legal Systems of Twelve Muslim Countries in Past and Present. Amsterdam University Press. p. 165. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
- Quran, 30 : 21
- Wassel quoted in Hassouna addimashqi, Arfane : Nikah al misyar (2000), (in Arabic), p 16)
- Fataawa ‘Ulama’ al-Balad al-Haraam (p. 450, 451) and Jareedah al-Jazeerah issue no. 8768,
- Ahkaam al-Ta’addud fi Daw’ al-Kitaab wa’l-Sunnah
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf: Misyar marriage
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf: Mut’ah marriage
- Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf: The philosophy of marriage in Islam
- Kutty : Conditions of valid marriage
- Siddiqi : Witnesses and mahr (dower) for marriage
- Al-Qasim : Temporary marriage (mut'ah)
- Urfi marriage
- Yet another marriage without strings, fatwa committee of al azhar against misyar
- Misyar marriage at answering-islam.org.uk
- Misyar marriage at lexicorient.com
- Misyar marriage at marriage.about.com
- Misyar marriages
- Dahiru Atta, Aisha: Misyar marriages: a puzzle or a solution ?
- Misyar marriage – a marvel or misery?
- Misyar offers marriage-lite in strict Saudi society
- Al-Hakeem, Mariam: Misyar marriage gaining prominence among Saudis
- Part time marriage the rage in Egypt
- No strings attached marriage enrages Gulf women
- Marriage or mockery?
- Al-Obeikan, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen, vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia: interview with the Arabic daily "Asharq al-Awsat" of 09/07/06 in which he discusses the legal value of the IFA fatwa
- Khalid Chraibi: "Misyar" marriage
- Al-Marzuqi Saleh Secretary General of IFA, interviewed by TV Alarabiya.net on the subject of the IFA decisions on 12/04/2006
- An-Najimi, Muhammad: member of IFA, interviewed by TV AlArabiya.net on the subject of the IFA decisions on (28/04/06)
- Bin Menie, Abdullah bin Sulaïman: fatwa concerning marriage misyar (and opinions of Ibn Othaymin and Al-albany on the same subject)
- Sharia ruling
- BinBaz: Mesyar marriage and its conditions