New trend overtakes common ‘misyar’ phenomenon

A new marriage trend has taken over the Kingdom’s commonplace ‘misyar’ marriage — a temporary contract where both parties voluntarily give up several rights, such as living together or providing financial support — that is still rampant in many major cities, such as Jeddah, Makkah, Riyadh and Dammam.

In Asir, however, misyar remains rare, while a new form of marriage known as dokhal has been revived from dated traditions.

One local marriage official explained that in this form of marriage, women continue to live with their families to make way for their husbands’ extenuating circumstances while continuing to receive alimony for themselves and their children.

Several matchmakers in Asir maintain that the misyar marriage remains very rare in the region thanks to demographic and cultural specificities that make locals stick to strict tribal customs.

“Most marriage mediators refuse being a part of misyar contracts in this region,” said Umm Ali, a matchmaker. “I, for instance, refuse to allow such contracts to take place under my watch because I care for these women’s wellbeing as if they were my own daughters.”

“Although such marriages are commonplace in major Saudi cities, I believe women have become less inclined to venture into such marriages in light of high divorce rates,” she said.
“There is evidence to suggest that most misyar marriages end in failure,” said Abdul Karim, a marriage official. “Places such as Jeddah and Makkah are more open to this type of marriage because they are more accustomed to a multicultural setting.”

“Most requests for ‘misyar’ actually come from women,” he said.

Umm Ali said that she is one of the more dated figures in the matchmaking profession.

“There are many newcomers to this type of work who only do it for making profits, failing to take into account the uniqueness of each situation,” she said.

“I receive 90 percent of marriage requests from men from various parts of the Kingdom, who mostly stipulate that their would-be bride be good-looking and employed,” she said.

“Youth are facing increased difficulty getting married because of the expenses involved. The average age for marriage in the Kingdom has risen from 15 to almost 25 or 30 thanks to costs and people seeking to complete their education.”

“Our reputation as trustworthy and decent matchmakers makes our profession widely accepted in our community,” said Umm Ali. “Honesty is essential in being able to meet expectations at both ends, otherwise the marriages would end in divorce and our rates would decline.” “I do not ask for a specific fee in matching men and women; I leave it to the family to decide,” she said.

“My kids had initially criticized me for my profession, but eventually became convinced that it is for the good of the community.”

Haya Qahtani, a marriage mediator, said that the matchmakers and mediators must ensure that they provide accurate information in order to gain the community’s trust.
Umm Ibrahim, a 60-year-old matchmaker, said that she has been involved in the profession for six years.

“I have a strict privacy policy” she said. “I never ask applicants to share their photos or phone numbers so I remain in line with traditions.”

“I am sometimes called by the mothers of young would-be grooms or by single ladies,” she said.

“In fact, women are more likely to come to me than men. Most are single or divorcees, while men contact me when they want to find a second wife.”

Huda Al-Omari, a local, is reluctant to deal with matchmakers and warned community members, many of whom approve of the matchmaking profession, against dealing with online matchmakers without consulting with them over the phone.

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