Saudi Arabia: How Many Definitions are there of Marriage?


If you thought marriage to a Saudi could be confusing given the differing types of Islamic marriages which have taken place, the following video will either enlighten or confuse you more!


56 Responses

  1. Smart women mashallah. The cleric is like a robot.

  2. Always…the advantage is for the men…call it whatever type of marriage you like it seems the man is always the one to benefit more.

  3. Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I knew polygamy was acceptable but not that the wives indeed might not be equal in marriage relations because of there being different types of marriages.

  4. iteresting and thought-provoking topic..

  5. interesting and thought-provoking topic..

  6. Butterfly jewel, polygamy is only acceptable for men, no woman thinks it’s acceptable.

    I liked the interview, it makes nothing clear about all these forms of marriage, except that there are a lot, but I loved the women! Beautiful, intelligent, well spoken and they pwned that medieval automaton!

  7. I agree with Aafke-art, men will always try to control women…. because they fear the power women have.. to give birth…. if there was any doubt on God’s choosen ones… this should be proof that who God favors, the one that he gave the power of producing life…..

  8. Well, they do so now, in the misogynist Abrahamic male god dominated religions. In earlier goddess religions men were not afraid of women, and women owned their rightful place in the universe.

    I think the Earth is ready for the next revolution in spiritual thinking,; a more healthy response to unsubstantiated ancient superstitions.
    Which will be great for all the women of the world.

  9. A bible based marriage definition….too many LOLS on this one.

  10. Oh! I looove that one!

  11. Love the biblical marriage video. As silly as it is it does show how impossible it is to take any ancient text seriously as a guide for modern living.

  12. Hello Aafke-Art: I wasn’t trying to say that polygamy was acceptable by (all) women. However, one of the women in the video did say that she supports it. So, if she being a woman supports it, along with the fact that it still exists, it leads me to believe that it has been accepted by some, maybe not all, women in their culture (though even those who do accept it may not necessarily do so because they like it or desire it but for other reasons). I was just saying that I knew that it existed as a part of their culture/religious beliefs. At the same time, I am also aware that not all in their culture accept or practice this either. Though I knew about it, I didn’t know that the marriages could be different in the capacity of what rights each wife has, such as the “friendship marriage” in which the wife gives up her right to have conjugal relations. So, I was simply sharing that I learned something that I didn’t know before concerning this topic.

  13. butterfly jewel, all ok. 🙂
    Marriage is a fascinating subject!

  14. Both videos were good (though the Christian marriage one was delightfully outrageous!!) I would be interested to see more from the two women in the Islamic debate above.

    I love how the “cleric” tells the one lady “I don’t believe you” when she says she’s never had a problem driving! 😛

    And I agree marriage is a fascinating topic! 🙂

  15. I don’t know what that bearded dude expects to happen? And why doesn’t he believe the lady naver had a problem? Modern cars are not prone to breakdowns anyway.
    So what happens if you have a breakdown? I had a breakdown twice, one time my engine had a problem, I called the road-help people, a guy came, couldn’t fix it so my car was going to be taken to a repairshop, and he took me to a trainstation where I got a ticket to go home.
    the other time was in Germany, my super ancient mercedes had this little rubber thing broken which connected the gas pedal to the engine block. Within 10 minutes a German guy in a big BMW stopped, offered to tow me to the mercedes garage down the highway and basically saved me because I was in a dangerous spot.
    The extremely posh, impressive and gentlemanly ”master of the workplace” explained the trouble to me, they replaced the little block and recharged my battery, (there was a problem there too), invited me for a test drive, and didn’t want any money for it all and wished me a pleasant holiday.

    So what sort of disaster does the beardy-bloke expect to happen that women are not allowed to drive?
    My experiences are: You break down, somebody comes to help you, all problems will be solved.

  16. By “problem” he meant how could she possibly have driven and not sent the men who saw her into spasms of sexual frenzy…that problem. 😉

  17. Yes, Aafke, you make an excellent point. While I have not had your luck, the worst that can usually happen when a lady’s car breaks down is that the mechanic will overcharge her because he thinks she won’t know the difference. Unless your car breaks down late at night in a really bad neighborhood (and I would hope most ladies have a better sense of self-preservation than to be there in the first place) there really isn’t much that will happen. If he thinks someone will attack her or take advantage of her physically, 1- he needs to put his imagination to better use and not believe everything he sees on TV, and 2- women (and children) have a far better likelihood of being abused by someone they know – no elaborate car situations necessary!

  18. What is funny about the claims of the bearded guy (seems to be consensus name for him 🙂 ), is that in other arguments he or his fellow bearded guys will claim that Saudi is a safe country, because it implements Shariia and is built on faith. However, in this argument he claims that women cannot be safe driving. So is he concerned that women will be attacked if their cars break down. Why is it that women can feel safe driving in most places in the world, but not in the country which implements Shariia?

  19. I had a flat tire once. I changed it. Twice, now that I think about it. I’ve been driving for over 40 years.

    I can see why they turned off the comments for that video. There are people in their 20’s not ready for marriage, never mind 9 years old.

  20. The women made pretty good points…they should have left out the waiting three years to touch the 7 year old Aisha though…cause 10 is still as bad as 9…but times were different back then and Aisha may have been older, she may have not been, who knows…

    Certainly very sick to do now though. First hand experince in that department. :-/

  21. I still can’t get over the marry for friendship!!!!! why the heck would you put up with cooking,cleanng,laundry for a friendly chat and what happens when you want kids 🙂 how does that piece work, aren’t all religions big on procreation, where are the little minions going to come froma “friendly marrige”

  22. In the platonic marriage is a woman still required to obey and ask permission to leave the home?
    What’s the textual basis for this?

  23. It is my understanding that Saudah (one of the Prophet’s wives) gave up her rights because she was becoming older and (perhaps?) no longer had any need for conjugal rights yet did not want a complete divorce, so she gave up those rights willingly.

    I have heard of similar stories where if a man has more than one wife and has problems with one of them, the rocky marriage could become platonic by default if they wanted to semi-salvage the marriage. I think this may sometimes happen if the woman wants to keep her children and has no desire to remarry.

    I recall a recent interview here on this blog where a foreign woman, married to a Saudi man was complaining of not having intimacy with him for 5 years. They’d been married for 20 years (?) but couldn’t work things completely out yet never divorced. There was speculation among the commenters that another marriage was most likely to blame. This woman also mentioned that in spite of their problems her husband still provided for her and was still very close to the children. So, in my opinion her marriage would probably fit the “platonic” title. She did not give up those rights willing but that’s how her marriage became by default given that she didn’t ask for a full divorce.

    Those marriages (platonic) most likely happen as a result of a failed marriage. I don’t believe anyone actually signs a nikah for something like that because for the marriage to even be legal it must be consummated.

    At any rate, I see no difference here between the situation I described above and another couple that decide to stay together in spite of their inability to be intimate because of an illness or injury. Sometimes simple companionship is enough. They simply look to other parts of their marriage and build on that. I for one would hope that people would value more in their spouses and unions than just the physical side.

  24. Joanne, I suppose it would all depend on how that marriage came to be and what sort of understanding they have worked out amongst themselves. I seriously doubt you will find any textual evidence of such.

  25. I would love to see the rest of the video!

  26. In Islam a woman is traditionally expected to obey her husband. That being said, one should not have an image of a woman asking permission for each and every action she takes.

    The way my late husband liked to explain the distinction of permission was looking it as a courtesy on the part of both husband and wife to let each know if there were any changes to routine.

  27. I don’t think the ‘woman obeying the husband’ is anything like the relationship courtesy of letting your partner know you are not planning on coming straight home from work or that you are having dinner with your sister on Wednesday night, etc. There is a difference between my saying yes to an invitation and then letting my husband know about the change in routine or saying ‘let me ask my husband if he’d be ok with it’ before accepting.

    What if your Muslim husband really doesn’t like you going out to dinner with your girlfriend (for whatever reason) can you still do it?

  28. @lynn,

    It’s not so bad but it’s not just info either, there’s a middle ground.

    See if for some reason my spouse doesn’t like me mtg someone- for whatever reason, i try to reasonably accomodate his wishes , that’s the obey part i understand, likewise i have issues with many people my husband associate with, and he accomodates my thoughts, listens to my concerns and usually doesn’t meet them 🙂 it’s somethng that puts both at peace but at the same time provides alternates to keep ourself happy.
    E.g when we were initially married my husband did not like me meetingmy cousin for dinner alone, my cousin was quite close ot me however he did not approve of me marrying my husband just because he didn’t think i could trust a muslim ( this was eons ago ) , everytime i met this guy and come back home i was down and just somethng was off. like wise my husbands close friend married a 2nd wife hurting a close friend of mine, i didn’t like his thoughts,ideas and interpretation of the koran 🙂 so i said so to my husband. In botht he cases we decided to limit contact with these people till such a time when we matured a bit or they respected our positions, we’re ok now, we meet both of them and alwys together , and it seems to be fine.

    so inthe strict sense yes F prevented me from contact w/ my cousin but once you get married, i personally beleive my loyalty andtrust is first and foremost to F and likewise Him.

    I thnk Islam tries to codify this thats all.

  29. @Rosemary

    “I see no difference here between the situation I described above and another couple that decide to stay together in spite of their inability to be intimate because of an illness or injury. Sometimes simple companionship is enough. They simply look to other parts of their marriage and build on that. I for one would hope that people would value more in their spouses and unions than just the physical side.”

    You honestly see no difference between 1) a married couple that stays together but doesn’t have sex any more for whatever reason, and 2) a married couple where a woman grudgingly accepts a sexless life as an alternative to divorce and forcible separation from her kids while her husband is getting it on regularly with his other wife? Seriously?

  30. I think I detect a few differences there…

  31. @radha – ‘I thnk Islam tries to codify this thats all’

    Yes but I don’t think that your relationship with your husband, which is similar to my relationship with my husband, is what they were talking about when they ‘codified’ it. 😉

  32. This has been a very interesting discussion, indeed. it’s something that I never really thought much about but have learned a bit from the information shared through the posts and comments that have been shared.

    @ Radha: Thanks for sharing from your actual life experience concerning the topic. It’s one thing to discuss information about something and another to get insight to how the information actually influences/affects or is applied in people’s lives.

    There was an older woman (maybe 40s or 50s) that I knew before who shared with me about an experience she had with a man from the Middle East when she was younger. She told me he was so handsome and pretty much lavished her with gifts and kind treatment. She said that he wanted to marry her and take her back to his country. She really liked him, but she became hesitant about going back to his country because she knew things were different. She decided not to go because she feared that she would become one of many wives and be tucked away in a palace and that the things he did while in America would change as well, once they married and moved back to his country and may not be able to return to America. She was able to share it with a bit of humor, though 🙂

  33. According to the hadith, Saudah was getting fat (not old) and by chance Mohammad had just received a revelation saying that he could get rid of wives (“you may put away whom you will”) . Sauda might have been a fatty, but she was no dummy. She hold hubby that she would donate her nights to another wife (Aisha, his favorite). And so she continued as a ‘wife’ but was reassigned to housekeeping duties. Some commenters say “child caring” but actually their were no children in Mohammad’s household. In spite of the many wives (12-22, depending on sources, and the slave girls), Mohammad only had 4 children by his first wife (or only 2 according to some). The one child we know of was that of Mary the Copt, a boy that died in infancy. Most do not consider Mary a wife, but a concubine, but this is also disputed.

  34. As an aside, I always found it intriguing that despite multiple marriages with women of childbearing age, Mohammad’s progeny numbers were extremely modest, i.e. one surviving daughter. I think at least some of his wives who were previously married had kids by their first husbands, so you couldn’t blame them for fertility issues. It must have hurt him that such a prominent, powerful man living in a society that prized large families had very little to show by way of children.

  35. Saudah was older though, and fat, and apparently not that pretty, and with the rules as they are she would have been poor, desperate and destitute, if she got divorced and turned out, so I suppose the best solution for her was to give up on her sex-time-slots to Aischa, while being kept on as a housemaid.
    This way she at least had food and a roof above her head.

  36. NN, you have missed the mark my dear. If the woman is in agreement to that type of marriage then she would not be doing it begrudgingly. I would also assume that a woman remains in that type of marriage because she gets some sort of benefit out of it, not always because it has been forced on her.

    Most of the time we do have choices in life. The previous interview I mentioned is a good example of this. She misses the intimacy but certainly isn’t divorcing in order to find it elsewhere so she must be benefiting somehow. And she never mentioned she felt she would lose her children if she chose divorce so I don’t think that is always an issue for these types of marriages. Women are not always victims. We do not know the circumstances that would lead a couple into choosing this lifestyle.

    My angle here was more to the point of both spouses accepting this type of marriage because it benefits everyone involved and for their own personal reasons was somehow better than divorce NOT because someone felt forced to do it. That is an entirely different matter altogether.

    Platonic marriages are not unheard of in the US. Impotence can affect both males and females and not everyone chooses to focus on the physical side of the marriage. Why is that so hard to fathom?

    Oh yes, the woman is a victim, right? Especially here in Saudi. Actually no, not always.

  37. I find the comments referring to Saudah as fat and ugly distasteful. She was one of the wives of the Prophets and I believe it is disrespectful to say such things about someone who shared such an intimate union with Muhammad, peace be upon him.

    If I am remembering correctly, I believe it was Saudah that the Prophet married first. It is thought that he chose her because of her older years and was deemed to be more of a motherly figure to the late Kadijah’s daughters.

  38. NN, the non-Muslims at the time of the Prophet often troubled him over the issue of his progeny. There is a short ayah in surah Al-Kauthar indirectly referring to this. I suppose you could read the tafsir for more details.

  39. So now the wives of Mohammed are idols as well?

  40. I also do not understand why the woman is referred to as a maid should she choose to remain in a platonic marriage. Here in Saudi, being referred to as such is an insult. The woman of the house is already caring for herself and her family regardless if she and her husband are having relations or not. There is no need to make it seem like she has been relegated only to housework . I assume her life would go on as normal minus intimacy with her husband. I’m quite confident most women can find other things to do to fill that time that doesn’t always involve serving and scrubbing.

  41. Aafke, to respect someone is to idolize them? I respect my mother, father, aunties, friends, co-workers, children even my cat. But do I idolize them? No.

    I respect Saudah because she was a wife of the Prophet and held the honored task of raising his children. Not to mention that, as I understand it, she was the oldest of his wives. So her years warrant extra respect in my book.

    It is simply my opinion that we, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, refrain from speaking poorly about anyone within someone’s religion or belief system whatever that may be. I believe it’s called common courtesy, no?

  42. I would say in Saudi the woman is always the victim of the legal system. Now in some cases, she is “liberated” and “protected” by her owner- but she is always vulnerable to abuse by him. Her owner is always in control if he wants to be. When she is married that is her husband so when things go “off” in a marriage she only has wiggle room if he gives it to her.

  43. As women, regardless of where you live but more so in Saudi then other countries, you are a victm when MEN are the only ones allowed to make the law and the law is put in place to benefit MEN…AND they constantly chant Allahu Akbar to validate their oppression and victimization of the women they own.

    Just because your life may be better than others in Saudi, as a woman, does not mean you arent oppressed. It’s only better right up until the moment it isnt…then you will see just how oppressed you really are…as a woman.

  44. Sandy, I don’t know about you but I do not have an “owner”. That sounds a bit off there love. I would never, ever refer to male members of my family as my owner.

  45. Legally they are though. If you live in Saudi that is.

  46. Rosemary…you dont have to refer to them as such…the govt sees you as such. That is enough for them.

  47. “Sandy, I don’t know about you but I do not have an “owner”.”

    Well actually from a technical stand point, you do. What else do you call a man who is allowed to dictate to a grown woman when and where she can travel to, whether she can even leave the country, her hospital treatment should she get sick, whether or not she can open her own bank account, her ability to obtain a divorce, whether or not she is allowed to work, her ability to buy and sell property, whether or not she can marry, whether or not she can remarry. I could go on but I think the point is made.

    Even if a master doesn’t whip his slave, allows him to eat off the same plates, and sleep in the same house a master is still a master and a slave is still a slave. Either way the slave legally has no ability to make his own decisions regarding his life.
    Some are just luckier than others and have a master that treats them with kindness. Let’s just hope you never makes yours too angry because at the end of the day the law is on his side.

  48. Actually, as a non-Saudi I don’t have one- legally I have a kafeel. But Saudi women do-legally speaking. Main difference is I have somewhere to leave to if I want. But as long as I’m here- kafeel rules.

    I don’t refer to my husband as my kafeel either-regardless of legal status, I’m treated as equally as he can. But I also don’t go around pretending that Saudi women aren’t oppressed.

  49. Rosemary, As I said, there were no children. I don’t understand why Muslims insist in reading this into the hadith. The only child Mohammad had after Khadijah was with Mary the Copt and the child died very early. Sad. Sawda (or Sauda) was certainly the first wife. She evidently got fat, not ugly, but was smart enough to take care of herself.

    Mohammad married two daughters of Abu Bakr –Aisha and her sister. Aisha was 9 when the marriage was consummated, according to three different passages in authentic hadith.
    Juwayriya and Safiyah were both taken as wives immediately after Mohammad killed their husbands (Obviously no need for a widow to wait 4+ months to remarry as it says in the Quran when it is Mohammad). In Safiyahs’ case, it was clearly rape (ask the guard that was there to protect his boss). As to Juwayriya, Muslims seem to forget that she, by marrying her capturer, saved half of her tribe from slavery. Zaynab was a cousin and former daughter-in-law that Mohammad took her from his adopted son.. Hafsa is important because she was educated (could read and write) and was probably the main person responsible for saving the “revelations” of her (and other’s) husband that was to become the Quran. Note that Hafsa’s father was Umar, later to be Caliph. And so on. The exact number of wives and women are not clear. I remember reading about the case of a woman given to Mohammad as a wife, but it was found that she was leper and so was sent back to her father – a natural reaction but not moral.

    The marriages of your prophet were complex and Muslims usually get them wrong. They have excuse after excuse to explain why so many wives, everything but the obvious (beauty and sex).

    Muslims try to pretend that Aisha was 12, 15 or 18 when she married. To me, the issue is less her age than the example. By marrying a nine year-old and by saying that Mohammad is an example to follow, Allah made it possible for old men to rape children and to justify it under islam. This means that Allah doesn’t care about the lives of little girls. There is no other way to see this situation. Consider the implications of this, if you will. It would be nice for Muslims to stop making excuses for everything this man did. Just read the words and apply the same principles to everybody.

    Here is the quote: A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and she was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3311)

    Islamic marriages are as screwed up as those in the West. Worst than the mutah and misyaar weddings (I use the term ‘weddings’ loosely), you have the constant subjugation and abuse of women, both as second class citizens and sex-objects. This is done and justified by numerous passages in the quran and hadith, so please spare me the “you are ignorant” responses, and save respect for those who deserve it. Personally, Sawda probably was a smart, kind person. Although covered, she was easy to spot because of her size (This is mentioned in the hadith). Actually I think your prophet picked a pretty interesting bunch of women, the worst being his favorite, Aisha. She obviously was a spoiled, stuck-up brat and that thing with the necklace has caused much grief, suffering and death to women. Rosemary, I don’t know why I am telling you this, because you probably don’t even know the story much less the implications of those actions.

  50. Jay, you are misinformed, the Prophet Muhammad did have children. This fact and the story of Ai’isha and the necklace is well known to many. I love how your arrogance leads you to believe you have more knowledge about Islam than Muslims. You do not. I will not debate your lies because it is futile. Most people who visit this blog can see through your agenda which is to spread hate not understanding.

  51. “…and save respect for those who deserve it”

    Jay, I will not even dignify this with a response. You have lost the plot completely.

  52. @Rosemary: Jay, I will not even dignify this with a response. You have lost the plot completely.


    Not sure why you are getting upset with Jay. All he did was quote the hadees, which most “good” moslems live by and practice their islam.

    Here are some more hadees to bolster points made by Jay:

  53. Harry, your link is blocked here in Saudi but I don’t need it anyhow. No one needs to bolster points made by Jay because that only encourages his viciousness.

    I am not so much as upset with Jay as I am disappointed. Nothing wrong with posting hadeeth when it is done so truthfully but when mixed with blatant lies it just becomes despicable.

    It is not ignorance that I will accuse Jay of it is arrogance, cowardliness, hatred and spite. I’ve lurked this blog for some time now and have witnessed countless Muslims and non-Muslims debate Jay, his misconceptions and blatant lies but to no avail. The man is more stubborn than an overloaded mule being led uphill, he just won’t budge.

    There is hope for him yet.

    Umar was set to kill Prophet Muhammad but Allah changed his heart.

    So be careful Jay, you never know what life has in store for you.

  54. Now, can someone please tell me where I can view the remainder of the video posted above?

  55. How To Access Blocked Websites

    One of my expat friends sent me a free link on how to go around blocked websites. The following is the one he strongly recommends:

  56. Hah! Harry, your 2nd site is also blocked! Those good ol’ Saudis are smarter than you think!:)

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