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A misyar marriage' (Arabic: نكاح المسيار, translit. nikah al-misyar or more often زواج المسيار zawaj al-misyar "traveller's marriage") is a type of Sunni marriage contract (some aspects are similar to mutah marriage in Shia Islam). The husband and wife thus joined renounce several marital rights such as living together, the wife's rights to housing and maintenance money (nafaqa), and the husband's right to homekeeping and access.
Some people[who?] 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 older people who have not experienced 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 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.
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.
In the view of the Saudi Islamic lawyer and member of the Higher Council of Ulema of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Sulaiman bin Menie, the wife can, at any time as she sees fit, retract her renunciation of her financial rights and require of her husband that he give her all of her marital 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.
Misyar has been suggested by some authors to be a comparable marriage with Nikah mut'ah (temporary marriage) 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 impermanent marriage exist, including misyar (ambulant) marriage and ʿurfi (customary) marriage, which gained popularity in parts of the 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 reclaim the rights which she gave up at the time of contract at any time. 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. Some ulama (scholars) have issued fatwas (legal opinions) 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 with the intention of divorce. He replied that it is permissible, and he along with Permanent Council (of Muftis), decreed that it is permissible.
"Someone asked him: In one of your tapes, you have a fatwa that it is permissible for someone in a Western country to get married with the intention of getting divorced after a specific period. What is the difference between this and between Mut'ah?
Response: Yes, this fatwa has come from Permanent Council (of Muftis), and I am its leader, and we have ruled that it is permissible to marry with the intention of getting divorced, if this intention is between the servant and his Lord. If someone marries in a Western country, and his intention is that when he finishes his studies or finds a job or something like this that he will get divorced, then there is absolutely no problem with this in the opinion of all 'ulama. This intention is something between the servant and Allah, and is not a condition. The difference between this and Mut'ah is that Mut'ah has the condition of a definite time period, such as a month or two months or a year or two years and so forth. If the time period fends, then the Nikah is abrogated. This is the invalid form Mut'ah. However, if somebody marries according to the Sunnah of Allah and the Prophet, but he nonetheless holds the intention in his heart that when he leaves the (Western) country he will divorce, then there is no harm it. This intention might change, and so it is not something definite. This intention is not a condition, and it is something between the servant and his Lord. There is no harm in it, and it is one of the ways that a person may remain chaste and avoid fornication and debauchery. This is the statement of all people of knowledge."
Earlier ulama (scholars) also noted consensus upon misyar marriage with the intention of divorce. Al-Nawawi wrote:
"Qazi said: ‘There is an unanimous agreement that whoever performs permanent marriage but his intent is to stay with her for a specific period, verily his marriage is valid, and it is not Mut’ah marriage, because Mut’ah marriage is based on a conditional period."
Ibn Baaz was also asked thusly 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 forbade it for two reasons:
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