In Sunni Islamic law, Nikah al-Misyar (Arabic: نكاحالمسيار or more often zawaj al-misyar Arabic: زواجالمسيار “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 abandon several marital rights such as living together, the wife’s rights to housing and maintenance money (nafaqa), and the husband’s right to home keeping and access.
Background and causes
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 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 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
Legality of misyar marriage
Misyar marriage fits within the general rules of marriage in Salafi law, on condition merely that it fulfill all the requirements of the Shariah marriage contract i.e.:
The agreement of both parties
Two legal witnesses (shahidain)
The payment by the husband to his wife of mahr (dower) in the amount that is agreed
The absence of a fixed time period for the contract
Any particular stipulations (shuroot) which the two parties agree to include in the contract and which are in conformity with Muslim marriage law.
However, there have been some Sunni scholars and organizations that have opposed the concept of Nikah Misyar altogether.
Moreover, as explained by 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.
Criticism of misyar
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 urfi (customary) marriage, which 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 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. It should be noted that 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).