Betrayal, Culture, Feminism, Islam, Misyar, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

Misyar Marriage: The Prostitution and Betrayal of the Female Gender

abaya half face
For those living outside of the Arab world, the concept of “misyar marriage” is a foreign concept, although the equivalency of misyar in the Western world is that of having an extra-marital affair. A relationship that is often based on meeting the sexual needs and conquest of men, and perhaps women, with no strings attached as far as responsibility on the part of the male. Misyar marriage is a secret marriage contract entered in by a woman and a man, in which they engage in sexual relations, in which the man has no responsibility to provide financial support, no responsibility of any children that may be born out of the sexual unions, as well as there is typically a “time span” in which this secret marriage is valid for. The women that engage in these marriages, may temporarily benefit in terms of materialistic gifts, vacations, love nests that are temporarily erected to carry out the acts of sexual relations, as well as meeting their own sexual desires. Perhaps these women also may have secret aspirations that the misyar marriage will transform into a traditional marriage through time. These types of marriages are not registered with any type of government agency or authority, and they occur in secret, often away from the knowledge of legitimate wives, family members, or recognizing the temporary union to the public. The Islamic religion strictly forbids sexual relations outside the boundaries of marriage, hence the human creation of the misyar marriage, which allows people to fornicate, perhaps only once or numerous times, while avoiding the worldly consequences or responsibilities of engaging in sexual relations.

In these situations, it would be easy to buy into the worldview of the evil temptress whore, that uses her sexual energy to lure away the family man into lurid sexual activities, but to be completely honest, the only individuals that benefit at the end of day from these situations, are those that advocate the social acceptance of misyar, and the men that engage in the secret “affairs”. I am going to call it an affair, and not refer to it as a marriage for the rest of this piece, because calling it a “marriage” degrades the sanctity of what marriage stands for in terms of respect, honesty, and authentic pure intentions. In addition, in terms of the Islamic principles of honesty, truth, and compassion, this practice is devoid of any of the aforementioned virtues. Misyar is built on the intentions of secrecy, deception, and in all reality, a lie. A lie not only to the legitimate wives and children of the men that choose to engage in this practice, but also to the women that agree to enter into the practice, as well as the risk of children being born out of these unions that have no legal and social rights of having two parents with the benefits of being recognized as a child of both parents. The women that are affected by this practice either by choice or by being legally married to a male that practices this way of life are victims. The children born out of these sexualized temporary unions, as well as the children of legitimate marriages in which their father engages in these practice are victims, forever being scarred by the father’s lust, selfishness, and disrespect of the female gender.

Most men and women enter into a legal traditional marriage, with the expectation that love, trust, honesty, respect, and honor will be the pervading values of the union. It is often viewed as a lifetime commitment in which the two people merge their lives in their efforts to form a family, grow together through the different developmental life stages, as well as often have offspring to continue their own legacies into the future. While indeed Islam does have practices that provide routes for men engaging in polygamy, in which they are permitted to have up to four wives, in reality even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did not advocate the practice of polygamy by the conditions in which were set by the act of taking more than one wife. One of the conditions is the man must treat the wives equally in terms of his affection, and material provisions and gifts. Perhaps a man can give equality by the material possessions and gifts that are given, but the equality in terms of affection is almost humanly impossible. In other words, it is permitted, but do not do it because even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) could not equate his affections equally among wives. In addition, the first wife must agree to the husband taking another wife and if she does not, she is permitted to divorce the husband.

This case scenario illustrates traditional marriages, but the practice of misyar does not even inform the wife of her husband engaging with sexual relations with another woman. The practice of misyar is not only a form of deception and lies to the legally sanctified traditional wife of a man practicing this form of deception, but it also puts the wife’s very health and life in jeopardy. Many countries require testing prior to traditional legal marriage of both the man and woman undergoing testing for the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Two of these STD diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis most often are fatal to those who are infected in the long-term. In addition, other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can cause infertility, or genital warts, which increases a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancers, and least of all the embarrassment and humiliation of being diagnosed with the social stigma of an STD. The practice of misyar, because it does not require the marriage to be legally registered and is engaged in deceptively, does not entail the male or female to engage in testing of STDs. This is a lethal way to spread the transmission of STD’s not only between the two people that are engaging in the deceitful practice of misyar, but also to the innocent unsuspecting wife who believes she is in a mutually sexually exclusive relationship with her husband. In all honesty, neither the men, nor the women who engage in the misyar marriage are virgins who have abstained from sexual relations in the past, and are most likely to have the highest risk of carrying an STD. In fact, some of the women who engage in misyar relationships have a history of engaging in “secret sexual liaisons”, or misyar, one after another, to finance their style of living. For those of you from Western cultures who may be reading this article, we do have slang terms for these women such as “sluts”, “prostitutes”, or “whores” in all honesty.

The traditional legal wife is also an innocent victim in terms of dealing with the emotional and financial drains of her husband engaging in this type of deceitful relationship. As the husband sneaks off to engage in his sexual liaisons with the “secret woman”, this robs not only the wife, but also any children of time and support in the family household that should be available from the husband/father. In addition, the husband is spending the financial resources and future inheritance of the children as he engages in arranging vacations, apartments, as well as gifts to be given to the “other woman”. Perhaps the most painful of all of this experience, is to the wife that finds out about the “secret relationship” and the emotional of feeling betrayed, belittled, and the feelings of inadequacy of worthlessness that accompanies many individuals that have experienced their partner engaging in an affair. Infidelity and the long-lasting scars can cut to the very soul and perception of one’s self as they question why their spouse has engaged in this type of relationship, that is if the wife ever discovers her husband’s extra sexual activities. It not only damages a woman’s perceptions of herself, but can also affect her ability in other roles in life, such as a mother, friend, or employee as she tries to work through the negative emotions that are often associated with this type of betrayal.

Although the women who engage in misyar are often portrayed as evil women with the intentions of gaining financial means, or the plots to secure a future legitimate legal marriage, they are also victimized through this practice. These women are typically never acknowledged as a legal wife, nor do they reap the benefits of inheritance from their sexual liaisons, or the security of a legal marriage. They are often used as a temporary escape from the reality of family life, in which men are able to fulfill their sexual desires outside the traditional boundaries of a public marriage with no future obligations to the woman. In addition, the social stigma involved to the woman that engages in such a type of relationship is often that she is “damaged goods”, either because of divorce, social status, nationality, social economic status (SES) that has been relegated to the role of servicing the sexual needs of a male without the benefits of a legitimate marriage. While some advocate the misyar also is a benefit to these women, examining this practice in regards to these women, they are marginalized, used for sexual pleasure, and are not viewed as worthy enough to legitimize their presence publicly. Their motivation to engage in this type of arrangements may be done in part for momentary financial gains, but I am sure that some of them have the secret hopes that the relationship will develop into a long-term lasting eventual legal marriage, which typically does not happen. The hope of the man acknowledging this “secret women” in the future is bleak, because he has engaged in this type of relationship out of his own sexual lust, but most often will not risk the social condemnation, his legal wife, children, or reputation to have a long-term committed relationship. While he may eagerly profess his love to this woman, you have to question whether he truly has authentic love for anyone to engage in this type of relationship to manipulate and risk his legal wife and children, as well as the “secret woman”. He engaged in a misyar relationship through using deceit and lies, and rest assured this is a character of the individual that carries through in other relationships, including the misyar relationship.

The concept of misyar is built on the concept of “secrecy”. Often when we speak of secrecy, someone is being deceived, lied to, and betrayed. While the women, who engage in these types of relationships with men are often portrayed as the temptress set out to destroy the sanctity of marriage, in reality, the real transgressors in these types of arrangements are the men that are not only betraying their legitimate legal wife and children through their egotistical actions to satisfy their sexual urges, they also are manipulating and using the very women that they engage with in these secret sexual liaisons behind the closed doors of deception and secrecy. The difference is one woman has chosen to engage in the practice, while the legitimate wife is often kept in the dark of the fraudulent behavior of her husband. The women in these types of arrangements may be marginalized by some type of socially constructed grouping in which they have been categorized either by life experiences, or by birth, but they too are humans with aspirations, dreams, and needs. Those that advocate and practice this type of secretive behaviors are the lone transgressors and oppressors of women and children, as well as illustrating the treachery and sham of dishonesty that humans can choose to engage in by their animalistic sexual urges that rob them of values, virtues, and honesty in relationships. The practice of misyar is not a practice of Islam, because Islam advocates truth, honesty, humbleness, and respect. The practice of misyar is a creation of patriarchal men, who happen to be associated with the faith of Islam, but have bent the rules to satisfy their own selfish carnal needs, and have disregarded the female gender as human beings worthy of respect. For those who have limited understanding of the Islamic faith, this is not Islam, but is a construction of a practice by humans that seeks to circumnavigate the rules of Islam to quench sexual desires, while avoiding responsibility, honesty, and respect for the female gender.

Aging Parents, Memories, Midlife, Women

The Day I Realized My Mother is Old

Mother at the age of 18.

Mother at the age of 18.

As I woke up this morning, I noticed I had numerous missed calls on my cell phone with an unidentified number. Living overseas in Saudi Arabia, I have realized that 99% of the time the “unidentified calls” that I miss are my Mother calling me typically around 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Even after me living in Saudi Arabia for over ten years, my mother still always forgets the time difference and calls me typically during the middle of the night. Her 3:00 a.m. calls are nothing I have ever attributed to her being 60 something years old, edging closer to 70, but more so because that has always been my Mother. She is artistic, intelligent, beautiful, and yes a bit on the whacky unconventional side where some social constructed conventions of acceptable behavior she firmly observes, others have never been a boundary for her, such as the time of the day she calls my older sister or me.

I am used to my mother saying “Kimberly, what’s wrong? I can hear it in your voice!”

My response is often, “Mom it is the middle of the night and I am sleeping!”

Although I must admit, Mother’s intuitive premonitions are often right on target. I cannot recall how many times I have received these calls just after finding evidence of pivotal people in my life latest escapades, or times when I am questioning the paths I have taken and if perhaps other avenues would have led to destinations that are more productive. Instead of feeding mother’s intuition, which is also coupled with her fears of the worst case scenarios unfolding in my life, I often answer with a curt “Everything is fine Mom”, except for those moments when I regress into a 5-year old child that needs her mother to wipe away the tears and tell me “everything will be ok”. Mother always has taken the small obstacles in life and asked the foreboding questions that make the obstacles seem like mountains, but she also had the unique ability to calm a raging storm during times of my own desperation to help me see the sun behind the dark clouds. She sees the worst in everyday situations, but becomes a pillar of strength in situations where most people would be reduced to rubble.
During the same time of all the missed calls, I also received a flurry of messages in my Facebook inbox from my mother “I know you are there”, “I see you are signed on”, and “Kimberly…Where are you?”

I note the messages and missed calls and I make a personal note to myself “Call Mother this afternoon”. I have told Mom numerous times that I typically do not log out of my Facebook account, but that does not mean that I am actually “signed on”. I did not have much concern about the missed calls and messages because I assumed she was calling me to either check on me, tell me some of the latest family gossip, or vent about her own life circumstances. These are the typical late night calls and the legacy of our ever-unfolding drama of the women of our family.

I did not feel uneasy until my oldest daughter walked into my office, as I was finishing drinking my coffee and she began complaining about “Grandma feeling sorry for herself”. It was the day after Easter, and I silently cursed myself for not calling my Mother on the day. The holidays always hold a poignant sadness and guilt for me because of Mother. I moved to Saudi Arabia with my husband and children over 10 years ago leaving my Mother alone in the United States. My parents divorced when I was in my 20’s and my sister and I both moved to distant locations, leaving Mother by herself. Although Mother has since remarried, I know her dreams of growing old with my father, with her grandchildren sitting quietly by her rocking chair while she listened to classical music and read them books was partly destroyed the day her divorce from my father, and completely destroyed when I boarded the plane to leave for Saudi Arabia. My sister never chose to have children, and as a result, I earned the nickname of being “the ovaries of the family” with my contribution of producing four granddaughters for the broken family. Although my own unconventional lifestyle choices, which I am sure that I inherited from my eccentric mother, also played a part in my actions of marrying outside my own culture and moving to a distant land taking my mother’s living legends with me.

As I climbed into the car this morning to take my cat, Jack to the groomer, I felt a sense of sadness, coupled with guilt and unease. I tried to tell myself it was just a culmination of different personal situations that have occurred lately, but my mind kept drifting back to my mother and the missed calls and messages. After contemplating whether to call since it was 3:00 am in Oklahoma where mother lives, I finally dialed her cell phone number, which went directly to her voice mail. I waited a couple of minutes before calling her back hoping that she was still awake and desperately wheeling herself around the house trying to find her misplaced cell phone. And yes, this is another attribute I have inherited from my mother, in which I never remember the last place I have left my cell phone. I thought of mother and her electric wheelchair, which has given her some mobility back, but represents to me a despised icon of my mother’s failing health and fragility. Failing health and fragility that has been brought on by a lifetime of unfair situations and experiences that has fueled an emotional habit of eating to fill the voids left behind, robbing her of her ability to walk freely without pain. The hated icon that represented my inability to take my mother to the places she always yearned to see, but had been too busy during her days in which she was blessed with vitality by investing her time in her career and raising her stubborn, rebellious, and selfish daughters.
Mother answered her phone the second time I rang her cell phone. Her voice sounded weak, feeble, and sad.

I put on my most charming voice and belted out “Bulk, bulk…Thank you Easter bunny” as had been played on the Cadbury egg commercials from my childhood.

Mother gave a half-hearted laugh at the expression my sister and I have always used during the Easter holidays. Although my Mother has always struggled with health issues since the time she was born as the lone surviving twin of her and her twin Charles, to the leg braces she wore as a child to correct her physical limitations, to the numerous surgeries through her early and middle adult years to correct the physical defaults of her anatomy, and her battle with a lifetime of depression, usually a phone call from my sister or me, was enough to lift her spirits. For the first time in my life, I heard the voice of a women who was aged beyond her years, perhaps by the different obstacles and experience she had lived. Mother began telling me the story of how she had fallen and was now covered with bruises over her body. She recounted how she landed on the concrete and laid there fearing she had broken her hip. For the first time, I realized my mother had become old and was perhaps nearing the end of her physical existence on earth. Although I have watched my mother physically deteriorate for the last 10 years, I have never really faced the reality of what life would be without my mother. The realization sent fear coursing through my body, with the realization that the one person who consistently has been my cheerleader, as well as a reminder of all the mistakes I have made in my own life, may not be there for the next obstacle that are to be thrown in my path. Even though I am 43-years-old, in some ways, I have never had to be a complete “adult”, because I knew my Mother and my Father would always somehow help me pick up the pieces of a broken heart, broken dreams, or cushion the blows of reality.

My Mother is by no means a woman of perfection, nor is any of the rest of us that have lived, but she is a woman of passion, of surviving, and of strength. Although my Mother has embarrassed me with recounting some of the stories that both my sister and I spun during our years on earth, with her endless chattering that annoys the depth of my introverted soul, she has always been there to wipe away my tears, and hold my hand even metaphorically through distance when I at times did not have the energy to move forward. She has always been a pivotal figure in my own personal ethics, in teaching me to speak out against corruption and situations that serve to marginalize others. She made sure that my sister and I were introduced to the arts, music, and embracing different cultures, and people in our efforts to find ourselves. Most importantly, she has taught me that love is not conditional, and that trying to find the positive traits of others is pivotal in not only loving life, others, but also ourselves.

My Mother has always loved to entertain people by telling them that even as a child, I did not like her and would scream whenever she tried to hold me as a small infant. What Mother has never realized that her own intuitive traits have been passed on to me, and with that intuition, I feel the pain, emotions, and energy of others. A trait that made me a good therapist, as well as teacher, but also has made me prefer the solitude of quietness and peace, to a world filled with numerous social interactions. I have always felt my Mother’s sadness and disappointments and the pain she carries in her soul from losing her own mother at an early age, and other life events that followed, but there are two people that I always turn to in my own obstacles: My Mother to help me pick myself off the floor, and my Father as my protector and hero to slay the monsters. Regardless of my choices and directions in life, my Mother has always been the one person that could still hand me a lantern to travel by, when it seemed the light of day would never appear to enlighten a path to travel.

Betrayal, Feminism, Personal Growth, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

Living in the Shadows of the Cloak of Darkness

I have been living in the shadows, the shadows of sorrow, pain, and broken trust that have kept me out from my own inner light. You helped me create those shadows, by blocking the light with your words, you actions, and the images of betrayal that left me in darkness. You cloaked me in black to cover my inner light, expecting me to thrive out of the spotlight, while I slowly withered away into a state of the breathing dead.

Objects of reality only create shadows, and you do not represent reality, or an object that is solid and real, but a hollow figure that is nothing more than an illusion of deception. Just as I moved into the flimsy shadows by my own free will, I am stepping out of the shadows and casting away the cloak of black, back into my light to take my place among the living, escaping the shadows of doubt. I will leave you to your own drama, with all of your fellow actors to play on your stage in your shadows of deception. Shadows possess no depth, dimension, or color, but are superficial images cast on walls perhaps to spark one’s imagination of creating stories and tales. Shadows cannot exist without light, and no longer will I allow you to steal my light for your shadowy manipulations, but I am reclaiming my light to see my world as it is.

Humanistic Psychology, Midlife, Personal Growth, Women

Mid-Life Reflections

43rd bday pic
I have crawled and walked this earth for 43 years today; the crawling has not only included my time as a small child, but metaphorically crawling during difficult times in my life. Some of those difficulties have been the results of circumstances, different people, and yes, I must admit brought on by myself as well. Perhaps we have to crawl for moments in our life at different times to learn how to walk a new or different path. Today, I am getting off the floor to walk on my own two feet again, but I know to do that I need to strive towards the following:
1. My own self value is not determined by how others view me, act towards me, or value me.
2. If people love me based on conditions, I will still love them unconditionally, but I know
there conditional love is their weakness and not my own. While I will love these people
unconditionally, I will have boundaries in how much energy I invest in maintaining the
3. Only consider criticism from others that is given with authentic intentions, only give
criticism that is given with authentic intentions.
4. I will not let fear hold me back in living. Fear is the one emotion that keeps us on our
knees and makes us slaves to others and ourselves.
5. I will only say sorry when I truly mean it. I will not say sorry for being honest and
speaking my truth, or being sorry for who I am.
6. I will no longer keep my silence when it damages others or myself. I have held my tongue far
too long causing myself physical and emotional pain.
7. I will not allow others who are filled with hatred, greed, jealousy, and selfish intents to
bring drama in my life. This is their drama and issues, not my own. If I have done something
wrong, I will admit it and say I am sorry, but I will no longer allow you to bring destruction
and unneeded pain in my life. I cannot force anyone to respect my boundaries, but I do not
have to engage with destructive people and their games regardless of who you are.
8. I will forgive, but I do not forget. Forgetting is not a skill, remembering and learning
from experiences teaches us to avoid mistakes in the future and that is a true measure of an
intelligent skill.
9. I will not take people, blessings, or my world for granted. Showing gratefulness is a
reminder of the beauty in our world that at times can be obscured.
10. I will work towards those parts of me that can improve, while at the same time accepting there
are some aspects of me that are innately me and learn to love those traits.