Psychology of Arranged Marriage

The legislation of the Middle East countries relies on the state religion of Islam. Every nation of the region in its life philosophy is a subject to the main code of Sharia laws, which, in its turn, are based on the major regulations and prohibitions of the Holy Qur’an. The Arabs, like other nomadic tribes with a long history, lived in extended families, or so-called clans. The concept of kinship in Arab countries is firm and unwavering. Although in the Middle East, for example, in the UAE, other religions are allowed, almost 100 percent of the population are Muslims (Voorhoeve, 2015). Such religious unity for hundreds of years has given rise to strict adherence to the precepts of Sharia. The lifestyle and marriage of Muslims are complex and incomprehensible to a Western man. When speaking about marriage, for the Muslims, it is important to pay attention to health, moral, and ethical qualities, as well as the material prosperity of future wife or husband. The traditional Muslim marriage is an arranged marriage, organized by the parents. Basing on the Holy Qur’an, which says that the most important in marriage is spiritual and religious piety, the parents do not pay attention to such concept as the love between two people (Voorhoeve, 2015). Unfortunately, some arranged marriages that are not based on love can lead to divorces (Bromfield, 2016). That is why, some modern people tend to marry for love (Rubio, 2014). This research paper aims to analyze the psychology of arranged marriage and the influence of Islam, as the principal religion in the Middle East countries, on the view on marriage. This paper also describes the conditions and stages of love and marriage, as well as the prohibitions to the establishment of a new family. It also examines the reasons for increasing divorces in Muslim countries.

The Aim of Marriage in Islam

There are five benefits of marriage. The first benefit is a child. Marriage should be a motivation to have a child and not for the sake of carnal passion. The second advantage is the ability to protect religion by preventing the engagement of a person in passion, which is a tool of the devil. The third advantage is the habit of seeing a woman in a calm environment, which is acquired through communication and spending time with her. This calmness returns to a man his strength. The fourth advantage is that a woman does the housework and cooks. If a man does this job, he will be far from knowledge and worship. The fifth benefit is the acquisition of patience to the features of women’s character, providing them with the necessary support, and saving them in the path of religion, which can only be achieved by internal strife. This internal struggle is one of the most worthy of religious concepts. According to Islam, marriage is a reason for the emergence of a new life. Marriage is permissible for this reason, but not for the sake of carnal passion. However, carnal passion is created to motivate people to establish families. The arranged marriage puts an accent not to love but to the creation of a religious family, beneficial for the Creator and society. However, nowadays, a lot of people disagree to follow the traditional way of the arranged marriage (Perez, 2013). For example, in Saudi Arabia, the majority of the population is not willing to get married according to the arrangement. At the same time, in Kuwait, people support arranged marriages (see Figure 1).

Monogamous and Polygamous Marriage

Monogamous marriage is the most relevant in terms of Islamic piety and godliness. The presence of the second, third, or fourth wife is the canonical exception that is allowed by the Islamic marriage law but has many conditions. Sharia does not call for polygamy and does not consider it mandatory. Based on the principles of Islamic law (fiqh) and historical practice, jurists (fuqaha) have determined the conditions, under which it is possible to have a new marriage (Keshavjee, 2013). First, infertility or failure of the first wife to childbirth can be a reason for re-marriage. Second, the conditions of war or post-war period, when the number of unmarried women and widows exceeds the number of men. Third, the physiological characteristics of men, expressed in excessive sexual activity, can lead to polygamous marriage, in case a man is able to maintain financially two or more families. As a result, polygamous marriage is allowed; however, adultery is considered a great sin before God and family. Today, not every Arab can afford to have more than one wife. Although Islam permits to have up to four wives, the main cause of monogamy is the lack of funds for maintenance of the harem. Therefore, for example, the UAE family, which consists of one husband and several wives of the harem, is a privilege of sheiks and wealthy people (Keshavjee, 2013).

However, if the Arab man has more than one wife, he must build a house for each of them. The expenses should be the same for each of the “favorite” women, as well as the share of attention should be equal. The thought about discrimination against Arab women is exaggerated. In fact, in every Arab family, a woman must obey her husband, but she always takes part in dealing with important issues. According to Muslim traditions, a woman has to wear a black cape called an abaya, and her face must be closed with a kind of a mask called cloak. As the Arabs say, a woman is her husband’s shadow, so clothing is mainly black.

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image2.jpgSpeaking about the attitudes toward polygamy, there are fewer women who agree with polygamous marriage than men (Perez, 2013). For example, in Saudi Arabia, 72 percent of women do not support polygamy. The majority of women in Kuwait are also against polygamy.

Stages of Love and Marriage

Canonical Conditions Before Marriage

There are several canonical conditions, which must be followed when entering into a Muslim marriage. The first important condition is the absence of close family ties or other reasons that prevent marriage. Marriage should not be limited by time. Intimate relationships between bride and groom are qualified as adultery before marriage. All Sunni and some Shiite jurists agree with this rule. The presence of a guardian from the bride’s side and witnesses at the marriage ceremony is obligatory. The opinion of Islamic scholars is unanimous in the fact that for the canonical validity of the marriage, in addition to a guardian, at least two witnesses are required. This condition is based on the words of the Prophet. The mutual consent and the right of free choice of bride and groom are essential. Voluntary and unanimous consent of the parties to enter into a marriage is one of the most important principles of Islamic religious laws on marriage and the foundations of the Islamic institution of marriage, as well as an immutable prophetic commandment (Ghimire, 2015).

Marriage, in which there is a compelling of bride or groom, is canonically invalid. The public announcement of the marriage union is also a requirement. At the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom should be allocated among the present guests by reference to them, or by mentioning their names. It is necessary to publicize the relatives, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors about this marriage. According to Hadith principles, the line between permitted and forbidden in marriage is the announcement. Another requirement is the absence of deadly disease or other medical barriers. The next obligatory requirement is the absence of ihram, which refers to a special intent, symbolizing a state of ritual purity during Hajj or Umrah, of both bride and groom, as well as the bride’s guardian (Ghimire, 2015). The need for payment the mahr is the last requirement. Mahr is a valuable wedding gift. It is a free groom’s gift to his bride, paid during a marriage or after a certain, usually previously agreed by the party’s time (Azahari, 2015).

Consanguineous Marriage as a Special Canonical Condition

The subject of consanguineous marriage in recent years is causing considerable controversy in the Arab region, because some people consider it a convenient practice, while others criticized it for its backwardness. Consanguineous marriages are very common among the population of the Persian Gulf region, and mainly in Qatar (Harkness, 2014). Many families believe that marriages between relatives help to strengthen the relationship between the clans and maintain their well-being. At least half of all marriages in the Gulf region binds cousins. For example, in Qatar, about 35 percent of marriages are made between cousins; in Saudi Arabia, the figure is 25-42 percent, while in the United Arab Emirates it reaches 21-28 percent (Harkness, 2014). The proponents of this phenomenon are convinced that marriages between relatives contribute to the stability of the family. Their lifestyle is very isolated and often does not allow the mixing of the sexes, except in the family environment, so the only chance to fall in love is just with the family members (Harkness, 2014).

However, in some cases, consanguineous marriage is impermissible in Islam. A Muslim is forbidden to marry a woman who is his relative if she is one of the following: the wife of his father, his mother or grandmother, his daughter or granddaughter, sister either from the father’s or mother’s side, the aunt, or the niece. These close relatives in Islam are called “family” and a Muslim is strictly forbidden to marry them at any time and under any circumstances (Keshavjee, 2013). If Sharia did not prohibit marriage between relatives, this would conceal a great danger in the relationship between men and women; there would be confusion between them. Besides this, consanguineous marriage leads to the appearance of disabled children, and if one of the spouses has any defects, either mental or physical, then their children will have these vices, too.

A Muslim is also forbidden to marry a woman who fed him from her breasts. The ban is caused by the fact that a child was influenced by the direct participation of a woman, which contributed to the emergence of filial and maternal feelings. A Muslim cannot marry the daughter of a woman who has breastfed him, either; the daughter of that woman is his sister. As a result, aunts, nieces, and sisters are prohibited from breastfeeding the children of their close relatives to prevent breastfeeding relationships. A Muslim cannot marry his mother-in-law, that is, his wife’s mother. The mother-in-law is equated to his mother. It is impossible for a Muslim to marry his stepmother or stepdaughter. But there is no sin when a Muslim marries the daughter of his stepmother or stepdaughter. It is not allowed to marry the son’s wife, but it is acceptable to marry the wife of the adopted son. A Muslim is forbidden to connect two sisters by family ties, that is, simultaneously marry two sisters, which was allowed during the pre-Islamic period. Being the wives of one husband, one sister can hate another (Keshavjee, 2013).

Requirements that Precede Marriage

Based on the rules of Sharia law and Islamic tradition, a young man, who intends to marry, must meet the following requirements anticipating marriage. At first, he should look at a girl without attracting her attention. If she has made a good impression, then he should talk to her in a public place. A man should ensure beforehand that this marriage has no barriers stipulated by Islamic law, for example, blood or milk kinship. If a girl’s philosophical principles coincide with a man’s values, he has to give her a hint about his intention to marry her. If she agrees, he must talk with her parents or guardian to obtain their consent. Upon getting full consent from a girl and her parents or guardian, the organization of courtship and engagement begins.

The decision on marriage takes the groom’s family primarily. Women’s rights in Muslim countries are equivalent to the male, so the potential bride has the right to refuse the offer if the groom does not attract her. Engagement is an act of the public promise of the parties to join with matrimonial ties, but it does not give the bride and groom more rights than only communication in the society among relatives or in a public place. According to most scholars, during and after the engagement, a young man is not allowed to look at those parts of a girl’s body that are called “awrah” or intimate parts (Ghimire, 2013). If the European newlywed’s marriage contract is just coming into fashion, in the Arab countries, such an agreement is the binding element of the wedding. Two of the bride’s relatives sign a marriage contract instead of her. During the signing of the contract ceremony, the father of the bride and groom sign a special agreement, which makes the marriage legal. The couple may obtain a certificate in a government office, but the religious marriage is a traditional one. Father of a bride reads Qur’an, tells Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad, and makes dua, which is an act of supplication, for a bride and groom. After the signing of this contract, the wedding party can take place within a year. Preparations for the wedding usually last from one to six months after the engagement.

As it was mentioned before, future husband and his family necessarily pay for his future wife. The size of the mandatory payment or present is an important part of the negotiations (Azahari, 2015). The name of the present and its value must be specified in front of witnesses. This gift is the exclusive property of a wife even in a case of divorce at the husband’s initiative or after his death. A wedding gift can be any value; it can be movable or immovable property, such as money, gold, expensive jewelry, real estate, or a car. Of course, it depends on the capabilities of a groom and the agreement of both sides. The average price for the bride in Saudi Arabia is about 27,000 dollars (Azahari, 2015). The poor may pay about 5,000 dollars. Mahr is paid in money, not gold or sheep, as it was earlier. This payment can reach even several hundred thousand dollars, so it is profitable to give birth to girls. The minimum size of mahr in the UAE is 10 dirhams or 30 grams of silver; the maximum, according to all theologists, is not limited, but it is desirable that it may be something in the range of 500 dirhams or 1,500 grams of silver (Azahari, 2015).

Divorce in the Middle East

Almost all the rights for a divorce belong to a man. The essence of a divorce is that it is condemned, as it causes the loss of the dignity of marriage; the family breaks up. However, sometimes divorce is inevitable, as the marriage causes suffering of one or both spouses, or for any other reason. If a man does not love his wife and cannot tolerate marital relations with her, nothing terrible will happen if he will give her a divorce (Rubio, 2014). At the same time, several conditions must be met. First of all, a man is forbidden to give a woman a divorce before making sure that she is not pregnant. Second, it is forbidden to claim for a divorce only one time; man is required to utter a special oath of divorce three times. After that, a woman has to leave the house and take only those things that belonged to her before marriage, leaving the children to her husband (Bromfield, 2016).

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Speaking about the divorce rate in some Middle East countries, it is important to mention the UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Nowadays, the number of divorces increase every year. In 2015, the divorce rate in Kuwait reached over 50 percent, and now it is still growing (Al-Fuzai, 2015). The number of divorces is also increasing in Saudi Arabia, where almost 62 percent of marriages are ending in divorce. The studies indicate that in Saudi Arabia, there are around five million spinsters today (Perez, 2013). The statistics also show that the divorce rate in the UAE is over 46 percent. At the same time, the majority of the women in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait completely justify the divorce.

The reasons for divorces can be different. In Islam, a man can initiate a divorce, and, in this case, the judge’s decision is not necessary. The husband has the right to demand a divorce himself or through an authorized person. He can also provide a right to his wife.

On the other hand, a woman may demand a divorce herself. There are seven main reasons for a woman to get divorced. The first reason is the husband’s illness. A woman has the right to demand a divorce if after the marriage she has become aware of any disease that makes marriage impossible. For example, a husband has a mental illness or AIDS. The second reason is the husband’s financial insecurity. The husband has to provide his wife with food, clothing, and accommodation. If after marriage a man, being wealthy, does not allocate proper funds for his wife and keeps her in hunger and poverty, she can demand a divorce. If a woman wants to divorce her husband only because he is poor, it is unfair to him. The prolonged absence of a husband is the third reason. If a man leaves his home, the woman may apply to the court for a divorce, so as not to experience any difficulties or become a target for the gossips. After four years from the time that her husband is missing, the judge can satisfy the requirements of a woman and decide to divorce. Imprisonment of a husband is the fourth reason. The fifth reason is bad relationships. The mutual reproaches of spouses against each other, which lead to a cooling of emotions and relationships, can cause a divorce. Being a sin, adultery is also the sixth reason for divorce (Bromfield, 2016). One of the modern reasons for a divorce is a lack of love when young people are forced to enter into an arranged marriage by their relatives. As it was mentioned before, traditional Muslim marriage is a marriage organized by parents. However, the number of young people who challenge society and marry for love is increasing (Rubio, 2014).


It is difficult to comprehend the mysterious soul of the East. For many people, the concept of an Arab family is based on stereotypes and such phenomena as the burqa, polygamy, and Islam. However, any Middle East country is a country of contrast. On the one hand, looking closely at the marriage and family life of the Arab world, a very traditional pattern can be seen. On the other hand, modern tendencies also take place in the Muslim world. Of course, in such countries as the UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, the well-established tradition of arranged marriage is an integral part of the Arab world. The young people dutifully adhere to their parent’s will. The tradition of arranged by parents and relatives marriage is still in order. Islam, family tradition, and the surrounding society play the most important role here. If the parents of the future bride or groom are more or less open to the new time, they can let their child choose a future wife or husband, basing on the arisen feelings of love. However, most parents choose a bride or groom for their child. Traditionally, special canonic conditions have to be followed before arranging a marriage. For example, a groom’s family makes a decision regarding marriage. Hugging and kissing are strictly forbidden, as, before marriage, young people are still strangers to each other. Traditionally, the initial part of marriage is held in all Middle East countries according to the Muslim ceremony with the signing of the marriage contract between the families of the bride and groom. Preparations for the wedding usually last up to one year after the engagement and parents organize everything. Speaking about divorces in the Arab world, although they were rare several centuries ago, nowadays, the divorce rate is increasing more and more rapidly. Divorce can be expressed verbally, in writing, or even signs. There can be a lot of reasons for a divorce; however, one of the modern reasons is a divorce from an arranged marriage.

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