Following the oil-boom tears of the 70s and 80s decades of the last century, and with petrodollars flowing in at an unprecedented scale, many Saudis flush with cash began looking at options available to them outside their home.
It was during this era that the notion of taking on another wife grabbed a foothold, as most marriages until that point were usually arranged by the elders of the family and the groom had very little say in the matter. Islam lays very strict protocols and conditions for a second marriage, which in today’s times are hard to adhere to.
But during the fast-moving decades and a flourishing and bustling economy, some of these men began to consider a partner of their choice as a second wife. Saudi marriage demands were skyrocketing with dowries and celebration expenses well beyond the means of many. It was not uncommon for the relatives of the prospective bride to ask for and get riches.
Reacting to such financially oppressive demands, Saudis began looking beyond their borders. Marriage of Saudi men to foreign women was on the rise until the government stepped in and formulated a series of checks and measures through legislative acts. The laws in the Kingdom attempt to vet out those not considered suitable for such a liaison if their background checks revealed reasons for concern.
The practice did not stop and kept on for several decades until economic realities began to slow down this hunger for a new partner. But what about the other side of the equation, the side of the woman who was entering into a marriage with a married man?
Benefits of secure marriage
One woman was candid enough to share part of her story. She says, “The idea of marrying a man (who already had a wife) and having to be part of an extended family would have been a shocking ultimatum for me. Having been brought up in the UK and not having practical knowledge about it would have been a definite no. But age has mellowed me and has shown me the benefits of plural marriages.
“I have three unmarried young adult children whom I love dearly. Their father has died. My two sons are far away and my daughter is with me. I, too am considering getting married again. But I am now in my 50s. So, I am supposed to be patient, may be! But that’s not for me.
Although, I live a very lonely life and the evenings pass quietly, I try to put essence and meaning into my life as I have decided that I will be immensely grateful for each day that I am granted life.
I still have a youthful heart. Colour amazes me and I surround myself with flowers and plants. Well, you see, loneliness can kill. I need a companion to talk to, to share a smile with, and to be there in times of sickness. I don’t want to die alone. Am I asking for too much?”
Educated, hardworking, and pious
She goes on to say, “I also want to be there for someone who may need me. I am an educated, truthful, hardworking, and pious Muslim. I don’t have high expectations. I have a respectable roof over my head. I am financially independent and self-sufficient. I would not be a burden on anyone. I love to prepare dinners and create memorable moments of peace and happiness.”
“If I do get married again, my fatherless sons would have someone to look up to, admire and seek the advice of someone more experienced throughout the trials and tribulations of their earthly life; my daughter would have a father who could be at my side when a prospective young man would come and seek her hand in marriage.”
“I believe in family. I will be an understanding and treat my stepchildren (if my prospective husband had any) as my own. Thus, our family will grow bigger.”
The lady has forwarded a very pragmatic assessment in my opinion. She addresses concerns from a side rarely reported on. Having put it that way, one would have a hard time coming up with an argument against the proposal.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena