Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Experience Marrying an Omani in Oman: one OPNO's story

The first time I decided to marry my husband I backed out at the last minute, crying on the driveway of one of his family member's house. I knew to marry me the man that I loved risked alienating his family, and losing his job since he did not meet any of the requirements that allows a marriage to a non-Omani under the Sultanate's [unislamic and totally racist] marriage law regarding wedding foreigners.

In the end, we decided to marry anyway, but no Imam in Oman seemed willing to preform the marriage ceremony (melka/nikah) without permission (without a bribe of 300-800 OMR). So I borrowed a designer Omani dress from my friend, and we drove up to the UAE.

Same thing went on there though, alas, as all the GCC signed an agreement to not allow other Gulf states locals to marry non-locals without permission of their governments.

For a bribe of my entire maher (marriage dower) one creep was willing to do it, but that is until he found out all I asked for, for my maher was a seven rial ring and a box to keep it in.

One Tunisian Imam in Al Ain was willing to until some locals talked him out of it, telling him he would lose his job and visa to stay in the UAE. [BTW PLEASE DON'T COPY OR TAKE ANY PICTURES OFF OF THIS POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

So we drove back unsuccessful. I was so hot and tired. My Omani dress was made of silk but so heavily beaded it weighed a tonne, and some of the gold threads from the embroidery kept getting caught on the dress. I was also totally veiled with a beaded fabric burka over my face the whole day as it is traditional for an Omani bride to remain veiled until after the ceremony, so I was majorly hot and exhausted and sad. The burka was made of velvet, not like the soft chiffon of a black niqab, and it was annoying me after over nine hours in it.

As soon as I got home, and my intended left me to try to find an Imam in Oman, I took off the dress, and washed off my beautifully applied makeup that I'd wanted my husband to see once we were married.

I went to sleep, early, after magraib prayer, simply because I was exhausted and heartbroken. It sickened me as a Muslim, these marriage laws, as if saying that one country was more suited for another, or the non-GCC one less of a person deserving of love happiness.

Shortly after my husband-to-be phoned me and told me to hurry and come down stairs. He'd found a lot of imams who agreed to do the melka/nikah but then backed out at the last minute. He'd found someone who said they were okay with risking their job in Oman to do what is allowed in Islam but didn't want him to have time to think it over and change his mind.

I didn't have time to get back into my wedding gear. I didn't have time to do my hair or makeup. I was wearing palazzo pants and a grubby t-shirt as my pjs, and that is what I wore when I got married, under a plain back (albeit designer) abaya that I tossed on. I DID wear my wedding sandals though, which were gold.

Normally in Oman, someone who doesn't have a male Muslim relative has to go to the Omani court to have the court act as one's wali/guardian to make sure all their rights are upheld and best interests at heart before the marriage is allowed. So girls don't run off with creeps and losers, generally.

But since our marriage was without permission we couldn't do this, so the Imam had to act as my wali (which is allowed in Islam). Which is why he took an extra lot of time with me explaining the rights and obligations of a husband and wife in Islam before he agreed to marry us.

My husband went inside the Imam's house with his 2 witnesses, and I sat in the car. Later the Imam came out and spoke to me through the rolled down window. He asked me if I agreed to my maher and informed me I could and should ask for more.

Less than ten rials is not an Omani-style maher. A usual Omani maher on the low end is 3000 rials (which is a little less than 10, 000 US dollars). Instead of asking for a high maher, I requested a specific maher of 300 rials a month plus 150 rials if I had children in the case of divorce where I would claim abuse or neglect. My husband would also grant me divorce for any reason if I asked it of him, though if I didn't state abuse or neglect but just unhappiness then I would not receive anything more than 4 months worth of 300 rials which I believed was fair since I didn't intend to let our marriage go to divorce but better safe than sorry. (Alot of women think that they can put it into their agreement that a husband can't take a second wife which they really can't----it doesn't hold up in Islamic law---and they forget that THEY CAN ask for something in the case of divorce or if he does). I HIGHLY recommend women not okay with the concept protect themselves with asking for a 'muakher'. A muakher is different from a maher in that it is paid in case of divorce.

This ammount would be paid until my remarriage or any future children coming of age. I find a 'muakher' to be more practical than a high maher which is usually wasted in showing off or the wedding itself. My actual maher was a peice of Omani silver jewelry and a box to keep it in costing under 10 rials (30 USD dollars).

After the melka was completed, and I told the Imam I wasn't coerced into the wedding, the Imam's family hosted us for a meal, which was eaten seperately, women with women, and men with men. So really I didn't see my husband until the night was close to over.

After that we left, husband and wife under Islamic law. We did go to get our photo taken so I changed into my Omani dress again, but was so tired I forgot to put the shawl on again over the hijab, or put on any ammount of makeup which would have made the wedddings pics alot nicer (and my cream coloured wedding dress less orange).

As it was, the photographer decided the whiten the dark circles under our tired eyes, so we look kind of alien. They also whitened my husband, and so, he hates our wedding photos. We never did a re-take, as I returned my friend's dress.

Being married under Omani law was a bigger deal. We had a baby before we had permission, so our case could not be decided by the Interior Ministry, but by the courts.

Sneaking the baby out before permission in order to get the paperwork for an Omani passport for our little darling was another ordeal. I probably shouldn't write it here, because it was shway shway illegal. Forgiveably so, thankfully.

Once our case was in the courts it was recommended that no action be taken other than that my husband pay a fine. To get the paperwork done in order for this recommendation scans had to be taken of our aqed nikah (the paperwork signed by Imam and witnesses + ourselves and since I didn't have a father the Omani government wanted my Embassy to sign it allowing it). We also got paperwork from the Islamic Ministy saying that I was a Muslim ect... It took a long, long time. Some parts of it are still in the process.

But I am lucky though. I was told if I was from Morocco or some poorer Asian, Eastern European, or Arab country, I would not have been given a friendly recommendation by the court, and could have been deported and my husband jailed. Which is why I say the law is a tad racist, as the Imam who married us had a very devout and perfectly adapted to Omani society wife, who happened to BE Moroccan. I undersand fully why such laws exist as many harmful marriages happened before the law regulating the ease of marrying foreigners, but I think each case should be individually processed for its merits, rather than certain countries blacklisted, ect.

33 comments:

Mai said...

I wonder why they want proof of anyone being a Muslim? They did the same thing to me, which, as long as I am Christian, Muslim, or Jew, that would be a proof of religion, not proof of being Muslim. I think they should just say it differently. :)

Noor said...

Thank you for sharing your story and in the end I am glad that you got to marry your husband alhumdullah. I think the rules may be similar here but I think its easier for Saudis who are not in Saudi to marry non-Saudis now here.

Aliyah said...

"I was told if I was from Morocco or some poorer Asian, Eastern European, or Arab country, I would not have been given a friendly recommendation by the court, and could have been deported and my husband jailed."
salam sis. i dont understand this part...what about the "poorer" countries??

Sunni Side Up said...

Good for you! I love it when people simply refuse to follow laws that are not only un-Islamic, but outright haram.

I don't agree, though, that putting a clause in the contract forbidding polygamy is against shari'ah. It may not hold up under the family laws of some Muslim countries, but in principle, it's simply the husband agreeing to waive a right. It's exactly the same as the wife waiving her right to financial support, or her own house separate from his parents, or equal time if she's a co-wife. In either case, it doesn't mean that the other spouse is eternally forbidden from doing it - it just means that the wronged spouse has the right to divorce without financial penalty if they do.

Also, I wouldn't advise anyone to rely on a muakhar, mainly because I've never seen a man who was determined to get out of paying it actually be forced to do so. The usual tactic is to either abuse the wife (not necessarily physically), stop supporting her, and/or marry another woman and stop being a husband in any sense of the word, but refuse to divorce the first wife, so that she has to seek divorce herself. In most Arab countries, that requires her to forfeit the muakhar and usually return the mahr, as well.

I've seen courts sign off on a marriage contract to a second wife with a mahr of $20,000 when there was an outstanding legal case involving the man's unpaid $10,000 muakhar to his first wife, which he'd claimed he was too poor to pay when he'd been dragged into court over it less than a month previously. It's not at all unusual - it's a combination of "right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" (very common in Arab government offices, as I'm sure you know!), and "boys will be boys."

Alice said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

If a man has good wasta, does nationality of the bride still matter?


"They also whitened my husband, and so, he hates our wedding photos"

LOL!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Although I read it with that usual feeling I have over this issue.
Several years now and still I have no answer on this - long story but what we are to do I do not know.
You mention the usual about the job - I take it that ultimately they did not fire him? Can I ask is your husband govt or private employer?
Also you mention about the nationality. I am not asking you to name your nationality but I take it that you are either European or American or Canadian - I am also one of these - therefore I assume that they will be more "lenient"?
What if one was to get married outside and then return? What is the likelihood of 1. banning the wife coming back and 2. the husband losing his job?
This law disgusts me. I love Oman but this law is just wrong. I am also Muslim and that is what frustrates me the most - it is just totally wrong to enforce this rule.
Anyway, ANY tips/advise would be more than helpful!
(Sorry but I am remaining anonymous on this post)

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

MAI: It just helped because it means I accept shariah law. The majority of troublesome divorce cases in Omani courts right now (and I found out the statistics to argue my own case) involve non-Muslim non-Omani women married to Omanis. A very small minority of divorce cases are Muslimah non-omanis :)

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Noor: Same goes for Omanis too, to marry outside of Oman (so long as they don't have children while out else they have trouble with citizenship for the babies) is much easier for them to get permission (some countries being blacklisted still from that alas).

Yes, alhamdulilah alhamdulilah. Glad no one told on us ;)

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Aliyah: The Omani government has had problems with the marriages of Omanis to women from these countries so they are unlikely to approve women coming from them in the future no matter who or how good a woman, sadly. That's why I said racist.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Sunni Side Up: A husband and wife CAN agree to forgo a right but their agreement doesn't mean anything if it goes against what is the Qu'ran even if one adds a wallahi to it. For example, when Rasuloolah promised his wives to not see Mariya the slave. Allah SWT said this is sinful, for men or women to make something forbidden that isn't. But it is totally okay to add an easy divorce clause in case of a second wife and if you draw up your divorce payment terms the same a business deal it gets paid instantly even if the man has to take out a loan or sell his house (provided he isn't REALLY poor). But I knew how to do this. Women shouldn't just put it together at the nikah (it needs a professional).

Yeah, the law didn'y get my usualy respect and gave Oman an ugly sheen despite my love of this country.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Alice: If he's a prince, probably not. If he is integral to the running of the country... they probably wouldn't fire him no matter what he did, and if he was rich enough to pay the fine.... I don't think they'd deport his wife... to risk losing his expertise and money. So he'd be the man of import, regardles of his wasta. Only an idiot would try to enforce the full permission law on him. Wasta itself isn't enough. It depends on the man, princes do for the aside. Barons of industry might just buy their way out. Government employees by what they OR their families do for the country.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Anon: I am a more "lenient" nationality and my husband is government but not military or police. Marrying out of the country on studies but not having children is the easiest in permission cases people told us. We didn't get permission. we went to court but the court was rather kind beyond knicking us with a heavy fine (thus another reason why I asked for a low mahar).

Lisa said...

I am engaged to my Omani prince. Even if he loves his country and religion more than everything he respects and follows my demands, that means I am never going to convert, our children will have the choice when they are 18 which religion they follow (mine, catholic, his, or none at all) and that I will never live like an Omani woman.
For having a legal marriage (in his parent's eyes) we will sign the islamic marriage contract.
I cannot understand why you OPNOs are suffering so much for your husbands. They should have and accept compromises as well. That is the second most important fact besides love in international marriages.

BTW I would like to thank you for your blog. It's my weekly excursion into a different world.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Lisa: I can't talk for the other girls but my husband makes sooooooooo many compromises. For instance, in his culture, a woman wouldn't write a blog like this.

She wouldn't change her style up like I do. She wouldn't say no to guests when she's tired like I do. She wouldn't work if work involved men of any kind like I have and plan to in the future ect. He gets derided and teased for this. I'm like, whatev, don't like it, marry a girl from where you're from then, you know;)?

I live like an Omani woman because I love Oman, and have to take the bad with the good.

I am pretty tough with not compromising the things that define me;)

I don't think you could handle my inlaws though, with your demands;). Your husband would be driven out of his tribe if he belonged to ours. Mine's a toughy.

I have some different Islamic beliefs than my husband. We agreed our children could research both points of veiw and choose what they like but I'd be careful if you're signing the Shariah marriage contract. That is agreeing legally to raise your children Muslim, so if you have the kids here, and you ever divorce, God forbid, you won't likely get custody unless your husband lets you. Just to warn you:) I bet you have a sweet guy lined up inshaAllah;)

Anonymous said...

your blog is nice to read. im married to a saudi, and was wondering if you met your husband in oman, and were you working there at the time. and are you a second wife.. just wondering. thanks.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Anonymous: This story is combined two women. The blog is contributed to by more than one woman and this enables us to better hide our identities. Both met their husbands while in Oman. Both were working here at the time. The main contributer to the post is in a co-wife situation and the other is an only wife;)

Anonymous said...

oh, ok. i like reading your blog and looking at the great pics.

Anonymous said...

I married an Arab in the UAE under the shariah law but it never crossed my mind to specified about custody of the children or easy divorce for any reason as I thought I have the right to divorce whenever I want and neither crossed my mind to ask for alimony although I knew about muakhar and I asked in case of divorce , is it possible to add up or change you marriage contract if both parties agree to? We went to the court and my husband is Arab expat not emirati and I have to say that even than he is a wonderful man and I consider myself lucky it wouldnt hurt to protect yourself in writing in case if divorce , I wish I knew then about all this cause I would have wrote it all down but nobody told me and never crossed my mind I could do it! Can be the marriage contract amended ?

Anonymous said...

is it possible to amend your marriage contract if both parties agree to it ?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Married in the UAE anon: I don't know at all if you can ammend the contract after signing. I think you should ask a legal authority. I am sorry I can't help you out but I am the wrong person to ask.

Anonymous said...

Salaams Can I contact you directly as I have a sensitive question.....

Anonymous said...

Salams. Is it possible to contact you privately as I have a sensitive question to ask... Kindest Regards

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: Sure, opnoprincess @ hotmail. com is my email

Teefa said...

Hi! I have been trying to find a way to get in touch with you ladies, but it has proven more difficult than computer-illiterate me can handle. So I am posting this comment and hoping that you take the time to get back to me.

I am an American Muslimah and am pursuing a PhD in Anthropology. I am hoping to do fieldwork in Oman on marriage practices between different groups of Omanis (Arabs, Balochis, Zanzibaris, etc) and to non-Omanis. Your blog has been very informative in this regard!

I am going to be in Muscat for almost three months this summer for an Arabic program, and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to meet up with you ladies. I know this is a weird request, especially since I can't verify who I am, but I can ask my advisor to write a letter of introduction and email it to you if you want to make sure I am who I say I am. Another reason I would be grateful for your contact is because I know no one in Oman and my Arabic language skills are still rather rusty (although I REALLY hope to improve this summer!), but it would be nice to get to meet some people I can communicate with in English if I'm homesick.

Even if you can't meet, maybe you gals would be willing to give me some advice about how to get around Muscat as a single woman and such? I have never been to Oman and I really want to respect the norms and traditions there.

Thanks in advance for any and all help! JazakAllah khair. My email is irtefabf at gmail dot com!

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Teefa: we can't reply to your blogger profile as it isn't activated for that, but if you would like us to write you back, please email us at opnoprincess @ hotmail .com

I think I know someone to introduce you to, who'd be better suited (Arabic skills and acess ect.).

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Teefa: we can't reply to your blogger profile as it isn't activated for that, but if you would like us to write you back, please email us at opnoprincess @ hotmail .com

I think I know someone to introduce you to, who'd be better suited (Arabic skills and acess ect.).

fatimah said...

Sorry to say but u made a mistake by not asking money as mahr because in the gcc no men can be oblige to pay that clause after divorce. Many men get rid of that claiming they are broke and no judge will oblige them to pay. Mostly claim having a new family, lots of expenses, ma fiyya fulus. I saw too many, so better cash on hands when signing and investing the money in something to generate more.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Dear Fatimah: I don't think I made a mistake, asi am still happily married;)
however I know what you mean... but it shouldn't just come from the marriage contract... it should be made legally biding as a prenuptial agreement as well, like a loan would be, as a partners business loan, through an actual (in-country) lawyer, since, as you say, courts don't always honour the truth of the terms of the aqed nikah. I did this o for me, it would work. The court cannot turn away such documentation, even if a man prtests his lack of income. A percentage of his debt has to be paid from his salary directly. If a woman would like to have proof for this, a man could give her cheques for that ammount (at least in Oman) along with her document, which banks will honour and force the cvourts to honour etc... Best to see a lawyer, to advise as tyo what I am saying because maybe I am not clear...

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I've got a question. If you are not a resident of Oman, can you get married in the mosque there? Like will an Iman perform the nikah if you're not an Omani resident?

suhail abbas said...

i am happy to know that you had succeed because i failed to get married in 2011 when i and my Omani girl friend run from his house for marriage. I hope i would get a imam to get marriage.

Ayah said...

Hello ! I have a same issue. My fiancé is Omani we want to marry but don't know how to get the permission. He is working on government and we are waiting for permission letter from his work too. How long it usually takes to get the permission after applying? Can anyone give me advice please on how to make this process faster? Thank you in advance

Unknown said...

SALAM I AM OMANI GIRL MY MOTHER WAS INDIAN I WAS MARRIED WITH INDIAN WITHOUT PERMISSIIN LETTER BCOZ BEFORE MARRIAGE I DONT KNOW ABOUT PERMISSION LETTER bcoz i saty in india still 17years before 3 years gone to oman dont kniw about oman rules NOW I HAVE BIG PROBLEM ABOUT PERMISSION LETTER NOW I AM IN INDIA I want to go back oman but my mother take away my passport i complaint to mumbai oman embacy but there said for wait i cant wait bcoz my visa will expire after 1 month i dont know any idea what i do please help me for god sake

Khati Jane said...

I am in love with a Omani guy here in USA and we are going to get marry after his graduation from university
But I don't want to give up my US passport