There is a troublesome and growing tendency in the UAE for “secret marriages”. If you have never heard of them, well then that’s the whole purpose of the deal. Unless you know someone personally who is in such a union, you would never find out.
In the last couple of years we have met dozens of men and women who have chosen to go down that road, mostly for odd reasons.
Secret marriages are often described as Islamic marriages without any public registration at any legal entity, such as a court. Fact is, in Islam there is no such thing as a secret marriage. For a marriage to be legal in Islam, one of the many conditions that are required is for it to publicized.
Most couples we’ve met who entered such marriages are Muslim men who “marry” non-Muslim foreigners with no knowledge of the legality issues involved. The girls, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, are flattered that a guy would propose to them, just days or weeks after meeting their match. They would sign a handwritten marriage contract, signed by two friends-witnesses of the husband, a dowry and probably the guy will rent a place for her, so that she’s “taken care of”. The guy has the convenience of having a woman at his beck and call, having to spend much less than if it was a proper marriage, avoiding the involvement of his family. Well, it’s not that simple.
Firstly, there is a good reason for marriages being required to be registered. A Muslim man can marry up to four women if he is able to, but if those marriages are not registered, then how will one know, how many wives and children he really has? Likewise, for a woman to be able to marry in a legal way, she cannot be already married. How will a man know, if he marries in “secret”, that his chosen mate is not married in her home country or elsewhere?
Some of the women we’ve met, have only realized they were in a secret marriage, once they got pregnant and the guy just took off, never to be seen again. In fact, one of the girls was arrested for adultery, after she went to the hospital when she wanted to give birth. Of course she could not produce a marriage certificate, her dear “husband” was at large and she ended up in jail. The women had never doubted the validity of their marriage. They thought their man just chose not to tell anyone about the alliance, as his family would never approve the marriage anyway. Then there are others of course, who are well aware that they are in fact in a secret marriage, but who settle for the financial advantages for as long as they are together. To all women who are in such a situation, we really wonder whether their childhood dream of a marriage looked anything like this: One day the love of my life will come, propose to me within days because he is so smitten by me, then we’ll not tell anyone that we got married and as soon as I get pregnant, he will walk away, never to be seen again. What a romantic image. Such women should spend a few hundred Dirhams on their therapist to find out, why they think so little of themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Secret never have a happy ending. They don’t even exist in fairy tales.
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