For Bedouin marriage legalizes sexual relations and provides the framework for procreation from an Islamic perspective and from a social perspective. It brings together not only the bride and groom but also their families.
Women are protected in the Bedouin code of honor. A man who is not closely related to a woman is not allowed to touch her in any way, not even so much as to brush his fingers against hers while handing her something. To do so is to dishonor her. Likewise, in some tribes, if a woman brings dishonor to herself, she shames her family. Because honor is held not by individuals but by the whole family.
The loss of a man's honor (Sharif) is serious but the loss of a woman's honor (Ird) is extremely serious.
Bedouin men and women enjoy the freedom of choosing their partner. Nevertheless, parents can put sufficient pressure on their children to arrange their marriage. If there is no father to speak for the girl/woman, a brother or other male relative will speak for her. If a male from the family doesn’t agree with the choice of a spouse for his daughter, sister or even cousin, he is able to stop the wedding according to Bedouin Law.
The engagement period is about a year or more, during which the Bedouin man can visit the woman at her family (rarely they will be alone) where they can get to know eachother, share expectations and views. If it does not work out, the ending of the engagement should be done in a way, that there is no shame or blemish on the other (family). Therefore pressure from parents or family should be handled very careful and tactful.
Important factors considered in the selection of a mate are the character, social and economic status of the prospective in-laws, followed by the character and reputation of the spouse-to-be.
The ideal marriage is to the closest relative permitted by the Holy Qur'an (4:23) to the Bint Al Amm (female parallel cousin) or Ibn Al Amm (male parallel cousin) but also the father's brother's son has a customary right to his cousin. The female cousin may refuse to marry her father's brother's son but she may not marry anyone else without his consent first. In many of these marriages the term 'first cousin' is only a classificatory one. It is often actually a second or third cousin. Cousin marriages are seen as reinforcing the unity and authority of the minimal lineage. Romantic love is regarded as a feeble basis for marriage and they in general and genuinely believe that love grows out of marriage.
The men’s family initiates marriage, directly by the family themselves or through mediators. The marriage is affected through a legal contract, which stipulates, amongst other things, the amount of the Moaghr Saddaq (dowry). This consists of a sum paid before marriage and a larger sum to be paid only if the husband initiates a divorce. Bedouin live in a polygamous society with a patriarchal system and according to Islam, the husband who is married to more than one woman must provide equally to all of his wives, offering them the same or equal housing, clothing and he is to spend equal quality time with each one. Any injustice in this regard is strictly prohibited.
Although plural marriage is permitted, nowadays polygamy is more rare than common amongst Bedouin of Sinai. They tend to divorce and marry again.
Divorce is a normal fact of life for Bedouin and encompasses no social stigma. Divorce is frequent and can be initiated by either the husband or the wife. In either case, the wife will return to her father's home for protection and support until her marital crisis has been resolved.
Source: BEDAWI - R. W. de Jong
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