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A girlfriend better than an orfi ‘wife'
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 11 - 04 - 2010

A FEW years ago, I paid a fortnight's visit to Germany. This very enjoyable visit was arranged by an interactive German cultural programme. My companion was a nice, softly spoken German lady named Jessica.
Walking down a street in Berlin, we stopped to have lunch in a restaurant. Over wienerschnitzel, we discussed several who belong to a conservative Muslim society in a developing nation.
One of these topics was the romantic and sexual relationship between unmarried couples, which is something that commonly exists in Western communities. Ms Jessica explained to me that such a relationship in Western society is tantamount to marriage.
She said that her daughter had a boyfriend and that their friends, neighbours and everyone else in the district knew about it.
According to Ms Jessica, such romantic, sexual relationships enjoy full publicity. (Such publicity is indispensable and obligatory in marriage contracts approved by the Sharia (Islamic Law).
And I was told that the boyfriend would not disgrace his partner or react violently if she informed him that she was pregnant and would he think of a nice name for their baby. The couple would quickly disclose the happy news to their families, friends and everybody else: the newborn child would not be disgraced for being illegitimate.
Moreover, the couple would be disgraced if either of them engaged in a relationship with anyone else. The partners in the West pledge loyalty to each other, as long as their passions and emotions are not turned off.
Returning to my hotel room, I pondered over Ms Jessica's explanations about romantic and sexual relationships in the West; and I compared this social system with orfi (secret and unregistered) marriages.
Many of our Muslim clergymen tolerate such marriages and have secret wives themselves.
I reached a very upsetting conclusion: that Muslim men and women involved in orfi marriages are hypocrites, who scornfully violate the tenets and principles enshrined in Islam about mainstream and religiously approved marriage. It is unfortunate that some very popular Muslim preachers have secretly married women without publicising their new marriages.
Unlike the system for romantic and sexual relationships in the West, Muslim couples ‘marry' in an orfi relationship, but married men do not inform their wives about their new spouse.
The female partner, for different reasons, also refuses to disclose her new family status to her friends, children (from a former husband), neighbours, etc. The partners in an orfi marriage meet secretly and behave like strangers in public.
Moreover, the male partner in an orfi marriage will tell his ‘wife' that she mustn't give him any children. If the husband in this case is wealthy, the secret wife refuses to comply with his order, so that their child(ren) will have a share of their father's wealth upon his death.
The male partner won't hesitate to kill his baby if his secret wife misleads him and becomes pregnant. If the woman manages to save their baby, her secret husband will deny he is the father. Modern technology in the form of DNA testing has saved many women from the disgrace of having a ‘fatherless' child.
A junior public prosecutor in Mansoura, el-Daqahliya Governorate, is facing charges of killing his baby from an orfi marriage. A post mortem has concluded that the newborn child died of suffocation.
The mother told investigators that the prosecutor agreed to marry her secretly without informing his family, as long as she didn't give him any children.
Motivated by her burning desire, the woman agreed. According to their undeclared matrimonial arrangements, the lover used to visit the woman secretly in her apartment, where they'd enjoy a few hours together before he left unnoticed by the neighbours.
She told investigators that her secret husband exploded when she informed him she was pregnant. There was a tussle, during which he accused the woman of deceiving him and not keeping her promise. He reacted very angrily when she told him that she was very excited at the thought of becoming a mother.
“Weeks after giving birth, he paid me a visit at home and asked to hold the baby girl,” the woman told the police. “He carried her into the kitchen and, when he returned 15 minutes later, she was dead.”
It was a similar story with an orfi couple in el-Menoufia Governorate in the Delta. According to the mother, the 28 year-old father went berserk when he was told that he would soon be a father.
“I gave birth after three years of our secret marriage,” the 26-year-old mother says. “One morning, he took the baby to be examined by a doctor because she had symptoms of hepatitis.”
The husband returned at midnight without the baby, which he'd allegedly dumped beside a lonely road. Behaviour like this should convince us that romantic and sexual relationships in the West hardly contradict Islam's teachings about safe and happy marriages.
Those Muslim clergymen who warn us that orfi marriage is a kind of zena (adultery), which is strictly prohibited by Islam, are perhaps right.

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