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‘Urfi marriage in the Tunisian universities

Translated by: Manal Samhat

The issue of ‘Urfi marriage came to the fore recently in Tunisia, having been banned for over than half a century. It brought about much controversy at a time Tunisia is getting ready to formulate the constitution of the “Second Republic”, knowing that sources say that this phenomenon is spreading in universities…

This topic attracted the attention of the local media and social interaction networks in the aftermath of the statement of the Minister of the woman in the temporary Tunisian government, Siham Badi, in which she said: “’Urfi marriage is a matter of personal freedom…”

Despite the fact that later the Minister backed down from these statements that were “misunderstood” as she said, and corrected them with other statements in which she confirmed that ‘Urfi marriage is religiously and legally unlawful. However, the controversy on this subject continued, especially after several local and foreign media outlets published reports on the spread of ‘Urfi marriage between the university students in Tunisia…

Some observers concerned with the Tunisian affairs said that the talk on the issue of ‘Urfi marriage in Tunisia has passed from the state of discretion and denial under the rule of the deposed Tunisian president to the state of openness and demand to be legislated after the Tunisian revolution…

The Tunisian daily, As-Sareeh, wrote: “’Urfi marriage has spread widely in the Tunisian southern cities, and it has swept the Tunisian universities after the revolution…”

As for the religious opinion on the issue of ‘Urfi marriage, His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra) says: “’Urfi marriage is a marriage that is not registered in the court, and it is religiously lawful, provided that the other conditions required are met, for it is supposed that both parties intend to conclude this marriage, where the woman should say to the man: “I wed myself to you with this dowry,” and he replies: “I accept this wedlock.”

[Extracted from Fikr Wa Thaqafa (Thought and Culture), issue No. 418]

In the same context, His Eminence (ra) says: “’Urfi marriage is a marriage that observes all the conditions required in a marriage, except for registration in relevant courts. ‘Urfi marriage is a contract between the man and woman in which the woman expresses her intention to marry the man, and the man expresses his acceptance, knowing that there is absolutely no need for witnesses according to the followers of the twelve sect. Thus, if ‘Urfi marriage is concluded by a valid contract, then it is a lawful marriage, even though it is referred to as customary (‘urfi) for it is mostly concluded without declaring it and making it known to the people; thus, it is a complete marriage, even if its nomenclature varies…

[Extracted from inquiries]

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