Inside the Middle East
April 28, 2011
Posted: 1340 GMT

Saying “I Do” in the Gulf

By Jenifer Fenton

If you have a question about anything Emirati, “Ask Ali,” real name Ali Alsaloom, is the one with the answer. The Emirati author and television host has his own online portal where he answers queries about his culture. Alsaloom also has a cultural consultancy Embrace Arabia dedicated to intercultural awareness. He studied hospitality as an undergraduate, has a Masters in Business Administration and has travelled extensively. I asked “Ask Ali" about weddings in his country.

How are marriages arranged traditionally in the Gulf?

The term “recommended” marriages would be a more appropriate term since this is actually what families would do – they would “screen” the social circles of the family for potential matches. Once potential partners for single relatives get into the focus of the families, a bit of research will be done to find out more about this potential partner. Only then a formal contact will be initiated between the families. If both families agree to a potential partnership, the two “candidates” will be asked their opinion. And only if both agree, they will be formally introduced and meet in the presence of some relatives. Only after this meeting and only with agreement of bride and groom-to-be will the engagement and marriage be arranged.

What happens at a royal wedding in the UAE?

The legal paperwork is all based on our Islamic Sharia Law, so nothing is different from the public weddings. Basically royal weddings are nothing more than other weddings when it comes to the formalities. The father or guardian of the bride and the groom sign the marriage contract in the presence of the religious leader and the witnesses – and like this, the marriage is formally acknowledged.

But the main difference is that our royal families, because of their tribal background, definitely consider the importance of tying the knot with other royal members from other Emirates or other royal families from neighbouring sheikdoms to strengthen their political position; also to strengthen the relationships between both royal families and the countries for the future. This is something that existed in most royal weddings around the world and not just here in the UAE. But having said that, there is also the regular royal weddings which consist of a sheikh from royal family “x” to a “y“ sheikha from another Emirati royal family or from a well known tribe from the UAE. So a mix of both do exist.

Usually a few weeks after this, there will be separate celebrations for the men and the women. The groom will usually host more of a reception-style party, where relatives and friends – and in case of members of the royal families national and international dignitaries – will come to congratulate. For the bride usually a lavish “ladies-only” party will be held. The groom will usually come in the late hours of the evening to this party to greet his bride, take the official pictures, meet the well-wishers and then take his wife with him. A royal wedding might see more guests, but even the most “humble” local wedding will not see less than 300 guests. Of course, the budget of the couple will determine location and menu, not their status.

Is a marriage ceremony to a second wife different?

Even though a Muslim man can marry up to four wives, if he has valid reasons and is convinced that he can support and treat his wives with equal care and attention, multiple marriages here in the UAE are the exception, not the norm. The formal ceremony is exactly the same: signing the contract in the presence of a sheikh and the witnesses. Parties are at the discretion of the couple and they can range from absolutely nothing to a lavish celebration.

Are there prenuptials in the Gulf States?

We don’t have prenuptial agreements in Islam, therefore a country like the UAE that implements Sharia Law won’t approve a prenuptial agreement. But what we do have is a Sharia Law marriage agreement which automatically entitles the woman, after getting married and God forbid she gets a divorce, to alimony to support her as well as any children. The custom from many men, when they divorce, is to leave their house to their wife along with the children for convenience. Here it is customary that the groom gives the bride the so-called “dowry”, this is an amount of money or wealth for her to have as a financial backup. This is completely hers and she is free to use this as she wishes. However, in our Islamic Sharia Law, as well as our culture, it is entirely the responsibility of the man to take care of his wife and to share his wealth with her.

Ali Alsaloom is the author of “Ask Ali: A guide to Abu Dhabi” and “Ask Ali: A guide to Dubai”. He is from Abu Dhabi.

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James London   April 29th, 2011 3:17 pm ET


Is it possible for a woman to have four husbands? If not, please explain why. Many thanks,



amer abbas   April 30th, 2011 1:01 am ET

Under Islamic Law women are not permitted four husbands.

There are religious social and scientific reasons for this.

aamir   April 30th, 2011 4:27 am ET

Qur'an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase 'marry only one'. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the religious scriptures like the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.

aamir   April 30th, 2011 4:29 am ET

In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites. The USA as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women. Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million more females as compared to males. Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.

aamir   April 30th, 2011 4:30 am ET

Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million more females in USA who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband.

Ahmad   April 30th, 2011 4:38 pm ET

What a perfect attempt to sugercoat barbaric and illogical Sharia Law. Any reasonable reader would read through the coating though...

Shukri   April 30th, 2011 9:28 pm ET

James, I think I can answer that.

The primary reason against having multiple husbands is that it isn't allowed in the laws of Abrahamic faiths (I.e: Islam, Christianity and Judaism). The belief is that the Creator knows what is best for His creation. And so when all else fails, we read the directions and follow them as this is what will result in happiness and a good ending.

miriam   May 1st, 2011 10:06 am ET


The phrase from the Koran is "THEN marry only one" and follows the words explaining that polygamy is permitted with several restrictions.

It appears that perhaps you are unaware that many gays in the US and elsewhere are in fact female and they have little issue with partnering other women.

Finally, women have a longer life-expectancy in many western countries which will account for your implied excess of women.

Chander Malhotra   May 3rd, 2011 8:50 am ET

This is what I thought on hearing about Osama bin Laden’s killing- -One needs a goal in life, but what if the goal is twisted and evil? Who decides whether it is right or wrong? The obvious criterion is that a personal or a company or a nation’s goal should not be such as to harm or jeopardise the life, property and peace of someone else. In our personal lives we pursue wealth and professional success at the expense of our family and our own health. We gobble up our own lives like gluttons only to regret later our profligate ways with our life span and our physical health.
I always maintain that the only meaning of life is to survive with grace and selflessness. It is easy to get up and destroy a portion of the city, or to kill twenty people in anger. It is much more difficult to stop, turn around and take a gentler sustainable path in life. It is tougher to be Obama than Osama. The difference lies in the fact that Obama is behaving in a measured manner keeping in mind the good and the opinion of all right thinking people of the world. Osama meanwhile was playing to the gallery which unfortunately for him was only inhabited by misguided and ugly fanatics. The B in Obama has eliminated the S in Osama so that is the end of a lot BS thankfully. One should thus always contemplate the good of all humanity before seeking a goal in life.

Chander Malhotra

Ismail   May 3rd, 2011 9:11 am ET

I would like to answer to James .It is not permissable for a woman to be polyandrous.

If a woman marries more husbands whose name will be the child given.Islam prohibits polyandry for the same reason .there are many people in eastern cultures following marrying more than one man , but Islam strictly prohibits to sharing of wife.

The reason man is allowed to marry is to stop adultery coz man biologically never rests on his natural desire. like hunger, thirst and reproductive aspects.

Please understand a woman is made by Allah as needing rest after birth of its child and eventually will not be available to his man .

So marrying more than one woman is socially , morally and spiritually accepted and prescribed to banish adultery, debauchery and lewdness

Rags   May 3rd, 2011 2:35 pm ET

The Question from James was the following.:
"Is it possible for a woman to have four husbands? If not, please explain why"

Aamir Answers:
Under Islamic Law women are not permitted four husbands.There are religious social and scientific reasons for this.

Scientific reasons?? Which Scientist said that? In which century?

And Shukir answers..
"The belief is that the Creator knows what is best for His creation."

I have never read anywhere that "The Creator has said the above Statement". Men have been twisting and interpreting religion to suit their own whims and fancies. Even if 1 % of the earth's population is honestly convinced without being a hypocrite by the above answers, I'll rest my case on this topic of Men can marry 4 wives and women cannot do the same in the name of religion,social and scientific reasons.

Rags   May 4th, 2011 3:39 pm ET

Ismail... Your response to James which is the following:

"Please understand a woman is made by Allah as needing rest after birth of its child and eventually will not be available to his man ....".
So marrying more than one woman is socially , morally and spiritually accepted and prescribed to banish adultery, debauchery and lewdness".

Never, Never, Ever heard this theory even from a hard core fundamentalist. Hello??? which century, which age are you living in? You mean to say that the woman does not have any sexual desire after the birth of a child? and Allah said that???? Have your opinion but please don't say Allah said this. I have seen men having more than one wife fooling around with women in the Bars totally drunk. Don't give me this baloney of adultery and debauchery. I have seen these men in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the US. You must be totally naive or just follow what is told to you. Come out of hypocrisy.

Sally   May 11th, 2011 8:37 pm ET

Re your statistics amir ......... There is just one million more women than men in the uk. Until the age of 31 there're more men than women. Women live longer cos men die younger. If this were an Islamic country would your young mates like to marry the old ladies that are mainly 70 plus to make sure they are not left on their own before they die?

sasshyh   May 12th, 2011 11:03 am ET

so hows the aggreement if you will get hitch with other nationals?is there any possibilities that they would have the same form of arrangement???

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