Nikah Urfi or Urfi Marriage: A Secret Marriage in Muslim Countries

Is Nikah Urfi a secret marriage?

Nikah Urfi is a type of secret marriage that occurs without a religious ceremony in some Arab countries. Marriages in Urfi are not recognized by law. Urfi is an Arabic word meaning “customary,” which refers to customary marriages practiced in some Muslim countries. Despite its literal meaning, Muslim societies often regard it as a “secret” marriage. 

Urfi is an Arabic word meaning “customary,” which refers to customary marriages practiced in some Muslim countries

Urfi Nikahs are marriages that do not involve the formalities associated with religious ceremonies. Women who are forbidden to marry outside their tribe or caste still use it in some Muslim countries as an alternative to marriage.

Nikah urfi is a Shara’i marriage contract that is not officially registered with the state authorities, but typically requires a wali (guardian) and witnesses. There are other informal ways in which people marry ‘urfi as well, such as repeating “We got married” and pledging commitment. The commitment is usually written and at least two witnesses sign on it, but others might use recording devices or other forms of documentation to record it. We consider that there is nothing wrong with it as in Pakistan, around 60% marriages are not legally recorded in rural and tribal areas.

Since most Arab governments do not recognize urfi marriages as legal, partners cannot get a ‘legal’ divorce since the marriage is not recognized as legal. The majority of Urfi contracts do not require men to provide women with maintenance, are rarely publicized and do not last for more than one year. 

It is sometimes viewed as a licit way for people to have sexual relations within their religious framework. Urfi marriages are often contracted without the consent of the woman’s male guardian (Wali) and are kept secret from family members.

Urfi marriages

There is no legal recognition of Urfi marriages

As the name implies, customary marriage is an unrecognized marriage. There are many questions about it, including whether it is sharia-compliant. Sharia generally prohibits the execution of Niakh unless they are made by the woman’s guardian in the presence of two witnesses. 

Sharia generally prohibits the execution of Niakh unless they are made by the woman’s guardian in the presence of two witnesses

In the absence of a valid marriage contract or Nokahnama, the official tasked with registering it cannot deem it valid.

The rationale behind Urfi marriage

Prior to the introduction of modern marriage laws, marriage was a religious contract between two individuals. 

As the world has progressed, the understanding of marriage has evolved as well

There was only a simple contract written on a piece of paper and signed by both parties in the presence of witnesses.

Urfi marriages

A modern perspective on Urfi marriages

As the world has progressed, the understanding of marriage has evolved as well. Marriage used to be a religious contract between two people in the past. It was a simple contract written on a piece of paper and signed by both parties with witnesses. 

 

As a result of technological advancements, we are now able to connect with people across borders quickly and easily. Furthermore, they provide us with information about other cultures that may not necessarily foster healthy relationships within families or communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

As a result of technological advancements, we are now able to connect with people across borders quickly and easily

Urfi marriages were traditionally performed to enable widows to remarry and maintain their pension benefits. Urfi marriages have brought people from different social classes together due to their secrecy. 

Urfi marriages were traditionally performed to enable widows to remarry and maintain their pension benefits

A man who comes from an upper-class family can marry a second wife from a lower-class family by using Urfi marriage. Men were able to fulfill their sexual desires and preserve their honor by keeping their second marriages secret while preserving their marriages with their wives. Due to the fact that the courts do not recognize ‘Urfi Marriages,’ and because the couple doesn’t recognize them, the relationship can remain secret even if a joint home is established after such a marriage. Marriage contracts and sexual relationships bind them as husband and wife.

A man who comes from an upper-class family can marry a second wife from a lower-class family by using Urfi marriage

Due to inflation and unemployment, an increasing number of Urfi marriages are taking place in Egypt, particularly among affluent young Egyptians. Urfi marriages also enable young Egyptians to maintain their halal image while following the “liberal” wave of Westernization. A few Muslim countries practice what is called Urfi Nikah today. 

 

As a result of restrictions imposed by their families, youth cannot choose their own life partner based on their own preferences. Muslim youth commonly experience problems in selecting their partners because they cannot marry outside their caste, race, religion, color, or creed.

Urfi marriages also enable young Egyptians to maintain their halal image while following the "liberal" wave of Westernization

Due to its simplicity and flexibility, Urfi Nikah has been adopted equally by rural and urban areas. When both parties consent, Urfi Nikah or Urfi Marriage may be performed by the Imam (religious leader) without any paperwork or registration.

The legal status of Urfi marriages

There are no formalities involved in an Urfi Nikah, a type of non-religious marriage. Some Muslim countries still use it as an alternative to official marriage to allow women to marry outside their castes.

Muslim lower-class families originally practiced Urfi Nikah because they couldn’t afford to pay dower money for a proper ceremony. Due to the fact that Muslim women from lower classes were forbidden from marrying outside their caste or religion, Urfi weddings became popular in Egypt.

Most countries do not recognize Urfi Nikah as an official marriage

Most countries do not recognize Urfi Nikah as an official marriage. As a result, they will not be considered legally married under civil law. An intestate spouse whose assets have not been left by a will will leave them to their family members instead of to their spouse or children.

In some Arab countries, including Egypt, Urfi marriages are legal

In some Arab countries, including Egypt, Urfi marriages are legal. They are legally recognized in Egypt, for example. 

According to Egyptian law, Urfi marriages are legal. A child born to an Urfi marriage will have the same rights as a child born to a more traditional union, since children born to an Urfi marriage will be considered legitimate.

Urfi marriages
Urfi marriages

Alternatively, they are called unofficial nikahs or Nikahs Al-Mutaa

Urfi marriages are also recognized as legal unions in countries that practice Islamic law. Some Muslim countries, including Egypt, allow Urfi marriages. Alternatively, they are called unofficial nikahs or Nikahs Al-Mutaa. 

The local Sheikh or Imam of a Masjid may authorize any individual to perform Urfi marriages in Egypt. A marriage ceremony must be attended by both spouses, and their consent must be obtained.

Without the consent of the woman, men can marry women in Egypt. The woman can be punished by imprisonment or flogging if she refuses to marry the man who has asked for her hand in marriage.

Urfi marriages