‘Trial Marriage’ Sparks Controversy in Egypt

Islamic Scholars Unanimously Reject the Initiative Proposed by an Egyptian Lawyer

A ‘Trial Marriage’ contract published by a lawyer on Facebook has caused an uproar in Egypt. Ahmad Mahran says the agreement he drafted aims at reducing the country’s high divorce rate. But Islamic scholars have unanimously rejected the practice that unites man and woman as husband and wife for a limited time. 

Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni Muslim religious institution, was first to reject the initiative, declaring in a statement that a stipulated time-period renders a marriage contract “void and prohibited”. Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s top Islamic body, also declared the contract as “invalid” for the same reason, asserting that the practice is strictly prohibited and goes against Sharia Law. It also noted that incorporating a condition that prevents the husband from divorcing his wife deprives men of their rights under Islamic sharia.

In response to the wave of criticisms, Mahran defended the initiative, saying that the document is not a marriage contract, but an agreement of reconciliation between quarrelling couples that includes a list of conditions agreed upon by the two partners. 

Mahran proposed that couples sign a separate agreement to the marriage contract that sets out the rules that both parties are obliged to stick to during the length of their marriage.  

Egyptian journalist Hajar Saeed told Majalla that trial contracts are an insult to women and compromise the fundamental principle of stability in marriage. 

“Marriage is a strong bond based on love and compassion, while a ‘trial marriage’ can end in divorce if it becomes unsuitable for the two partners after a certain period,” Saeed, a mother of two children, told Majalla.

She also noted that following the fatwa, (a formal ruling or interpretation on a point of Islamic law) discussions surrounding trial marriages should end as the controversial issue contradicts religious and cultural norms.

Rasha Daba echoed Saeed’s sentiments, saying that marriages of this nature augment the sense that women are a commodity. Daba added that her husband was equally as surprised as she was at the news. 

She also highlighted that children face an uncertain fate in temporary marriages, and it will only make Egypt’s already high divorce rate even higher. 

“The initiative is an attempt to imitate foreigners and open the door for people who want to live together without marriage and abandon our religious customs and traditions,” Daba said angrily.

Nutritionist Taghreed Al-Zamly called the initiative trivial as it fails to address the main reasons behind the growing divorce rate in the country, asserting that the idea is unsuitable for Egyptian society.

She advised those planning to get married to seek family counselling services designed to support couples in understanding their responsibilities within a relationship and achieving marital harmony.

Couples tend to enter marriage ill-prepared as much of their focus leading up to the wedding is given to preparing for the party, honeymoon and house, rather than working on things that will lead to a fruitful relationship, Zamly explains to Majalla.

Young people searching for a stable marriage should deal with difficulties with patience to avoid problems that can lead to divorce, she said, adding that parents can play a vital role in helping newlyweds resolve any issues they may have.