SAUDIS HAVE a unique culture and are bound by complex religious, traditional and tribal codes. For any non-Saudi who has a job offer based in Saudi Arabia, has been invited there as a tourist or intends to marry a Saudi citizen, it is imperative that they should educate themselves on the country, its natives and their way of life. Consequently, I am advocating a thorough investigation of all aspects before one commits oneself to a final decision.
The late King Fahd had given advice on Saudis marrying non-Saudis. As recounted by Abu Ibrahim, King Fahd was quoted as saying: “We must also be alert to the problems we cause when you get married to a woman from abroad. When she gets pregnant, she will miss her family, and ask to go deliver her baby at her mother or sister’s home. You, as the husband, won’t like that, and will want her to deliver here at your mother’s home. Later, she will ask to visit her family abroad to show off her baby, and you will not be happy to travel abroad so much.
Disagreements soon follow, and we in the government receive all these complaints and conflicts. The wives feel they are being cruelly denied the love of their families, and the husbands are afraid to lose the wife and children. So, I tell you, it is best that you marry locally and avoid the problems of marrying from outside.”
Undeniably, King Fahd spoke of the truth. Marriage to a Saudi is replete with its own problems but what marriage isn’t? Yet we can’t know whom we will marry in our future and some non-Saudis never plan to marry a Saudi, it just happens. If and when it happens, a non-Saudi should know some things before undertaking marriage. The following advice was taken from a questionnaire I conducted:
1. A person intending to marry a Saudi should read, read, and read. They should study Islam. The more you understand about the religion, the more you will understand your husband, your in-laws, your neighbors, and Saudi society as a whole. Secondly, you should also study Arabic, so that you will have a basis for more learning upon your arrival.
2. Marry a Saudi if you will, but don’t do it and live in his country with the idea that he will stick to the original promises he made to you when you were a young bride. And don’t think that you are strong enough to change the people and help them see the light. Their traditions run very deep.
3. Make sure you understand your future together. Where you will live, will he let you leave Saudi Arabia alone or with the kids and what happens to you and the kids if he dies or you get a divorce.
4. Saudis lead different lives when not in their home country. Don’t ever think they will stay the same. When a woman marries a Saudi, she must understand the crucial control that the mother and father of the Saudi man have over their son, and will have over the daughter-in-law. Get to know the in-laws and talk to his other female relatives.
5. Outside of Saudi Arabia, it is very difficult to tell what the person is like when living in Saudi Arabia among his family and surroundings and cultural expectations. So be aware that things could be very different once you are married and living within the circle of his life in his country. You would do best to respect the customs as much as possible, especially modest dress and etiquette for your gender and try to meet family customs and norms.
6. The first step would be meeting the Saudi’s family and ensuring that they accept you. If they don’t then you next need to know if he is willing to fight for you and go against his family’s wishes. Then have your ‘walee’ investigate the Saudi and let him know from the very beginning that there will be no marriage without the permission being approved first. If his family is not receptive to him marrying a non-Saudi and he shows no willpower to make his own decisions regarding whom he can marry, move on.