Everything you need to know about marriage in Palestine

6 Jun 2023·22 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Palestine 01

Palestine, officially known as the State of Palestine, is a western Asian state known for its historical heritage. Every year, over 40,000 marriages are performed by Palestinian nationals and other foreigners in the state. This state is made up of two major sides: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and some of the laws guiding the act of marriage in these two regions are quite different. Palestine is very diverse in terms of religion and politics, and there is a general code guiding the act of marriage under the constitution, but couples also have the freedom to exercise their religious beliefs and conduct marriage ceremonies based on the laws of their religion. 

The two major types of marriage in Palestine are religious marriages. The majority of the religious marriages performed in the state are Muslim marriages because the population of Muslims in Palestine is about 99%. The territories in the country are mostly governed by the principles of Islam, and most times, religious marriage traditions are mixed with those of customary marriages, especially in local regions and communities. The legal age of marriage in the country is 18 years, but there are exceptions allowed. Spouses under this age may be allowed to marry in the country for valid reasons. 

In the past, the minimum marriage age for girls and boys used to be different in the two major regions. In the Gaza Strip, the minimum marriage age for female spouses was 15 years, while that of boys was 16 years. In the West Bank, the minimum legal age for marriage for girls was 17 years, while that for boys was 18 years. The marriage age was raised as one of the measures taken to prevent child marriages in the state. Continue reading to find out more about Palestinian marriages and their traditions.

Obtaining a Certificate of Marital Status

Palestine does not recognize civil marriages for both Palestinians and foreign spouses. All marriages are supposed to be held in accordance with the principles of the spouses' respective religions. Before a marriage is held in the state, spouses are required to obtain a certificate of marital status or single status. However, this usually applies to the minority who are of other religions or foreigners getting married in the state. Since the laws of the state allow a man to marry multiple wives as long as he is able to make provisions for them, most people getting married do not require a single status certificate. 

The document serves as evidence that a male or female spouse is single and not in any other relationship or marriage with someone other than their partner in Palestine or any other state abroad. Foreigners are usually able to obtain this document at the local office on marriage affairs in the municipality where they reside or at the consulate or embassy of their home country, if such an office exists. Fees are usually associated with the submission of required documents. These documents are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • Both spouses are required to submit a copy of a filled-out and signed application form.
  • The bride and groom's passports must include a notarized translation.
  • A deed poll. This document may be required in cases where either of the spouses changed their names in the past.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious marriages are the only types of marriages that are recognized and protected under the laws of the state. The predominant religion in Palestine is Islam, and the state is generally regarded as a Muslim state. About 98% of the total population are Sunni Muslims, and marriages are performed in accordance with the Islamic faith. The general Muslim laws guiding the act of marriage in other Arab countries and Muslim states around the world are also applicable here. Palestinian families are patriarchal, where the man is the head of the family. The family line is supposed to continue through the male line, and female spouses are required to move into their husbands' houses upon marriage. 

In fact, one of the major reasons why some male spouses marry multiple wives is because they want a son who will carry on the family lineage. In cases where the first marriage results in no male children, the husband is expected to marry another wife and keep trying until he gives birth to a male child. This explains why Palestinians have large families. In Palestine, nuclear families with only four or five members are extremely rare. Most families are known to have up to 10 members or even more. In Muslim marriages, a marriage contract is drawn up by the imam officiating the ceremony. This ceremony is known as Nikah, and the marriage agreement contract frequently includes all of the marriage's terms and responsibilities. 

The clear roles of the bride and groom are stated, and both partners are only required to sign if they are comfortable with the distribution of roles and assets and every other aspect of the contract. The marriage ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses, as they are also required to sign the contract. Couples are advised to choose witnesses who are responsible and whom they can bank on. The absence of a witness on the day of the marriage ceremony may result in the delay or postponement of the wedding. It is common for the groom to have to pay the bride and her family at least two different times before the conclusion of the marriage. 

Mahr is compulsory in a Muslim marriage, and it must be paid by the groom to the bride. The Mahr capsule can be in monetary form or in other forms like gifts and jewelry. The mahr is quite different from the bride price or dowry, and the groom will still be required to pay that before the marriage is concluded. Muslim marriages are either performed in the mosque or the home of the bride's family. Generally, it is up to the preference of the families regarding where they would like to celebrate their marriage.

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Marriage traditions in Palestine

Tulbeh 

This is one of the major pre-wedding rituals in Palestinian marriages. Here, the groom asks for the hand of the bride in marriage from her family. Tulbeh simply means "asking." Generally, the groom does not perform this tradition alone; he is often accompanied by his parents and some family elders. The process of asking for the bride's hand is performed by a family elder, and the answer to the request is also delivered by the elder.

Dabke 

Dabke is a unique type of dance that is performed by the wedding party and different guests at the wedding ceremony. Typically, a Palestinian wedding ceremony is not complete without the Dabke dance. Here, the participants do a choreography by standing in a long line holding hands. It usually involves kicking the air and stomping their feet against the ground, and there are often a lot of body movements involved in the dance. This dance is usually filled with excitement and makes the wedding ceremony interesting and memorable.

Sahra 

This is also a pre-wedding ritual in which both families of the bride and groom participate. Sahra refers to the evening party that is either hosted by the bride's family or the groom's family. In some cases, the two families may decide to host the party jointly. This party usually involves a lot of drinking, eating, and dancing, and most times it runs late into the night. Some families may even decide to hold the sahra until the morning of the next day.

Same-sex Marriages  

Marriages between same-sex spouses are not permitted in Palestine. Regarding the status of homosexuality in the state, the laws of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are quite different. In the West Bank, it is acceptable for both genders to be homosexuals, but in the Gaza Strip, homosexuality is only open to females, and it is a criminal offense for males to be homosexuals. In Palestine, same-sex marriages can result in up to ten years in prison.

Polygamy in Palestine

Polygamy is generally acceptable in Palestine. Under Sharia law, a man is allowed to have more than one wife, provided he treats them equally and fairly. Since the state is bound by the principles of Sharia law, polygamous marriages are allowed. Muslim men in the country are allowed to have multiple spouses. Polygamy has been known to be more common in the Gaza Strip than the West Bank in Palestine.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

The rules governing marriage in Palestine are slightly different from those in other Muslim countries in the world because, as was previously mentioned, Palestine is divided into two territories: the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, there is a point of agreement between the two regions' marriage laws. The laws of marriage are established in Islamic laws, also known as Sharia laws; this law regulates the act of marriage and every family-related issue. The practice of polygyny is allowed in Palestine, where a man is allowed to marry up to four wives; however, he must be able to prove that he is capable of testing them equally and that he has the financial means to enter into marriage with more than one partner. 

Polyandry, on the other hand, is prohibited; women are forbidden from marrying more than one husband. The laws of marriage in Palestine do not generally favor women; wives are often faced with a lot of discrimination and violence, and at the time of marriage, the consent of the bride is often not respected, even if she is an adult. Despite the fact that the law states that the consent of both parties must be obtained before marriage can take place, here the silence of the bride is considered to be her consent to marriage. Once the consent of the groom is obtained and the father or legal guardian of the bride agrees to the marriage, even if it is not in the interest of the bride, the union is allowed to take place. 

The minimum age for marriage is 15 for girls and 16 for boys in the west bank, while it is 18 for boys and 17 for girls in the Gaza strip. Despite this law, which clearly states the legal age for marriage, many young children are married off once they hit puberty. Non-Muslim men are not allowed to marry Muslim women unless they change their religion to Islam, but Muslim men are allowed to enter into marriage with whomever they wish. There are no laws that guarantee marriage between foreigners who are non-Muslims and wish to enter into marriage in Palestine. 

Anyone caught carrying out homosexual activities, especially between men, is liable to face a jail term of up to 10 years. Consanguineous marriages, also known as marriages between relatives, are commonly practiced in Palestine. Many couples marry their siblings, step-siblings, cousins, etc. The law that states that couples must be single at the time of marriage does not expressly apply in Palestine; however, it affects women only. Women are required to be single at the time of marriage; they must not be in any legally binding marriage, and all previous marriages must have been dissolved. 

Rights

In Palestine, men are seen as superior; therefore, they have access to more rights than women in marriage and in life generally. While a man has the right to move about freely and do whatever he wants without having to seek permission from anyone, a woman does not have access to this right; she has to seek the permission of her husband before she is able to leave the home, visit her family, or do anything. If she leaves the home without the permission of her husband, she is liable to face punishment when she returns. 

The rights of the wife are limited within the confines of the house; she has the right to receive maintenance from her husband, and if he refuses to pay it, that is a sufficient ground on which she can file for divorce, which she must prove beyond every reasonable doubt. Speaking of divorce, the husband has the right to divorce his wife without any valid reason; all he has to do is repeat "I divorce you" three times and the divorce stands; the wife doesn't even need to be there for the divorce to stand. The only time a wife has the right to file for divorce is if the divorce is based on specific reasons such as desertion, neglect, or severe domestic abuse. Before the divorce can be filed, several attempts will have been made by the family court to resolve the issue, and not until it is clearly seen that the marriage is irretrievable will the woman be allowed to file for divorce. 

The right of the wife to do a number of things is in the hands of her husband. They both have the right to own, use, and dispose of property as they wish; however, the property of the wife is controlled by the husband. He has the right to own all property and financial assets, which makes his wife totally dependent on him; this often scares many women from filing for divorce from an abusive marriage. The husband is recognized as the legal guardian of the children, and the wife is only granted this right when the children are still very young. As soon as they reach a certain age, she automatically relinquishes her right to be seen as the legal guardian of the children to her husband. 

The husband has the sole right to exercise parental authority whenever it is necessary. A man has the right to marry more than one wife, a right that is not available to women. They both have the right to inheritance and property; the husband, however, has more rights than the wife at the demise of one of the couple. The surviving spouse has the right to take over the property of the deceased spouse, but the percentage that eventually reaches the wife after it has been shared among male family members is often very small.

Costs

When referring to marriage in Palestine, you're referring to a Muslim marriage, which is often expensive and lavish. The total cost of a wedding in Palestine is around $10,000–15,000 in order to fulfill all customs and traditions and have a reputable standing in society. This cost can easily increase to as much as $30,000, and the burden of paying for the cost of the wedding rests on the shoulders of the husband. He is responsible for financing all the expenses of the wedding ceremony, and prior to this time he must have paid the bride price, which is always expensive as well. 

The average dowry costs around $5000–$7000, after which he is responsible for financing the engagement party after the parents of the bride have accepted to give their daughter in marriage. The average cost of renting a hall in Palestine is around $700–$1000; more expensive halls are rented by more financially capable couples. Some couples practice "na," whereby guests are required to give a monetary donation into a bowl placed outside the hall of the event; this often helps couples recover some of the money spent on the wedding ceremony. 

The attire and accessories of the couple cost around $2000; make-up and spa sessions for the bride cost around $100 or more; entertainment at the ceremony costs around $900; flowers and decorations cost at least $2000; and photography and videography cost around $1000 or more depending on the reputation of the invited photographer. The invitations and gifts for guests cost around $2000; this is determined by the number of guests invited to the ceremony, and since hundreds of guests are often invited to Palestinian weddings, the cost can easily increase.

Duties

Because the family is regarded as the foundation of society, the concept of family is held in high regard and with great expectation in Palestinian society. The husband and wife have roles to play in the home; the wife has more responsibilities to carry out to ensure the wellbeing of the family than the husband does. They both have a duty to ensure that the children are well taken care of; she is the primary caregiver in the home; therefore, she is required to take care of her husband as well as his family members. 

She is obligated to obey her husband at all times; she must not disobey him in any way, as disobedience is equal to sin. They are both required to protect the name and honor of the family and ensure that no disrespect comes to the family. She must always be ready to meet the needs of her husband and make herself available to him at all times. The husband must also provide for the family and ensure that his wife receives maintenance from him. 

She is obligated to always respect her husband and his family members; the husband must also ensure that his wife is respected at all times by his family members. She has a duty to live with her husband wherever he chooses as the family's residence. The average Palestinian family is largely patriarchal; therefore, the husband is required to be dominant, authoritative, and self-reliant, which makes the woman dependent and subservient to her husband.

In summary 

Palestine is a Muslim country, and marriage practices are performed according to the principles of Sharia law. Family is very important in the state, and households are headed by the male spouse. Generally, the gender roles for both spouses in Palestine are distinct.

A man is expected to be the head of his family, and since Palestinian families are often quite large, the man often also has the role of heading the whole extended family, while the woman has the primary role of carrying out household maintenance and raising the children. The easiest way to get married in Palestine is when both spouses are Muslims. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriage in Palestine.

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