Everything you need to know about marriage in Syria

23 Jun 2023·21 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Syria 01

About 30,000 marriages are performed in Syria every year. Syria is a country in the Middle East officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic and popular for its rich cultural heritage. The country is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society, with different ethnic groups conducting marriages in different ways. In the country’s constitution, the president of Syria must be a Muslim; however, the country is still declared a secular state, and it maintains that it has no official religion. About 65 percent of the total population is Muslim, and a lot of marriages in the country are performed under the principles of sharia law in Islam. 

Christians in Syria make up about 12 percent of the total number of people living in the country, and there are 14 different denominations under this religion. Syria's Sharia courts generally rule on marriage-related issues regardless of the religion of the spouses. The legal marriage age in Syria is 18 years old for both male and female spouses. Foreigners getting married in the country are also required to follow this law. However, there are certain exceptions allowed. A male spouse aged 15 and a female spouse aged 13 may be allowed to get married with the provision of judicial consent. Traditionally, men and women are not regarded as equals in Syria, and the man often holds a higher legal status than the woman. 

One of the duties and obligations of a woman in the country is to respect and obey her husband. The use of property, work, education, etc. by a woman may sometimes be controlled or regulated by her husband. Sunni Muslims constitute the majority of the Muslim population. Arabic is the official language of the country; however, there are several other languages spoken across different ethnicities in the country. The rest of the article will show you more about the marriage traditions in Syria.

Religious Marriages

Religious marriages performed in Syria are legally binding and recognized across the whole country and other Arabian countries in the world. The major religion in Syria is Islam, and under the principles of this religion, marriage is referred to as a contract between a man and a woman (two parties), where there must be an offer (I’Jab) from one party and an acceptance (Qabul) from the other. Muslim marriages often involve a marriage contract that must be signed before the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife. The marriage contract includes all the marriage terms and responsibilities of the husband and wife. 

The contents of the marriage contract must be agreed upon by both spouses before they are allowed to sign it. The marriage contract must also be signed by two witnesses. According to sharia laws and principles, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a non-Muslim woman. This means that a Christian Syrian woman may marry a Muslim man without any hindrances or need for conversion before contracting the marriage. However, a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim man. If this type of marriage is performed, it is rendered void (batil) under the laws of the country. For this type of marriage to have legal grounds, the non-Muslim man must first convert to Islam before the marriage takes place. 

All marriages registered in the Syrian courts are legally binding. This includes those performed by Muslims, Christians, or Druze. The marriage contract that must be signed by the couples includes some important things, like the dowry that must be paid by the groom and his family before the marriage. The amount of dowry is often specified, and most families come to an arrangement to choose a list of items that can be afforded by the groom. The wealthier a groom is, the higher the dowry is. After the ceremony is performed, it is mandatory for the marriage to be registered in the sharia court so as to ensure its legal validity. 

It is up to the spouses to determine when they want to register such a marriage. It can either be performed before the wedding ceremony or after. Marriages may only be conducted by authorized family courts. Any marriages performed outside this bracket are automatically void. There are 24 different Sharia courts in Syria, and there are procedures that must be followed before the wedding is allowed to take place. The marriage registration process begins with an application that must be submitted by both spouses at the Sharia court. During the submission of the application, the documents that must be submitted by the bride and groom are stated below.

Documents Required 

  • Both partners must provide an extract of national civil registry information. This document is issued by the Civil Status Department and serves as evidence of the civil status of the couple.
  • The spouses must provide a certificate obtained from the local mukhtar confirming their ages, names (as well as those of their parents or guardians), and residential address. The certificate will also serve as proof that neither spouse faces any impediments to their marriage in Syria, whether at home or abroad.
  • In cases where either or both partners are from a foreign country, they are required to obtain the approval of the security service in Syria.
  • Medical certificate. This is mandatory for both spouses, and various tests must be carried out as specified to show that both spouses have no underlying health conditions that may hinder the marriage and prevent it from happening legally.
  • Spouses serving in the armed forces or of conscription age (men between the ages of 18 and 42) are required to obtain permission from military authorities.

After the submission of all documents, the registration process will be completed by the assistant judge in the court. Spouses have the option to complete this procedure at their residence; however, it will attract the payment of extra fees.

Civil Registration

There are several procedures involved in the registration of Syrian marriages. The court is required to send a copy of the marriage contract to the civil status department. The submission must be performed within a period of ten days. Once the civil status department receives the marriage contract or a notification of marriage from the sharia court, they proceed to update the civil status of both partners in the civil registry. Upon the registration of the marriage, a separate marriage certificate is issued by the department, and a family book is presented to the husband. The book will be used to keep records of every important legal event in the family.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Syria 02

Marriage traditions in Syria

Dowry

Traditionally, marriages in Syria only happen after the payment of the dowry or bride price by the groom and his family. During the engagement ceremony, the groom asks for the hand of the bride in marriage. If his proposal is accepted, the bride's family gives him a bride price or dowry that must be provided before the marriage takes place.

The Newlyweds Walk

Traditionally, the transition of a bride from her own family house to that of her husband includes some rituals that must be performed by the wedding party. Here, the bride's family walks the bride to her new home. It generally does not involve a procession of cars. This tradition, however, has only been performed in some villages in recent times.

Mahr

This is a popular ceremonial obligation in Muslim marriages. The Mahr refers to the money or other possessions that must be paid by the groom to the bride at the time of contracting a Muslim marriage. Most times, the Mahr is provided in the form of money, but it may also be in other forms like furniture, land, a house, etc.

Same-sex marriages 

Same-sex Marriages, unions, and partnerships are illegal in Syria. Marriage may only happen between a man and a woman. Homosexuality holds no legal grounds, and same-sex couples are not allowed to perform same-sex sexual acts. They generally have no rights or benefits associated with marriage in the country.

Polygamous marriages 

The state of polygamy in Syria is restricted. It is allowed in some regions, while others strictly prohibit such marriages.
In Raqqa, Manbij, and Deir al-Zor, a man is allowed to have multiple wives; other regions, like Qamishli, Kobani, and Serekaniye, do not allow such marriages, and it may result in legal challenges and consequences.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Syria 03

Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

Marriage has a religious rather than a civil status in Syria, as it does in many other countries around the world. The personal status laws in Syria create a legal framework for contracting marriage in the country, and these laws vary from one religion to another. Marriages in Syria must only be performed between people who share similar religious beliefs due to the religious nature of marriages. In Syria, men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women provided they belong to a religion that believes in the existence of one God, but women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men even if they belong to a monotheistic religion. Women from non-monotheistic religions who wish to marry Muslim men are not permitted to do so unless they convert to Islam. 

Other religious laws, such as Christian marriage laws, also do not permit interfaith marriages. According to the personal status laws, the legal age for marriage is set at 18 years for boys and 17 years for girls, and with judicial permission, minors are allowed to enter into marriage at the age of 13 years for females and 15 years for males. A woman must receive the consent of her legal guardian, known as the wali, before she can contract marriage. Consent to marriage is a very important aspect of the personal status law in Syria. Before a man and woman can contract marriage, they must both be eligible and capable of entering into a marriage agreement, which means they must be able to give consent to marriage. While the groom can give consent on his own, the bride cannot; it is assumed that her silence in marriage matters represents her agreement to the marriage agreement. 

If marriage is contracted without the permission of the bride's legal guardian, he has the right to dissolve such a marriage. Foreigners are allowed to marry in Syria provided they meet all the requirements made by the personal status law in Syria, such as a certificate of no legal impediment to marriage, valid identity documents, etc. The practice of polygamy is allowed under the Muslim personal laws guiding marriage; however, the law also states that before he may be allowed to marry more than one wife, he must promise to treat all of them equally and also provide for all their needs. 

There is no specific law that states that the practice of cohabitation between couples who do not want to be legally recognized as husband and wife is allowed. Marriage between people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption is not allowed in Syria. If either of the couples has been married in the past, they are both required by law to submit proof of the dissolution of marriage in the form of a death certificate or a divorce certificate.

Rights

Due to the nature of the personal status laws in Syria, the rights of couples in the country are not equal; the wife is believed to be inferior to her husband, so she is not allowed to exercise certain basic rights without having to receive permission from him. The right to divorce is available to both the husband and wife; however, the husband has the autonomous right to divorce his wife without going to court, for no reason, and even in her absence through talaq. Before the wife can finalize the divorce, she must have enough reasons and be able to prove to the court beyond any doubt the reasons why she wants a divorce. 

For other religions, such as the Druze, the wife is only allowed to file for divorce when the court grants her permission to. After a man and woman have entered into a marriage agreement, they are granted the right to decide on the number of children they wish to have, reproduce, or adopt and to raise the children according to the moral and religious inclinations of the family. When it comes to making important decisions that concern the health and comfort of the family, the husband is granted the right; however, the wife may be involved in the decision-making process by providing her husband with good counsel. 

The right to freedom of movement is granted to the husband and wife; however, the wife has to seek the permission of her husband as she is considered a minor and cannot make decisions on her own. The right to her guardianship passes from her father to her husband after marriage. The right to work and receive equal payment for that work is conferred on the husband and wife; however, as stated earlier, the wife has to receive permission from her husband before she can work, and he has the right to stop her from working if he believes the job is affecting her duties in the home. 

The interests of the children are often taken into consideration when determining who gets the right to custody after a marriage is dissolved. Under the personal status laws for Muslims, inheritance and property rights are not equal; the husband and wife are entitled to own property or receive inheritance, but a female surviving spouse only gets half of any inheritance given to a male surviving spouse.

Costs

According to Syrian marriage customs and traditions, dowry payment is required before marriage can be legally binding. The cost of dowry is often expensive, and many couples have to push back their weddings to be able to save enough for the dowry and eventually the wedding ceremony. Many families ask for as much as SYP 10 million, which is approximately a little above $5,000, excluding the cost of paying for an engagement party and buying gold, which is estimated to cost around SYP 6 million ($1,500).

 In essence, the groom is responsible for shouldering all the costs of the ceremony. The cost of catering to a guest at a wedding ceremony is estimated to be around SYP 100,000 ($25), which means that for a party of 100 people, around $2,500 would be spent. Renting a hall at a reputable venue can cost anywhere from SYP 4 million ($1,020)—this depends on the number of invited guests at the ceremony. 

Transportation costs around SYP 100,000 ($25), bridal hair and makeup costs around SYP 1 million, which is approximately $255, and then around SYP 2–5 million ($500–1,275) for a wedding dress. Many couples who are not able to afford the cost of the wedding dress often rent it or borrow it from their family members. Marriage is an expensive affair for many Syrians due to the failing economy of the country, and only the elite 1% get the opportunity to have lavish wedding ceremonies.

Duties 

In Syria, the husband and wife have different duties and obligations in a marriage. The man is expected to be the provider of the household by ensuring there is clothing, food, medical care and housing for his wife and children. The man is obligated to pay for his wife’s maintenance and upkeep. In essence, he must be able to match her standard of living and even improve it from what it was before the marriage. The maintenance the wife is entitled to totally depends on the income and financial capabilities of her husband. 

There is little gender differentiation because the man is traditionally regarded as the head of the family and society at large, and the wife has a duty to obey him. The wife must share a dwelling with her husband, and if she leaves the home for an extended period of time without any valid reasons, it will mean she is disobedient and can result in her forfeiting her maintenance. The woman must obtain consent from her husband before accepting jobs outside. The woman has the duty of taking care of the children and ensuring they are living well. The responsibility of maintaining the household and keeping things in check falls on the shoulders of the wife.

Final Thoughts 

Syria is made up of various religions and ethnicities, which ensures that marriages are performed in a wide range of settings. A lot of the ceremonial rites of traditional marriages are infused with religious values.

The registration of marriages is mandatory in Syria. If any marriage ceremony performed is not registered in the registry, such marriage will have no legal grounds. The spouses must obtain a marriage certificate and a family book. We hope this article has helped you understand everything you need to know about marriages in Syria.

Related