Bedouin - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is normally contracted within the minimal lineage (bayt). The ideal marriage is to the closest relative permitted by the Quran (surah 4:23). This is between a man and his father's brother's daughter. Not only is marriage to the bint ʿamm (female parallel cousin) or the ibn ʿamm (male parallel cousin) preferred, but, in addition, the father's brother's son has a customary right to his cousin. Although the female cousin may refuse to marry her father's brother's son, she may not marry anyone else without his consent first. Although parallel-cousin marriage is actively favored, in many of these marriages the term "first cousin" is only a classificatory one. In many cases, the bint ʿamm or ibn ʿamm is actually a second or third cousin. Nevertheless, these cousin marriages are seen as reinforcing the unity and authority of the minimal lineage. Although plural marriage is permitted, the incidence of polygyny is not particularly high. It is generally limited to those older men who are wealthy enough to maintain separate households for each wife. Divorce is frequent and can be initiated by either the husband or the wife. In either case, the wife will return to her father's home for protection and support until her marital crisis has been resolved.

Domestic Unit. The three-generation extended family is the ideal domestic unit. Although this group, averaging between nine and eleven persons, may sleep under more than one tent or shelter, its meals are generally taken together. The newly formed nuclear family of husband and wife tends to remain with the larger domestic unit until it has sufficient manpower and a large enough herd to survive on its own. On occasion, a combination of brothers or patrilineal cousins will join forces to form a single domestic unit.

Inheritance. Property is divided in accordance to Quranic precepts: among surviving children, a son receives half, a daughter a quarter, and other near kin the percentage specified (surah 4:12). Among some Bedouin groups the division of the animal holdings of the deceased is complicated by the fact that women may not look after the larger domesticated animals. Thus, if a woman receives an inheritance of a number of camels, these must be put in trust for her and are generally incorporated into a brother's or cousin's herd.

Socialization. Children and infants are raised by the extended family unit. Parents, older siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all take part in the rearing of the young. By the age of 6 or 7, the child begins to take on simple household tasks and soon thereafter becomes a full working member of the family. Adolescence is hardly recognized; by the early teens, the individual is accepted as a full working member of Bedouin society.

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