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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Legacy to Modern Egypt                383
marriage ceremony. The procession, the mock fights, the feasts,
and all those wedding episodes which are common in some form
or other all the world over are completely ignored. They are
customary, not part of Islamic law. The one episode which.
Islam has annexed is the marriage contract. Curiously enough
it is the very one about which the ancients have left us very
detailed information. It has been taken over almost unchanged.
In antiquity, as now, the husband paid a dowry and promised to
pay a further amount on divorcing his wife. The proportion
that now prevails in the Western Delta between the immediate
and the deferred payments is 2 : I, but I : I occurs as in ancient
times. Note that this is now one of the few money transactions:
payment is never in kind. The ancients had no coinage, but they
paid the dowry in weights of precious metal, not in corn. Coins
later took the place of weights, but the principle remained the
same: it was not, and still is not, a commercial transaction like
barter. Then, as now, the bride brought various materials with
her, then mainly garments, now furniture; but the ring which
the bride presents to the bridegroom has not changed. Then,
as now, all that she brought with her was hers, to be taken away
at divorce. In the ancient contracts it was stated that the
children inherited the property. The claim of the children to
inherit seems to have been in the process of solidifying as law.
The process is now complete, and so it is no longer necessary
to specify their right in the marriage contract, since it follows
marriage automatically.
Plurality of wives was not of course instituted, but only
sanctioned by Islam, for it is world-wide. Cases of two wives
occur from the Middle Kingdom on. Polygamy was undoubtedly
royal in origin, a duty of kings rather than a privilege. It is this
aristocratic character that has caused its spread, rather than any
advantage, for not every man is capable of managing several
wives. Polygamy is often a sacrifice of peace to prestige. Yet
such is the force of snobbery that polygamy has spread right