I was having a discussion in Paris with a notable from the Kingdom on the idea of how a woman facing rape could produce four witnesses. In these discussions, the gentleman who has been a source of great knowledge and has been a mentor to me over the last 35 years, opened the subject of how sex in Pre Islamic Arabia for women was more a woman-controlled issue and not a man.
Pre-Islamic Arabia recognized ‘matrilineal arrangements’ which allowed women to choose who they wished to marry and have children with (2003, p.129-131).
Pre-Islamic Arabia was matriarchal in character; it was Islam that changed it into a patriarchal society. Kinship was traced through mothers – women played an important role pre Islam and in the interim period.
He referred me to a book from a Tunisian author and few other readings. A variety of different marriage practices existed. The most common and recognized types of marriage at this time consisted of: marriage by agreement, marriage by capture, marriage by purchase, marriage by inheritance and "Mot'a" or temporary marriage. Ref: Women, The Koran and International Human Rights Law. https://books.google.co.uk/books…
In Al-Bukhari four type of marriages are mentioned related by 'Urwa ibn az-Zubayr who refers that 'A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, informed him that there were four types of marriage in the Jahiliyya.
1. 'uxorilocal marriage' There was the marriage which is that still practiced by people today in which a man asked another man for his ward or daughter, paid her dower and then married her.
2. ‘al-Istibda' :A man would say to his wife after she was pure from menstruation, "Send for so-and-so and have intercourse with him." Her husband would stay away from her and not have sex with her until she became pregnant by that man with whom she was sleeping. When it was clear that she was pregnant, then her husband would sleep with her if he wished. He did that out of the desire for a child of noble descent. This marriage was called al-Istibda'.
3. Fatima Mernissi (2011), Polyandry : A group of less than ten men would go to the same woman and all have intercourse with her. If she became pregnant and gave birth, some days after the birth she would send for them, and none of them could refuse to come. When they were gathered together before her, she would say to them, "You know what you did. I have given birth. It is your son, so-and-so!" She would name whichever of them she wanted to name, and her child would be attributed to him and the man could not deny that.
“Group sex marriages, where the woman could entertain relations either with a group of less than ten men or consume a limitless number of partners, degraded men to animal-like anonymity. Fatherhood, which implied that the woman limited her sexual desire to consuming only her husband’s body was a rare privilege, since children belonged to the mother’s tribe in general.”
Anonymity of the father meant a man’s role was that of a mere sperm donor and a temporary sexual object. Since the woman gave birth to a child and raised them, she took central stage position. According to Robertson (1907), polyandry he says, “where the children are not bastards, and the mothers are not disgraced or punished for their unchastity, this term is plainly in- appropriate.”
4. Many men would go to a woman who would not refuse whoever came to her. They were prostitutes and they used to set up flags at the doors as signs. Whoever wanted could go to them. If one of them became pregnant, when she gave birth, they would be brought together and they would call the physiognomists who would then attach the child to the one they thought was the father. He would be ascribed to him and called his son. None of them could reject that.
Ref : (Fatwa No : 195983 Marriage in the pre-Islamic eraFatwa Date : Jumaadaa Al-Oula 22, 1434 / 2-4-2013)
Islam abolished all of these marriages of the Jahiliyya.