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What's a "Cabeen" Marriage in Turkey?

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I am translating an English novel set in 18th C Turkey. It uses several Turkish words and terms, whose meaning I have mostly  managed to discover so far, though often with much effort and difficulty (incidentally I would very much like to hear suggestions regarding any good - and preferably freely available! - Turkish-English dictionary.) Anyway, I am currently stuck with the following phrase, and I would appreciate the help of Turkish speakers. The protagonist has met a woman and says:

"In order that the union might begin with speed, and yet be of a nature to terminate with decency, we agreed upon one of those short-hand marriages called by the Turks cabeen."

Now, I have found "kyabin" in the (pretty old) dictionary I am using to mean: "portion" or "dower," I see refernces online to "Kabeen Nama" as some sort of document or marriage registration, and then there's also kab'i, which means "wrong." I looked up the sort of temporary marriage that I believe the author is describing in a reliable source, where I found it called mut'a, but found no references to anything like kabeen, or cabeen, or kyabin (it also says such marriages would not be officially acceptable in Suni Islam, but that's another matter, I guess.) So, please do let me know, if you will: what does "cabeen" mean and refer to here, b) is it pronounced with a stress in the second syllable, as I imagine - i.e. kabEEn, and c) are there any sources you are aware of (not in Turkish, which I, obviously, don't speak) that discuss this sort of marriage arrangement? Please be aware that, as I said, this is an old book, so the term may not be in use any more . I look forward to your answers!

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I'm talking now with a Turkish friend who is a lawyer. There are a lot of Arabic and Persian words in Turkish law as there are a lot of Latin words in English law. She doesn't recognize the word. She asked me to ask you for the context, in Turkish. And the actual spelling of the word as you saw it. The spelling "cabeen" indicates it's not a Turkish word.

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(To Ken Grubb)

Thank you for your reply and your willingness to help. Regarding the context, let me quotre the paragraph a little more fully: 

  "In order that the union might begin with speed, and yet be of a nature to terminate with decency, we agreed upon one of those short-hand marriages called by the Turks cabeen : — but, for the purpose of avoiding the obloquy to which nuptials of that sort are liable, notwithstanding their legality, ours were to be kept a secret;"

So we are talking about a form of marriage that is legal (according to the author at least) but nevertheless frowned upon. The idea of a "short-hand" (that is, abbreviated) marriage led me to "mut'a" (termporary marriage) but I haven't been able to verify any connection between "mut'a" and anything called "cabeen."   

Like i said, the novel is wrtitten in English, so there is no Turkish linguistic context as such, other than a sprinkling of Turkish words for the sake of authenticity, as it were. In addition, it is an old novel (published in the 19th century) about the Ottoman empire in the 18th century, so this may be an obsolete term, whether legal or vernacular I can't say. Also, the author was not Turkish, he was a European traveler through the empire, so it is possible that that he misheard or misunderstood or misapplied the term. "Cabeen," at any rate is the word as he gives it.  Finally, this may well be, for all I know, a Persian or Arabic word, as you suggest.  

I suspect I'm only complicating the matter with all this information, so I' ll stop here, after thanking you once more for your help!  




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OK sorry I may have missed this in your earlier post. What I sent my friends was the English version, with the word "cabeen" as you wrote it. None of them had ever heard of the word.

But it does sound like a "cami marriage," or a "mosque marriage." Some Turks get married before an imam, which isn't a legal marriage, it's just a religious marriage. As I understand it now, imams can now perform legal marriages, but this is something recent.

So I think the author is referring to a religious marriage, which can be done easier and faster than a legal marriage, and can be broken a lot easier as well because it's not a legal marriage in the first place, and is subject to religious rules rather than laws. However, I don't know what the laws were like during the 18th century.

I wish I could be of more help, but that's the best I can do.

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  • Ken Grubb changed the title to What's a "Cabeen" Marriage in Turkey?

Right, the two words kind of sound alike too so I guess this may be it. I just wonder whether this difference you describle between a religious and a civil marriage is not a product of 20th Century secularization, and, if so, how applicabe it might be to older times when I would imagine religious and civil law to have been fairly coextensive. Still, this is quite helpful. Thank you.

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I found a reference to a Kabin-Nama mentioned in this article pertaining to such a situation in Bangladesh:


Though it doesn't seem to be a Turkish word as such, it surely must have roots in some sort of old Arabic-type language. Kabin-Nama must be the marriage certificate because nama is so similar to the Turkish name..  

Long shot...

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