Temporary Marriage (Mut'a)

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Temporary Marriage (Mut'a)
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Shi'i fiqh, on the foundations of the guidance provided by the Qur'an and Sunna, considers two types of marriage as being valid: 'permanent marriage' which needs no comment, and 'temporary marriage' or mut'a, which can be commented on as follows.
A man and a woman who are not prevented by religious reasons (such as being related by blood or in terms of a common foster-mother) from marrying one another can, after agreeing upon a dowry and for a specified period of time, enter into wedlock; and after the elapse of the specified time, they separate from one another, without there being any need for the formalities of divorce. If in the meantime they have any offspring, these children are licit and are entitled to receive inheritance from both parents. After the specified period of time has elapsed, the woman must observe the period of 'idda (seclusion) as prescribed in the Shari'a; and if pregnant, she must wait until after the birth of the baby, and then she has the right to marry another man.

A man and a woman who are not prevented by religious reasons (such as being related by blood or in terms of a common foster-mother) from marrying one another can, after agreeing upon a dowry and for a specified period of time, enter into wedlock; and after the elapse of the specified time, they separate from one another, without there being any need for the formalities of divorce. If in the meantime they have any offspring, these children are licit and are entitled to receive inheritance from both parents. After the specified period of time has elapsed, the woman must observe the period of 'idda (seclusion) as prescribed in the Shari'a; and if pregnant, she must wait until after the birth of the baby, and then she has the right to marry another man.

Temporary marriage is, in essence, at one with permanent marriage, and all the rules pertaining to the latter apply to the former. However, there are certain important differences between the two, and these can be summarized as follows: (a) the specification of a period of time in the case of temporary marriage, and (b) the absence of any need to pay alimony at the end of the specified period of a temporary marriage.
Since Islam is the final and most comprehensive religion, it must provide a solution for crises relating to sexuality. Let us take, for example, the case of a young man living away from his own  country, either studying or else trying to find work, and he does not have the means to enter into a permanent marriage. What should he do? He has to choose one of the following three options:
either exert self-control and deprive himself of sexual pleasure;
or enter into illicit affairs with immoral women;
or make use of the possibility of temporary marriage, according to strict conditions, with a virtuous lady.
It is clear that there is no fourth opinion for such a person.
Needless to say, we do not mean to imply that temporary marriage only applies in such circumstances; only that this kind of situation indicates well the religious wisdom behind the rule.
It should be noted also that in the systems of fiqh of other schools of Islam a type of permanent marriage is allowed which, in reality, is but a form of temporary marriage: this is a marriage in which a man and woman marry, but either one or both of them know that after a certain time they must be divorced and separate from each other. The permissibility of such a marriage is equivalent to the permissibility of temporary marriage; only the names differ.

Temporary marriage in the Qur'an and Sunnah

The Qur'an and Sunna alike indicate the religious validity of temporary marriage. The Qur'an says:

And those [women] from whom ye seek satisfaction [by marrying them], giue unto them their portions as a duty ... (Sura al-Nisa', 4:24)

There is no doubt that such marriage was permitted in [early] Islam; if there is any disagreement, it is over the question of whether the ruling that allowed temporary marriage had been abrogated or not. Narrations from both Shi'i and Sunni sources show that this ruling had not been abrogated by the Qur'an or by the Prophet, but that it was prohibited for certain reasons in the time of the second caliph ['Umar].

Nearly all commentators of the Qur'an are in agreement that this verse relates to temporary marriage. In principle, there is no doubt that such marriage was permitted in [early] Islam; if there is any disagreement, it is over the question of whether the ruling that allowed temporary marriage had been abrogated or not. Narrations from both Shi'i and Sunni sources show that this ruling had not been abrogated by the Qur'an or by the Prophet, but that it was prohibited for certain reasons in the time of the second caliph ['Umar]. From the very words of the caliph in which he makes his judgement on the matter, it is clear that the practice was both permitted and current in the time of the Prophet, and indicates that his prohibition of it is based only on his own opinion. His words were as follows:

'O people, three things were current in the time of the Prophet which I now forbid and prohibit, and I punish [ whosoever practices them]: temporary marriage, marriage during Hajj, and the exhortation Hayya 'ala khayri'l-'amal [''hasten unto the best act/ said as part of the call to prayer].'[1]

It is strange that to this day the caliph's prohibition as regards the first and last issues has remained in place, but marriage during Hajj-contrary to the caliph's wish-is being practiced by all Muslims. The meaning of marriage during Hajj is that a pilgrim to the Ka'ba, during the period between his performance of' Umra and the rites of the Hajj, leaves the state of ihram [the 'pilgrim state'], thus rendering permissible those things that are prohibited in the state of ihram.
Clear evidence of the fact that the Prophet had never banned temporary marriage is also provided by the following narration. Bukhari relates that 'Imran b. Hasin said: 'The verse relating to temporary marriage was revealed; at the time of the Prophet we used to practice it. No verse banning it was ever revealed, nor did the Prophet ever prohibit it in his lifetime. Then, a man said what he wanted in regard to it from his own opinion. [2] The reference here is to the prohibition promulgated by the second caliph.

1. 'Ala' al-Din al-Qushaji, Sharh tajrid. al-i'tiqad (Tabriz, 1307 / 1889), P· 464.
2. al-Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 6, p. 27, section on Tafsir, the end of verse 196 of Sura al-Baqara.

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