Nikah mut’ah or mut’ah marriage, which literally is pleasure marriage or temporary marriage allows Iranian women in engaging into prostitution. Mut’ah is also known as Sigheh – is a private and verbal temporary marriage contract that is practiced in Twelver Shia Islam, in which the duration of the marriage and the amount of dowry (to be paid to the female) must be specified and agreed upon in advance. Mut’ah is a private contract made in a verbal or written format. A declaration of the intent to marry and an acceptance of the terms are required as in other forms of marriage in Islam.
According to Shia Muslims, Prophet of Islam, Muhammad sanctioned nikah mut’ah (fixed-term marriage, called mut’ah in Iraq and Sigheh in Iran), which has instead been used as a legitimizing cover for sex workers in a culture where prostitution is otherwise forbidden. Some Western writers have argued that mut’ah approximates prostitution and asserted that it has been used to cover for child prostitution.
Some sources say the Nikah mut’ah [temporary marriage] has no prescribed minimum or maximum duration, but others, such as The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, indicate the minimum duration of the marriage is debatable and durations of at least three days, three months or one year have been suggested. Some Muslims and Western scholars have stated that both Nikah mut’ah and Nikah Misyar or Sigheh are Islamically void attempts to religiously sanction prostitution.
Historically there were many types of marriages, used for various purposes, as opposed to a full marriage; in mut’ah some of the rights of the husband and wife are non-existent. This was primarily used by those who could not stay at home with their wife and traveled a lot. For example, a traveling merchant might arrive at a town and stay for a few months, in that period he may marry a divorced widow, and they would take care of each other. When he has to leave to the next down, the marriage is over, and he might sign a mut’ah contract at his next place. Although in modern times such a thing is considered obsolete, due to the availability of fast travel, and primarily exists in Iran and Shia regions for sexual pleasure reasons as a means of Halal dating.
Controversies centering Mut’ah
Mut’ah, literally meaning joy, is a condition where rules of Islam are relaxed. It can apply to marriage (the nikah mut’ah) or to the Hajj (the obligatory pilgrimage) (the Mut’ah of Hajj). The permissibility of Mut’ah is disputed by majority of the Sunni scholars, who argue that the practice was banished by the Prophet of Islam.
Twelver Shia scholars, on the other hand, assert that Mut’ah was sanctioned by the Prophet of Islam, but was banished by the Second Caliph ‘Umar.
Omar’s abolition was not accepted in many scholarly circles and was met with staunch opposition from major companions like ‘Imràn b. Husayn, Ibn ‘Abbas, as well as Omar’s son ‘Abd Allàh b. ‘Umar.
Both Shias and Sunnis agree that, initially, or near the beginning of Islam, Nikah mut’ah was a legal contract.
The prominent companion and Caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was born of nikah mut’ah between Zubayr ibn al-Awwam and Asma bint Abi Bakr. According to al-Raghib al-Isphahani, Abu Dawood al-Tayalisi, and Qadhi Sanaullah Panipati, were major scholarly personalities born of Mut’ah.
According to Twelver Shia jurisprudence, preconditions for mut’ah are: The bride must not be married, she must attain the permission of her wali if she has never been married before, she must be Muslim or belong to Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book), she should be chaste, must not be a known adulterer, and she can only independently do this if she is Islamically a non-virgin or she has no wali (Islamic legal guardian).
At the end of the contract, the marriage ends and the wife must undergo iddah, a period of abstinence from marriage (and thus, sexual intercourse). The iddah is intended to give paternal certainty to any children should the wife become pregnant during the temporary marriage contract. The Twelver Shias give arguments based on the Quran, hadith (religious narration), history, and moral grounds to support their position on mut’ah. They argue that the word of the Qur’an takes precedence over that of any other scripture, including Quran 4:24, known as the verse of Mut’ah.
Julie Parshall writes that mut’ah is legalized prostitution which has been sanctioned by the Twelver Shia authorities. She quotes the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World to differentiate between marriage (nikah) and Mut’ah, and states that while nikah is for procreation, mut’ah is just for sexual gratification.
According to Zeyno Baran, this kind of temporary marriage provides Shi’ite men with a religiously sanctioned equivalent to prostitution.
According to Elena Andreeva’s observation published in 2007, Russian travelers to Iran consider mut’ah to be “legalized profligacy’, which is indistinguishable from prostitution.
These views are contested by others, who hold that mut’ah is a temporary wedlock option in Islam for avoiding illegal sexual relations among those Muslims whose marriage is legitimate but, for certain constraints, they are unable to avail it. From this point of view, mut’ah is neither concubinage nor prostitution. Religious supporters of mut’ah argue that temporary marriage is different from prostitution for a couple of reasons, including the necessity of iddah in case the couple have sexual intercourse. According to this interpretation of the rules of iddah, if a woman marries a man in this way and has sex, she has to wait a number of months before marrying again and therefore, a woman cannot marry more than three or four times in a year.
Under Islamic law, a married man can have a Mut’ah marriage, but not a married woman. The rule of sexual abstinence too does not apply to men. Complaining about this rule, many Muslim women say, they wished it would be allowed for women too to avail the opportunity of Sigheh or Mut’ah “every night”.
The temporary marriage, or nikah mut’ah, is an ancient Islamic practice that unites man and woman as husband and wife for a limited time. Historically it was used so that a man could have a wife for a short while when travelling long distances.
In Mut’ah marriage, there is no provision of having any witness.
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