Examining The Origin And Practise Of Muta


Temporary Marriage (Mut‘ah)

Discussing the legality of temporary marriage should not in any way be perceived as encouraging youths to engage in such a practice. Permanent marriage is the norm which is recommended and encouraged in the Noble Qur’an and in the traditions of the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt. Temporary marriage is the exception and should be used as a last resort whenever permanent marriage cannot be afforded or things become extremely difficult to bear (for one who can not get married). This section does not intend to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a marriage; but rather, to address its Islamic legality with respect to the Noble Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet.

Marriage in Islam is a sacred institution, a commitment, and a pledge by two individuals to respect and uphold each other’s will, dignity, honor, and aspirations. Marriage is of two types: permanent and temporary. Both share the same rules and restrictions and both need a prescribed form of proposal and acceptance, and marriage—even the permanent one—is open to conditions and restrictions. If the marriage is not confined to a period of time, then it would be considered as a permanent one, and if it is conditioned by a period of time, then it is a temporary one.

While disagreeing on the matter of temporary marriage, the scholars of other schools of thought agree that if a man intends to marry a lady for a short period of time without telling her that he will be divorcing her after a period of time and hides his intentions then the marriage is still valid. In such a case, temporary marriage seems more logical since the couple can actually agree on the terms and conditions beforehand with full honesty.

In essence, temporary marriage is a ‘normal marriage’ with a mutual agreement that is conditioned by a period of time. The conditions for this marriage include the following: a proposal and acceptance, a dowry for the woman, both parties have to consent and both have the freedom to accept or decline, both have to be sane, and a virgin woman must have her father’s or guardian’s approval. However, in temporary marriage, there is no obligation for sustenance or inheritance unless it is stated and conditioned in the marriage contract.

Regarding this practice, the Noble Qur’an says,

“So with those whom you have engaged in mut‘ah (temporary marriage), give them their dowries as prescribed.”[1]

In the tradition of the Prophet, scores of hadiths state the permissibility of temporary marriage. Imam al-Bukhari narrates, “There came to us the declarer of Allah’s Messenger and said, ‘Allah’s Messenger has granted you permission to have temporary marriage,’—that is mut‘ah with women.”[2] He also narrates:

We were on an expedition with Allah’s Messenger and we had no women with us. We said, ‘should we not have ourselves castrated?’ He (the Prophet) forbade us to do so. He then granted us permission to contract temporary marriage for a stipulated period giving the women garments; and ‘Abdullah then recited this verse,

“O you who believe, do not make unlawful the good things that Allah has made lawful for you, and do not transgress. Allah does not like the transgressors.”[3]

Imam al-Bukhari also narrates:

“We went out with Allah’s Messenger on the expedition to Banu al-Mustaliq. We were suffering from the absence of our wives, so we decided to have temporary marriage with women but by observing ‘azl (outside ejaculation). But we said, ‘We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us – why not ask him?’ So we asked Allah’s Messenger and he said, ‘It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will definitely be born (and nothing can prevent this from occurring).’”[4]

Imam Muslim also narrates instances of temporary marriage being done at the time of the Prophet[5] and gives clear reference that temporary marriage was lawful during the Prophet’s time, the time of the first caliph Abu Bakr, and during part of the time of the second caliph—who was the one who prohibited it. Even after that time, it was still accepted by some Sunni scholars, such as al-Qurtubi who considered it as a lawful form of marriage and that it had been agreed upon by the predecessors and the successors (the salaf and the khalaf).[6]

The leaders of the Ahlul Bayt argue that according to the Noble Qur’an no one has the authority to make any act lawful or unlawful by his own desire. If there were an interest in banning temporary marriage then Allah, the All-Knowing would have done so through His Prophet.

Mut‘at al-Hajj

Mut‘at al-Hajj means that Muslims are free from the restrictions of ihram (ritual consecration) during the time between ‘umrah and the hajj, as the Noble Qur’an states in

“Complete the hajj and the ‘umrah for God’s sake, and if you are prevented, then [make] such [sacrificial] offering as is feasible. And do not shave your heads until the offering reaches its [assigned] place. But should any of you be sick, or have a hurt in his head, let the atonement be by fasting, or charity, or sacrifice. And when you have security—for those who enjoy [release from the restrictions] by virtue of the ‘umrah until the hajj—let the offering be such as is feasible. As for someone who cannot afford [the offering], let him fast three days during the hajj and seven when you return; that is [a period of] complete ten [days]. That is for someone whose family does not dwell by the Holy Mosque. And be wary of God, and know that God is severe in retribution.” (2:196)

However, spousal relations between the time of ‘umrah and hajj were prohibited by the second caliph, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab who declared, “O people, three things existed during the time of the Messenger of Allah that I prohibit and make unlawful and will punish for: Mut‘ah al-Hajj, mut‘ah al-nisa (temporary marriage), and ‘hayya ‘ala khayr al-‘amal’ (in the adhan).”[7] Similarly, he also said, “Two types of mut‘ah existed during the time of the Messenger of Allah, and I prohibit them and will punish for them: mut‘ah al-hajj and mut‘ah al-nisa.”[8]

Suyuti reports that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was the first to introduce the tarawih prayers, lashed eighty lashes (instead of one hundred) as a punishment for drinking, prohibited mut‘ah marriage, performed four takbirs (instead of five) in the funeral prayers, and many other things.[9]

Tirmidhi narrates that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar was asked about mut‘at al-hajj. He said that it is lawful. The person pointed out that ‘Abdullah’s father had been the one to prohibit it. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar answered, “If my father prohibited that, and the Messenger of Allah did it, which one do we have to follow—my father or the commands of the Messenger of Allah?”[10]

[1] Noble Qur’an, 4:24
[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 4725; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2494; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 4, 47, 51, and 55
[3] Noble Qur’an, 5:87; Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on the Interpretation of the Noble Qur’an”, Hadith 4249, “Marriage”, Hadith 4683 and 4686; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2493; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 385, 390, 420, 432, and 450
[4] Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Types of Selling”, Hadith 2077, “Setting Free”, Hadith 2356; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2599; al-Tirmidhi, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1057; al-Nisa’i, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 3275; Abu Dawud, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1855-1857; Ibn Majah, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1916; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 3, 88; Malik, “Book on Divorce”, Hadith 1090, al-Darami, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2126 and 2127
[5] Sahih Muslim, “Book of Marriage”, Ch. 3, Narrations 15-17
[6] Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 5, 132; Tafsir al-Tabari
[7] Sharh al-Tajrid, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 49
[8] Tafsir Fakhr al-Razi, Vol. 2, 167; Sunan al-Bayhaqi, Vol. 7, 206; Bidayat al-Mujtahid, Vol. 1, 346; Al-Muhalla, Vol. 7, 107; al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an, Vol. 1, 279; Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 2, 370; al-Mughni, Vol. 7, 527; al-Durr al-Manthur, Vol. 2, 141; Kanz al-‘Ummal, Vol. 8, 293; Wafayat al-A‘yan, Vol. 5, 197
[9] al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa’, 137
[10] Sahih Tirmidhi, Vol. 4, 38

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