Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah (Arabic: نكاح المتعة “Pleasure marriage”), is a fixed-term contractual marriage in Shia Islam, which is automatically dissolved upon completion of its term. Marriage in Islam, including the normal nikah Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah, is contractual. Mutah has the same rulings and Mahr (a marriage gift from groom to bride) as conventional marriage.
All the rights are given to the contractual wife while she is within the contractual period. The mutah offspring have the same rights as the conventional marriage offspring. There are some basic rules and requirements which must be fulfilled for a justified Nikah al-Mutah; for example a virgin girl cannot contract a Mutah without permission from her father or grandfather.
Shi’a and Sunnis agree that Mut’ah was legal in early times, but Sunnis consider that it was was abrogated. Ibn Kathir writes:
“There’s no doubt that in the outset of Islam, Mut’ah was allowed under the Shari’ah”.
Temporary marriage was a custom of the pre-Islamic Arabs. It was used as a convenience shield, useful in the case where a man had to travel away from home for long periods of time, or was not able to commit fully to marriage.
The hadith (prophetic statements and traditions) can be quoted to support this position.
In the hadith collection of Tirmizi, Abdullah Ibn Abbas narrates:
“Temporary marriage was at the beginning of Islam. A man comes by a town where he has no acquaintances, so he marries for a fixed time depending on his stay in the town, the woman looks after his provisions and prepares his food, until the verse was revealed: ‘Except to your wives or what your right hands possess.’”
A majority of Sunnis believe that Muhammad later abolished this type of marriage at several different large events, the most accepted being at Khaybar in 7 AH (629 CE) Bukhari 059.527 and at the Victory of Mecca in 8 AH (630 CE). Most Sunnis believe that Umar later was merely enforcing a prohibition that was established during Muhammad’s time.
Shi’a believe that Umar ibn al-Khattab abolished it, not the prophet of Islam.
He did it during the third year of his reign, 15 ah (637 CE), 6 year after the revelation of verse 4:24, in the Hadith of Umar’s speech of forbidding Mut’ah, but since he, according to them, had no authority to do so, Umar’s prohibition seems to have been temporary and applicable to one place, hence may be ignored (Muslim 2801 1, 2).
Shia Muslims believe that this institution was established by God through the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an. Its single mention in the Qur’an is verse 4:24. Tafsir:
فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَـَاتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً
“Then give those of these women you have enjoyed the agreed dower” was revealed on the subject of the mut‘ah marriage.”
Shia Muslims have “consensus” (ijma) on interpretation of the following verse in the Quran.
And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you. Lawful unto you are all beyond those mentioned, so that ye seek them with your wealth in honest wedlock, not debauchery. And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what ye do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise
al-Tabari, in his Tafsir, writes under this verse a hadith from Mujahid: “The phrase “Then give those of these women you have enjoyed the agreed dower” means the temporary marriage.”
But Sunni commentators disagree in their Tafsirs, arguing the phrase “Then give those of these women you have enjoyed the agreed dower” refers to permanent marriage.
Mut’ah is one of the distinctive features of Ja’fari jurisprudence. No other school of Islamic jurisprudence allows it. According to Imam Jafar as Sadiq, “One of the matters about which I shall never keep precautionary silence (taqiyya) is the matter of mu’tah.”
Allameh Tabatabaei explains in Tafsir al-Mizan, there are mutawatir or nearly mutawatir traditions narrated from the Shia Imams that Mut’ah is permitted. For example, it has been narrated from Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja’far al-Sadiq that they said “regarding the [above] verse, and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed.” It means that he increases her dowry or she increases his (fixed) period.
According to Shia scholar Ali Khamenei
“Temporary marriage like permanent marriage, requires a marriage contract. Moreover there is no difference between permanent marriage and temporary marriage except in some aspects of the law, such as there is no divorce in temporary marriage – it terminates with the expiration of the time period. Likewise, neither spouse in a temporary marriage inherits from the other. The temporary marriage contract is as follows: The female says: ” I marry myself to you for the specified dowry (mention the amount) and for the specified time period (mention the time period)”. Then the man says: “I accept”.”
The Nikah al-Mut‘ah is used various ways:
It is used in modern times when people move from one place to another, such as from one country to another. Thus students, workers, scholars may enter into a contractual marriage under the verse of the Qur’an which allows ones emotional needs and human needs to be fulfilled if they are in another country. It may lead to permanent marriage afterwards.
It may be used to become mahram (unmarriable) with somebody with whom they do not intend to cohabit or have a married relationship, but with whom they spend a lot of time (for example, share a house). In order to ease the hijab”modest dress” rules, they engage in a nikah al-Mut‘ah, specifying in the marriage contract that no physical contact is allowed.
Two people who live under the same roof but are not mahram (unmarriable) and must observe hijab may engage in a symbolic nikah al-mut‘ah with the others’ offspring for a few minutes. The Nikahu’l-Mut‘ah does not need to have any practical consequence, but it will make the parent and the offspring’s husband or wife permanently mahram to each other, and thus no longer obliged to observe hijab rules.
Young unmarried couples may decide to use nikahu l-Mut‘ah as a permissible alternative to entering into a relationship on the premise of future permanent marriage.
It might also be seen as a cover for legalized prostitution, as the nikahu l-Mut’ah can last for as little as half an hour, and the woman receives financial compensation. In accordance with the Quran she must wait three months (iddah) before the next contract.
Nikah al-Mut‘ah resembles an ordinary conventional marriage in many, but not all, aspects. It commences in the same way as a Nikah except that a date of expiration for the marriage is added to the marriage contract and the wife’s rights are restricted to some extent. The duration is decided by the couple involved. There are no restrictions on minimum and maximum duration. If the period is longer than what can be reasonably expected to be a lifetime, it will transform into a nikah.
During the period of the marriage, the couple are considered husband and wife, just as in a permanent marriage. At the expiration, the marriage is voided without undergoing a talaq (divorce). In case of sexual intercourse, the woman must observe the iddah (waiting period) before she can marry anyone else.
Differences from permanent marriage
Nikah Mut’a is a marriage with a pre-set time. Different Marja (authorities) may give different fatwa (legal rulings) on some issues. Many of the following rules may be changed in the Islamic marriage contract.
The marriage is agreed to be voided after a pre-set time. This permits the couple to expect and prepare emotionally for the end of the marriage.
No divorce is necessary. In Shi‘a fiqh, divorce is viewed as a complex process and a period aimed at giving the couple the chance to reconcile. This is not necessary in Nikahu’l-Mut‘ah, since the marriage does not end due to disharmony but due to the preset time being reached.
The husband may void the Nikahu l-Mut‘ah earlier than agreed. If he does and they have had sexual intercourse, he must give her full mahr “bride gift”. If they have not had intercourse, he must give her half that amount, though therecommended precaution is that he should give her full mahr. A distinction between a talaq (divorce) in a nikah and voiding a nikahu l-mut‘ah is made in a conversation reported in a hadith collection.
The couple do not inherit from each other. Since the marriage is not permanent, the couple is not considered a single, merged unit.
The husband is financially responsible for any children resulting from the marriage. As it is believed that a woman should not be burdened with the responsibility of providing for a family, she is allowed to work and spend her money as she chooses.
The wife may leave her house against her husband’s will.
The husband need not pay for the wife’s expenses. This complements the above point.
It is permitted to marry a woman from Ahl al-Kitab “People of the Book” (followers of monotheistic religions). The difference in jurisprudence between different religions is overcome by this rule. It is understood that the Muslim Nikah does not have an equivalent form among the People of the Book. Therefore, women who are of the People of the Book are unaccustomed to the special rules of Nikah, for example, the husband’s responsibility for the wife’s expenses or the wife’s not leaving her house against the husband’s wishes. These difference in religious laws make it desirable to wait with the higher level of commitment that Nikah requires until they are overcome, in order to minimize potential friction in family life.
The wives are not counted toward the maximum of four. Since the husband is not required to support the wife, and the marriage is not permanent, the circumstances leading to the restriction of having no more than four wives does not apply. However, many Shi‘a scholars have ruled that one cannot take more than four temporary wives.
The woman might require the consent of her wali (“Legal Guardian”) if she is a virgin. However, there is no consensus among the Grand Ayatollahs on this issue. Most Marjas like Ali Sistani require the father’s permission, to prevent someone taking advantage of her inexperience; while there are few others who do not require guardian’s permission
A contract is engaged when entering the marriage. Shi‘a believe that the marriage contract does not require having witnesses, a written contract or permission from authorities.
The woman observes iddah at the end of the marriage. That is, she must wait before remarrying – but only if she had sexual intercourse
Men are not allowed to marry women of non-monotheistic religions, and women can only marry Muslims.
This topic is highly controversial in the Muslim world. Muslims believe that in the first period of Islam, Mut’ah was permissible, but Sunni Muslims believe that it was later abolished. The duration of this type of marriage is fixed at its inception and is then automatically dissolved upon completion of its term. For this reason, nikah mut‘ah has been widely criticised as the religious cover and legalization of prostitution.
Al-Qurtubi, a 13th century Sunni Islamic scholar writes:
“ All the early scholars have no disputes that Mut’ah is Nikah for a set period of time, this Nikah has no inheritance and man and woman separate when the time expires.
There are hadiths in Sahih Bukhari permitting mut’ah, but then abrogating it.
There are several narrations regrding Sabrah ibn Ma’bad reporting on the prohibition of Mut’ah.
Chapter 4 ayah 24 of the Quran is a controversial verse that has been called “the verse of Mut’ah” due to its reference to Nikah Mut‘ah. Shias cite this verse as demonstrating the permissibility of mutah.
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