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Arguments derived from the Hadith about Mut'a

Adopted from the Book : "Temporary Marriage in Islamic Laws" by : "Sachiko Murata"

Arguments Derived From The Hadith

The Sunni argument for the prohibition of mut'a based upon the hadith can be summarized as follows:1 The reason that the ulama' have differed concerning mut'a is that it was permitted and then banned a number of times. In the Sahih of Muslim (IV, p.130) the following is related from one of the Companions: 'We were fighting in a battle alongside the Messenger of God, and our wives were not with us. We asked him: 'May we emasculate (istikhsa') ourselves?' He forbade us to do so and gave us permission to marry women for a period of time in exchange for an item of clothing.

Abu Hatim al-Busti, a well-known compiler of hadith, remarks in his Sahih that the question the Companions asked the Prophet shows that at first mut'a was forbidden, and hence the questioners saw no escape from their sexual desires but emasculation. Likewise, the Prophet's answer is meaningless unless mut'a had been forbidden up until that time. Then in the year of the battle of Badr (2/624) he forbade it; again, when Mecca was conquered (8/630) he allowed it, but only for a period of three days. Then he forbade it until the Day of Resurrection.

Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 638/1240), the famous Sufi, wrote voluminously on the meaning of the sharf'a. He calls mut'a one of the most remarkable statutes in Islamic law, since it was permitted at the beginning of Islam, then forbidden at the Battle of Khaybar, then permitted again at the war of Awtas. Finally it was forbidden and remained forbidden. No other statute in Islam was changed a number of times with the exception of the qibla (the direction of prayer), for that was abrogated twice before being finalized.

Al-Qurtubi reports that other authorities who have studied the traditions concerning mut'a say that its statute was changed seven times. He refers to Muslim's Sahih as the source for several authentic hadith explaining how the situation of mut'a was changed (most of these have been quoted above). Other hadith are quoted in other sources, such as the Sunan of Abu Dawud.

Al-Qurtubi quotes Abu Ja'far al Tahawi to the effect that none of the hadith which are quoted as referring to the permissibility of mut'a in unconditional terms are in fact unconditional, since they specify that mut'a was permitted only during journeys. The Prophet's last prohibition of mut'a, which took place after the conquest of Mecca, embraced all the previous occasions on which mut'a was permitted. None of the transmitters of hadi'th say that the Prophet permitted mut'a while he and his Companions were together in their homes and not travelling.

As for the hadith of Sabra, which states that the Prophet permitted mut'a at the Farewell Pilgrimage in the year 10/632, al Tahawi acknowledges that this is not in keeping with the other hadi'th. But having investigated all the traditions in this regard, he has found that another hadi'th almost identical to that of Sabra, but related by 'Abd al-'Aziz, places this occasion at the conquest of Mecca, when the men complained of separation from their wives and the Prophet gave them permission to practice mut'a. They could not have complained of such separation during the Farewell Pilgrimage, since all of the wives were present, and the single men could have taken permanent wives in Mecca. So the special situation that existed during the other journeys and battles was lacking. However, it is possible that the date of Sabra 's hadi'th is correct; in this case we can explain the situation as follows: Since the Prophet usually permitted mut'a during journeys away from Medina, in this case also he permitted it; but then he banned it for the final time wanting all the Muslims to know about it, for all of them were present for the Farewell Pilgrimage. There is also the fact that the Meccans were in the habit of practicing mut'a widely. Thus the Prophet banned mut'a in Mecca so that they would understand that they could not continue in their former custom.

The Shi'i answer to the Sunni argument on the basis of hadi'th can be summarized as follows:2 The hadi'th demonstrating that mut'a is forbidden are in conflict with those that show it is permitted. They also conflict with hadi'th that show that mut'a continued to be permitted during the times of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, and 'Umar, up until the time that 'Umar banned it. The correct course of action is to prefer those hadi'th which establish its permissibility, for a number of reasons:

The hadi'th indicating mut'a's permissibility outnumber those which show that it is banned.

Everyone agrees that the hadi'th indicating that mut'a was permitted at certain times are authentic, but this is not the case concerning those which indicate that it was banned. Hence one can speak of a consensus (ijma') in the sense that all Muslims at one time agreed that mut'a was permitted, even though afterwards a disagreement arose. In order to chose the right course, we cannot base ourselves upon opinion but must hold fast to that concerning which we have certainty. Hence we must conclude that mut'a is still permitted, as long as we do not have certain knowledge to the contrary.

The hadith which point to the banning of mut'a are themselves questionable. When we realize that one of the incontestable elements of Shi'ism as established by the Imams is the permissibility of mut'a, then no hadith related from 'Ali stating that mut'a is forbidden can be authentic. Someone who held without question that mut'a is permissible would not relate a hadith from the Prophet that it is forbidden. On many occasions 'Ali censured 'Umar's banning of mut'a. His saying: 'If 'Umar had not banned mut'a, no one but the wretched would practice fornication' is well-known, and no one has questioned its authenticity.

Those who hold that mut'a is forbidden have also claimed the consensus of the Community as one of their proofs. They say that after 'Umar banned mut'a, all of the Prophet's Companions went along with him with the exception of Ibn 'Abbas, and he changed his opinion towards the end of his life. In answer to this claim, the Shi'is point out that 'consensus' can not be accepted as a valid proof of the banning of mut'a; and in any case, the very fact that the Shi'i Imams-the Household of the Prophet-who are the very pillars of Islam, have all agreed that mut'a is permitted shows that there was in fact no consensus. Moreover, from the first the Shi'is have agreed on the permissibility of mut'a, to such an extent that this view has always been singled out as one of the specific features of Shi'ism. Given this fact, to claim consensus is meaningless. In addition, as we have seen above, many of the Prophet's outstanding Companions and their followers held that mut'a was permitted. Finally, the claim that Ibn 'Abbas changed his view on mut'a toward the end of his life has never been substantiated. Even if it were to be proven, one could only claim consensus if we were certain that no one was opposed to the view that mut'a is forbidden; whereas we know that in fact the number of opponents was quite large. In short, the Shi'is conclude, there is no real evidence to show that mut'a is not permitted; and when the hadi'th are investigated, the conclusion is likely to be reached that not only is it permitted (mubah ), it is even recommended (mustahabb).

1. Al-Jami', V, 130-32.

2. Jawahir, v, 162-63.

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