Rafed English

Caliph Bans Fixed-Time Marriage

Fixed-time marriage is an exclusive feature of the Ja'fari law. Other Muslim schools of theology do not allow it. I do not intend to enter into any Shiah-Sunni controversy here. I wish only to refer briefly to the historical background of the question.

All the Muslims are unanimous that during the early period of Islam fixed-time marriage was permissible and the Holy Prophet, during some of the journeys when the Muslims were away from their spouses and were feeling hardships, allowed them to contract fixed-time marriage. It is also agreed by all the Muslims that the second caliph, during the period of his caliphate, banned fixed-time marriage. According to the well-known reports he said: "Today I ban two things, which were allowed during the period of the Prophet. They are fixed-time marriage and performance of 'Hajj' and 'Urn rah' with separate 'ihrams',

Some Sunnis believe that the Holy Prophet himself had banned fixed-time marriage during the last days of his life and the second caliph simply repeated this ban already placed by the Holy Prophet. But the words of the caliph which have come down to us indicate something contrary to this. The correct explanation of this point is that which has been given by Allamah Kashif al-Ghita. The caliph banned temporary marriage, because he thought that the matter was within his constitutional power as Head of the State, who could use his special powers according to the needs of the time. In other words, the caliph's order was political and not legal. The caliph never concealed his deep concern over the dispersal of the companions of the Prophet in the newly acquired territories and their mixing with the newly converted Muslims. As long as he lived, he vehemently opposed their migration from Medina.

Especially, he did not like their blood to be mixed with that of the newly converted Muslims, whose Islamic training was not deep-rooted yet. Obviously, this was a temporary consideration. The Muslims of those days accepted the caliph's order without showing resentment, only because they knew that it was a political necessity and not a permanent law. Otherwise, it is inconceivable that the people would not have been resentful, when the caliph said that the Prophet had ordered one way and he was ordering the other way. But later, when, as the result of certain developments, the life of the early caliphs, especially the lives of the first two caliphs, came to be regarded as a model, their orders assumed the form of a permanent law. In this case our Sunni brethren are to be blamed more than the caliph who imposed temporary ban on fixed-time marriage for political considerations (just like the prohibition of tobacco in Iran at the beginning of this century). Others should not have given a permanent form to this ban.

It is evident that Allamah Kashif al-Ghita did not express any opinion as to whether the caliph's action was justified or not. He had simply described the nature of the plea on which action was taken in the first instance and the reason why it did not face any adverse reactions of the Muslims.

Anyhow, it was because of the influence and personality of the caliph and the people's bias towards following his actions and policies that the law of fixed-time marriage fell into oblivion, and an Islamic tradition, which was complementary to permanent marriage, and whose suspension was likely to cause much inconvenience, became obsolete.

It was in these circumstances that, with a view to ensuring that this Islamic tradition might not be completely forgotten, the Imams, who are the defenders of the faith, encouraged it and vehemently pleaded for it. Imam Ja'far Sadiq (P) used to say that fixed-time marriage was a point in respect of which he would never dissimulate.

Besides the intrinsic advantages of fixed-time marriage, an effort to revive a dead tradition was another reason why the Imams preached it. In our opinion, when the Imams forbade men having a wife to contract a fixed-time marriage, they wanted to make it clear that it was not meant for those who were not in need of it.

Imam Kazim (P) said to Ali ibn Yaqtin: "What have you to do with a fixed-time marriage? Allah has spared you the trouble of being in need of it". He said to another man "A fixed-time marriage is allowed to those who do not have a wife. As for those who have a wife, it is allowed only when they do not have access to her."

Guidance and encouragement for general public to take somebody in fixed-time marriage is an important step towards "revival of abandoned custom" or tradition, but encouragement alone to those who stood in need was not adequate enough to enliven this forsaken Prophetic instruction, as is clearly indicated in some Shi'ah scriptures and narrative sources.

Anyway it is a definite fact that the meaning and intention of the first legislator on promotion and explanation of this law and the purpose of the infallible Imams to encourage it on those lines was never to have such provision exist as a means towards sexual adventures, evil desires and build-up of harems for beastly human beings nor to victimise helpless and oppressed women and orphaned children at any time.

The Egyptian writer, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, in his book, 'Al-Ahwa/ aI-Shakhsiyya' has quoted the Commander of the Faithful Ali (P) as having said: "If it comes to my notice that somebody having a wife has contracted a fixed-time marriage, I will stone him to death".

This tradition has no known chain of authority. Anyhow, if its authenticity is accepted, it supports the view that a fixed-time marriage is permissible only in the case of a man who either has no wife or his wife is away and is not staying with him.

In short why should we stick to that single tradition reported by one of the Sunni ulema (scholars) (while its source remains unknown) and leave aside the numerous traditions of the Commander of the Faithful Ali (P) reported in all Sunni and Shi'ah books in chapters on Mut'ah.

In many of his precious statements Imam Ali (P) the Commander of Faithful says: "If Umar had not taken the initiative to declare fixed-time marriage unlawful no one among the people, excepting a few sex maniacs, would have indulged in adultery". That is, if fixed-time marriage had not been made unlawful, none would have developed freedom to commit adultery. Only those people, who are always inclined to commit unlawful acts, would have indulged in it.

Adapted from the book: "Woman and Her Rights" by: "Shahid Murtaza Mutahhari

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