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The Four Pillars of Mut'a

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

The Arabic dictionaries define mut'a as 'enjoyment, pleasure, delight'. The root form, m-t: signifies, 'to carry away, to take away'. A 'marriage of mut'a' is a marriage which the contract stipulates will last for a fixed period of time. This 'marriage of mut'a' is referred to both in the hadith literature and, in much more detail, in the books on jurisprudence (fiqh). In the hadith and in other sayings related from early Muslims the word 'mut'a' itself is usually employed. The Shi'is hold that this particular term is the preferred name for temporary marriage because the Qur'an itself refers to this kind of marriage employing a term derived from the same root. In the following verse, the word istimta', the tenth verbal form of the root m-t-', is translated as 'enjoy': 'So those of them [women] whom you enjoy, give to them their appointed wages' (4:24).

In general the word mut'a was more commonly used than other terms for temporary marriage both during the lifetime of the Prophet and afterwards during the time of the Shi'i Imams and other Muslim leaders. Both its proponents and opponents preferred this word and its derivatives. In Wasa'il al-shi'a, the comprehensive and definitive reference work for Shi'i hadith concerning all branches of jurisprudence, the word mut'a is employed in the headings of all sections on temporary marriage.

In books on jurisprudence the terms mut'a, al-nikah al-munqati' ('discontinued marriage'), and al-nikah al-muwaqqat ('temporary marriage') are all employed. Al-Muhaqqiq al-Hilli1 still employs the term 'discontinued marriage' in his writings,2 and hence his commentators use the same expression, although in sections of the statutes relating to this kind of marriage they also employ the terms istimta' and the related word tamattu'. Al-Shahid al Thani3 employs the same term as al-Hilli4 , but others, such as al-Shahid al-Awwal,5 al-'Allama al-Hilli6 and al-Shaykh al-Ansari7 prefer the term mut'a.8

Among Sunni jurisprudents there is a discussion concerning whether or not the marriage of mut'a is the same as 'temporary marriage'. Most of them have agreed that they are synonymous.9

In some works a special term is applied to women who participate in mut'a: musta'jara, or 'rented woman'. Mut'a is considered a kind of 'rental' because in general a man's basic aim in this kind of marriage is the sexual enjoyment of a woman, and in return for his enjoyment the woman receives a certain amount of money or property. In defining 'rental' the jurisprudents say: 'It is to gain possession of a benefit in exchange for a specified sum.'10 This definition applies equally to temporary marriage. In this connection a number of hadith have been recorded in which the word musta'jara is employed.11

Shi'i jurisprudence discusses temporary marriage with all the care it bestows upon permanent marriage. Like permanent marriage, mut'a has 'pillars' and 'statutes'. To the two pillars of permanent marriage-the formula and the persons-are added the time period and the dower.

1. Ja'far ibn Muhammad ibn Sa'id (602-76/1205-77), author of Shara'i' al-islam, a standard textbook of Shi'i fiqh and the subject of many commentaries.

2. Shara'i', Beirut, 1930,II,23.

3. Zayn al-Din Muhammad ibn 'Ali al-'A.mili (911-65/1505-58), author of Sharh al-lum'a (al-Rawdat al-bahiyya fi sharh al-lum'a al-dimashqiyya), a commentary on al-Iuma al-dimashqiyya by al-Shahid al-Awwal.

4. Sharh al-lum'a, v, 245.

5. Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Makki al-'Amili (d. 782/1380).

6. Jamal al-Din Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn Zayn al-Din 'Ali ibn al-Mutahhar (648-726/1250-1326), author of lrshad al-adhhan ila ahkam al-iman.

7. Murtada b. Muhammad Amin al-Dizfuli (1214-81/1800-64). His works al-Matajir on fiqh and al-Rasa'il on us'ul al-fiqh are considered the most complete textbooks on these sciences.

8. Sharh al-lum'a, v, 245; al-Matajir, Tehran 1352/1973, the book on muta (which is a commentary on al-'Allama's lrshad).

9. Fiqh,IV, 90.

10. Shara'i, I,233.

11. Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Hurr al-'Amili (1033-1104/1624-93), Wasa'il al-shia, Tehran, 1385/1965-66, XIV, 446.

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