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The Hadith Transmitted by the Companions abou Mut'a

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

3. The Hadith Transmitted by the Companions

In Sunni sources hadith have been transmitted from the Prophet showing that he banned mut'a during his lifetime. In most of the Sunni 'sound collections' (sihah), it is related from 'Ali that he said: 'Verily the Prophet of God banned the mut'a of temporary marriage and the eating of the meat of domesticated asses.'1 In many of these sources, and in Shi'i sources as well, the words: 'on the day of the Battle of Khaybar' are added. The Shi'i report that the great Shi'i ulama' such as al-Shaykh al Tusi considered this saying authentic but maintained that 'Ali was practicing taqiyya or 'dissimulation' when he uttered it-i.e., he was hiding the true situation in order to protect himself.2

Ibn Sabra relates from his father the following: 'I came upon the Prophet of God in the early morning ... leaning against the Ka'ba. He said: "Oh People! I commanded you to 'seek enjoyment' (istimta') from these women, but now God has forbidden that to you until the Day of Resurrection. So if you have a temporary wife, let her go her way; and do not take back anything of what you have given her." '3

Another hadith is related from Salma b. al-Akwa'. Through his father he reported that the Prophet of God permitted mut'a in the year of Awtas (8/629) for three days; but then he prohibited it. This particular hadith is related in many sources, with many discrepancies in the text.4

For their part, the Shi'is do not consider these three hadith to have any authority. To illustrate how they reject them, we can summarize al-Khuis arguments:5 The hadith attributed to 'Ali cannot be authentic, since all Muslims agree that mut'a was permitted in the year Mecca was conquered.

So how could 'Ali have claimed that muta was banned on the Day of Khaybar (three years before Mecca's conquest)? Because of this obvious discrepancy, some of the great Sunni authorities on hadith have maintained that the words 'on the day of Khaybar' probably refer only to the meat of domestic asses. But this is absurd, for two reasons: First, it is counter to the rules of Arabic grammar: if the phrase referred only to asses, the verb would have to be repeated. Thus, in Arabic one says: 'I honored Zayd and 'Amr on Friday', or one says: 'I honored Zayd and I honored 'Amr on Friday', thus making it clear that 'on Friday' refers only to 'Amr. If the adverbial phrase referred only to the meat, the text of the hadith would have to read: 'Verily the Prophet of God banned muta, and he banned the eating of the meat of domesticated asses on the Day of Khaybar .' In short, since everyone agrees that mut'a was permitted when Mecca was taken, the Prophet cannot have banned it three years before that. Hence the hadith is not authentic.

The second reason that the 'Day of Khaybar' cannot refer only to the meat of domesticated asses is that this clearly conflicts with hadith related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and Ahmad b. Hanbal (three of the most authoritative Sunni collections). For their versions of 'Ali's hadith is as follows: 'The Prophet banned the mut'a of marriage on the Day of Khaybar, as well as the meat of domesticated asses.

As for the hadith related by Ibn Sabra from his father, alKhu'i points out that although his hadith has been related by many chains of authority, they all go back to Ibn Sabra himself, and thus the hadith is of the type known as 'wahid, i.e., it derives from a single Companion. And a Qur'anic verse cannot be abrogated even by the most authentic kind of hadith, much less by a relatively weak one. Moreover the very content of the hadith shows that it is not correct. It is hardly conceivable that the Prophet could have stood before the Ka'ba in front of a large group of Muslims and ban something until the Day of Resurrection, and that then only one person-Sabra-should have heard him or related his words. Where were those Companions who recorded even the gestures and the glances of the Prophet? Certainly they should have joined Sabra in reporting the prohibition of muta until the Day of Resurrection. And where was 'Umar himself? He certainly should have known about the prohibition so that it would not have been necessary to attribute the banning of mut'a to himself. Finally, there are discrepancies in the various versions of Sabra's hadith. In some versions the prohibition is said to have occurred in the year of Mecca (8/630), in others in the year of the Farewell Pilgrimage (10/632). This discrepancy makes the hadith even more untrustworthy.

Al-Shahid al Thani alludes to another point concerning Ibn Sabra's hadith not mentioned by al-Khu'i: Ibn Sabra himself is the only source for his father's words, but no one knows anything about him. He is not mentioned in any of the books on hadith as a transmitter, nor has any other hadith been related from him. For this reason al-Bukhari-the most famous Sunni authority, and generally considered the most reliable-left Ibn Sabra's hadith out of his collection.6

As for the hadith of Salma b. al-Akwa', al-Khu'i remarks that again it is a saying related from only one Companion (wahid) and cannot abrogate a Qur'anic verse. In addition, if it is an authentic hadith, it is strange that it remained unknown to such important Companions as Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn Mas'ud, and Jabir b. 'Abd Allah. How is it possible for the hadith to be authentic, while Abu Bakr did not forbid mut'a during the whole period of his caliphate and 'Umar only banned it towards the end of his own?7

There are many sayings of the Shi'i Imams and the Companions which indicate that mut'a was permitted up until the time of 'Umar's prohibition. Three of the most famous are those of 'Ali, Ibn 'Abbas, and 'Umran b. al-Hasin. As we have already seen, 'Ali said: 'If 'Umar had not prohibited mut'a, no one would commit fornication except the wretched.'8 This is the most famous form of a saying reported in numerous sources and a number of different versions.9 The above version is derived from Sunni works; a Shi'i version is related from the fifth Imam, al-Baqir: 'If it were not for that [i.e., mut'a] with which ['Umar] b. al-Khattab preceded me, no one would commit adultery except the wretched.'

The saying related from Ibn 'Abbas is reported by the tenth/sixteenth century Sunni scholar al-Suyuti in this form: 'God have mercy on 'Umar! Mut'a was naught but a mercy from God, through which He showed mercy to Muhammad's community. If 'Umar had not banned it, no one would need fornication except the wretched.'10

The saying of 'Umran b. al-Hasin is as follows: ' Mut'a was permitted by the Book of God, and we practiced it while the Prophet was alive. No verse was revealed abrogating it, and the Prophet did not ban it before he died.' Some sources, including the Sahih of Muslim, then add the sentence: 'Then a man ['Umar] said what he wanted to according to his own opinion.'11

Another saying pointed to by the Shi'is is related from Jabir b. 'Abd Allah in Muslim's Sahih: 'Jabir came [to Mecca] for the 'umra, so we went to see him where he was staying. He was asked about many things, and then mut'a was mentioned. He said: 'Yes, we practiced mut'a at the time of the Messenger of God, Abu Bakr, and 'Umar.'12

For their part, the Sunnis do not accept these traditions as proving the Shi'i points. The Sunnis consider the saying of Ibn 'Abbas the most important and center most of their arguments around it. They quote other sayings from Ibn 'Abbas on the same subject as proof of their own contention. Al-Razi relates that poems were composed celebrating Ibn 'Abbas as the authority for the permissibility of mut'a. Having heard of these verses, Ibn 'Abbas said: 'God slay them! I never said that it was permitted unconditionally, but only to him who has no choice, just as [when a person has no choice] carrion, blood, and pork are permitted.'13

Another saying is related from Ibn 'Abbas declaring that the Qur'anic verse permitting mut'a was abrogated by the verse concerning divorce (65:1). In addition, on his deathbed he is reported to have said: 'Oh God, I repent to Thee of what I have said concerning mut'a ...'.

In answer to the hadi'th of 'Ali, al-Razi relates the other saying attributed to him referred to above; but he has nothing to say about the other two traditions mentioned by the Shi'is.

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1. Al Tafsir al-kabir, III, 287-88.

2. Wasa'il, IV, 441, hadith 32.

3. Al Tafsir al-kabir, III, 288.

4. Ibid.; al-Jami', V, 131; al-Bayan, p.244; al-Mut'a, pp.19-20.

5. Al-Bayan, pp.222-24.

6. Sharh al-lum'a, v, 264-82, Note; 282, Text.

7. Al-Bayan, pp.222-23.

8. Al Tafsir al-kabir, III, 287.

9. Wasa'il, XIV, 436, hadith 2; 440, hadith 20 and 25.

10. Al-Durr al-manlhur,Tehran, 1377/1957, II, 141.

11. Al-Bayan, p.221; al-Tafsir al-kabir, Ill, 286; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, VI, 436; Muslim, IV, 48.

12. Muslim, IV, 131.

13. Al-Tafsir al-kabir, III, 286

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