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Ethics

Temporary Marriage (Mut'ah)

If a person does not marry soon after maturing and finds it difficult to control his or her sexual desire, then the only way to fulfill the sexual desire is mut'ah.

In Islamic laws, according to the Shi'ah fiqh, marriage is of two types: da'im, permanent and munqati', temporary. Munqati' is also know as mut'ah.

This is not the place to discuss the legality or the illegality of the temporary marriage (mut'ah). It will suffice to say that even according to Sunni sources, mut'ah was allowed in Islam till the early days of the caliphate of 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. It was in the latter period of his rule that 'Umar declared mut'ah as haram. It goes without saying that a decision by 'Umar has no value in front of the Qur'an and the sunnah!1

The main difference between the two types of marriage is that in permanent marriage, Islam had clearly defined the duties and obligations between the spouses. For example, it is the duty of the husband to provide for the basic necessities of life for his wife and the wife is expected not to refuse sexual relations without any religious or medical reason. But in temporary marriage, Islam has given to the prospective spouses the right of working out their duty and expectation plans. For example, the husband is not obliged to maintain the wife unless it has been so stipulated in the marriage contract. Likewise, the wife can put a condition in the marriage contract that there will be no sexual relations. Such conditions are invalid in a permanent marriage but allowed in temporary marriage.

I cannot overemphasize the temporary nature of mut'ah. The message of Islam is quite clear: marry on a permanent basis; if that is not possible, only then use the mut'ah marriage.

The temporary nature of mut'ah can also be seen from the following saying of the Imams:

Once 'Ali bin Yaqtin, a prominent Shi'ah who held a high post in 'Abbasid government, came to Imam 'Ali ar-Riza to ask about mut'ah. The Imam said, "What have you to do with it because Allah has made you free from its need."2 He has also said, "It is permitted and absolutely allowed for the one whom Allah has not provided with the means of permanent marriage so that he may be chaste by performing mut'ah ..."3

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1. For a detailed discussion on the social aspect of mut'ah, see Mutahhari's The Rights of Women in Islam, and on the legal aspect, see Kashifu 'l-Ghita's The Origin of the Shi'ite Islam and Its Principles. For an indepth fiqhi discussion in English languages, see sachiko Murata's Temporary Marriage in Islamic Law.

2. Wasa'il, vol.14, p.449.

3. Ibid, p.449-450.

Adapted from: "Marriage & Morals in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"