Temporary marriages in Islam, also known as Nikah Muta’h, are commonly practiced among the Shia Muslims. It is marriage majorly for pleasure, and the woman receives a mahr or some other gifts, and once the contract period expires, the woman will be free to be married to someone else.
So, can a Muslim still have a temporary marriage? Since the prophet’s ancient times to date, the practice of temporary marriage has been prevalent among the Shia Muslims. In contrast, the act is forbidden among the Sunni Muslims since the Umar (the second Caliph of Islam) made it haram. However, the Sunni still practice some informal marriages such as urfi. Thus, having a contractual marriage entirely depends on the Islamic sect you belong to.
The Nikah Muta’ah is becoming rampant among young unmarried Muslims who wish to find life partners. Therefore, we want to dig deeper to find out more exciting and useful details about this type of relationship. We highlight the origin and importance of temporary marriages and whether Muslim men still practice it.
Background of Islamic Temporary Marriages
Nikah muta’h is an old Muslim tradition where a man and a woman can unite in a temporary marriage for a certain period; hours, days, months, or even years. However, in most cases, the period is never specified. The condition is that the two adults must consent to the arrangement, and in some circumstances, these contractual marriages may lead to a permanent and formal Nikah. It is also possible to renew the marriage contract with new conditions once the former one expires.
The ancient Muslims of Prophet Mohammed’s time made Nikah Muta’h relevant and widely practiced. The habit was prevalent among Muslim men who traveled long distances for work or men at war who would spend extended periods away from their wives.
According to Islamic laws, this union’s essence was to minimize prostitution among men and allow them to enjoy sex. This act was common in the past because it was a challenge for the merchants to travel due to substandard transport means. But with improved transportation, the practice began losing popularity since men could now reach their families in time.
The prominent Muslim sects emerged with varied opinions after the demise of the great Muslim prophet. One of these sects, the Shia, believed that Imam Ali was the rightful successor of Prophet Muhammad and must live by his teachings and practices.
On the other hand, the other group, the Sunni, felt that the men should not practice contractual marriages because it is immoral, and Muhammad prohibited it. The Twelver Shia, another Muslim branch, believes that the Sunni abandoned muta’h because Umar, the second caliph, forbid it.
There are issues of rights infringement among people who marry through muta’h. For instance, the woman cannot obtain an inheritance from the man unless it was predetermined and agreed upon as part of the payment. Secondly, any child born out of muta’h automatically belongs to the man; therefore, he is solely responsible for them.
The Nika’h Muta’h
The Nika’h Muta’h is a temporary marriage in Islam that was common during the reign of Muhammad. Over the years, there have been disagreements among different Islamic faith groups regarding whether muta’h is legal or an Islamic way to cover prostitution. The truth is, the muta’h has been present even before the onset of the Muslim sects. Therefore, it all depends on your Islamic inclination.
The Muslims who practice muta’h have to adhere to some laid down conditions. First, the woman must either be a Muslim or belong to the “Persons of the book” (Ahl al-Kitab). Also, she must not be a prostitute or adulterous; the woman must be chaste. Similarly, the only way to go through with this is if she has no Islamic legal guardian (Wali). Note that a muta’h with a Non-Muslim woman is invalid according to the Islamic faith.
Once the contract is over, the marriage ends, and the woman must observe iddah (a period of abstaining from any other marriage and sexual acts). Any woman observing this ritual cannot perform muta’h with another man unless the period is complete.
This period is necessary to confirm whether the woman conceived as a result of the relationship; by abstaining, they will be sure that it is the man who sired the children. If a child is conceived and born, then the man assumes his/ her full responsibilities.
Some Muslims religiously believe that performing nika’h muta’h with several women improves their ranking. Their view is that if a man performs muta’h with a single woman, then he falls to a beginner’s rank; Hasan.
Undergoing muta’h twice will raise you to the level of a Husain, and for a man to obtain Ali’s rank, he must have had at least three muta’hs. Finally, to achieve the senior Holy Prophet’s rank, you must have had muta’h with at least four women.
Any child resulting from a temporary union has the right to inherit the fathers’ property. On the contrary, the mother is only entitled to the predetermined contractual conditions, limited to the gifts, money, or properties that the man must pay as agreed. However, the man can go ahead and marry the woman with whom they had muta’h even before the end of iddah and have a permanent marriage.
Lastly, it is true that both Muslim sects unanimously agree that muta’h is an ancient practice that was present even before the beginning of Islam. Similarly, during caliph Umar’s leadership, an incident that displeased him forced him to ban muta’h and make it illegal among his followers.
Muta’h and a permanent marriage are quite similar in several aspects. For instance, in both cases, dower is paid to the woman, and it is an amount that the two agree upon without external influence.
The Muta’h Marriage Procedure
The muta’h process has to follow specific steps. Here is a list of the procedural steps of a Muta’h.
Agreeing To the Contract Terms
First, the couple has to agree to the terms of the contract. They will discuss the terms of the marriage and come to an amicable conclusion. Young women who have never been married can discuss the issue with their parents or guardians, but it is unnecessary for older women who were once married. However, based on the conditions, any female at the time of the temporary marriage should be unmarried.
The next step is to agree to the marriage duration. The potential couples must talk to each other and decide on how long the marriage contract would last. Unlike the nika’h marriage, the muta’h has a time frame that could be hours, days, months, or even years as long as the couples are comfortable. There is no specified maximum or minimum time that the marriage can last, and in some cases, muta’h may even lead to an actual permanent marriage.
Lastly, the couple together decides on the amount of dowry settlement; usually, it is a gift from the man to the wife, and at some point, they may also include a guardian.
Stating the contract conditions is also an essential part of this kind of marriage where the spouses announce one another’s conditions. They ascertain the dowry amount and the marriage time frame. Doing so makes the contract obligatory, and both parties must abide by it. It is also possible for the couple to decide on a written agreement instead of the verbal one to be safe.
Next, there are Arabic words that the couple recites to legalize muta’h. Here, the woman tells the man that she is getting involved in the relationship for a specific duration and a certain dowry amount, then the man replies by saying he accepts.
A Muta’h marriage does not have a celebrant or witnesses, all that you need is to utter the phrases (seegha) in Arabic, and the marriage becomes legally binding.
Finally, the contract you agree upon will help guide you as you live together as a couple until it expires. A man is not entitled to provide maintenance to the woman in a muta’h relationship. Similarly, the woman is also not obliged to support the man unless the contract stipulated it.
Terminating a Muta’h Marriage
It is possible to end a temporary marriage even before the end of the agreed period. The man can call it off at any time if he so wishes; however, the woman cannot terminate the marriage at will.
There are particular phrases that the man will say in Arabic to end the marriage before due time. Note that the couples’ early separation will not interfere with the dowry that the man had to pay; the obligation still stands.
However, the two can amicably separate once the time frame expires, and the man has fulfilled his dowry agreement. This way, the two are free to terminate the contract without any inhibitions. Once you exit this marriage, it is wise to be on the lookout since the woman during or after the period of abstinence may bring you the news that she is expecting, which makes you responsible for him/ her.
Renewal of the Muta’h Contract
You can remarry after the muta’h if you have an official permanent marriage, and you can also renew the contract if you wish to carry on with it. The law gives you the liberty to reignite your marriage contract during the woman’s resting period or at any other time if you wish. Once you decide to be in a permanent marriage, make sure that the man is a Muslim believer.
The woman who has just consummated her muta’h marriage should complete her iddah before entering into another marriage contract. The woman should also wait for at least two menstruations to ensure she is not with a child from the former muta’h.
Most importantly, she is not supposed to be with another man. This practice helps the woman know who the baby’s father is in pregnancy, but if the marriage contract was not complete, then iddah won’t be appropriate.
Pros and Cons of Muslim Temporary Marriages
There are certain advantages regarding the practice of muta’h. Given that it is a bone of contention among many Muslims, it has some prominent disadvantages. Let’s find out more.
In the Islamic faith, young Muslims are not supposed to engage in illicit relationships; you cannot have any sexual interactions before the actual marriage.
That is why many young Muslims find it viable to have a temporary marriage first, see whether they like each other, then decide whether to have a permanent marriage. This period gives them both the opportunity to find alternative partners in case things don’t work out.
If you were married earlier and your partner dies or gets divorced, practicing muta’h may help you find a new partner befitting your needs. Similarly, if you had kids from your previous marriage, your experience with different partners will indeed reveal to you the partner that can take care of your whole family. Also, engaging in a muta’h can help a divorced man to obtain much needed sexual satisfaction.
In the olden days, the muta’h was very beneficial for the men. They used to travel a lot in a bid to fend for their families. For instance, merchants could go a long way even into other territories searching for-trade items; this could take days, months, or even years.
While away from the wife who can give him his conjugal rights and avoid prostitution, the man would temporarily marry, which is permissible by the Muslim sharia laws.
Muslim contractual marriage seems to exploit Islamic women and girls since having sexual relations with a virgin Muslim lady may interfere with her permanent marriage. Traditionally, a woman is supposed to marry while she is untouched (a virgin), an aspect that changes once she has sexual relations during the muta’h.
Therefore, women should be careful before agreeing to a muta’h and contemplate the positive and negative impacts that this relationship may bring.
Many also believe that through muta’h, society loses its course. The fact is some men may take advantage of the temporary marriages and be unfaithful in the process. This act can cause separation and divorce, which will affect children, family, and the whole society. Hence, if muta’h is the last resort, then it requires a certain level of caution.
Lastly, the Muslim religion prohibits sexual relations with an unmarried individual, for it may amount to adultery and prostitution. Many Islam scholars who are against muta’h also argue that the practice will derail society’s dignity and permit a forbidden taboo. Thus, it will only cover the common term ‘prostitution’ whereby the man pays for the pleasure just like in muta’h.
Islamic contractual marriage has faced many challenges from believers and Islamic scholars all over the world. However, the various Islamic religious groups agree that the nika’h muta’h was present even before the Islam religion’s birth.
Sunni Muslims believe that muta’h can tear down society’s social fabric since Islamic laws forbid boyfriend and girlfriend relationships. Thus, many college and university students find it easier to be in a relationship by performing muta’h. While some of them have the right objectives, some practice prostitution in the name of muta’h, thereby defacing morality among young Muslims.
In a family setup, Sunnis believe that men can be unfaithful to their wives since muta’h can allow multiple partners within a short period, which may cause a man to be less accountable to his family. Since Muta’h is a less involving form of marriage commitment that a man can engage in, he may lose focus on the family concept.
Moreover, most men wish for sexual gratification above anything else in a relationship. So, it is advisable to avoid unnecessary entanglements and lead a straight life by marrying a second wife (it is legal for a Muslim man to marry up to four wives).
Besides, some men either have issues with their wives or the wife is ill and incapacitated; therefore, she cannot perform her duties as usual. In such cases, it would be wise to find another wife. This way, you can maintain your reputation and respect in the family and society. It will also help you concentrate on your first marriage and its responsibilities.
Arguably, this informal marriage not only allows and legalizes sex, but it also allows men to misuse women for money. Therefore, Sunnis protect women from exploitation by prohibiting muta’h marriages. They believe that a man who does not engage in temporary marriages protects his permanent wife’s dignity.
The Decision of a Muslim To Have a Temporary Marriage Depends on the Sect They Belong To
The muta’h may be beneficial to many Islamic believers. For instance, for courtship reasons, it can help you marry the right person to spend the rest of your life with, and without necessarily having multiple partners. You will also have acted within the Islamic marriage laws.
The Sunni Muslims (those who consider muta’h forbidden) also agree that temporary marriage was rampant during Muhammad’s era and a way of sanctifying prostitution in the Islamic religion. For the Shia Muslims, there are individual abominable acts for a Muslim man to engage in; therefore, it would be ok if you ask for someone’s hand in temporary marriage. It is an orderly act, which Allah allows.