Mut'a (Temporary Marriage) - Allowed or Prohibited in Islam? 


Q.  WHAT IS MEANT BY "MUT`AH  NIKAH"? WHAT IS IT'S HISTORY AND PLACE IN MODERN ISLAM?

A: "Mut'ah" refers to temporary marriage.

There is evidence in the books of the history and the cultural traditions of the Arabs that in certain situations, a temporary marital relationship between a man and a woman was considered to be acceptable among pre-Islamic Arabs. There are certain narratives (hadith) that imply that for sometime, even the Prophet (pbuh) did not prohibit such a relationship. On the other hand, certain other narratives are held as evidence to the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) did not prohibit such a relationship at all, it was prohibited, later on – after the death of the Prophet – by the second caliph, `Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra).

The Qur’an does not support this view. According to the very initial Surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an, like Surah Al-Mominun and Surah Al-Ma`arij the Qur’an specifically disallows all sexual relationships, besides that which are based on Nikah or that which were between a master and his slave girl. The Qur’an says:

It must be remembered here that a Mut'ah relationship makes a woman neither a wife nor a slave girl of a person, whereas the Qur’an specifically restricts sexual relationships of a person with these two. It should be noticed that the particular word used by the Qur’an in the referred verse translated as "wives" is "azwaj" plural of "zaujah". In the classical Arabic language, a woman with whom a person had entered into a contract of Mut`ah was called the "Mamtu'ah" of the person, she was not referred to as the "zaujah" (wife) of the person. The verse, therefore is a clear evidence to the fact that no other relationship besides the one based on Nikah was allowed by Islam.

Reader's Response: You specified an aya as a proof that "the Quran does not support this view", however, you did not mention the Quranic aya which was the basis of permitting the Temporary Marriage or Mut'a Marriage (aya 24 in Surat al Nisaa.) The said aya talks about marriage and the ayas before it and after it are talking about marriage as well (e.g. who can not be married, ..etc.). I refer you to any popular Arabic multi volume tafseer book, which will tell you that this aya is the basis for Mutaa marriage.

Please also note that Surat al-Nisaa is Madaniyya and both suras which you sited (Surah Al-Mominun and Surah Al-Ma`arij) are both Makkiyya. Earlier aya can not abrogate/invalidate a later aya or instruction! You can read detailed analysis about Temporary Marriage (Chapter 6) at:  http://al-islam.org/encyclopedia/

Member of Ahlul Bayte DILP (Digital Islamic Library Project)

Answer: In response to the previous article, the reader has also given an argument from the Qur'an. In the following paragraphs, I will try to briefly give my point of view on the objections raised by my respected brother.

As far as whether or not Mut'ah was prevalent in the pre-Islamic Arabs is concerned, it does not have much significance in my view. The basic point that I have tried to make is that it was never a part of the social setup accepted, introduced or promoted by Islam.

Before going into details with my reply to these responses, I would like to clarify here that any historical tradition, narrative ascribed to or pertaining to the life of the Prophet (Hadith) or the companions of the Prophet (A'tha'r) that, in any way, imply that Mut'ah was considered to be a legitimate relationship between a man and a woman cannot be accepted as truly depicting the facts, if the Qur'an disallows such a relationship. The fact that such historical traditions, hadith or a'tha'r are referred to in Sunni books has absolutely no bearing on my point of view. If such traditions, hadith and a'tha'r are in contradiction with the Qur'an, as I hold and have tried to explain in my original reply, they are then just not acceptable to me, and I am sure, neither would they be acceptable to any other Muslim.

I therefore suggest that we should restrict our discussion, at least to begin with, to the understanding of the Qur'an. If the Qur'an is ultimately found to support my point of view, we should then have absolutely no reservations in out rightly rejecting the contradicting historical traditions, hadith and a'tha'r. While, if the Qur'an itself is found to support the point of view given by the reader's response, we should then consider these traditions, hadith and a'tha'r more positively.

In the light of the above explanation, I would like to thoroughly consider here the primary argument, which is based on the Qur'an, given by the referred article.

The author of the article has based his argument on the 24th verse of Surah Al-Nisa'. The verse reads as follows:


The translation of the verse, according to the author is as under:

... the rest are lawful unto you to seek them with gifts from your property (i.e., dowry), provided that you desire protection (from sin), not fornication. So for whatever you have had of pleasure (Istamta'tum) with them by the contract, give unto them their appointed wages as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what you both agree (in extending the contract) after fulfilling the (first) duty.

The author has then explained his point of view regarding this verse in the following words:

It is quite clear from the above argument that the author has based his point of view on the word "istamta`tum". According to the author, because this word is derived from the root m-t-`a, which is also the root for "Mut`ah" it therefore implies that the Qur'an is talking about "Mut'ah" here.

Before I give my comments on the above argument, I would like to clarify to my readers that the italicized parts of the translation do not exist in the Arabic text of the Qur'an. There are no words in the Arabic text which can be translated as "by the contract". Neither do I see any reason to make the parenthetical addition "in extending the contract".

Now, let us see what exactly the word "istamta'a" means. According to Aqrab al-Mawarid, "istamta`a be kaza" has the same meanings as "Tamatta`a be kaza" and "Imtata`a be kaza" which has been described as: "To take advantage/pleasure from something for a long time". According to the Arabic-English dictionary, "Al-Mawrid", "Istamta`a be" means: "to enjoy; to savor; relish; get pleasure from; to take pleasure or satisfaction or delight in; to have for one's use or benefit; have the use or benefit of".

It should be quite clear from the above that the word "istamta'a" is not used in the Arabic language in the sense that has been implied by the author of the referred article.

The referred part of the verse should thus be translated as:

The verse, as should be clear from the above translation has nothing to do with "Mut'ah". The underlined part (which includes the word "istamta'tum") is only to stress that even though you have had the conjugal pleasures from your marriage and even though you have consummated your marriage, you must fix and pay them their dowries, considering it a duty upon yourself. Thus, this part of the verse is to correct the attitudes of the Arabs towards dowry, who used to take it very lightly and would not give it much importance.

The remaining part of the verse, i.e. "And there is no sin for you in what you mutually agree upon after fulfilling the duty" is again with reference to the dowry, (as should be clear from the parenthetical addition). It says that it is the duty of the man to give the dowry to the woman but if they both mutually agree upon to waive any part of the dowry, there shall be no blame on either of them. This, in a way is the same directive as has been given in Al-Nisa' 4: 4. The Qur'an says:

I am sure that from the above explanation, my respected brothers will be able to see very clearly that in my opinion their interpretation of the referred verse is in no way correct or acceptable. The verse is quite clear in its meaning and should be interpreted in the light of the normal usage of its words in the Arabic language.

In case my respected friends would like to carry on this discussion and would like to convince me of their point of view, I would like to suggest that to make our discussion meaningful and precise, they should concentrate on providing linguistic evidences (that is evidence from Arabic literature) to prove the following points:

If "Mut'ah" is to be accepted as a part of the social setup of Islam, then evidences to substantiate the above two points must be provided. Once these evidences have been provided, we shall then look for the detailed guidance given in the Shari'ah (Qur'an and Sunnah) in this respect. This again would be necessary. For if "Mut'ah" was a part of the pre-Islamic Arab culture there must be a noun in the classical Arabic literature to denote it (which I have failed to find yet), just like the noun "Nikah". The very existence of this noun is evidence of the fact that the Arab culture consisted of and recognized something called "Nikah".

On the other hand, if "Mut'ah" was introduced and promoted by Islam (as reader's response holds), then:

Without getting the above evidences, a Muslim who desires to live his life according to the clear teachings of his Lord, the Qur'an and the sunnah of His Prophet, cannot accept that the concept of "Mut'ah" has been promoted by the Qur'an, especially when there is clear evidence that the whole concept of "Mut'ah" is in contradiction to the Qur'an.

by Mr. Moin Amjad