December 12, 2022
By Missionary Sabahat Karim
The practice known as “Mut’ah” [temporary marriage] has taken on many forms over history. In today’s society, certain classes of Muslims who lack basic understanding of Islam, believe and argue for it. These include some Shi’ites who, to this day, accept and support that Mut’ah is a lawful practice permitted and condoned by Islam.
In this article, we’re going to look at the roots of this practise and ask whether it has a basis in Islam.
The pre-Islamic era was known as “Jahiliyyah” [ignorance], a period of ignorance, barbarism and inhumane customs. With the rise of Islam, Arabian norms and traditions were replaced with rational and balanced practices. For instance, prior to Islam, one could marry as many women as one wished. But Islam restricted marriage to a maximum of four women, and that too under particular circumstances. In the pre-Islamic period, some Arabs did not make a distinction between marrying one’s sister, mother or someone outside the family. But Islam prohibited Muslims from marrying their immediate blood relatives.
Further, women had no right of consent at the time of marriage. However, Islam not only gave women full authority to accept or reject a marriage proposal, but also allowed women to send marriage proposals to men, as did the Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) wife, Hazrat Khadija (ra). Then, a man could approach a woman who was already engaged and ask for her hand in marriage. However, Islam forbade men from proposing to women who were already engaged, unless the first suitor withdrew their proposal or gave the other person permission to do so.
Horrifyingly, it was a common practice to bury daughters alive in order to absolve oneself of the supposed ‘shame’ of having a daughter. Islam terminated this cruel practice and required parents to treat their daughters well and educate them, promising them paradise in the Hereafter in exchange. It is unnecessary to list all the repulsive and humiliating pre-Islamic customs here. It suffices to say that there were many forms of marriage in Arabia before the advent of Islam. Mut’ah [temporary marriage] was one of them. This union was a pre-Islamic Arab custom rather than anything established by Islam:
“…the temporary alliances, known as Nikah al-mut’ah, which were common in Arabia at the time of Mohammed, and were abolished with great difficulty…”“Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia” p:65-68 By William Robertson Smith
Islam is a highly pragmatic religion, and the Quran, which contains the ordinances of Islam, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sa) over the course of twenty three years. Early on in the history of Islam, reforms were made gradually rather than all at once, enabling weaker individuals to implement these new teachings. Consider the consumption of alcohol as an example. It was customary for Arabs to drink alcohol on a daily basis. Therefore, the Islamic prohibition on alcohol was not revealed on the first day. Rather, the required moral and spiritual training was given first, and the injunction of forbidding alcohol came thirteen years later. Likewise, the pre-Islamic practice of Mut’ah was diminished and ultimately terminated at the right time by God Almighty.
Ibn Shihab said. Khalid b. Muhajir b. Saifullah informed me: While I was sitting in the company of a person, a person came to him and he asked for a religious verdict about Mut’ah and he permitted him to do it. Ibn Abu ‘Amrah al-Ansari (Allah be pleased with him) said to him: Be gentle. It was permitted in the early days of Islam, (for one) who was driven to it under the stress of necessity just as (the eating of) carrion and the blood and flesh of swine and then Allah intensified (the commands of) His religion and prohibited it (altogether).Sahih Muslim 1406k
‘Ali b. Abi Talib reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) forbade on the Day of Khaibar temporary marriage (Mut’ah) with women and the eating of the flesh of domestic asses.Sahih Muslim 1407f
Salama b. al-Akwa said that in the year of Autas* God’s Messenger (sa) permitted a temporary marriage for three nights, but afterwards he prohibited it. (*This was after the battle of Hunain in 8 A.H)Mishkat al-Masabih 3148
Al Zuhri said “we were with ‘Umar bin ‘Abd Al Aziz, there we discussed temporary marriage. A man called Rabi bin Saburah said “I bear witness that my father told me that the Apostle of Allah (sa) had prohibited it at the Farewell Pilgrimage.”Sunan Abi Dawud 2072
It was the practice of the Holy Prophet (sa) to not forbid his followers from adopting Arab traditions, unless God Almighty forbade them through revelation. We find many instances in the Ahadith [sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad] where the Holy Prophet (sa) remained silent or did not openly express his displeasure on certain pre-Islamic practices until God guided him. However, his senior companions who minutely observed the inclinations of the Holy Prophet (sa) and acted accordingly, were always careful. These senior, devoted companions followed the ways of the Prophet (sa) step by step and they deemed it destruction for themselves to act otherwise. Hence when we read about Mut’ah we do not find a single authentic reference confirming Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) or Hazrat Umar (ra) or Hazrat Usman (ra) or Hazrat Ali (ra) or other senior companions ever practicing Mut’ah. This in itself speaks volumes and provides concrete evidence on the falsity of Mut’ah as an Islamic practice.
The sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) also confirm that the Holy Prophet (sa) openly announced that the angel Gabriel (as) came and informed him of God’s prohibition of Mut’ah:
“I permitted (the practise of) Mut’ah, and then the angel Gabriel came and informed me that it is unlawful till the day of judgment.”Firdaws al-Akhbār p:97
Sabra al-Juhani reported on the authority of his father states that while he was with Allah’s Messenger (sa), he said: “O people, I had permitted you to contract temporary marriage with women, but Allah has forbidden it (now) until the Day of Resurrection. So he who has any (woman with this type of marriage contract) he should let her off, and do not take back anything you have given to them (as dower).”Sahih Muslim 1406d
The Quranic verse quoted by the supporters of Mut’ah is in chapter 4, verse 25. It reads:
وَ اُحِلَّ لَکُمۡ مَّا وَرَآءَ ذٰلِکُمۡ اَنۡ تَبۡتَغُوۡا بِاَمۡوَالِکُمۡ مُّحۡصِنِیۡنَ غَیۡرَ مُسٰفِحِیۡنَ ؕ فَمَا اسۡتَمۡتَعۡتُمۡ بِہٖ مِنۡہُنَّ فَاٰتُوۡہُنَّ اُجُوۡرَہُنَّ فَرِیۡضَۃً ؕ وَ لَا جُنَاحَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ فِیۡمَا تَرٰضَیۡتُمۡ بِہٖ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ الۡفَرِیۡضَۃِ ؕ
“And allowed to you are those beyond that, that you seek them by means of your property, marrying them properly and not committing fornication. And for the benefit you receive from them, give them their dowries, as fixed, and there shall be no sin for you in anything you mutually agree upon, after the fixing of the dowry.”Holy Quran 4:25
The phrase in focus is “And for the benefit you receive from them, give them their dowries, as fixed, and there shall be no sin for you in anything you mutually agree upon, after the fixing of the dowry”. Shi’ites believe this to be a license for Mut’ah. But they neglect to contemplate a few words before where it is mentioned “marrying them properly and not committing fornication”. The Arabic word used here is محصنین which is translated as “marrying properly”. محصنین is derived from حصن، یحصن، حصنا which means to become inaccessible, to become fortified or to be protected against attack. The extended meaning is a chaste and a noble woman. Now we invite the readers to contemplate for a minute whether a man or woman who practices Mut’ah can be deemed chaste or noble? Let us go to modern day Iraq for the answer, a hub of Shi’ism:
“When her family discovered that her marriage had only been temporary, they rejected her. Although mut’ah marriages are sanctioned by Shia clerics, it’s seen as dishonourable – essentially prostitution – by many sectors of Iraqi society, both Shia and Sunni.”BBC (2019): ‘The teenager who’s been married too many times to count’- by Nawal-al-Maghafi
The beauty of the Holy Quran is that verses are expounded and supported by other verses. We find no contradiction in the Holy Quran. Historically, commentators have agreed that if an interpretation of a verse is contradicted by clear verses of the Quran, then that is enough to regard that interpretation as false. Keeping this rule in mind, for the sake of discussion, if we accept the explanation of Mut’ah by the Shi’ites derived from the verse above, then the question is whether there are other verses in support of this notion? There are none. Rather we find several verses going against such an interpretation. We learn in the Holy Quran that marriage is a sacred bond, severed only in formal divorce.
The purpose of marriage in Islam is not solely to satisfy one’s desires, rather, as explained by the Holy Quran:
“They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.”Holy Quran 2:188
As a garment covers flaws, as a garment beautifies, as a garment protect us from the harshness of weather, likewise, it is the responsibility of a husband and wife to cover each other’s weaknesses, to beautify one another and most importantly, to stand shoulder to shoulder through the ups and downs of life’s challenges. This nurtures the everlasting unity and loyalty of husband and wife, which of course is missing from Mut’ah.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: The Prophet (sa) said: “Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to Allah is divorce.”Sunan Abi Dawud 2178
The Holy Quran categorically advises the men and women to safeguard their chastity:
وَ لۡیَسۡتَعۡفِفِ الَّذِیۡنَ لَا یَجِدُوۡنَ نِکَاحًا حَتّٰی یُغۡنِیَہُمُ اللّٰہُ مِنۡ فَضۡلِہٖ ؕ
“And those who find no means of marriage should keep themselves chaste, until Allah grants them means out of His bounty.”Holy Quran 24:34
The Holy Prophet (sa) explained the above verse as follows:
“O young people! Whoever among you can marry, should marry, because it helps him lower his gaze and guard his modesty, and whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power.“Sahih al-Bukhari 5066
The advice of Mut’ah was never given even to teenagers who are in a stage where passions are difficult to control. The Holy Prophet (sa) rather advised Muslims to marry or to fast, to restrain their passions and sexual desires.
Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) was a renowned scholar of Islam, and for the Shi’ites is one of the most revered companions of the Holy Prophet (sa).
Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) was the son of Hazrat Abbas (uncle of the Prophet) and hence his first cousin. He was also a nephew of Maymunah bint al-Harith, who later became the wife of the Holy Prophet (sa). It is reported that the Holy Prophet (sa) would often draw him close, pat him on the shoulder and pray, “O God! Teach him (the knowledge of) the Book (Quran)”. Thus he is considered equally important by both Sunni and Shia scholars as one of the most knowledgeable of the companions in understanding the Holy Quran.
Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) quoted the Holy Quran to pass an edict against Mut’ah:
Muhammad bin Ka’b narrated that: Ibn Abbas said: “Mut’ah was only during the beginning of Islam. A man would arrive in a land that he was not familiar with so he would marry a woman for the extent of time that he thought he would remain there. So his Mut’ah was upheld and his case was fine until the (following) verse was revealed: Except their wives or what their right hands possess. Then every private part other than those became unlawful.”Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 1122
Supporters of Mut’ah often quote Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) giving permission of Mut’ah marriage.
It is true that Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) believed Mut’ah to be permissible but when he learnt that the Holy Prophet (sa) forbade Mut’ah and that majority of the companions were not in favour of permission of Mut’ah, he changed his stance.
“It has been reported that Ibn ‘Abbas (ra) regarded Mut’ah as permissible but he later retracted this opinion when he learnt of the prohibition of the Messenger of Allah (sa) and that the majority of the companions regarded it as haram (unlawful).”Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 1121
“Ali (ra) heard that Ibn Abbas (ra) gave some relaxation in connection with the contracting of temporary marriage, whereupon he said: Don’t be hasty (in your religious verdict), Ibn ‘Abbas, for Allah’s Messenger (sa) on the Day of Khaibar prohibited that forever – along with the eating of flesh of domestic asses.”Sahih Muslim 1407d
“Narrated Muhammad bin ‘Ali: ‘Ali was told that Ibn ‘Abbas did not see any harm in the Mut’ah marriage. ‘Ali said, “Allah’s Messenger (sa) forbade the Mut’ah marriage on the Day of the battle of Khaibar and he forbade the eating of donkey’s meat.”Sahih al-Bukhari 6961
Sheikh Abu Jafar Muhammad Bin Al Hasan Bin Ali At Tusi in his famous hadith book “Kitab Al Istibsar” has quoted a hadith narrated by Hazrat Ali (ra) prohibiting Mut’ah.
“On the authority of Zaid bin Ali, on the authority of his forefathers, on the authority of Ali (ra), he said, “The Messenger of Allah, may peace be upon him and his progeny, forbade the meat of domestic donkeys and mut’ah marriage.”Kitab Al Istibsar
This writer however goes on to justify Mut’ah on the equally false basis of “Taqiyya”:
“The point in this narration is that we hold it on taqiyya, because it is in agreement with the general schools of thought, and the evidence is in agreement with the apparent meaning of the book, and the unanimity of the righteous sect is based on its obligatory act, so it is to be acted upon without the unusual narration.”Kitab Al Istibsar – Vol: 3 – P:77
Another prominent Shi’ite scholar, such as Sheikh Al-Hur Al-Aamili, has also included the hadith narrated by Hazrat Ali (ra) in his famous Shia hadith collection: Wasail is Shia Vol:14 – P:351.
The Quranic prohibition of Mut’ah, supported by Hadith of the Prophet of Islam and of Hazrat Ali (ra) and found in all authentic hadith books, cannot be disregarded on false notions of taqiyya (the false belief that lying under certain circumstances is permitted).
A detailed article on Mut’ah was published by BBC on 4 October 2019. It’s too painful to read the living accounts of exploited women. Nevertheless it is sufficient to prove that Mut’ah is not permitted by law of the land in Iraq, which is the bedrock of Shi’ism. It also makes it clear how society sees Mut’ah to be an awful and deplorable practice, done secretly, behind closed doors. Below are some passages from the article:
“Despite being illegal in Iraq, the BBC found that mutaa marriages were widely available in Kadhimiya.”
“The BBC later approached the clerics it had filmed undercover to ask for their response. Sayyed Raad denied he performed mutaa marriages at all. The others did not respond.”
“When she met someone else she was delighted by his proposal. She had assumed it would be a permanent union. She didn’t bother to read the contract because she trusted her husband.
“Even if she had, she might well have missed the fact that it was a mutaa marriage, since the contract is the same as a regular Sharia marriage contract – the cleric just writes “mutaa” in brackets, a detail that is easy to miss.”
“When her family discovered that her marriage had only been temporary, they rejected her. Although mutaa marriages are sanctioned by Shia clerics, it’s seen as dishonourable – essentially prostitution – by many sectors of Iraqi society, both Shia and Sunni.”al-Maghafi, N. (2019) The teenager who’s been married too many times to count, BBC News.
The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), made clear that Mut’ah has no place in Islam. In conclusion, we cite his definitive judgement on the practice:
“Islam did not promote Mut’ah, rather it endeavoured to diminish it from the face of the earth as much as it was possible. Prior to Islam, the practice of Mut’ah not only existed in Arabia but in most nations of the world. That is, in the form of marrying for a designated period followed by the pronouncement of divorce. Among several reasons for the promotion of this practise, one was that when people travelled to other countries as part of military contingents, or they resided for an extended period in another country for the purposes of trade, they felt the urge for temporary marriage, meaning Mut’ah. Moreover, sometimes the reason was that the women of those foreign lands would state beforehand that they were not agreeable to leaving with them. Therefore, the Nikah would occur with the intent that divorce would be pronounced on such a date. It is true that once or twice some Muslims practiced this ancient tradition. (This was done in circumstances of extreme despair, like those of a person who, dying of hunger, would eat the flesh of the dead). However, this was not in accordance with divine revelation. Rather, it was briefly practised pursuant to an old tradition of the land. Therefore, there is nothing extraordinary in Mut’ah other than it’s being a marriage for a designated time, ultimately forbidden by the revelation of God.”Ruhani Khazain Vol:9 – P:450
Finally, on another occasion he stated the following:
“Let it be clear that God has not given us instructions in the Holy Quran for anything other than marriage. Yes, there is a sect among Shi’ites who marry temporarily, that is, a marriage that shall last for a designated period followed by separation, and they call this Mut’ah. However, they have nothing to support this from the book of Allah, the Almighty.”Ruhani Khazain Vol:19 – P:442-443