The BBC has an interesting little article all about temporary Islamic marriages, or to be more precise, temporary short term marriage as practised within Shia Islam called Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah; that’s Arabic for “pleasure marriage”, and that name perhaps gives you an insight into what this is really all about.
The BBC article takes the following line …
why are young British Muslims adopting the practice now?
“It allowed us to meet without breaking the bounds of Sharia [Islamic law]. We both wanted to date, to go out for dinner or go shopping and just get to know each other better before getting married, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” says Sara.
Er … yes, when the article says “meet”, you can be damn sure that this is not about just dinner and shopping, but rather is all about everything that marriage involves.
So how long are these “marriages”, quite short, in fact sometimes only a few minutes, so clearly it is very much a guy thing.
Really? … Yes really. Ah, but that’s a western paper, so are you really sure? Yes, I’m really really sure.
Iran’s Shiite clerics not only tolerate this, but actively promote it as an important element of the country’s official religion. “Temporary marriages must be bravely promoted,” the interior minister said at a clerical conference in Qom in 2007. “Islam is in no way indifferent to the needs of a 15-year-old youth in whom God has placed the sex drive.” .
It strikes me as more than a tad hypocritical for Islamic clerics to condemn the immoral wicked west, and yet at the same time openly promote what is essentially prostitution and exploitation, but that perhaps explains why Sunni Muslims reject the very concept. Ah but things are just not that simple, because while it is prohibited by Sunni schools of law, several types of non-permanent Sunni marriages also exist, and are essentially the same.
So what exactly are the rules, how does it work?
- A contract is agreed to be voided after a pre-set time …be that minutes, days or months.
- The husband may void the Nikahu l-Mut‘ah earlier than agreed. A wife can’t – yes, essentially women are just property
- The couple do not inherit from each other. Since the marriage is not permanent, the couple is not considered a single, merged unit, but the husband is financially responsible for any children resulting from the marriage.
- The husband need not pay for the wife’s expenses.
- The wives are not counted toward the maximum of four. Since the husband is not required to support the wife, and the marriage is not permanent, the circumstances leading to the restriction of having no more than four wives does not apply.
Oh and as a side observation … while husbands get up to four wives (unlike Mohammed who took many more than that even when they were married to others, and also married a six year old when he was 50, but that’s a topic for another day), yet wives are not permitted four husbands. just one – yes, we are once again back to woman being more or less property and not people.
So what is really going on?
Humans do what humans do, and so this allows them to basically bonk away like rabbits and yet do so without any guilt because their religion has given them permission to do so. No clerics needed, just recite the right magical incantation from the quran, agree terms, and you are all set.
It tells us nothing at all about the things that are actually true, but does reveal how irrational beliefs can evolve in strange and interesting ways.