Temporary marriage in Islam: Why some Muslims are reviving it
Temporary marriage in Islam, which in in Arabic is called mut'ah among other terms, is a form of marriage between a man and woman for a limited time. However, there are disagreements between Shia and Sunni jurisprudence about this practice.
While temporary marriage is permitted among Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims generally consider it haram, or forbidden.
This type of marital agreement consists of a verbal or written contract in which both parties agree the length of time and conditions for the marriage. The union can last for a few hours, days, months or years and when the contract ends so does the marriage.
Sayyad Fadhil Milani, spiritual leader at the Al-Khoei Centre in London, is widely regarded as the UK's most senior Shia Islamic scholar and has written about the mut'ah marriage in his book Islamic Family Law.
"At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, it was practised widely, especially when men were travelling away from home on business or at war," Ayatollah Milani said.
"Islam does not permit relationships like those between a boyfriend and a girlfriend. So a nikah mut'ah gives them an opportunity to get to know each other before committing themselves to a full marriage."
"Umar [ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam], himself said that the mut'ah was lawful at the time of the Prophet Muhammad but he banned it and said he would punish everyone who does it,” he added.
"So some Muslims [in this case Sunni Muslims] are against it because they follow the interpretation and the suggestion made by the second Caliph. The Shias say that we stick to the Quran and the practices of the Prophet."
Although nikah mut'ah is a Shia concept, other types of informal marriages are practised by Sunni Muslims, such as misyar and urfi.
Misyar allows a couple to live separately through mutual agreement while urfi is done without the public approval of the bride's guardians. Neither of these, however, has time limits as with nikah mut'ah.
Very often, unfortunately, it is said that temporary marriage may amount to some form of prostitution, but this is not the case.
The critics of this useful and beneficial practice, which are among both Shia and Sunni Muslims, use the false and wildly inaccurate argument that temporary marriage is a religious "cover" for prostitution or the exploitation of women.
Historical sources among Shias and Sunnis show that during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and after his death, mut'ah was performed.
It was during the time of Umar, the second Caliph of Islam, that the practice was banned. He declared this type of marriage forbidden after an incident.
The most source that proves temporary marriage is permissible is the third chapter of Quran, verse 24. In this verse, God states the necessity of paying a dowry for temporary marriage.
This verse shows that the principle of temporary marriage has been an indisputable issue and the holy book only emphasizes the need to pay dowry.