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Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah (Arabic: نكاح المتعة)," is a type of marriage used in Shia Islam, where the duration of the marriage and the dowry must be specified and agreed upon in advance.(p242)(p47–53) It is a private contract made in a verbal or written format. A declaration of the intent to marry and an acceptance of the terms are required (as they are in nikah (marriage in Islam).
The bride to be must not be married. She must be Muslim or belong to ahl-e-kitab (people of the book). She should be chaste and not be addicted to fornication and she should not be a young virgin (especially if her father is absent and cannot give consent). These conditions must be established through due diligence.
At the end of the contract, the marriage ends and the wife must undergo iddah (a period of abstinence from sexual intercourse, usually the length of two menstrual cycles). The iddah is intended to give certain paternity to a child should the wife become pregnant during the contract.
Generally, the Nikah mut'ah has no proscribed minimum or maximum duration. However, one source, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, indicates the minimum duration of the marriage is debatable and durations of at least three days, three months or one year have been suggested.
Mut'ah, literally meaning joy, is a condition where rules of Islam are relaxed. It can apply to marriage (the nikah mut'ah) or to the Hajj (the obligatory pilgrimage) (the Mut'ah of Hajj). Mut'ah is a sensitive area of disagreement between those who follow Sunni Islam (for whom nikah mut'ah is forbidden) and those who follow Shia Islam (for whom nikah mut'ah is allowed). Shias and Sunnis do agree that, initially, or near the beginning of Islam, nikah mut'ah was a legal contract. Beyond that time, the legality of the practice is debated.
An historical example of nikah mut'ah is described by Ibn Hajar Asqalani (1372 - 1448 CE (852 AH)) in his commentary on the work of Sahih al-Bukhari. Muawiyah (602 - 680 AH), a mediaeval Sunni caliph, entered into a nikah mut'ah contract with a woman from Ta'if. She was a slave who was owned by a man called Banu Hazrmee. She received a yearly stipend from Muawiyah.
Asma bint Abu Bakr was the daughter of Abu Bakr (573 - 634 CE), a sahabi and the father in law of Mohammad. She was given in nikah mut'ah to Zubayr ibn al-Awam, another sahabah, and had children with him.
The scholar, ‘Abd ar-Razzaq as San‘ani (744 CE), described how Saeed bin Jabeer Jubayr frequently visited a woman in Mecca. When asked why, he said he had a contract of nikah mut'ah with her and seeing her was "more halal than drinking water".
Nikah mut'ah in Sunni Islam
In the sixteenth century, during the reign of Akbar, the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, who was believed to be a Hanafi Sunni, debates regarding religious matters were held weekly on Thursdays. When discussing nikah mut'ah, Shi'ite theologians argued that the historic Sunni scholar Malik ibn Anas supported the practice. However, the evidence from Malik's Muwatta (manual of religious jurisprudence) was not forthcoming. The Shi'ite theologians persisted and nikah mut'ah was legalized during Akbar's reign.
The Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence argues that although the nikah mut'ah contract itself is valid, marriage is regarded as a permanent condition and therefore, the temporary element of the contract makes it void.
The thirteenth century scholar, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi said,
- "Amongst the Ummah there are many great scholars who deem Mut'ah to have been abrogated, whilst others say that Mut'ah still remains."
The 20th century Sunni scholar, Waheed uz-Zaman, Deobandi said,
- "On the topic of Mut'ah, differences have arisen amongst the Sahaba, and the Ahl'ul Hadith, and they deemed Mut'ah to be permissible, since Mut'ah under the Shari'ah was practised and this is proven, and as evidence of permissibility they cite verse 24 of Surah Nisa as proof. The practise of Mut'ah is definite and there is ijma (consensus) on this and you can't refute definite proof by using logic."
The Gharab al Quran, the dictionary of Qur'anic terms states,
- "The people of Faith are in agreement that Mut'ah is halaal, then a great man said Mut'ah was abrogated, other than them remaining scholars, including the Shi'a believe Mut'ah remain halaal in the same way it was in the past. Ibn Abbas held this viewpoint and Imran bin Husain.
- "Some Sunni scholars deem Mut'ah permissible, in the same way the Sahaba Ibn Abbas and Imran bin Haseen deemed it permissible".
Nikah mut'ah in Shia Islam
Shias give arguments based on the Quran, hadith (religious narration), history and moral grounds to support their position on mut'ah. Firstly, the word of the Quran takes precedence over that of any other scripture, including the An-Nisa, 24, known as the verse of Mut'ah.
- "Why do you [ask], when you [Ali], with the blessing of Allah, have a wife at your side? He [Ali] replied, 'No, I just want to know.' Imam Kadhim replied, "The permissibility is present within the Book of Allah"".
Hadiths also record the use of nikah mut'ah during the time of Abu Bakr, a caliph and sahabi. Later, in 16 AH (637 CE), Umar, also a caliph and sahabi, prohibited mut'ah. Shias allege Umar's prohibiting nikah mut'ah was an incident of challenge to Mohammad.
Other relevant hadiths include those of Imran ibn Husain (see Hadith of Mut'ah and Imran ibn Husain), and Abdullah Ibn Abbas. The opinion of Ibn Abbas is cited in Fatih al-Qadir ("Ibn Abbas said the verse of Mut'ah"); in Tafseer Mu'alim al Tanzeel (Ibn Abbas said, "The verse of Mut'ah was an order and it's Halal."); in Tafseer Kabeer (The verse of Mut'ah appears in the Qur'an, no verse has come down to abrogate it."); and in Tafsir ibn Kathir and by Ibn Hanbal ("Mut'ah can be utilised when needed.") and by Abu Jamra (in Bukhari) ("On that, a freed slave of his said to him, "That is only when it is very badly needed and (qualified permanent) women are scarce, or similar cases." On that, Ibn Abbas said, "Yes."").
Historically, Shias see that nikah mut'ah has varied in its spiritual legality, changing from halal to haraam and back again over time, and thus cannot be considered in the same light as, for example, taking alcohol, which was never advocated by Mohammad.
Even though nikah mutʿah is prohibited by Sunni schools of law, several types of non-permanent marriage exist, including misyar (ambulant) marriage and ʿurfi (customary) marriage. Some regard misyar as being comparable to nikah mut'ah: for the sole purpose of "sexual gratification in a licit manner".
- Mut'ah of Hajj
- Hadiths related to Mut'ah
- Marriage of convenience
- Islamic marital jurisprudence
- Nikah 'urfi
- Nikah Misyar
- Jihad al-nikah
- Walking marriage
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