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Temporary Marriage (Mut'ah)


Islamic Articles - Marriage Issues

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Temporary Marriage (Mut‘ah)

Permanent marriage is the norm which is recommended and encouraged in the Noble Quran and in the traditions of the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt. Temporary marriage is the exception and should be used as a last resort whenever permanent marriage cannot be afforded or things become extremely difficult to bear (for one who can not get married). This section does not intend to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a marriage; but rather, to address its Islamic legality with respect to the Noble Quran and the traditions of the Prophet.

Marriage in Islam is a sacred institution, a commitment, and a pledge by two individuals to respect and uphold each other's will, dignity, honor, and aspirations. Marriage is of two types: permanent and temporary. Both share the same rules and restrictions and both need a prescribed form of proposal and acceptance, and marriage—even the permanent one—is open to conditions and restrictions. If the marriage is not confined to a period of time, then it would be considered as a permanent one, and if it is conditioned by a period of time, then it is a temporary one.

While disagreeing on the matter of temporary marriage, the scholars of other schools of thought agree that if a man intends to marry a lady for a short period of time without telling her that he will be divorcing her after a period of time and hides his intentions then the marriage is still valid. In such a case, temporary marriage seems more logical since the couple can actually agree on the terms and conditions beforehand with full honesty.

In essence, temporary marriage is a 'normal marriage' with a mutual agreement that is conditioned by a period of time. The conditions for this marriage include the following: a proposal and acceptance, a dowry for the woman, both parties have to consent and both have the freedom to accept or decline, both have to be sane, and a virgin woman must have her father's or guardian's approval. However, in temporary marriage, there is no obligation for sustenance or inheritance unless it is stated and conditioned in the marriage contract.

Regarding this practice, the Noble Quran says, “So with those whom you have engaged in mut'ah(temporary marriage), give them their dowries as prescribed.” In the tradition of the Prophet, scores of hadiths state the permissibility of temporary marriage. Imam al-Bukhari narrates, “There came to us the declarer of Allah's Messenger and said, 'Allah's Messenger has granted you permission to have temporary marriage,'—that is mut'ah with women.” He also narrates:[2][1]

We were on an expedition with Allah's Messenger and we had no women with us. We said, 'should we not have ourselves castrated?' He (the Prophet) forbade us to do so. He then granted us permission to contract temporary marriage for a stipulated period giving the women garments; and 'Abdullah then recited this verse, “O you who believe, do not make unlawful the good things that Allah has made lawful for you, and do not transgress. Allah does not like the transgressors.”[3]

Imam al-Bukhari also narrates:

“We went out with Allah's Messenger on the expedition to Banu al-Mustaliq. We were suffering from the absence of our wives, so we decided to have temporary marriage with women but by observing 'azl(outside ejaculation). But we said, 'We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us - why not ask him?' So we asked Allah's Messenger and he said, 'It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will definitely be born (and nothing can prevent this from occurring).'”[4]

Imam Muslim also narrates instances of temporary marriage being done at the time of the Prophet and gives clear reference that temporary marriage was lawful during the Prophet's time, the time of the first caliph Abu Bakr, and during part of the time of the second caliph—who was the one who prohibited it. Even after that time, it was still accepted by some Sunni scholars, such as al-Qurtubi who considered it as a lawful form of marriage and that it had been agreed upon by the predecessors and the successors (the salaf and the khalaf).[6][5]

The leaders of the Ahlul Bayt argue that according to the Noble Quran no one has the authority to make any act lawful or unlawful by his own desire. If there were an interest in banning temporary marriage then Allah, the All-Knowing would have done so through His Prophet.


[1] Noble Quran, 4:24

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 4725; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2494; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 4, 47, 51, and 55

[3] Noble Quran, 5:87; Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on the Interpretation of the Noble Quran”, Hadith 4249, “Marriage”, Hadith 4683 and 4686; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2493; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 385, 390, 420, 432, and 450

[4] Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Types of Selling”, Hadith 2077, “Setting Free”, Hadith 2356; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2599; al-Tirmidhi, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1057; al-Nisa’i, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 3275; Abu Dawud, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1855-1857; Ibn Majah, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1916; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 3, 88; Malik, “Book on Divorce”, Hadith 1090, al-Darami, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2126 and 2127

[5] Sahih Muslim, “Book of Marriage”, Ch. 3, Narrations 15-17

[6] Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 5, 132; Tafsir al-Tabari

[7] Sharh al-Tajrid, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 49

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