What is the philosophy behind temporary marriage?
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Nasir Makarim Shirazi
It is a general and universal rule that if man's natural impulses are not satiated in the correct manner, he will resort to incorrect and devious means in order to satiate himself. In reality, the natural desires cannot be eliminated; and upon the supposition that they could be eliminated, such an act would not at all be rational for then it would be tantamount to opposing the laws of Creation.
Thus, the correct option would be to satiate them in a rational manner and utilize them constructively.
It cannot be denied that sexual desire is one of the strongest natural impulses existing within man to the extent that some of the psychoanalysts are of the opinion that it is the only primitive and primary impulse within man while all the other impulses are secondary in nature.
Now, in numerous circumstances and environments, a great number of individuals belonging to a particular age-group are unable to enter into a permanent marriage, or married individuals, who have embarked upon protracted journeys or other commitments, are faced with the dilemma of their sexual desires remaining unfulfilled. This issue has become especially acute in our times wherein the matrimonial age, due to the protracted period of education and other intricate social issues, has gone up and rarely can a youth enter into wedlock at a lower age during which he faces a period of heightened sexual tendencies.
What should be done in such circumstances?
Should the people be encouraged to suppress this impulse (like the monks and the nuns)?
Or should they be left free to indulge in profligacy, and the ignominious and scandalous scenarios that presently exist be permitted?
Or that we should adopt a third alternative - one, which neither brings about the problems of a permanent marriage nor leads to sexual licentiousness?
In summary, permanent marriage, in itself, has never been able to cater to the sexual needs of all the sections of the society - neither in the past nor today. We stand at a crossing - either to permit 'prostitution' (just as the material world of today has endorsed it and has officially recognized it) or accept the idea of temporary marriage. Those who oppose both prostitution as well as temporary marriage have not presented a solution for this problem.
The blueprint of temporary marriage neither possesses the strict conditions that are associated with permanent marriage so as to be inharmonious with educational engagements or lack of financial affluence, nor does it lead to the harmful ways of sexual wantonness and prostitution.
Criticisms levelled against temporary marriage
However, there are certain objections and criticisms that need to be discussed, albeit concisely:
1. At times it is asked, what is the difference between 'temporary marriage' and 'prostitution'? Both of them can be considered to be prostitution in exchange for a certain sum of money. This kind of marriage is, in fact, a veil over prostitution and sexual pollution! The only difference between the two lies in the recitation of two simple sentences (recitation of the marriage formula.)
Answer: Those who make this criticism apparently do not have any awareness about the concept of temporary marriage. This is because temporary marriage, like permanent marriage, is governed by rules and ordinances. A woman entering into a temporary marriage must make herself available solely for this husband for the entire duration of the marriage, and must necessarily observe the 'Iddah after the termination of the term. In other words, she has to refrain from entering into any kind of matrimony with any other male for a period of forty five days at least, so that it becomes clear in case she bears the child of the first person. The observance of this 'Iddah is obligatory upon her even if she had resorted to the use of contraceptives to prevent conception. If she happens to conceive, this child like the children that result from a permanent marriage, would have to be looked after and supported by the man, and all the rules that are associated with children would come to be associated with this child too. However, prostitution does not have any of these rulings associated with it. Can these two issues ever be compared with each other?
Of course, temporary marriage does differ from permanent marriage with respect to the issues of inheritance (between the temporary spouses), maintenance, and some other rulings; however these differences do not place it on par with prostitution. In any event, temporary marriage is a form of marriage which possesses its own ordinances and stipulations.
2. Temporary marriage becomes a reason for some lustful individuals to misuse this ruling and use it as a pretext to indulge in every kind of prostitution and profligacy; consequently respectable individuals never enter into it while women of good repute tend to avoid it.
Answer: Is there any law in the world that has not been abused? Should a rule, which is a social requirement and is in accordance with the human innate, be suppressed because of it being misused, or should those, who misuse it, be taken to task?
Supposing some individuals misuse the pilgrimage to the House of Allah and engage themselves in peddling drugs in the course of their trip; should the people be prevented from participating in this great Islamic congregation or should those, who misuse the occasion, be brought to justice?
If we observe that nowadays respectable individuals experience an aversion with respect to this Islamic statute, the fault lies not in the statute but in those who act upon it, or to put it more correctly, in those who misuse it. If, in our present day society, temporary marriage were to be portrayed in its correct form and the Islamic government were to implement it under the governance of specific rules and stipulations, not only would its misuse be prevented but even respected individuals (during social exigencies) would not experience an aversion towards it.
3. They say: Temporary marriage results in guardian-less individuals, such as illegitimate children, being handed out to the society.
Answer: In view of what we have mentioned previously, the answer to this objection is quite plain since according to (man-made) law, illegitimate children are neither affiliated to the father nor to the mother whereas children resulting from temporary marriage do not possess the slightest difference from those that result from permanent marriage - neither with respect to inheritance nor with respect to social rights and privileges - apparently this objection stems from their lack of attention towards this reality.
Russell and temporary marriage
In conclusion it appears expedient to present what Bertrand Russell, the well-known English scholar, has stated in his book Marriage and Morals under the topic Trial Marriage. After mentioning the scheme of Ben B. Lindsey, one of the judges for juvenile delinquency, in connection with 'companionate marriage', he states as follows: “His view is that young people should be able to enter upon a new kind of marriage distinguished from ordinary marriage by 3 characteristics. First, that there should be for the time being no intention of having children and that accordingly the best available birth-control information should be given to the young couple. Second, that so long as there are no children and the wife is not pregnant divorce should be possible by mutual consent. And third, that in the event of divorce, the wife should not be entitled to alimony.”
After mentioning Lindsay's idea, which was presented above, Russell goes on to state as follows: He holds, and I think rightly, that if such an institution were established by law, a very great many young people, for example, students at universities, would enter upon comparatively permanent partnerships, involving a common life, and free from the Dionysiac characteristics of their present sex relations.
As you notice, the above plan with respect to temporary marriage is in many ways similar to the Islamic concept of temporary marriage except that the conditions and stipulations which Islam has laid out for it are more lucid and perfect in various respects. In the Islamic temporary marriage there is no prohibition in preventing conception, separation is simple and alimony too is not obligatory.
Did temporary marriage exist during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w)?
The general consensus of the Islamic scholars indicates that temporary marriage was lawful during the initial period of Islam and, in fact, the essentials of religion too emphasize this lawfulness - (and the difference of opinion that exists in connection with verse 24 of Suratul Nisa):
ÝóãóÇ ÇÓúÊóãúÊóÚúÜÊõãú Èöåö ãöäúåõäøó ÝóÂÊõæåõäøó ÃõÌõæÑóåõäøó ÝóÑöíÖóÉð
“Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed.”
as to whether or not it establishes the legitimacy of mut'ah does not, in any way, serve to oppose the incontrovertible nature of the statute. This is because even the opponents are of the belief that the legitimacy of this statute has been established by means of the sunnah of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) - and the Muslims, during the initial stages of Islam, even acted upon this ruling. Also, the famous sentence that has been reported from 'Umar:
ãõÊúÚóÊóÇäö ßóÇäóÊóÇ Úóáóì ÚóåúÏö ÑóÓõæáö Çááøñåö ÃóäóÇ ãõÍóÑöøãõåõãÇó æó ÃõÚóÇÞöÈõ ÚóáóíúåöãóÇ ãõÊúÚóÉõ ÇáäöøÓóÇÁö æó ãõÊúÚóÉõ ÇáúÍóÌöø
“Two mut'ahs existed during the time of the Prophet of Allah and I prohibit them and shall punish (those who act upon them), (and these are) mut'ah of the women and Hajj of Tamattu'), is a clear proof of the existence of this statute during the period of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w); however, the opponents of this ruling claim that it was abrogated and prohibited later on.”
Interestingly, the traditions which they present to substantiate their claims of abrogation are contradictory and inconsistent. Some traditions state that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) himself abrogated this statute and as such, the nullifier of this ruling would be the sunnah of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w). Other traditions state that it was abrogated by the verse of Divorce:
áöÚöÏøóÊöåöäó ÅöÐÇ ØóáøóÞúÊõãõ ÇáäöøÓóÇÁó ÝóØóáöøÞõæåõäøó
“O Prophet! when you divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed time.”
However, it ought to be known that this verse has no connection with the issue under discussion since this verse deals with divorce whereas there is no divorce in a temporary marriage - the separation taking place when the term (of marriage) reaches termination.
On the one hand, it is conclusively and categorically known that this ruling was lawful during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) while on the other hand there is authentic evidence to prove that it had been abrogated. Thus, according to an indisputable law, proved in methodology, we shall judge that this statute continues to exist.
The well-known sentence of 'Umar is also a clear testimony of the fact that this ruling had certainly not been abrogated during the period of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w).
It is quite evident that none, except the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), possesses the authority to abrogate laws and rulings, and it is only he (s.a.w), who can abrogate and annul certain laws in accordance with divine orders. After the Noble Prophet's death, the door to abrogation of laws was completely closed or else every person, according to his individual reasoning, would seek to abrogate portions of the divine laws and consequently there would be no such thing as an eternal and everlasting Shari'ah. Fundamentally, individual reasoning vis-à-vis explicit sayings of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) lacks validity and authenticity.
Significantly, in the book sahih Tirmidhi, which is one of well-known siHaH of the Ahlus Sunnah, and also from al-Daraqutni, we are informed of the following incident
: Once, an inhabitant from Syria approached 'Abdullah b. 'Umar and questioned him about Hajj-e-Tamattu', whereupon he expressly declared it to be permissible. The man said: “But your father has prohibited it!” 'Abdullah b. 'Umar turned furious and said: “If my father prohibits it while the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) permits it, should I forsake the sacred sunnah of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) and follow my father's statements? Arise and go away from my presence!”
Another tradition, possessing the same form as that seen in the above tradition, has also been reported from 'Abdullah b. 'Umar, but in connection with temporary marriage.
It has been reported from the book 'Muhadhirat' of Raghib that one of the Muslims entered into a temporary marriage. He was asked
: “Who informed you that it was legitimate?” He replied: ”'Umar!” Astonished, they asked him: “How is such a thing possible when 'Umar has himself prohibited it and has even threatened to punish the people for it?” He said: “I too base my reasoning upon this, for 'Umar had said: 'The Noble Prophet (s.a.w) had permitted it but I prohibit it.' I accept its legitimacy from the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) but shall never accept its prohibition from anyone else!”
Another point that needs to be mentioned here is that those, who claim that this rule has been abrogated, face some serious problems
: In numerous traditions from Sunni sources it has been explicitly stated that this ruling had not been abrogated during the life-time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) but, rather, its prohibition came into effect during the time of 'Umar. Thus, the proponents of abrogation need to provide an explanation for all these traditions, which are twenty four in number. 'Allamah Amini has mentioned them in detail in volume six of his book al-Ghadir and two examples of them are presented below:
1. It has been reported in sahih Tirmidhi that Jabir b. 'Abdullah Ansari said: “During the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) we used to easily enter into temporary marriage and this continued till 'Umar totally prevented 'Amr b. Harith from entering into it.”
2. In the books Muwatta of Malik and Sunan Kubra of Behaqi it has been reported from 'Urwah b. Zubair that one day, a lady by the name of Khaulah Bint Hakim approached 'Umar and informed him that one of the Muslims, Rabi' b. Umayyah, had committed mut'ah. Hearing this 'Umar said: “Had I prohibited this act previously, I would have had him stoned (but now, from this very moment, I shall prohibit it).”
In the book Bidayah al-Mujtahid of Ibn Rushd al-Andulusi too we read that Jabir b. 'Abdullah Ansari said: “Temporary marriage was customary and usual amongst us during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and (the first) half of the caliphate of 'Umar. Afterwards 'Umar prohibited it.”
: The traditions that state that this ruling had been abrogated during the life-time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) are ambivalent and contradictory in nature. Some of them say that it was abrogated in the battle of Khaibar, some report it to have been abrogated on the day of the conquest of Makkah, some others specify that it was during the battle of Tabuk, while yet others declare that it took place during the battle of Autas, etc. Thus, all of these traditions, which advocate the abrogation of this ruling, appear to be fabricated as they differ so vastly from each other.
In view of what we have mentioned above, it becomes plain that the statement of the author of the commentary al-Manar, when he says
: “Previously, in the third and fourth volume of the magazine al-Manar, we had expressly stated that it was 'Umar, who had prohibited mut'ah, but later we happened to come across some traditions, which indicated that it had been abrogated during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) and not during the time of 'Umar, and accordingly, we rectify our previous statements and seek forgiveness for it is a prejudiced declaration. This is because vis-à-vis these contradictory traditions that declare the abrogation to have taken place during the time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), we have traditions, which expressly declare the ruling to have continued till the time of 'Umar. Thus, neither is there a necessity to apologize nor a need to seek forgiveness; the evidences presented above indicate that it was the original declaration of the author that had been true and correct, and not his second one!”
It is evident that neither 'Umar nor anyone else - not even the Imams of the Ahlul Bayt G, who are the genuine successors of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) - can abrogate laws that had existed during the life-time of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w). Basically, abrogation after the death of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) and the termination of revelation is absolutely meaningless and inconceivable. It is also a matter of immense astonishment that some individuals attribute the utterance of 'Umar to his 'individual reasoning' (ijtihad), for ijtihad vis-à-vis 'nass' (explicit text of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w)) is neither permissible nor acceptable.
 Sharh Lum'ah, vol. 2, 'The Book of Nikah'
 Kanz al-'Irfan, vol. 2, pg. 159 (footnote)
 al-Ghadir, vol. 6, pg. 206
 al-Ghadir, vol. 6, pg. 210
 Bidayah al-Mujtahid, The Book of Nikah
 Tafsir al-Manar, vol. 5, pg. 16
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 337