By- Dilip Dutta
Listeners to BBC World Service Radio may have listened to an interesting broadcast of unmarried British Shia Muslimas using Nikah Mut’ah as a form of ‘Halal Dating’, last week.
To find out more about it I had to dig deep and what I am about to reveal upon my enquiry may not be palatable to many. Me deciding to write about these is not to offend anyone but to ENLIGHTEN the innocents. If any reader who may be offended or angered by my revelations, you can just STOP here.
I believe like me the common understanding of Muslim marriage is a Nikah Ceremony. The bride is told of a Mahr (Moharana in Assamese) and the woman has to agree to the offer by agreeing it with spoken words and then the groom agrees to return that amount if the relationship ends. This is in general terms. But there are slight non-material variations too.
So it is established that the Mahr is a price for something. What is it?
The word Nikah in Arabic does not mean marriage. For marriage the word is Zawaj.
What is Nikah then? The root of Nikah is Nokh which means the female genitalia. And Nikah means, in a polite meaning, performing sexual intercourse, which is better represented by the English vulgar F word.
Therefore, a Nikah Nama is a legal contract for a free women (viz Not a slave ie the Right Hand possessed whom a Muslim Owner can have sex without any formalities and is legal/Halal. Hence the sexual slavery of the most of the reported cases of abuse of domestic servants in employment in Arabia) to give permission giving away right to her body (Qur’an 4:34).
After such a Nikah Nama the husband is responsible for the upkeep of the women till he gives Taalaq(Divorce). Hence the Nikah became the byword for marriages and Zawaj is hardly used.
The virile Muslim, men has the luxury of marrying temporarily too. When he is away from his wife, his religion sanctions sex for pleasure in a temporary marriage. For the Shias it is al Mut’ah and the Sunnis al Misyar.
Although both have variances, the purposes are the same. This is in a gist.
However, I think I owe to my readers a bit of elaboration.
Nikah al Mut’ah also occasionally known a Zawaj al Mut’ah can be summarized as a form of temporary marriage, widely practiced by Shia Muslims, but abolished amongst Sunni Muslims. Sunnis claim that Mut’ah was practiced by Prophet Muhammad himself, but later on, Omar, the second Caliph of Islam, prohibited it. Hence they stopped practicing it.
When a Shia Muslim man has to travel away from home, to fulfil his sexual desires he is allowed to take another women wherever he might be stationed away from his wife. The requirements for the Mut’ah marriage are simple for a man. Mut’ah marriage can be held with consent between a Muslim man and a Muslima(Muslim female) without the presence of any witnesses. The husband is not bound to give any dowry to his wife. In this marriage, a specified period of validity for the marriage is mentioned in the contract. As the Mut’ah can be ended at any time the man chooses, he is free to have number of Mut’ahs away from home; as many as he likes in fact. After the Mut’ah the man and woman become strangers. The Mut’ah has become quite common in Iran and Iraq these days.
Unless one wants to bury his head in the sand, it is difficult to defend if Mut’ah is labelled as a form of prostitution. No doubt some Muslims are embarrassed to acknowledge that it is permitted even in Shia Islam. There are number of denials exists in the internet confirming this embarrassment.
Some Muslims in defence, say that the necessity of temporary marriage occurred during the time of Jihad battles to establish and expand the Deen(The Religion), by the companions of Muhammad during his lifetime. The jihadists, far away from their homes and wives, were pleasing their prophet and Allah, and in return, a pleased Allah allowed them to contract temporary marriage in order to avoid illegal sexual relationship. On the other hand, there are Islamic sources that prove Muhammad himself had contracted temporary marriages. In this respect, the Qur’an, too, support temporary marriage which can be found in chapter 4 verse 24 of the book. (Ref: Sahih International :And (also prohibited to you are all) married women except those your right hands possess. (This is) the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are (all others) beyond these, (provided) that you seek them (in marriage) with (gifts from) your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy (of marriage) from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.)
Misyar al Nikah or (lesser known) Zawaj al Misyar
Misyar (Temporary marriage) is common amongst Sunni Muslims; but there are some rules. It is a lesser form than normal marriage. In this marriage, a man is allowed to have a wife, but wife is not bound to live with her husband permanently. After the Misyar marriage has been conducted, the wife can live at her parent’s home, and her husband can visit her according to a predetermined schedule. This institution of marriage is being practiced, more frequently, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, after their muftis (Islamic scholars) permitted it in 1999.
There are two more less known practices are Zawaj al Urufi/Nikah al Urfi(marriage for sex only) and Zawaj al Siry/Nikah al Siry (marriage kept secret from the wife).
After listening to the BBC Broadcast, I was initially rather shocked that western educated Muslim girls(Muslimas) could really abide by a 1400 old practice and agrees to be just a sex object in a male PARADISE. However, trying to look at the issue logically, these adult citizens of the Western Countries are surely aware(at least in parts of their grey matters) that they own their body as known to be the an established ideation as per western girl’s point of view and it is up to them who they want to sleep with. But most of the Muslimas have chosen to be prisoners of their Islamic identity and have to accept the constraints of the religious doctrines of the society under the thumb of the Imams and accepted the ruling, ‘ONLY MUSLIMS WILL DO’. Are they just naïve to accept these doctrines without a critical look at those OR are they being extremely smart that rather than sleeping with boy friends secretly why not do it officially in a Halal manner to please their God (their understanding of being born and living is to please Allah and to die for this entity) AND MAKE SOME MONEY doing something that is pleasurable ! After all Muslimas accept that their body belongs to the husband (Q 4:34).In doing so there won’t be any objection from their Mumin(Truly Religious) parents, nor from the society as they were following the Islamic path, in which some cases may be plain dating, some are trial marriages; but, if you tease out the details you are not likely to find a big difference what is the OLDEST PROFESSION KNOWN TO MANKIND with what they are practicing.
I am afraid BBC’s presentation in question has a rosy tint to it and the sceptical me had to take it with a pinch of salt, as, most of these intimate relationship ends a truly temporary affair.
MUSLIMS ARE TRUMPETING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICE OF ISLAM BEING THE BEST RELIGION AND WAY OF LIFE. HENCE, MY KIND OF ENQUIRY IS FULLY JUSTIFIED. IF ISLAM IS REALLY WHAT THEY CLAIM IT IS, THEY HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR IF ANYONE TRIES TO DISSECT IT AND PUT IT UNDER THE MICROSCOPE OF CRITICAL ANALYSIS. MUSLIMS ARE WELCOME TO DEFEND IT WITH ANALYTICAL REBUTTAL IN A CIVILISED MANNER.
Author’s note: I do not claim that I posses scholarly knowledge of Islam. I am a critical enquirer. This is what I found on my enquiry. Such or even better information can be acquired from many good sources like books and gleaning the internet resources. My purpose of producing this piece is to pass on what I have found for readers to get some handles in enquiring further to gather FIRST HAND knowledge to enrich their lives.
Anirban Kalita is Executive Editor of News Section. His role is also involved with reviewing, editing of articles before publishing.
By academic Anirban is MTech of Computer Science & Technology.