Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In Defense of Mutah

The Detroit Free Press recently reported that a Dearborn imam was publicly humiliated by members of his congregation, who disagreed over how donation money should be spent. A series of anonymous letters were circulated to homes, accusing the imam of diverting money and of having a scandalous “extramarital relationship” with a woman through mutah, or temporary marriage, under Shia Islam. The letter sent out this week accused him of turning his Islamic Center into a "House of Mutah." http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/01/30/imam-al-qazwini-dearborn-mosque/22606481/

These anonymous mailings insinuated that mosque funds were being used to pay for the imam’s illicit activity as with a prostitute. It is deeply unfortunate that people who call themselves Muslims would engage in such trash talk. Direct mail is a great way to promote a political position but it was deeply irresponsible for these people to air the community’s gossip to the public to the point where the newspaper reported on their mosque’s internal problems!

Did they really need to give the haters something else to talk about? Do they not realize that many non-Muslims view all Islamic marriages, because a dowry is paid, as a form of prostitution and subsequent servitude? The very thing that makes every Islamic marriage legal is that the man gives the woman something of monetary value!

“...seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property” (Quran 4:24).

So if the people are so upset that he contracted mutah with donation money, would they prefer that he use their money to buy the woman a house? Or perhaps he should use their money to divorce his wife, buy his ex-wife a house, and then buy a new house for his bride? Some decisions and discussions are the family's business, nobody else’s! This kind of gossip is what causes people to keep their marriages secret, even though the Prophet (pbuh) advised against secret marriages.

I consulted with a Shia scholar, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Marriages, even mutah should really be open and known... But there are circumstances where mutah needs to be private, so [determine] each case on its merits.”

There is no dispute about whether or not Muslim men may marry more than one woman. Polygyny is on the rise in Britain, because today’s modern Muslim career women simply don’t have the time or patience for the duties of a full time wife, reports Jamie Dettmer in the Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2013/08/05/britain-s-muslim-communities-see-rise-in-multiple-marriages-as-career-women-seek-part-time-husbands.html

So the only dispute between Muslims on the legality of marriage is whether or not it has to be considered “permanent” or if it is permissible to contract a marriage for a specified amount of time. Since divorce is permitted in Islam, this argument does not make a huge amount of sense. 

How many times have we seen a man promise a woman “forever,” only to dump her? This happens for many reasons, including family pressure, immigration issues, and culture clash. Would it not be more kind for a man to simply be honest with the woman about what he is realistically able to offer her? Whether it’s three days or three years, if he gave her what he promised - how is it better to trick a woman into making a permanent commitment, based on empty promises of a future home life, which never pan out?

“Marriage is a tradition of the Prophet and has been emphasized as an act of piety. Celibacy, on the other hand, is considered evil and unnatural,” writes Shahla Haeri in “Law of Desire,” a study of temporary marriage in Iran.

While the more educated urban secularized middle class Shi’ites often perceive mutah as legalized prostitution, the more religiously inclined view it as a divinely rewarded activity. Historically, many mutah marriages indeed have been contracted by women soliciting strangers in public, in particular, at certain holy shrines, but after the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, Shia scholars and ayatollahs openly promoted mutah as “preferable to the ‘decadent’ Western style of ‘free’ male-female associations.”

Mutah is now promoted as an Islamic way to legalize dating in order to get to know someone before marriage, as a way to avoid sin and fornication especially during the college years, and later in life, as a way to deal with marital separation and divorce, when finances prevent a man from setting up a second household, or to protect women’s chastity and relieve their suffering.

“I married a man for one night when he was going for Hajj, so I could get the blessings from the Hajj. When he came back he wanted to marry again but I said no. We stayed in touch and helped each other out for years. Since I wouldn’t marry him, he asked me to help choose his wife,” Sophia, an American convert to Islam stated.

The most commendable thing about mutah in the modern world is that there is no divorce. The sexual relationship ends with no hard feelings and no broken promises. It is the norm between former mutah spouses to maintain a deep friendship and reverence for each other for the rest of their lives, knowing that remarriage is always an option. This can be a huge, huge blessing and security that is worth even more in the 21st Century, when there are so few stable relationships and even family members move far away.

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