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Temporary Marriage: an Islamic Response to Contemporary Promiscuity

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This column aims to discuss the not so widely deliberated Prophetic tradition that can help Muslims preserve their sexual standards in a world increasingly hostile to traditional scriptural norms, namely the practical dimensions of Zawaj al-Mutah in 1437 AH {2016}.

Very Briefly – The Religious Aspect

In order to have a rational discussion on the topic of temporary marriage, due to the topics sensitivity, silencing sectarian minded individuals from the start is a necessity. Therefore, let’s briefly site an authoritative Islamic source on the topic of temporary marriage.

Ibn Uraij reported: ‘Ata’ reported that Jabir b. Abdullah came to perform ‘Umra, and we came to his abode, and the people asked him about different things, and then they made a mention of temporary marriage, whereupon he said: Yes, we had been benefiting ourselves by this temporary marriage during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) and during the time of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Sahih Muslim, Book 008, #3248 – The Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah); Page 521, #1405-15 (Arabic version)

In general, many influential Quranic scholars of all schools of Islamic jurisprudence acknowledge that Ayat 24 of Surah 4 (An-Nisa) was revealed about the permissibility of temporary marriage, the debate amongst Muslim scholars is whether or not it was banned later by the Prophet (PBUH).

Contemporary Aspects

After living in several Muslim countries and clearly seeing that illicit gender relations are slowly becoming a norm, it is evident that an Islamic solution needs to be put forward in order to deter promiscuous sexual norms exported from some segments of Western societies, along with countering customary Eastern tribal/ethnic abnormalities in gender relations.

Sexual degradation worldwide and most worryingly within many Muslim societies {See – BBC Sex in Strange Places Episode 1 Turkey} shows that a balanced approach on the issue needs to be discussed within the parameters of Islamic thought.

Today sexuality and gender relations issues have become very crucial for Muslims living in the West and in the Islamic world itself from a political and social perspective. It has always been the case. Evelyn Baring (aka Lord Cromer) in 1916 during the British occupation of Egypt, stated, “…it is absurd to suppose Europe will look on as a passive spectator whilst the retrograde government based on purely Muhammadan principles and oriental ideas [that is, Islam], is established in Egypt. The material interests at stake are too important… the new generation of Egyptians has to be persuaded or FORCED into imbibing the true spirit of Western civilization… the position of women in Egypt, and Mohammedan countries generally, is, therefore a fatal obstacle to the attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilization.”

In November 2015, Guardian Jurist, Imam Sayed Ali Khamenei stated that the “two main things are used for this {Secular imperialist} infiltration {neo-colonialism}: money and sexual attractions. They are used to change beliefs, viewpoints and lifestyles, so that the affected person will think in the same way as an American {secular Westerner}.”

Two extremes for dealing with natural sexual desires have been widely encouraged amongst Muslims; on the internal front, the culturally rooted thought, today spearheaded by the backward Saudi version of ‘’Islam’’ advocating an extreme restriction of Fitri (innate) desires and on the other hand an extreme looseness of sexual desires is promoted by foreign power centers through their local propagandists. This massive soft-power onslaught created an identity and moral crisis in many Muslim societies and communities in the sphere of gender relations.

It is no secret that most Western ruling elites that are obsessed with political, military, economic and cultural domination, have exploited the adherence to non-Islamic cultural norms within Muslim societies and are actively introducing their “liberating” norms of gender relations into Muslim societies.

In 2003 American political propagandist and one of the key architects of neo-colonialism in the post 9/11 events, Cheryl Benard, wrote a paper for the Rand Corporation (updated in 2007) called Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies [a must read for Muslims}. Benard’s paper is a straightforward neo-colonization roadmap. She proposes to “positioning modernism as a “counterculture” option for disaffected Islamic youth {and} facilitating and encouraging awareness of pre- and non-Islamic history and culture, in the media and in the curricula of relevant countries.

Temporary marriage is one of the ways to outmaneuver Benard’s proposed secular-imperialist social coup, as it sets a balanced approach appropriate for 1437AH realities addressing the issue of gender relations in non-secular parameters.

Temporary marriage counters secular perversion of gender relations through its Islamic legal limits and frees Muslims from often unnatural restrictions rooted in customary non-Islamic mentality that are not suited for 1437AH.

Yes, temporary marriage can be abused and misused as can polygamy and monogamy or even religion as a whole, along with everything else in life. Yet, this is not a logical and sound argument against this once practiced Sunna. Just because something can be abused, it is not a reason to ban it all together.

Today, most Muslims are polarized between a secular promiscuous outlook on gender relations and their ethnic, often pre-Islamic customs on the issue. The cultural taboos, that do not fit into an Islamic legal framework on gender relations provides a breeding ground for extreme suppression of natural urges, which automatically leads to a situation where some of the world’s top porn consumers come out of the Middle East. {See – Why porn is exploding in the Middle East – Jan 2015}

Islam advocates an establishment of a curtain between two genders, but today, due to the propagation of the perverted Saudi misunderstanding of Islam, along with non-Islamic customary norms rooted in Muslim societies, an iron wall is being built between males and females in most Muslim societies. This unnatural and irrational wall, makes the contemporary secular understanding of gender relations appear as rational and the ‘’better’’ option. To a limited extent it is so even in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where the Western notions of gender relations are seen as normal by some, yet, the practice of temporary marriage is looked down upon and often mocked by many.

Muslim parents that raise their children on Hollywood movies and later send them to Western educational institutors are ignoring the elephant in the room. Assuming that their 18-year-old child is going to fast most of his/her university years in order to supress the divinely implanted urges is an illusion.

Don’t most Muslims always like to say, “Islam has solutions to all problems.” So what is the solution to the reality that not every youth can afford to get permanently married at an early age for diverse set of reasons, ranging from inadequate income to irrational cultural preconditions for permanent marriage, pursual of full-time studies, to having a stigma of  being a divorcee or at times a convert.

One would assume that those who adhere to the position that temporary marriage was not banned by the Prophet (PBUH), practice it and are relieved of extreme sexualisation of the contemporary world. Yet, due to cultural taboos not rooted in Islamic law within many Muslim communities, even those Muslims (Shia and Sunni – Yes, there are Sunni Muslims who also practice temporary marriage) that see the ban of temporary marriage as invalid, face challenges in practicing it.

Many of these Muslims lack the basic practical skills of putting forward the Islamic scheme on resolving the crisis of gender relations in the contemporary world. This mainly stems from the fact that due to narrow minded cultural taboos Muslims have outsourced sexual education to non-Islamic institutions. Hollywood and village customs is what many Muslims emulate today in regards to gender relations, not the sources of Islamic law.

Number one problem stems from the fact that Imam’s of the mosques treat the topic in very theoretical terms and provide zero practical guidance on its implementation. Minor hypocrisy on the issue is another major factor why many Muslims see boyfriend-girlfriend relations as legitimate, but look down on temporary marriage. Religiously knowledgeable people can spend hours debating the legitimacy of temporary marriage, but often look down on those who practice it and at times discourage people from practicing it.

It is also disheartening to see how some Muslims use derogatory and sectarian rhetoric in discussing temporary marriage, but turn into intellectuals when talking about homosexuality and boyfriend-girlfriend issues.

The second major problem is that Muslims that do practice temporary marriage, lack the courage to be open about it, as if they are doing something haram (sinful). This subtly creates a norm in society that as if it is actually an Islamically illicit act.  Similar behaviour is manifested in relation to polygamy within permanent marriage as well. This is not an easy problem to overcome and will take some time. Not surprisingly, the solution to breaking these cultural taboos will most probably come from Muslims in the West as their Islamic identity often precedes their ethnic identity and ethnic customs. This is a positive feature that Muslims living in the West should appreciate and utilize positively.

In fact, there are many practicing Muslim women, mainly in the West, who do not restrict their husband’s right to temporary marriage or polygamy, but the stipulation usually is that they do not publically disclose their wife’s consent to it. While these women should be greatly praised for their level of Taqwa {God consciousness} and not falling into the common trap of herd mentality, keeping halal in the closet as if it is haram should be avoided. It should be remembered that Iblis acknowledges Allah’s executive and creational authority, it is rejecting Allah’s legislative sovereignty that expelled Iblis from the realm of Divine mercy.

The reality is that men’s innate nature is partly polygamous. That is one of the reasons why Islam allows polygamy for men and not women. There is nothing embarrassing about putting this Islamic perspective forward and Muslims should not impose an intellectual inferiority complex upon themselves and assist in intellectual colonization. Committed Muslims should not bother about the arbitrary opinion of Sex in the City fans, along with ritualistic Muslims and secular dogmatists.

While gays have a flag, Muslims are often ashamed to rationally discuss this Prophetic Sunna. This partly derives from the fact that the Muslim world today is subjugated to neo-colonial domination in political, military and economic terms.

It is time to break taboos rooted within ethnic cultural boundaries by normalising gender interaction within Islamic legal and philosophical norms, be it polygamy or temporary marriage. And here comes one of the main issues, many people do not know how to properly put it into practice. As the topic is not addressed by most Muslim scholars in practical terms, but mostly through pontification.

Also many are “restricted” by the perversion of the modern world where partners touch each other into intimacy rather than provide consent through rational reasoning. In order to overcome this problem, which is now even acknowledged in the West as well, a contemporary legislation called Yes Means Yes is seriously considered in California where if a University student does not give a whole-hearted “yes”, verbally, the sexual act has no consent and can be considered as rape. In fact, in 2011, Mexico legally introduced temporary marriage in order to lower divorce rates.

Practical Aspects

The aim of this article was to focus on the practical aspects of temporary marriage, but the defeatist situation within Muslim societies caused by neo-colonialism made it a necessity to theorize a little. So here comes the practical part that applies to men and women;

  • While many Muslims (including the author) sometimes feel uncomfortable rejecting a handshake from the opposite gender, especially if it is a non-Muslim woman, in terms of introducing the concept of temporary marriage, this is a positive situation and can be used as an ice breaker to explain the idea.
  • When starting to explain the concept, if the other party freaks out due to hearing the word marriage, keep calm, if you panic and manifest being uncomfortable, the freak out effect will triple. This is the world we live in, fornication is a norm, and a referral to divine legislation and marriage is “awkward.” Rely on Allah, use Islamic reasoning without blending it too much with secular notions, do so only to convey a point for explanatory purposes.
  • Prophet Musa (AS) spoke in a public place with the daughters of Prophet Shuayib (AS) one of whom he later married, in respectful and open manner. Don’t be scared of a conversation with the opposite gender within Islamic legal and moral norms.
  • Improve your conversational skills and learn your religion thoroughly. Memorization of information is almost useless, do your best to gain certainty in Islamic wisdom.
  • One does not need to go clubbing to contract temporary marriage. There are way better and halal places where one can meet the opposite gender. Initiating halal through haram is a recipe for failure.
  • If you are communicating with the opposite gender and you are clearly developing feelings, try contracting the marriage as early as possible, no need to keep the doors of potential promiscuity open.
  • Do not forget that the person you contracted a temporary marriage with is your spouse. Otherwise, you will be belittling this Islamic legislation which is already under internal and external attack. Unfortunately, racist and irresponsible type attitudes like – “ooh its temporary, who cares” are still present. Respect your spouse and try your best to be kind to him/her.
  • Try your best to follow the recommendations of Imam Jafar (AS) and try your best to contract a temporary marriage with a person with whom you share fundamental beliefs or at least have some crucial similarities in a worldview. Pregnancy is real and the child is your responsibility.
  • Those men whose wives do not restrict their Islamic right to temporary marriage or polygamy, be honest with the person you are to contract a marriage with and try not to conceal your marital status. If you think non-disclosure is the only way to contract a temporary marriage, experience of many can easily prove you wrong. Remember, Islam is manners, this aspect might be a deal breaker in certain situations, but do not dismiss it outright.

“‘Ali (ra) said: “The Mut’a is a mercy from Allah to his servants…”

Bidayat al-Mujtahid, by Ibn Rushd, v2, p58 al-Nihaya, by Ibn al-Athir, v2, p249 al-Faiq, by al-Zamakhshari, v1, p331.

Some topical references for genuinely research minded people, sectarian bigots and trolls.

(For detailed information on Temporary Marriage  see Temporary Marriage in Islamic Law by Sachiko Murata)

Abu Nadra reported: While I was in the company of Jabir b. Abdullah, a person came to him and said that Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Zubair differed on the two types of Mut’as (Tamattu’ of Hajj and Tamattu’ with women), whereupon Jabir said: We used to do these two during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). Umar then forbade us to do them, and so we did not revert to them.” Sahih Muslim, Book 008, #3250 – The Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah); Page 521, #1404-17 (Arabic version).

All the scholars and jurists from the companions and their followers have maintained that this verse (4:24) was abrogated and that Muta’a was Haram. Abu Umar said: “All the companions of ibn Abbas in Macca and Yeman maintained that Muta’a was halal, and this was according to the madh-hab of ibn Abbas.” Imam al-Qurtubi said in al-Jami’i Li Ahkam al-Qur’an:

And those who say: “Muta’a was made halaal and abrogated on several occasions”, it is weak, no one of authority has made such an assertion, this was only said by those that had sought to clarify the contradictions”. Imam Razi, in his Tafseer Kabeer, Volume 3 page 194.

“What can we say about the narration of Jabir in Muslim, where he states that during the life of Rasulullah(s) and Abu Bakr we would do Mut’ah for certain day using dough, cloth, until Umar stopped it. What are you going to say about this decision?” Umar, stated that during the lifetime of the Rasulullah (s) two types of Mut’ah existed, Mut’ah of Hajj and Mut’ah of Nisa, and now I prohibit them. People will want answers, on Mut’ah there will be two answers. That Umar banned it and Rasulullah (s) ordered us to adhere to the Sunnah of the Khalifas.”

Kanz al-U’ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, vol 16, #457

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