Sulaiman: Now I wish to discuss an issue most controversial among the Shias. You call it Muta’. How do you defend your stand when there is hardly any difference between Muta’ (temporary Marriage) and Adultery?
Ja’far: I seek refuge in Allah! How can you equate the two?
Sulaiman: Whenever you are confronted with traditions against Muta’ you put an end to all arguments and refrain from discussions.
Ja’far: This is not correct. There are no such traditions. However, your equating Muta’ to Adultery is a cause of great regret. You label a permissible act to be haraam.
Note that! There are many things in which there is a hairbreadth difference of halaal and haraam. For example, there is difference between Marriage for a period and after divorce is given? Except for a seegha that is recited. Apart from this the presence of witness (as some sects consider it compulsory). But we are accused of permitting adultery because we consider Muta’ Marriage halaal.
Sulaiman: I apologise for this unintentional misunderstanding, but I request you to describe to me the details of Muta’ Marriage.
Ja’far: Muta’ is a fixed-term marriage. The basic difference between Muta’ and Nikah (permanent marriage) is that in Nikah there is no time limit. However a Nikah can be terminated by divorce. Muta’ is the same as Nikah except that time is stipulated at the outset and it comes to an end at the appointed time. The Maher (dower) and the time limit have to be decided beforehand. Just as in Nikah the seegha (formula) is recited by the bride and accepted by the bridegroom.
Muta’ can also be terminated before the time limit by gifting the balance time to bride.
After the Muta’ the woman has to observe iddah (a period of time before she can remarry).
Sulaiman: What if there are children from this type of union?
Ja’far: Children of Muta’ marriage have the same status and rights as that of permanent marriage. They inherit their parents and command the same position with their siblings. All the rules of Mahramiyat (religious formality) apply to them.
Sulaiman: What about the maintenance of wife and inheritance?
Ja’far: In a Muta’ marriage the husband is not obliged to bear the cost of maintaining the wife. Also, the spouses do not inherit each other in this form of marriage.
Sulaiman: Through which law of shariat do you consider Muta’ legal?
Ja’far: All the Muslims agree that Muta’ was permitted by the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.s.). They differ as to whether the permission for Muta’ was abrogated later or not. The Shias base their argument on the following verse of the Holy Quran:
"Then as to those whom you enjoy (do Muta’ with), give them their dowries as appointed…"
(Surah Nisa 4:24)
If we study the biographies of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) we learn that quite a few of them had resorted to this practice. Various traditions recorded in ‘Sahih’ books of traditions certify this fact. In Sahih Muslim Ata relates:
"Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari came to Makkah for Umrah. We went to see him at his residence. Those present asked him questions and later enquired about Muta’. He replied, "Yes, we practised Muta’ in the days of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and acted on this order even in the days of Abu Bakr and Umar."
It has again been quoted thus in another tradition in Sahih Muslim from Jabir, "In the days of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) we practised Muta’ for a few days against a small dowry and did so in the time of Abu Bakr till Umar prohibited it in the case of Amr bin Harith."
(Sahih Muslim Vol. 2, Pg. 706-English)
Sulaiman: Does it mean that there is a difference of opinion among Muslims regarding the legality of Muta’?
Ja’far: Some Muslims believe that the permission for Muta’ was abrogated later. However, the Shias believe that Muta’ was never forbidden and the permission given by the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is still in force. The traditions quoted above also prove that Muta’ was practised in the time of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), Abu Bakr and the initial period of Umar. Then Umar prohibited it. Shias do not follow the command of Umar because it goes against the established tradition of the Prophet:
"The Haraam of Muhammad will remain Haraam till the day of Qiyamat and the Halaal of Muhammad will remain Halaal till the day of Qiyamat."
(Behaarul Anwaar Vol. 2, Pg. 260)
Sulaiman: I have a last question on this topic. Does it mean that you do not restrain your daughter or sister entering into a Muta’ wedlock?
Ja’far: It is not necessary every halaal thing has to be necessarily performed! It is also not necessary that the Islamic Shariat be always according to our needs. Muta’ is a special permission allowed by Shariat. It is a facility given for difficult circumstances. The permissibility of Muta’ does not motivate people to replace by it the permanent marriage. Like the permissibility of talaq does not make it wajib upon all of us to give talaq to our wives! And as it is the right of the woman and her guardian to insist on a permanent marriage just as she can insist on enquiring about body defects, characteristic, profession of the would be groom and qualification etc. before she offers herself for marriage. If she like she can refuse to marry. In spite of the fact that these factors are not Sharii obstacles from marriage. In the same way all these things are valid for Muta’ Marriage.
This can be compared the various professions. Some people are doctors or engineers and some are sweepers. All these are occupations, but generally they have different status. In the same way marriages are of different types. People prefer the better alternative. But if one is compelled to a lower alternative we must not look at it insultingly.