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Temporary Contract Marriage (Mut'a) In Shia Muslim Law

The contract marriage in Shia Muslim law is known as Mut'a marriage. Literally translated, a Mut'a marriage is a “marriage for pleasure” which is valid for a fixed period of time. The time period can be a year, a month, a day, an event or even part of a day. Mut'a marriage is believed to have been practiced in Arabia even before the time of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).

There is strong controversy between Sunni and Shia scholars on the question of contract/temporary/mut’a marriage. The main argument of Shia scholars base upon Quranic verse 4:24:

The famous Shia translator of Quran Mir Ahmed Ali (1988) translates the relevant portion of 4:24 as:

“And as such of them you had muta with, give them their dowries as a fixed reward.” (4:24)

Yusuf Ali translates this verse in slightly different way:

“Seeing that you derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed.” (4:24—Yusuf Ali’s translation)

Muhammad Asad Translate this verse as:

“And unto those with whom you desire to enjoy marriage, you shall give the dowers due to them.” (4:24—Muhammad Asad’s translation)

Mut'a is basically considered a form of 'rental' because generally the basic aim of man in this contract marriage is the sexual enjoyment with the woman, and in return for his enjoyment the woman receives some amount of money or property as dower. It is necessary to specify the dower and fix the terms other wise the Mut'a is invalid. On the other hand if only the dower is specified, and the term is not fixed the contract no doubt is void as Mut'a, but can operate as a permanent marriage.

Since Mut'a is a contract, it requires a proposal on and an acceptance to make the contract valid. The man makes the acceptance after the woman has made her declaration. As in permanent Shia Muslim marriage, the declaration of the woman is obligatory. It must have one of three Arabic formulas, exactly like those that are used by the Shia's in permanent marriage.

There is no limit of number of wives in contract marriage. A Shia Muslim can make a contract of mut’a with any of the Muslim women or a Kitabi (the people given book like Chritians and Jewish). However, no mut’a marriage with any other religion is recognized as valid.

As per Shia Jurisprudence, a Shia Muslim having a permanent wife can’t contract a valid Mut’a marriage with a slave girl without express permission of his wife. The violation of this principle, renders the mut’a marriage invalid. Similarly, permission of master of the slave girl is also essential. Since slavery institution has been abolished so these principles no more apply.

In temporary contract marriage certain principles apply like it is illegal to marry daughter of sister in law or brother in law.

Similarly, other restrictions on marrying a person apply as in permanent marriage.

As far as rights of inheritance are concerned, the child born out of a mut’a marriage is legitimate and entitled to inherit property of the marrying parties. However, they themselves are not entitled to inherit property from each other.

The Mut'a marriage dissolves it self by the expiry of contract. The right of divorce is not recognized in the Mut'a marriage. However, the husband can end the contract by making a gift (hiba-i-muddat) to the wife. This kind of termination does not require the wife's consent.

An unconsummated Mut'a would entitle a wife to one half dower only. In this case there is no right of inheritance to the wife or husband in respect of each other’s property.

A woman with whom Mut'a is contracted is not entitled to maintenance under Shia Muslim law.

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