Mutah: Temporary Islamic Marriage amongst Muslims

One is really shocked to read the news (HINDU VOICE, Jan, 2007) that a 60-year-old wealthy Arab married 3 girls, Afreen, Farheena and Sultana, at a single sitting (within ten minutes), in Hyderabad.

Though unbelievable, such incidents are not uncommon in Muslim community and only a few of such incidents come to surface.

Furthermore, as the Koran allows polygamy and permits a Muslim male to marry 4 wives at a time, the said 60 year old Arab groom could have comfortably added a fourth girl to his list of brides without violating the laws ordained by Almighty and All-knowing Allah. Islamic law or sharia permits two kinds marriages: nikah and mutah. Nikah restrict Muslims to marrying 4 wives at a time, while there is not restrictions on mutah marriages.

Therefore, the Arab Muslim man did not violate the Islamic divine laws by marrying all of them at a single sitting, as these marriages were mutah. In fact, he could have made his list of brides still longer.

Mutah marriage is temporary and remains valid only for a few weeks, days, or hours. It is, therefore, simply a kind of prostitution in the garb of marriage. The fabulously rich, mostly aged, Arabs from the Gulf countries come to India, get access to young girls of Hyderabad through mutahof course, by paying fat cash to their parents as dowry (mehr). They use those young girls as a piece of toilet paper; and return home as the marriage automatically dissolves after the stipulated time. Below is one such case.

In May 2004, an old man, named Muhammad Zafer Yaqub Hassan al Jorani, came from Sharjah to Hyderabadthe capital of Andhra Pradeshto undergo a cataract operation. On May 7, he married Haseena Beguma 19 year old girl; and after two days, he divorced her. On May 24, he married another 16 year old girl Ruksana Begum. Haseenaignoring threat to her lifewent to a local police station to narrate her story and within an hour police arrested Jorani. Police also arrested someone called Shamsuddin who allegedly had played a mediator and received a cash of Rs 40,000 from Jorani paying Haseena's parents as mehr. To be noted that Jorani had two wives and 11 children at Sharjah.

By interrogating Jorani, police could discover that Jorani also divorced Ruksana after a few days, and married a third girl. But neither Ruksana nor the third girl dared report their affairs to the police, and no steps could be taken for those offences.

By interrogating Shamsuddin, police also discovered that a criminal gang and a group of qazis (Islamic judges) of Hyderabad were involved in this lucrative flesh trade. The role of the qazis was to solemnize the marriages according to Islamic rites for lucrative remuneration. Police also arrested Ahmed Sharif, the qazi who conducted Haseena’s marriage with Jorani. Further investigation revealed that Ahmed Sharif acted simply as an assistant of a chief qazi, who had nearly 20 subordinate qazis under his command.

In fact, the task of this team of qazis and criminals starts right from Hyderabad’s Rajib Gandhi International Airport and as soon as an Arab lands at the airport, mediators begin to chase him with photographs of young girls, finalise the monetary matters, fix the date and place of marriage and so on. These marriages are to last only for a few weeks, days or hours. Investigation revealed that there were 35 to 40  such incidents of mutah annually. Many of these Arab men took there newly wed brides to there home abroad, where for the rest of their lives they were forced to live as a house maid or a concubine [sex-slaves].

Commenting on these affairs, Mr. A K Khanthe Additional Commissioner of Hyderabad Policesaid, “It is very difficult to stop all these illegal activities with the help of law. What we can do is to observe such fabulously rich Arabs closely so that their illicit activities could be checked.”

The real significance of the above comments of Mr Khan is that, the said temporary marriages between the rich Arabs and the unfortunate Indian Muslim girls are sanctified by a section of Muslims; and that, since Islamic law allows polygamyit is not possible for the law enforcing authorities to bring the offenders behind the bar. Legal action can only be taken when the girl in question is below eighteen. In Islam, marriage is simply a social contract and the paper that contains all the terms and conditions of this social contract, is called nikahnama. The central point of a nikahnama is the mehr—that is, the cash which the groom will have to pay the bride if he divorces her. Men on the groom’s side try to minimise the mehr, while kin of the bride try their best to inflate it. Finally, after tough bargaining, a deal is made.

According to Islamic laws, husband alone enjoys the right to divorce his wife; the wife has no such right. The Principle of Mohamedan Law by Mr M Hidyatullahthe former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India (Tripathy, 1980, p. 324)in this regard, says, “Whenever the husband utters the word talaq thrice, the divorce becomes effective at that instant, irrespective of place and time.” The Koran says on this that,

“Ye may divorce your wives twice; and then either retain them with humanity, or dismiss them with kindness. But it is not lawful for you to take away anything of what ye have given them, unless both fear that they cannot observe the ordinances of Allah. And if ye fear that they cannot observe the ordinances of Allah, it shall be no crime in either of them on account of that for which the wife shall redeem herself... But if the husband divorces her a third time, she shall not be lawful for him again, until she marry another husband. But if he also divorces her, it shall be no crime in them if they return to each other, if they think they can observe the ordinances of Allah... “ [Quran 2:229-30 – tr. by George Sale].

So the husband, according to the Koranic injunctions, has the right to drive his wife out of his house, like a domestic animal, by uttering the word talaq thrice and at such an instant, as mentioned above, the husband has to pay the money written as mehr in the nikahnama. It should be pointed out here that all these Koranic laws are for nikah alone. For mutah, the contract itself is temporary and dies after a stipulated timea few weeks, days, or hours. There is no need for the husband to divorce his wife. But if the husband wants to get rid of her within the stipulated time, he will have to divorce her as in the case of a nikah.

Though there is no verse in the Koran where Allah directly permits the believers to enter into temporary marriage with Muslim women, the hadith no. 3243 of the Muslim Sharif says,

“Abdullah bin Mas’ud reports: ‘We were on an expedition with Allah’s Messenger and we had no woman with us. We said: Should we not have ourselves castrated? The Holy Prophet forbade us to do so. He then granted us permission that we should contract temporary marriage (with local women) for a stipulated period giving her a garment (for a dowry)’. At this ‘Abdulla felt happy and remembered the Koranic verse: The believers, do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you, and do not transgress. Allah do not like transgressors (V: 87)”.

A similar hadith of the Muslim Sharif says,

“Jabir reports: ‘We contracted temporary marriage giving a handful of dates and flour as a dower’ (3249)”.

A few other ahadith of the Muslim Sharif may be mentioned in this context.

“Jabir reports, ‘Yes, we had been benefiting ourselves by this temporary marriage during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, and during the time of Abu Bakr and Umar’ (3248)”.

“Iyas bin Salama reports, on the authority of his father, ‘that Allah’s Messenger gave sanction for contracting temporary marriage for three nights in the year of Autas (i.e. after the Battle of Hunain, A.H. 8) and then forbade it’ (3251).

Regarding Mutah marriage, T. P. Hughes notes in his Dictionary of Islam that Mut’ah or Usufruct (enjoyment) is

“A marriage contracted for a limited period, for a certain sum of money. Such marriages are still legal amongst the Shi’ahs, and exist in Persia to the present day, but they are said to be unlawful by the Sunnis. They were permitted by the Arabian Prophet at Autas, and are undoubtedly the greatest stain upon his moral legislation; but the Sunnis say that he afterwards prohibited a mut’ah marriage at Khaibar" (Rupa & co, 2007, p424).

The Shi’ahs argue that Allah sanctions Mutah marriages in Koranic verse (IV: 24):

“Ye are also forbidden to take to wife free woman who are married, except those women whom your right hand shall possess as slaves. This is ordained for you from Allah. Whatever is beside this, is allowed (for) you; that ye may with your substance provide wives for yourselves, acting that which is right, and avoiding whoredom. And for the advantage (cohabitation) which ye receive from them, give them their reward (i.e. dowry), according to what is ordained: but it shall be no crime in you to make any other agreement among yourselves, after the ordinance shall be complied with; for Allah is knowing and wise.”

So in the eye of Islamic jurisprudence, Hassan al Jorani evidently committed no crime by entering into a contract of temporary marriage (mutah) by paying Rs. 40,000 as mehr to Haseena's parents. On the contrary, his act was once made lawful by the Holy Prophet.

The Prophet had, furthermore, made marriages of minor girls halal by himself marrying 6 year-old Ayesha at the age of 50. The wisdom of the Prophet obviously failed to foresee that in future, man himself would make laws and ban marrying minor girls. In India today, marrying a minor girl, below 18, is a criminal offence. The practice of mutah or marriage of minor girls, as occurs in Muslim community, is of greater offenceforcing a minor girl to prostitution.

The rich Arabs' marriage to young Indian girls is simply a kind of prostitution. Sir W. Muir, the renowned biographer of Prophet Muhammad, also held the same view about mutah. Even nikah, which the husband can dissolved at any time by uttering talaq thrice, thought Muir, is also a kind of prostitution, wherein the mehr replaces the fee for hiring a prostitute.

It may be pointed out here that such illegal prostitution in Hyderabad, in the garb of Muslim marriage, began nearly 16 years ago (1991)—when an 11 year-old girl, named Amina Begum, was forcibly married to a nearly 70 years old Arab. Much hue and cry was raised when news came up in the media. As a result, the vice came to a temporary halt, only to restart again at full swing after a few months. While commenting over the affair, Mr Majhar Hussain, the president of the Confederation of Voluntary Agencies, an NGO, said, “This (the Islamic system of temporary marriage) is turning the young Muslim girls into prostitutes.”

In a civilized society, the said Islamic practice of temporary marriage would undoubtedly be taken simply as rape or forced prostitution. At the same time, in the eye of law, there must be a difference between raping a minor and a grown-up woman. In the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the offence of rape comes under Article 375. unfortunately, there is no provision in the said Article to treat raping a child and a grown-up woman differently. Many believe that, there should be harsher laws to tackle the heinous crime like rape of minors by introducing the provision of more rigorous punishment, even sentence to death. Introduction of harsher laws would frighten the illegal traffickers and save many minor Muslim girls of Hyderabad from the sexual violation of the oil-rich Arabs.