Mutah in the Quran

Mutah in the Quran

Mutah in the Quran was practiced in the pre-islamic time and was not a ruling initiated by Islamic teachings. Islam only permitted its practice where it was needed for instances at the time of the Prophet (S) in cases where men were away from homes at war times and needed their sexual need to be met in a halal way, so they resorted to Mutah. In today’s era, it is still used by some with a broader application and considered haram by other Islamic sects. Read more to get more detailed information in this regard.

Mutah in the Quran at a glance:

What is Mutah marriage?

There are two kinds of marriages in Islam: permanent and temporary, the latter also being called Mutah, al-Nikah al-Muwaqqat (temporary marriage) or al-Nikah al-Munqati’ (discontinued marriage). Literally speaking, Mutah means pleasure and enjoyment.

Mutah in the Quran is a form of marriage that has an expiry date preset within its legal structure. Unlike permanent marriage which does not have a stated duration and will only end with a divorce, Mutah marriage has a specified duration which is stated in the marriage contract. This duration could be very short or very long. The man also needs to specify a dower and pay it to the woman.

What is dowry? What was the dowry of the prophet’s wives and whom can and cannot one marry in permanent marriage are topics discussed in the course “Spouse Selection.” 

Is Mutah in the Quran Halal or Haram?

There are two standpoints in this regard:

  1. Those who believe that Mutah is halal and
  2. The people who are of the idea that it is haram.

Adherents of the view that Mutah is halal

This group base their answer on a number of factors such as;

  • Surah Nisa, 24
  • The narrations and historical accounts in this regard approving its legality
  • Logic.

Mutah is more of a personal choice depending on the conditions of one’s life. It is not promoted or even recommended, however, it could come in handy preventing the committing of a haram act (such as masturbation or adultery) in certain circumstances which will be mentioned later in the article. 

Mutah in the Quran

According to many commentators of the Quran and narrations, Verse 24 of Surah Nisa refers to temporary marriage because of the usage of the word “Istimta’” meaning enjoyment accompanied by the pronoun referring to women.

فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً ۚ وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَاضَيْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا ﴿24﴾

For the enjoyment you have had from them thereby, give them their dowries, by way of settlement, and there is no sin upon you in what you may agree upon after the settlement. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-wise. 1

Worth to read!  Surah Kahf

Mutah in hadith

There are narrations from the progeny of the Noble Prophet (S) attesting the permissibility of temporary marriage. For instance, there is a narration from Ali bin Abi Talib (AS) saying,

‘If ‘Umar had not prohibited mut’a, no one would commit fornication except the wretched.” 2

Elsewhere Ja’far al-Sadiq says,

“Mut’a was approved by the text of the Qur’an and became part of the sunnah of the Prophet”. 3

Elsewhere his holiness talks about this beautiful verse of the Quran,

مَا يَفْتَحِ اللَّهُ لِلنَّاسِ مِنْ رَحْمَةٍ فَلَا مُمْسِكَ لَهَا ۖ ﴿2﴾

Whatever mercy Allah unfolds for the people, no one can withhold it. 4

Then he says, “Mutah is part of that mercy.” 5

Mutah in Logic

Based on the Quran and traditions of the holy Prophet (S) and his progeny, mutah is considered halal. Looking at it from the logical perspective, one finds benefits when this act is practiced in the right circumstances. Take a look at the following instances:

  • Mutah could in some cases prevent divorce from taking place. For instance, when it is done during the engagement period where the two parties get to know each other better. When Mutah is recited, the boy and the girl get to know one another more closely and in such a context it is more probable that the two of them display their true selves and display realistic reactions. So if there are cases of immoral, illogical, or unethical behavior, they can decide that they are not each other’s matches and end the case without having to experience reciting the permanent Nikah and subsequently a divorce which is the most disliked halal act by God.
  • Another instance of doing Mutah is when one is away from one’s homeland and cannot have permanent marriage. This is true in case of single students who travel abroad and do not have the condition of permanent marriage. So instead of committing a haram act, they can do Mutah.
  • Another case is where a man’s permanent wife is unable to meet the sexual need of her husband due to an illness or any other reasons.
  • One other instance of Mutah could be in cases where the man does not have the financial means to support a wife and also has sexual needs. In this case he can have temporary marriage because in this form of marriage, a man is only obliged to pay the woman an amount as her dower (Mahr) and does not have to financially support her, unlike permanent marriage where he has this duty.

In cases where one does not have the condition for either permanent or temporary marriage, the Quran instructs such a person to remain modest and chaste:

وَلْيَسْتَعْفِفِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّىٰ يُغْنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ ﴿22﴾

And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace. 6

Worth to read!  Joseph in the Quran

Adherents of the belief that Mutah is haram

This group however, believe that Mutah’ was lawful at the time of the Prophet using the aforementioned verse, nevertheless, due to three reasons it became haram:

  1. An abrogating verse
  2. The 2nd Caliph’s sermon
  3. Narrations stating that Mutah is haram

Let us consider these reasons one by one

  1. The revelation of the verse (23:6)

Certainly, the faithful have attained salvation. Those who … guard their private parts, except from their spouses or their slave women, for then they are not blameworthy. 7

This group believes that this verse (23:6) abrogates verse 24 of Surah Nisa. This cannot be the case because an abrogating verse has to be revealed after an abrogated verse. In this case, 4:24 was revealed in Medina, after the Noble Prophet (S) migrated to this city from Mecca while verse 6 of Surah Mu’minun (23) was revealed in Mecca before the Prophet’s migration to Medina. So how can an obrogating verse be revealed before an abrogated verse?

  • Who abrogated Mutah?

This group believe that the second caliph, Umar bin Khattab banned the practice of Mutah during his caliphate in a sermon saying,

“ At the time of the Prophet two mut’a were practiced (temporary marriage and mutat al-Haj) but I forbid both of them and will punish anyone who practices either.” 8

As Umar himself attests, Mutah was practiced at the time of the Prophet (S) and based on his personal view, the 2nd Caliph banned it.

The supporters of the first group protest by saying ‘how can the Caliph’s words surpass the words of the Prophet?’.   If Umar’s prohibition was based on his Ijtihad (independent judgment) then it is baseless, because all Muslim scholars agree that Ijtihad will never oppose the Qur’an or hadith.

Note that there are a number of narrations which state that Mutah was legal until Umar banned it. For instance, Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have said:

‘God have mercy on ‘Umar! Mut’a was not but a mercy from God, through which He showed mercy to Muhammad’s community. If ‘Umar had not banned it, no one would need fornication except the wretched.’ 9

  • A narration from the Prophet (S) stating that Mutah is not permissible.

A hadith is related from Salma b. al-Akwa’ reporting that the Messenger of God permitted mut’a in the year of Awtas (8/629) for three days; but then he prohibited it. 10

This hadith cannot be accepted because it is related from only one Companion (wahid) and cannot abrogate a Qur’anic verse.

Can you do Mutah while married?

Speaking from a Shar’i perspective, yes, a man is allowed to do Mutah while married.

But at the same time he needs to take into consideration that his practicing Mutah should in no way be an obstruction in meeting his wife’s financial, emotional and spiritual needs, as Allah (SWT) says in the Quran,

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ ۚ ﴿33﴾

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. 11

Worth to read!  Saleh in the Quran

The Qawwam which has been mentioned as maintainers of women, is the exagerative tense of Qiyam (meaning standing up). In other words, a man has a heavy responsibility in life regarding his wife.  Qawwan means being like a tent pole which tolerates the weight of the entire tent. A qawwam is always on one’s feet to serve one’s wife and make sure that he is taking good care of his wife who is Allah’s trust in his hands.

So legally speaking, yes, a man can do Mutah while having a wife; nevertheless, would this practice be a hindrance for him in fulfilling his obligatory duties? He is to be a good judge and make a wise decision to prevent the destruction of his marriage which is the noblest institution in the eyes of God. 

There is an extensive discussion on this topic in the course, “Family in the Quran”.

Can a Muslim man do Mutah with an unbelieving woman or a fornicatress?

No, a Muslim man cannot marry an unbelieving woman or a fornicatress.

The Quran sets a beautiful general rule:

الزَّانِي لَا يَنْكِحُ إِلَّا زَانِيَةً أَوْ مُشْرِكَةً وَالزَّانِيَةُ لَا يَنْكِحُهَا إِلَّا زَانٍ أَوْ مُشْرِكٌ ۚ وَحُرِّمَ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿3﴾

The fornicator will not marry anyone but a fornicatress or an idolatress, and the fornicatress will be married by none except a fornicator or an idolater, and that is forbidden to the faithful. 12

According to a narration from Ali bin Musa al-Ridha, a man is advised to do Mutah with a free believing woman. 13 Based on another narration from Ja’far al-Sadiq, a man is to do Mutah with a chaste woman as instructed by Allah (SWT) in the Quran,

“And those who guard their private parts” 14 .

Also note that a virgin girl cannot be temporarily married without her father’s permission.

Summary of Mutah in the Quran

Mutah in the Quran is religiously lawful to perform and can especially be practiced by individuals in certain conditions to ease a way out for them so that they would not have to be placed in difficulty or commit a haram act. 

Just like permanent marriage, where one exercises extra care and sensitivity in one’s selection, the same is advised in Mutah marriage in the Quran.


References

  1. The Quran, 4:24 (Qarai).
  2. Tafsir al-Kabir, vol. III, p. 287.
  3. Wasa’il, vol. 14, p. 437.
  4. The Quran, 35:2 (Qarai).
  5. Wasa’il, vol. 14, p. 437.
  6. Quran, 24:22 (Shakir)
  7. The Quran, 23:1-6 (Qarai).
  8. Ahmad b.Hanbal, al-Musnad, Beirut, p. 52.
  9. Al-Durr al-manthur, vol. II, p. 141.
  10. Al Tafsir al-kabir, vol. III, p. 288.
  11. The Quran, 4:34 (Yusuf Ali).
  12. The Quran, 24:3 (Qarai).
  13. Wasa’il, vol. 14, p. 452.
  14. 23:5.

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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

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One Response

  1. I had problems in my marital life and am living alone for the past 30 years. I was comittng sins due to this. Now I know to protect myself from sins. Thank you for the information of Mutah marriage

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