Muslim “Pleasure Marriages” Quietly Practiced in America

If this piece were in The Onion, it would pass as obvious satire. Alas, Muslims are assimilating into Western society, they just practice it according to Islamic sharia law.

Islam’s Sex Licenses by Betwa Sharma

Temporary “pleasure marriages” offer unwed Muslims a way around the Islamic rule against premarital sex. Betwa Sharma talks to one young American Shiite who’s on his 25th “I do.”

“Marriage is halal, dating is haram,” says Ali Selman. In other words, marriage is permissible, but dating is forbidden. These are the rules for the strapping, green-eyed Lebanese Shiite from Brooklyn.

Luckily for young Muslims like Selman, who are deeply religious yet subject to the same hormonal forces as any other twentysomething, the Quran provides what you might call a caveat clause. Its rule against sex outside of marriage is clear, but many Shiite Muslims believe that a section called “Al Nissa” contains a single word (istimta) that seems to allow Muslims to engage in Mut’ah marriages, or “pleasure marriages”—essentially, temporary marriages for the purpose of having sex.

These “pleasure marriages” can last for years, months, several days, one night, or a few hours. Popular in places like Iran but also quietly practiced in America, Mut’ah is a handy option for unmarried Shiite Muslims who want to have sex without settling down for life. “There can be no sex outside of marriage,” says the 29-year-old Selman, a champion weightlifter who, over the past 10 years, has been temporarily married 25 times.

Selman loathes nightclubs—“Loud music with people getting drunk and stupid is not my scene”—and so has met many of his wives in the hookah cafes of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The narrow confine of Luxor, an Egyptian cafe in Greenwich Village, is one of his favorites, despite the cramped space. “I go there to smoke and not to pick up women,” he insists. More often than not, though, he admits he somehow ends up meeting a beautiful girl.

Like permanent marriages in Islam, Mut’ah marriages are only allowed with other Muslims, Christians, and Jews. His partners have been Catholic and Muslim-American, Spanish, Lebanese, Turkish, Palestinian, and Pakistani. Selman says many of the women he meets express “shock” when he explains he must marry them before he can proceed.

“It is to avoid committing sin, and it is like a boyfriend and girlfriend relationship,” he tells them. “Some of them don’t like it,” he says, but, “they agree because they want to be with me… If she doesn’t like it, I understand, but I can’t sleep with her.”

According to Selman, the woman has to say, “I marry you, myself.” The man replies, “I accept.” A token bridal gift must be given—in Selman’s case, usually tea, juice, or chocolates. Most of his marriages lasted for about three months—the shortest was three days long, with his bank teller, a Sunni from Pakistan. He says the girl actually wanted to get married for only one day; they finally settled on three days subject to renewal.

For Selman, Mut’ah is simply “a permission from God to have sexual relations.” He’s open about the fact that it’s different than true love. “You can’t fall in love 25 times,” he says, laughing. “I had feelings for these women and I was attracted to them.”

But some Shiite scholars, like Muhsin Alidina, say that Selman is “fooling himself.” Alidina runs the education department at the Al Khoei Islamic Center, a prominent Shiite institution in Queens. Like most Shiites, he supports the concept of Mut’ah marriages, but says young Muslims like Selman don’t take them seriously enough. “The obligation is not over by saying a few words,” says Alidina. “Even if it is temporary, it is still a marriage with serious commitments.”

Alidina says the crucial components of the Mut’ah marriage are the mutual acceptance of the marriage, a bridal gift to the wife paid in cash, and her obligation to stay single for two menstrual cycles after the marriage ends to ensure she is not pregnant before entering into another. The husband is responsible for a child conceived during the marriage, even if the marriage lasts only a few hours, and religious leaders recommend that the contract be put in writing so women can claim their rights in Islamic courts that recognize Mut’ah marriages.

As long as these tenets are followed, Alidina thinks Mut’ah marriages provide an important physical outlet for young Muslims. “They are young and unemployed and these marriages are cheaper options,” says Alidina. “Mut’ah creates some obligation on men rather than dating or going to a prostitute.”

But Shamsi Ali, a Sunni imam from the Islamic Center in Manhattan, dismisses Mut’ah marriage as prostitution with a religious stamp. “Marriages cannot be used to fulfill desires,” he scolds. “Marriage is not a social solution.” He says Mut’ah leads to abandonment of pregnant women, unwanted babies, and destroys the purpose and sanctity of marriage.

The leader of the Bay Ridge mosque in Brooklyn, Imam Tarek Yousef, is also a Sunni, but a longtime supporter of Mut’ah marriage. “Don’t blame the principle because it is abused,” he says. “The model is perfect.”

Selman’s 26-year-old friend Richard Giganti provides a different perspective. A practicing Catholic when he arrived in New York from Sicily, he converted to Islam after one year here. “I really enjoy the discipline of Islam,” he says. Six months after becoming a Shiite Muslim, Giganti entered into his first temporary marriage with a Spanish Catholic woman. “The idea seemed really wishy-washy at first, but as I got more religious it began to make sense,” he says. “As a Catholic you go to hell for having premarital sex. Mut’ah understands the human disposition and accommodates me.”

Selman, for his part, knows he’s adhering merely to the letter of the law, if not the spirit. There were certain marriages where he felt committed to his bride, but others that he says were just “date-like.”

“I misused Mut’ah when I did it repeatedly and with several women,” he says. “A lot of us use it as an excuse to have sex, and we really should control ourselves.” He says many of his friends are in Mut’ah marriages: “It is very common for religious Shiite.” Does this casual use of Mut’ah make them sinners? “I don’t know. That’s in God’s hands,” he says. “God ordered us to say these words and we say these words.”

Many years ago, when he was teaching at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Imam Alidina himself got a Mut’ah marriage for six months. His first marriage had been a traditional one, but, ironically, turned out to be temporary itself. After it failed, Alidina could not brave another permanent marriage. “I was looking for comfort and solace without the encumbrances of a long-term commitment,” he says. The woman he Mut’ah-married was also coming out of a divorce. “We were both lonely and had desires of a young man and woman,” he adds.

During their short marriage the couple never lived together, and toward the end of the six months Alidina left for the United Kingdom for two years. He lost touch with his wife during his time abroad and when he came back to Tanzania she had disappeared. They never met again.

After 40 years, Alidina looks back at his short marriage with affection. “It gave me the companionship I needed then,” he says.

And when their done, divorce is just a text message away.

Hizbollah uses the mut’ah too:

The Militarization of Sex – The story of Hezbollah’s halal hookups.

And this video documentary out of Iran on prostitution and mut’ah marriages.

22 Responses

  1. My dear, these temporary marriages are not “Muslim”. 90 per cent of Muslims follow the Sunni denomination and in the Sunni view, temporary marriages are considered nothing but fornication (zinaa in Arabic) and hence are prohibited. The Sunni view goes that this is because this pre-Islamic secular Near Eastern type of marriage was forbidden by the Prophet (God bless him and give him peaceful security) in a definite fashion during the last few years of his life. It is the minority Twelver Shi’is who practice this and sees it as legitimate. Most Twelver Shi’is live in Iran and that state is practically a Twelver Shi’i state.

  2. Sunni – like Osama bin Laden

  3. wow — you’re right — very onion-flavored

  4. Dear Creeping, you wrote: “Sunni – like Osama bin Laden”. What’s the follow-up to this? “European – like Adolf Hitler”, “American – like Jack the Ripper”, “Atheist – like Joseph Stalin”, etc.? By your method of thinking and generalizing, no logical and humanitarian result can be achieved.
    [Also, it should be remembered that the crimes that have (allegedly) been perpetrated by Osama bin Ladin are nowhere near as great and cruel as those of these people, at least those of the two political-military leaders among them.]

  5. Let’s see Ravi, Sunni is a denomination of Islam and Europe is a country…there isn’t even a remote correlation to your “follow-up”.

    What should be most emphatically noted is that we would never defend any of the scumbag losers you mentioned and in fact it was the West who rid the world of these heinous monsters. Nor did they act in the name of any religious figure quoting any religious text…

    On the other hand both Hitler and Osama, as well as the Quran, all have a shared hatred toward the Jews – both Sunni and Shia…and Muslims around the world, are killing non-Muslims and Muslims in the name of Islam, quoting verses from the Quran and instituting Islamic sharia law to justify such killings…and Muslims like yourself continue to defend and harbor bin Laden rather than expose him and punish him.

    We know it’s imperative for you to defend your faith and jihad at all costs, but in so doing you incriminate yourself with each defense.

  6. Europe is a cultural zone with lots of shared “main” quasi-religious values. It is very relevant for a comparison with the Sunni zone of cultural, religious values.

    Monsters like Adolph Hitler did cite many of those main European cultural values and beliefs, mostly modern and secular beliefs rather than Christian, such as the belief in secular progress through scientific advancement. His cruel practice of eugenics and racial artificial selection was quite a mainstream quasi-scientific and secular belief among the secular western elites of his times. It was very Western and very much belief-related; hence religious, i.e. religious in the sense of being related to secular religion including atheism, pantheism, agnosticism, deism, etc.. And of course it was very peculiar to Europe, or the West in general.

    Islamic law does not justify the killings of non-combatants. Furthermore, attacking women and children is strictly forbidden in the shari’ah even when they are on the battlefield with their warrior men, unless you have to attack them for immediate self-defense.

    So, Osama bin Ladin’s and a few other weirdos’ claims to justify such acts by the shariah and the Qur’an is nothing more than the delirium of a few madmen. A madman could believe that all allegedly woman-oppressing Muslims as well as Hindus must be killed on account of their breaches of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, shall we work against this declaration, proclaiming it an evil text that urges people to hate and destroy millions of innocent people? Can you see how feeble and logically flawed your argumentation has been thus far?

    And we want to rid the world of such men, but the West and especially the U.S. does not allow us to do it. They collaborate with despotic and usually secularist regimes in the Middle East and prevent us true, religious minded Muslims from coming to power through democratic elections. Therefore, we cannot catch and/or prevent such criminals from operating.

    Also, I advise you and your friends to read the book entitled “On Suicide Bombing” by the eminent anthropologist Talal Asad. He works on the question whether we are right to get so shocked at suicide attacks for killing innocent people as “collateral damage” et al, while our governments and military kill many more civilians than they do as collateral damage as well. It’s a refreshing, brain-opening read. I advise it strongly.

    I know that it’s imperative for you to spread this hatemongering and learned ignorance. But in doing so, you incriminate yourself with each warped interpretation that you spread. You incriminate yourself primarily in the sight of God, the ultimate and real Judge, the Judge and Ruler of the Day of Resurrection and, in the present life, the ultimate and real Authority of the universe.

    P.S. The Quran is full of compassionate advice to the world’s Israelite community. The stern-looking and harsh-sounding God of the verses that you and your friends select for the purpose of citation all the time are peculiar to specific situations in history, mostly in the Prophet’s time (God bless him and give him peaceful security).

    Do you want to read the harshest comments about the Israelites? Do you want to read the most anti-semitic text of the world? Then read not the Qur’an or the gospel but read the Old Testament itself.

  7. [...] the original post:  Muslim “Pleasure Marriages” Quietly Practiced in America … Tags: felony-punishable, five-years, from-one, muslims, quietly-practiced, shiite-muslims, sunni, [...]

  8. For all those who oppose temporary marriages, please go back to history and you will find that it was allowed at the time of prophet mohammad and caliph omar banned it.

  9. There are only two comments here that apparently ‘oppose’ these temporary marriages and they are both by Muslims…tujeok and Ravi

    The hypocrisy never ends…

  10. There are only two comments here that apparently ‘oppose’ these temporary marriages and they are both by Muslims…tujeok and Ravi

    The hypocrisy never ends…and apparently Mu’tah never ended either…

  11. Hi, Creeping and Tujeok. I am Ravi above. This is my other WP account, adapted for my WP blogs and comments in English rather than Turkish.

    No, Creeping. This has nothing to do with hypocrisy, though I’m unfortunately not surprised that you evaluated it in this not-well-thought and reactive way.

    This is rather about a difference between the separate ideologies and scholarly traditions of the majority Sunni Muslims and the minority Shi’is (also called Shiites or Shias). Let me explain how so, in my reply to Tujeok below.

    But before that, I’d like to know why you know the mut’ah marriages of the Shi’is (not the majority of Muslims) so “creeping” and take it into your blog as an example of the allegedly creeping nature of Islam? This is much less bad and immoral than the extramarital sexual relationships that are so prevalent in the U.S. and in the west. It is at least done with a contract of marriage although it isn’t entirely different in actual nature from those sexual relationships.

    I’d like you to answer this question, very much…

    And as-salamu alaykum Tujeok, here’s my reply to you.

    Even drinking alchohol was not banned right away by God and His prophet (God bless him and give him peaceful security). Muslims who used to consume alcohol before their days of Islam were discouraged increasingly from alchohol consumption throughout the Prophet’s mission, but they were not prohibited from consuming alcoholic drinks until rather late in the prophetic mission. Despite this, now there is no doubt that alcohol has been banned since a specific point in his lifetime.

    Something similar happened to the mut’ah marriage case. Like alcohol consumption, some of the first-generation converts to Islam used to be prone to resorting to this pre-Islamic type of pseudo-marriage. This was once more on account of the fact that they came from an Arabian background, which was not only polytheistic but also quite secular. As to the so-called mut’ah “marriage, it is rather close to being an extra-marital, temporary sexual relationship, similar to the sexual relationships common in modern western countries.

    The prophet first tried to ban it out of his own judgement. When this was not feasible for the time being, he declared it legitimate again. A short time after that, he outlawed it for eternity with a command coming from God Himself this time.

    However, because this was close to the time of his death, some people seem to have not heard it. Therefore, some of the companions continued to suppose that although the so-called mut’ah marriages were discouraged by the Prophet, they were not outright banned.

    It was Umar, one of the several prominent companions of the Prophet, who took care of the mission of letting everyone within the Muslim community know that the mut’ah marriage had been definitively banned by the Prophet himself during his lifetime. Other companions were also witnesses to the occasion when the Prophet proclaimed the prohibition. Therefore, there was no doubt about it.

    However, members of the Shi’i sect, who first departed from the mainstream Muslim community (“al-jama’ah” or the Sunnis) because of political reasons, began to deny that Umar only let the entire Muslim community know the prohibition which was proclaimed by the Prophet himself. They’ve been claiming that he wanted to ban it himself but attributed the ban to the Prophet. This is a sectarian point of view that is not based on sound historical reports. The totality of the certainly authentic reports recorded in the mainstream Sunni hadith collections make it clear that my first, non-Shi’i account of the prohibition of the so-called mut’ah marriages is the correct one.

    As for the other, ostensibly Quran-based objection to the mainstream Sunni view that is cited in the article that Creeping quoted himself. The infinitive verb and noun istimtaa’, a form of which is used in a marriage-related verse of the Quran (9:69) as well as three other verses, does not refer to the mut’ah marriage. It is derived from the word mut’ah, but the word mut’ah itself has a much more general meaning than referring to the so-called mut’ah marriages. Mut’ah actually means “benefiting” or “taking pleasure” in Arabic. The conjugated verb istamta’tum (the conjugated verb form of the just mentioned infinitive) in verse 9:69 therefore means “you derive benefit from them” or “you take pleasure from them”. Actually, the same verb is used in three other verses of the Quran that are not related to marriage at all (6:128), (9:69), (46:20).** And it means the same there too: To take pleasure and/or benefit.

    The “benefit derived” or the “pleasure taken” is obviously the benefit or pleasure taken from a normal, permanent marriage. There is no reason for us to think that the verse refers to what people term the mut’ah marriage. The Quran speaks only about one type of marriage all over, the normal permanent institution of marriage. There is exactly no sensible reason for thinking that in this verse it speaks about some other thing. Therefore, the Shi’i claim that their mut’ah marriages are an accepted form of marriage in Islam is incorrect and quite baseless.

    P.S. Here is a translation of two of the above-mentioned verses of the Quran. The first one is the one that the Shi’is cite as their pseudo-evidence in favor of their mut’ah marriages. The second one is one of the other three verses mentioned above. You can look the rest up on your own if you want to.

    In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful

    4:24 Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess [i.e. the unmarried slave-women]: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them [arabic: istamta'tum], give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.

    9:69 As in the case of those before you: they were mightier than you in power, and more flourishing in wealth and children. They had their enjoyment of their portion [arabic: istamta'a]: and ye have of yours, as did those before you; and ye indulge in idle talk as they did. They!- their work are fruitless in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will lose (all spiritual good).

  12. Oops, I made an obvious mistake above in giving the Quranic verse numbers. The first two pairs of (9:69) should have been (4:24), as the post script at the bottom also will make clear.

  13. Dear Rawi, two points

    1. It is clear that there is difference of opinion on explanation of Quranic verses supporting or otherwise of temporary marriages. Hence automically, you need to find an hadith if it anyway explains this or approves or dispproves these marriages. So can you please provide an hadith which supports you claim that Prophet banned muta marriages? Remember, whenever you pick any hadith from any books that supports your claim, make sure that it or any other book does not support contrary.

    2. Your comparison of muta with pre islam era is wrong. Arabs used to have uncountable number of wives and female slaves. That way , even you can compare 4 wives allowed by islam to the preislamic era. The logic can be applied only where there is no clear rule in Quran and Sunnah.

    3. If you can not prove that prophet banned it, then you have to accept that nobody has the right to ban something that was allowed at the time of prophet and create Biddath in islam

  14. Okay, below are the ahadith. But before that, I’d like to kindly remind you that according to the Quran, it is obligatory for a Muslim to reply to the Muslim greeting “as-salamu alaykum” with a better greeting word or at least an equivalent one. Many Muslims neglect to do this unfortunately. You’ve neglected to do it too, unless you are of the opinion that some Shi’is believe in, namely that one has to believe in the twelve imams of the Twelver Shi’is to be considered a real Muslim.

    Anyway, below are two hadiths from the most authentic hadith sources. But I will continue to give another warning after I cite them.

    Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3979; Muslim, 1407.

    It was narrated from ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) forbade mut’ah marriage and the meat of domestic donkeys at the time of Khaybar. According to another report, he forbade mut’ah marriage at the time of Khaybar and he forbade the meat of tame donkeys.

    Narrated by Muslim, 1406.

    It was narrated from al-Rabee’ ibn Sabrah al-Juhani that his father told him that he was with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) who said, “O people, I used to allow you to engage in mut’ah marriages, but now Allaah has forbidden that until the Day of Resurrection, so whoever has any wives in a mut’ah marriage, he should let her go and do not take anything of the (money) you have given them.”

    As for the hadiths reports from Ibn Abbas in Sunni sources that the mut’ah marriage is still permitted in very dire conditions, it is obvious, on account of other stronger evidence, that Ibn Abbas used to be one of those who had not heard the final prohibition of the so-called mut’ah marriage. It is also reported that he later retracted this opinion of his.

    To understand this point better, read this from an article by the famous scholar al-Qaradawi.

    We may recall that the Qur’an adopted a gradual course in prohibiting wine and usury, as these two evils were widespread and deeply rooted in the pre-Islamic society. In the same manner, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) adopted a gradual course in the matter of sex. First, he permitted mut`ah marriage as an alternative to zina (fornication and adultery), and at the same time coming closer to the permanent marriage relationship. He then prohibited it absolutely, as all and many other Companions reported.

    The majority of the Companions hold the view that after the completion of the Islamic legislation, mut`ah marriage was made absolutely haram. However, Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) holds a different opinion, permitting it in case of dire necessity. A person asked him about marrying women on a haram basis, and he permitted him to do so. A servant of his then asked, “Is this not under hard conditions, when women are few and the like?” and he replied, “Yes.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari) Later, when Ibn `Abbas saw that people had become lax and were engaging in haram marriages without necessity, he withdrew his ruling and retracted his previous opinion. (Zad Al-Ma`ad, vol. 4, p. 7)

    In this way, the evidence that seems to be to the contrary, coming from Ibn Abbas, that I think you consciously implied is explained and shown to have no validity.

    Regards

  15. Thanks for sharing this info :) Will be linking to your site! Cheers! =)

  16. [...] Related: Muslim “Pleasure Marriages” Quietly Practiced in America [...]

  17. [...] If this piece were in The Onion, it would pass as obvious satire. Alas, Muslims are assimilating into Western society, they just practice it according to Islamic sharia law. Islam's Sex Licenses by Betwa Sharma Temporary "pleasure marriages" offer unwed Muslims a way around the Islamic rule against premarital sex. Betwa Sharma talks to one young American Shiite who's on his 25th "I do." "Marriage is halal, dating is haram," says Ali Selman. In ot … Read More [...]

  18. [...] wives and temporary marriages for sex is honorable, but ads for strip clubs aren’t? Very interesting considering, as a commenter [...]

  19. [...] wives and temporary marriages for sex is honorable, but ads for strip clubs aren’t? Very interesting considering, as a commenter [...]

  20. You can’t justify this. It’s prostitution plain and simple. It’s illegal in the US and Europe, and probably all of the non-Muslim world for a reason — it’s buying and selling women. So much for Islam as some kind of more moral faith.

  21. [...] Read and wrote about this before. This is just one of the reasons why the cult Islam cannot be compared to other religions, and why Muslims are preconditioned to be sexual deviants, which in some circles psychiatry links sexual repression with violence. [...]

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