Mutah, or Temporary Marriage in Muslim Society
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 of marriages, nikah and mutah. The former does not allow marrying more than 4 wives at a time, while mutah does not impose any such restrictions on the number of wives. So the said Arab could have made his list of brides still longer and married all of them at a single sitting without violating sharia, as his marriages were mutahs. Moreover, mutah marriage is temporary and remains valid only for a few weeks, or a few days, or even a few hours. And hence it is simply prostitution in the garb of a marriage. The fabulously rich, mostly aged, Arabs from the Gulf countries come to India, get access to young girls of Hyderabad by temporary marriage of mutah, of course by paying fat cash to their parents as dowry (mehr), use them and return home as the marriage automatically dissolves after the stipulated time. A specific case of such an incident may be narrated below.
In May 2004, an old man called Muhammad Zafer Yaqub Hassan al Jorani came from Sharjah to Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, to undergo a cataract operation. On May 7, he married Haseena Begum, a 19 year old girl and after two days he divorced her. On May 24, he married another 16 year old girl Ruksana Begum. Haseena, ignoring even threat to her life, went to a local police station to narrate her story and within an hour police arrested Jorani. Police also arrested someone called Shamsuddin who was alleged to have played the part of a mediator and received a cash of Rs 40,000 from Jorani and handed over the money to the parents of Haseena as mehr. It is to be mentioned here that Jorani, at his Sharjah residence, had two wives and 11 children.
By interrogating Jorani, police could discover that after a few days, Jorani also divorsed Ruksana and married a third girl. But neither Ruksana nor the third girl dared to report their affairs to the police and hence no step 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 solemnise the marriages according to Islamic rites in exchange of 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, fixing the date and place of marriage and so on. All such marriages are temporary marriage called mutah in Islamic law or sharia and lasts for a few weeks, or a few days, or even a few hours. Investigation revealed that there were 35 to 40 such incidents of mutahs occur per year between rich Arabs and young girls in Hyderabad. Many of these Arabs 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 or simply sex slaves. While commenting over all these affairs, Mr A K Khan, the Additional Commissioner of Hyderabad Police, said, “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 girls are sanctified by a section of believers, and as, in addition to that, Islamic law allows polygamy, it 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, or 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 compromise is made.
According to Islamic law, only the husband enjoys the right to divorce his wife, while the wife is always at the receiving end. The Principle of Mohmedan Law by Mr M Hidyatullah (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, on this aspect, says, “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. ,,, “ [II: 229,230 – tr by George Sale (word God replaced by Allah)].
So the husband, according to the Koranic injunction, 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 time, which may either be a few weeks, or a few days, or even a few hours and hence 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 the Muslim womwn, 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 this Mutah marriage, T. P. Hughes in his Dictionary of Islam writes 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, pp-424). The Shi’ahs argue that the Koranic verse (IV: 24), that says, “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”, as Allah’s sanction for contracting mut’ah or temporary marriage.
So in the eye of Islamic jurisprudence, Hassan al Jorani perhaps committed no crime by entering into a contract of temporary marriage (mutah) by paying Rs 40,000 as mehr to the parents of Haseena. On the contrary, his act was once made lawful by the Holy Prophet. But the Prophet had missed one point- during his lifetime, marrying off minor girls was not illegal. And hence the Prophet committed no crime by marrying Ayesha at the age of 52, when Ayesha was a child of 6. But the wisdom of the Prophet failed to foresee that in future, man himself would make laws and ban marrying minor girls. In India today, marrying a minor girl of below 18 is a criminal offence, and in the eye of law it is simply a rape. And the practice of mutah or marrying off a minor girl, in Muslim community, is nothing but an offence of forcing a minor girl to prostitution.
So it becomes evident that, coming of rich Arabs to India and marrying 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. Furthermore, since a nikah can also be dissolved at any time by uttering talaq thrice, he also considered even nikah as another kind of prostitution and the mehr as the other name of the fee for hiring a prostitute.
It may be pointed out here that the illegal prostitution which is going on in Hyderabad in the garb of marriage or mutah, began nearly 16 years ago, in 1991, when an 11 year old girl, called 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 and 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”.
There is no doubt that in any civilized society, the said Islamic practice of temporary marriage would be taken simply as rape or prostitution. At the same time, in the eye of law, there must be a difference between raping a minor child and a grown up woman. In Indian Penal Code (IPC), offence of rape comes under the article 375, but unfortunately there is no provision in the said article to treat raping a child and a grown up woman on different footings. Many believe that, there should be harsher laws to tackle the heinous crime like raping a minor girl with the provision of more rigorous punishment, even sentence to death. There is no doubt that the introduction of harsher laws would frighten the illegal traffickers and relieve the minor girls of Hyderabad, to some extent, from the sexual oppression of the rich Arabs of the Middle East.