Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi: Mut’ah or Nikah al-Mut’ah literally means “pleasure marriage” and is commonly known as temporary marriage. Mut’ah is a private and verbal temporary marriage in which a person marries a woman for some stipulated time on the conditions of a particular amount of money.
According to the Sunni Islamic Jurisprudence, the Mut’ah Marriage is forbidden. Once this temporary marriage was permissible in the beginning of Islam but soon it was abrogated and declared Haram (forbidden) until the Day of Judgment. This is known from the following hadith;
Al-Rabee’ ibn Sabrah al-Juhani narrated that his father informed him that he was with the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). The Prophet said, “O people, I allowed you to engage in Nikah al-Mut’ah, but now Allah has forbidden Mut’ah until the Day of Judgment; 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.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith-1406)
In another hadith, Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is reported to have said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) forbade Mut’ah marriage and the meat of domestic donkeys at the time of Khaybar. As per another narration, the Prophet forbade the mut’ah marriage in Khaibar and he forbade the meat of tame donkeys. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith-3979, Sahih Muslim, Hadith-1407)
The Mut’ah marriage is still practiced among Twelver Shias and Rafidis. However Zaidi Shias do not practice the Mut’ah marriage after knowing that Hazrat Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said that Mut’ah was abrogated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself.
Some of the Twelver Shias and Rafidis cite the report of Hazrat Ibn Abbas which permitted mut’ah marriage. Sunni theologians refute this report with the explanation that Hazrat Ibn Abbas reported permissibility of Mut’ah marriage at a time when he did not know about abrogation of Mut’ah marriage. But when Hazrat Ibn Abbas came to know, he too supported the impermissibility of Mut’ah. They cite the following hadith as evidence in this regard;
It was narrated from Hazrat ‘Ali that when he heard Ibn Abbas permitting mut’ah marriage, he said, “Wait a minute, O Ibn ‘Abbas, because the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) forbade the mut’ah marriage on the day of Khaibar and (also forbade) the meat of tame donkeys” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith-1407)
The debate on the issue of Mut’ah marriage is still heated in the modern times. Some Western scholars make arguments that mut’ah marriage approximates prostitution. Julie Parshall writes that Mut’ah is a legalized form of prostitution which has been sanctioned by the Twlever Shia authorities. Quoting the Oxford encyclopedia of modern Islamic world, she differentiates between marriage (nikah) and Mut’ah and states that while Nikah is for procreation; Mut’ah is just for sexual gratification. (Julie Parshall, Lifting the Veil: The World of Muslim Women)
A very popular Indian Hanafi Jurist, Alahazrat Imam Ahmad Raza says in reply to a question about temporary marriage, “A Nikah in which a time period is stipulated, for example, if the man says, I have taken you into my Nikah for two years, or ten years, or one day (etc), and the woman says, I have accepted; or (in the case) where the woman says to a traveler, for as long as you remain here, I have made Nikah with you for the stipulated period of time, and the man accepts this; then in this case the Nikah is invalid (illegal) and to annul (Faskh) is compulsory (Waajib).” In his lengthy reply, he quotes from Durre Mukhtar the following comment;
“Mut’ah (temporary marriage) is invalid (illegal). Similarly, that Nikah which is done with a condition of a time period is improper, even if it is not for a stipulated time period, or (even) if it is for a very long period of time, such as for three years, then too, the correct ruling is that, it is improper” (Ala Hazrat, Fatawa Afriqa, p.127-132)
Thus, according to Sunni-Hanafi Jurisprudence, Mut’ah marriage is forbidden. The basic principle related to marriage is that it should be permanent and ongoing, and therefore the temporary element of the contract makes it invalid. Allah Almighty has made Nikah/marriage one of His Signs for the mankind to think and ponder. He has made the wife a source of tranquillity for the husband and wants the spouses to develop love and compassion between them. He has imposed their mutual rights towards each other; which in the case of Mut’ah marriage can’t be fulfilled.