Despite pleas from the international community, the Iranian authorities proceeded with the execution of 40-year old Shahla Jaled, two days ago, for the alleged killing of her lover’s wife in 2002. Some believe that Shahla, who was the ‘temporary wife’ of former Iranian soccer star Nasser Mohammed Khani, was wrongly convicted of the crime in 2004 and again in 2009.
Now, whether it is America’s execution of mass murderers; Malaysia’s killing of drug traffickers; or Iran’s execution of political dissidents among others, the death penalty is wrong in my view. Not only is the act barbaric, it is also debatable whether there really is any justice in killing someone for killing someone. Oh, but I digress.
My main rant today isn’t on the death penalty, but ‘temporary marriages’ also known as Mut’ah in Arabic. What exactly is mut’ah? It is a transient marriage of pleasure available to a man so that he can engage in lawful sex with a woman for a fixed period – anything from one hour to 99 years. At the end of the fixed period, the temporary marriage is automatically annulled, although the couple may extend it if they wish.
The temporary marriage contract is sealed by the woman declaring that she is marrying herself to the man for a specified amount and for a specified period. The man accepts the proposal, pays the woman a dower and they are temporarily married. The man has no financial responsibility for the woman other than the dower he has paid. The couple do not live together and generally, these unions are not supposed to lead to children, although they sometimes do.
It is important to note that mut’ah is not practiced by all Muslims. It is mainly advocated by Shiite Muslims, who believe that mut’ah is a benefit given to them by God. They also generally cite a verse from the Holy Qur’an (Surat An-Nisa, Verse 24) to justify this practice. Shiites also argue that mut’ah was common and legal during the time of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) and its practice was never abrogated by God or the Prophet. Sunni Muslims on the other hand hold that the practice of mut’ah was permitted by Prophet Mohammed, but only on two distinct occasions; for three days each, after which it was prohibited until the day of resurrection.
Shiites offer further justification for temporary marriages. These include the following:
- it is the only option available to widows and single women over 45 to engage in legal relationships if proposals of permanent marriage are not forthcoming;
- it enables men to satisfy their sexual needs where there is a scarcity of women;
- it is a good way for a young man and woman to get to know each other before they decide to embark upon permanent marriage; and
- it is better than the shameful practice of cohabitation, which is rampant in the western world.
Personally, I find the reasons outlined above to be ludicrous at best. How could anyone possibly argue that cohabitation is better than prostitution? Or that pleasure marriages can realistically be a precursor to a permanent marriage? For want of a better phrase, I think mut’ah stinks. It is nothing short of legalised prostitution. And if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then surely it must be a duck. Why else would a man want to get married for three days, 10 days or even six months, considering the fact that even if the woman is rich, under mut’ah, he has no right to that wealth?
And so Shahla Jaled is no more. If she really did kill the wife of her lover, what drove her to it? Could she have been driven by a desire to extend the temporary union, or better still, possible upgrade to a more permanent marriage? Furthermore, would she still be alive today if she had not become involved with Nasser Mohammed Khani? God knows best.