TYPES OF MARRIAGES IN THE ARAB-MUSLIM WORLD

TYPES OF MARRIAGES IN THE ARAB-MUSLIM WORLD


wedding of King Farouk and Queend Farida of Egypt in 1938

Trial marriages, in which couples live together for a certain duration of time before deciding whether or not to get married, used to be common among some Arab cultures. Shia allow temporary marriages for fixed period with a dowry but no inheritance rights (See Below). Marriage by telephone is allowed by Muslim law. The bride and groom both have to have a witness with them at their end of the line.

Child marriages, polygamy and interfaith marriages all occur among Arabs and Muslims. In a tradition that dates back to Muhammad’s time, it is considered an honor for a man to marry the widow of a martyr of jihad. Bride kidnaping is a tradition in some Muslim countries, particularly in Central Asia.

Traditionally, arranged marriages have been the norm and people often married a cousin or some other member of their extended family. A great efforts is made by the family to keep the marriage together.

Arranged Marriages

In the Muslim world, marriages have traditionally been and still are arranged by parents as a way of forming an important bond between families, not just the bride and groom, in such as way that both families preserve their family fortunes and help both families prosper financially, socially, and politically. Often the bonds are made within one’s kin group and has social, economic or status advantages.

Parents that arrange the marriages look for a good fit and compatibility between the bride and groom and their families. Love is not regarded as something that is necessary for a marriage to take place but rather is something that develops and grows after a couple is married. A women who is forced into a marriage by her male guardians that turns out to be unsuitable for her has the right to seek an annulment.


Bengali wedding

The marriages are usually worked out by parents but also may be arranged by other relatives, agents or matchmakers. The details of those worked out within families are often made by family women. It is not uncommon for the bride and groom often meet for the first time on their wedding day.

Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood wrote for BBC: “Muslim marriages are frequently arranged by the parents of the young people. This is not an Islamic necessity, but parents are encouraged to do their best to see their offspring settled with good life-partners. Although divorce is allowed, the ideal is to settle down with a life-partner, and of all the things God does permit, divorce is said to be the thing He likes least. [Source: Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, BBC, September 8, 2009 |::|]

“Most young Muslims live sheltered lives, and are not encouraged to mix freely with the opposite sex - and consequently are protected from the business of 'falling in love', which can lead to all sorts of heartaches, clouded judgement, unsuitable relationships, and tragic consequences. |::|

“It is forbidden in Islam for parents (or others) to force, coerce, or trick youngsters into marriage. Unfortunately, there have been cases in the UK where this has happened amongst Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs from the Indian subcontinent - but publicity and education in Islam is improving the situation rapidly. Although many marriages are arranged, it has to be with the willing consent of the couple involved, and they should be able to reject possible suitors without embarrassment. |::|

Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

It is estimated that at least 50 percent of all marriages in Pakistan are arranged by the bride and groom's parents. These marriages are regarded as a union of families not just wedding partners. Arrangements are made using relatives and sometimes a marriage broker.

Traditionally, girls leave school in their teens for an arranged marriage set up by her family. Girls are expected to follow their families wishes of filial duty and clan honor. It is not unusual for a bride to meet her future husband for the first tome on their wedding day.

Families look for perspective spouse for their children contact each other in various ways. The process often begins when families exchange photographs of their children. Investigations are sometimes conducted into the backgrounds of family members. If a match seems appropriate a meeting is arranged with the prospective couple often having tea while their parents are present. If a couple doesn’t wish to marry parents usually respect their wishes..


Pakistani bride

The parents agree on how much of a dowry the groom should pay. In the early 1990s a typical girl was married when she was 14. It is not unusual for a 14-years-old girl to be married off to her 83-years-old great uncle as part of an efforts to settle a blood feud.

Typically extended families works together and come with a number of prospective mates for a girl. She picks the ones that interest her. Chaperoned meetings are set up. If they like each other chaperoned meetings, some phone calls, gifts but no physical contact occur. Pakistani-American Saraa Saleem wrote in the Washington Post:: “In the end the decision will be mine. My parents would never force me to marry a particular man. But they do expect me not to dawdle. Ideally, I should have a decision after no more than five or six meetings, I am supposed to pick a husband, accept my fate and hope the marriage is successful. Our engagement would likely last a year or two, during which we would get to know each other better—and maybe even grow fond of each other...Breaking it off at that point would be possible, but that would reflect badly on me and my family. And would represent wasted time.’

In defense of arranged marriages, Saleem wrote in the Washington Post: “My parents are not evil people, who have kept me in a box my whole life, bent on handing me over to a man who will do the same. They’ve always treated me with love and respect....My parents have given me every opportunity for happiness. And I know that their happiness depends on fulfilling their responsibilities as good Muslim parents. They must see their children married to other Muslims of whom they approve.”

She said he religious father “believes it his duty to secure my spiritual well-being ...If he succeeds in marrying me well, ideally to a Muslim from a good Pakistanis family, then my soul will be at peace in the afterlife. Morever, he will be enabling me to follow the rules set out by Islam—to respect my parent’s wishes, to start a family and to hand down my religious morals to my children....My mother doesn’t believe she can perform the pilgrimage to Mecca...with a clear conscience until I am married.’

Forced Marriages and Islam

Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood told the BBC: “In Sharia Law any marriage that is forced or false in any way is null and void. It is not a proper marriage. This is a problem that seems to plague Muslim women from India/Pakistan/Bangladesh and nowhere else in the Islamic world - and it also applies to Hindus and some Sikhs from those areas too. [Source: Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, BBC, September 3, 2009 |::|]

“Forced marriage is totally forbidden in Islam. False marriage is too - for example, some of our teenage girls are sent back to Pakistan for a holiday when they are about 15, and sign things they do not understand, and then find out later that they have been 'married' even if it has not been consummated. UK lawyers are getting far better at studying Sharia these days, in order to protect these girls from this particular culture. |::|

“Forced marriage is not at all the same thing as arranged marriage. Muslims from many countries have a system of arranged marriages, in which the spouses may not have seen each other before marriage, but it always has to be with their free consent. The Prophet himself advised prospective spouses to at least 'look' at each other, until they could see what it was that made them wish to marry that person as opposed to any other. Women forced into marriage, or seeking divorce for general reasons, have the same sort of grounds in Sharia as in the west - cruelty, mental cruelty, adultery, abandonment, etc. They may even request a divorce for no specific reason whatever, so long as they agree to pay back the mahr (marriage payment) made to them by their husband if the husband does not wish to let them go but are obliged to. |::|

Cousin Marriages in the Arab-Muslim World

Marriages in much of the Arab-Muslim world have traditionally been arranged between cousins. A old saying goes: “He who marries not his cousin deserves to have only girl children.” The preferred match is between brother’s children. By some estimates between 20 percent and 50 percent of all marriages are to second cousins or closer in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia..


Cousin marriage laws world wide: cousin marriages: 1) First-cousin marriage legal (dark blue); 2) Allowed with restrictions or exceptions (light blue); 3) Legality dependent on religion or culture (light brown); 4) Statute bans first-cousin marriage (red); 5) Banned with exceptions (pink); 6) Criminal offense (dark brown); 7) No available data (gray)


Due to the emphasis on maintaining family bonds, marriages between cousins are fairly common, and desirably because they: 1) cement family ties and keep wealth within the family; 2) provide assurances that bride is pure and honorable, 3) mean disagreements between husband and wife could be quickly settled through family mediation; 4) are relatively easy to arrange and access compatibility.

Regan Doherty of Reuters wrote: “Throughout the Middle East, Africa and parts of South Asia, marriage between family members has been widely practised for thousands of years, largely as a means of securing relationships between tribes and preserving family wealth, but also as a practical necessity given that genders are often kept separate.” [Source: Regan Doherty, Reuters, April 5, 2012]

Islamic law prohibits marriage to kin within one’s own line of descent or with anyone with three degrees or relatedness. Muslims can marry first cousins. But a man can not marry his mother, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, his son’s wife, foster sisters, foster-mother, someone who is breast fed from the same woman as themselves or with a mother and her daughter or niece at the same time.

Marriages between cousins have long been thought of inbreeding that can result in retarded and deformed children. One study found children born into first cousin marriages are more likely to have congenital heart problems. Marriage between first cousins is against the law in 31 American states and many countries. A study at the University of Washington found that cousin marriages are not significantly riskier than other marriages. Children of first cousins face about a 2 to 3 percent higher risk of birth defects than the population at large. This means that the risk of birth abnormalities in such a marriage are roughly the same risk as a woman giving birth over the age of 40. Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married cousins. Darwin was the grandchild of first cousins.

So widespread is the custom of cousin marriages that a common plot line in romance stories revolves around a young man having first dibs on his father’s brother’s daughter and she in turn pursues a divorce that causes a great scandal.

Justification for Cousin Marriages

Regan Doherty of Reuters wrote: “Though not prohibited by Islam, Christianity or Judaism, some cite the hadith, or saying of the Prophet Mohammad, as an injunction against the practice: “Marry those who are unrelated to you, so your children do not become weak.” Others in support of it point out that the Prophet married his own daughter to a first cousin. “There’s a misconception that parents often force their daughters to marry within the family. Our segregated lifestyle often doesn’t allow for mixing of the sexes except within the family environment, so many times the only chance of falling in love is within the family, because you are completely closed off from others,” Saudi author Samar Fatany told Reuters. [Source: Regan Doherty, Reuters, April 5, 2012 ~~]


Alleles being transmitted through an inbred pedigree. The mum and the aunt share two alleles identical by descent (IBD). The cousins share one allele IBD. The offspring of first cousins is homozygous by descent at this locus.


“Fatany said that whereas marrying a stranger is often frowned upon, marriage between family members promotes harmony and stability within the family, and encourages a family-focused way of life. “We’re very proud of our extended family lifestyle. It’s something we don’t want to lose.” ~~

“I‘m living evidence that cousin marriage doesn’t work,” said Salma, a Sudanese woman living in Qatar who was in the audience and spoke during the question and answer period. “My parents are both first cousins. My aunt married a first cousin and had two children, both of whom died young. I‘m now afraid I’ll get diabetes, because everyone in my family has it.” ~~

“It’s expensive to marry in the Gulf. Premarital financial negotiations are much easier when done among family members,” Ghazi Tadmouri, assistant director of the Arab Centre for Genomic Studies in Dubai, said. “And it provides a sense of security for the woman. She’s not entering into a new world, she’s entering a family she knows very well.”

Cousin Marriages in the Persian Gulf

Regan Doherty of Reuters wrote: “At least half of all Gulf Arab marriages are between cousins, with at least 35 percent of Qatari marriages between first cousins, according to current research by the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies based in Dubai. In Saudi Arabia, the number ranges from 25 to 42 percent while in the United Arab Emirates, it is between 21 and 28 percent. [Source: Regan Doherty, Reuters, April 5, 2012 ~~]

“At a recent public debate on intermarriage in Doha, much of the discussion focused on the tensions between cultural practices and the science cautioning against consanguineous marriage - defined as marriage between second cousins or closer. Even Tadmouri, a geneticist, acknowledges that the social advantages of marrying a family member might outweigh the potential genetic disadvantages in some societies. ~~

“With their tiny population of nationals - Qataris comprise only about 250,000 of the country’s 1.7 million people - choices of potential spouses, even those who are not relatives, are limited. “For Gulf Arab nationals, if you don’t marry your first cousin, you still are highly likely marry within your clan or tribe. And if you’re marrying within your clan or tribe, it’s almost certain that you’re marrying a relative, which also carries a certain degree of risk,” said Alan Bittles, a geneticist at the Centre for Comparative Genomics at Australia’s Murdoch University. ~~

“People rely on the family, the clan, for their well-being. (Gulf Arab societies) are tribal societies, and it becomes very political. Particularly if there is a weak central government, clan and tribal affiliations become much more important,” Bittles said. ~~

Cousin Marriage Problems and Tests in the Persian Gulf


woman in a traditional Bahraini wedding dress

Reporting from Doha, Regan Doherty of Reuters wrote: “Noor was not the first in her Qatari family to marry a close relative, but she may be one of the last. “I wouldn’t say that my parents pressured me, but I felt that society expected it,” said Noor, who married her first cousin when she was 19. They had a son together but the marriage ended after a year and a half. “We broke up because of the family dynamics, all the interference. It’s not just the couple that’s involved, it’s the whole family,” she said, wearing the traditional black head-and-body-covering abaya and declining to give her family name. “This society has invisible constraints. They’re never mentioned, but you have to follow them.” [Source: Regan Doherty, Reuters, April 5, 2012 ~~]

“In recent years Gulf countries have introduced mandatory premarital testing for genetic diseases including sickle cell anemia, as well as infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. In Qatar, counseling is required if a potential genetic problem is detected, though the couple are free to marry if they choose. Public awareness campaigns - particularly one started in Bahrain two decades ago targeting university students in their late teens and early 20s - have been notably successful in reducing rates of genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia in the country, Tadmouri told Reuters.

Others have expressed concern that testing could lead to social stigmatization. “Gulf society is a very fragile society. These tests might suggest, ‘This girl has a problem, don’t touch her’,” said Omar, an Omani in his 20s who was in the audience.

When asked in the debate if they were married to or would consider marrying a cousin or other family member, only two out of the more than 300 Qataris, citizens of other Gulf and Middle Eastern countries as well as Westerners of varying ages in the audience raised their hands. “You’ve got to weigh the social advantages with the potential genetic disadvantages.”

Noor, now 21 and pursuing a degree in international politics at Georgetown University’s Doha campus, told Reuters she thought future generations would deal with the issue differently than she did. “I think we’re more modern than that now.”

Child Marriages


bride in west Sumatra

Muslims have often traditionally married when they are very young. Young people are encouraged to marry early so "that their sexual needs could be met without resorting to illicit relations." The father traditionally was guaranteed the right by Muslim law to contract his son to a marriage even before he reached puberty.

Girls have traditionally married between the ages of 14 and 19; boys, somewhat older. Must Muslim law books state that for a person to get married they have to have at least reached puberty but marriages may be contracted before then.

The legal age for girls to marry tends to be very low in many Muslim countries. The arrival of a girl’s first period is regarded as a sign that she is ready to have her marriage consummated. Girls routinely get married when they are 13 or 14. Their husbands are often twice their age or older.

In Oklahoma in 1996, two Iraqi refugees, aged 28 and 34, were charged with rape after marrying two sisters, aged 13 and 14. The couples were married in a traditional Muslim wedding. The trouble began after one of the girls ran away and police were called in to help find her. Authorities arrested the men for rape and violating a state law that prohibits anyone over 18 from marrying anyone under 16. The girls father, who arranged the marriage, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Child Marriages and the Prophet's Wife Aishah

Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood told the BBC:“No-one is absolutely certain of her age when she married the Prophet, but it could have been as young as 6; some scholars believe she was ten years older. However, the majority go for the age of 6. The marriage that took place then was an agreement on paper, there was no physical relationship until Aishah reached puberty - but this in itself could have been at around 9 or 10 years old. That is not an unusual age for menstruation to start in hot climates, and once a girl is capable of producing a child she is regarded as technically a woman. Sex for children under 16 is forbidden by law in the UK at the moment, but this has not always been the case and it is nonsense to suppose that there is no sexual activity amongst children under 16 in this country. No-one is able to stop them and if the girls get pregnant they frequently have abortions. [Source: Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, BBC, September 3, 2009 |::|]


Muhammad and Aisha free a captive daughter of a tribal chief

“In Muslim countries it is considered far better to get youngsters married as soon as they show inclinations to have sex - then they can have it honourably, as much as they like, and the children born are not illegitimate. Many Muslim countries in fact do try to keep to the age of about 16 for marriage (as is the legal age in the UK), and prefer not to marry off their girls too young. Some societies expect marriages to be life-partnerships, but in others divorces are frequent if things do not work out and girls choose other husbands. In the Prophet's day, the normal age for boys to marry was about 15 and girls between 13-15, although some girls preferred to defer the role until their twenties if they had their own money. Don't forget, there was virtually no contraception and marriage implied having a baby every two years or so. The used to feed babies as long as possible to avoid too frequent pregnancy. As far as I know, the Virgin Mary was around 12-13 when she had baby Jesus, and she was living with her husband in one of these non-physical arrangements. The Prophet was certainly not a paedophile! He did not marry his first wife until she was 40, and he had no other wife until she died at the age of 65; then his second wife was in her 40s, to help him out while he was a single parent! |::|

“In countries where Sharia law is enforced, how are specific punishments decided on and who makes these decisions? |::|

Shia Marriage and Divorce Practices

One distinctive and frequently misunderstood Shia practice is mutah, temporary marriage. Mutah is a fixed-term contract that is subject to renewal. It was practiced by the first community of Muslims at Medina but was banned by the second caliph. Mutah differs from permanent marriage in that it does not require divorce to terminate it. It can be for a period as short as an evening or as long as a lifetime. The offspring of such an arrangement are the legitimate heirs of the man. [Source: Helen Chapin Metz, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

Shia practice differs from that of the Sunnis concerning both divorce and inheritance in that it is more favorable to women. The reason for this reputedly is the high esteem in which Fatima, the wife of Ali and the daughter of the Prophet, was held.

Temporary Marriage, a Shia Practice

Temporary marriage, “mutah”, is distinctive and frequently misunderstood custom found in Shia Islam. Mutah is a fixed-term contract that is subject to renewal. It was practiced by the first community of Muslims at Medina but was banned by the second caliph. Mutah differs from permanent marriage in that it does not require divorce to terminate it. It can be for a period as short as an evening or as long as a lifetime. The offspring of such an arrangement are the legitimate heirs of the man. [Source: Helen Chapin Metz, Library of Congress, 1988 *]


Iranian wedding ceremony

Temporary marriages can last for a few minutes or 99 years and are sanctified with an oral or written contract and by reciting some verses from the Qur’an. Women usually receive money for entering into such a union The contract states the agreed-upon period of time of the marriage and the amount of money paid.

A woman cannot terminate a temporary marriage before it expires unless the man agrees. Once the marriage is over, she has to wait at least two menstrual cycles before she can have another relationship so that paternity can be easily determined if she becomes pregnant.

Unlike permanent marriages, which require consent of the parents, a temporary marriage can often be worked out secretly by the couple. The customs vary from place to place but in most cases witnesses need not be present and the marriages doesn’t have to be registered.

In many cases, though, a woman must let a significant amount of time pass after a temporary marriage ends before she can enter a permanent marriage. She is also required to abstain from sex for a period of time so that if she get pregnant she can identify who the father is. The father is required by law to support children resulting from a temporary marriage. If he denies his child’s legitimacy he is not required to be responsible for the child as he would be in a permanent marriage

Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post, “Shia clerics and others who practice mutaa say such marriages are keeping young women from having unwed sex and widowed or divorced women from resorting to prostitution to make money. They say a mutaa marriage is not much different from a traditional marriage in which the husband pays the wife's family a dowry and provides for her financially. "It was designed as a humanitarian help for women," said Mahdi al-Shog, a Shia cleric. According to Shia religious law, a mutaa relationship can last for a few minutes or several years. A man can have an unlimited number of mutaa wives and a permanent wife at the same time. A woman can have only one husband at a time, permanent or temporary. No written contract or official ceremony is required in a mutaa. When the time limit ends, the man and woman go their separate ways with none of the messiness of a regular divorce. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, January 20, 2007 <>]

Circumstances for Temporary Marriages

Both Shia and Sunni Muslims allow men to have more than one permanent wife, but they disagree over mutaa. Most Shia believe that the prophet Muhammad encouraged the practice as a way to give widows an income. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, has sanctioned it and offers advice on his Web site. [Source: Washington Post]

Temporary marriages in Iran are used to provide financial support for widows but mostly they are for pleasure, serve as a way for young people to have sex or provide a legalized form of prostitution. The arrangement suits men. Young women can have problems because they expected to be virgins when they get permanently married. [Source: New York Times]

Temporary marriages are associated with urban life. They are often entered into by men that travel a lot. These arrangements are usually strictly for sex with men and women seeking each other out. Surprisingly, couples often meet at shrines or mosques use certain verbal and nonverbal signals to communicate with each other.

Temporary marriages were publically approved by the Islamic government which was looking for a way to handle the sexual desires of young men in a society in which young men and women are segregated. One cleric told the New York Times. “Temporary marriage brings more commitment between couples, and young men would be chase prostitutes.”

Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' in Iraq


Kurmanji bride and groom in North Khorasan, Iran

Reporting from Baghdad,Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post, “Fatima Ali was a 24-year-old divorcee with no high school diploma and no job. Shawket al-Rubae was a 34-year-old Shia sheik with a pregnant wife who, he said, could not have sex with him. Ali wanted someone to take care of her. Rubae wanted a companion. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, January 20, 2007 <>]

“They met one afternoon in May at the house he shares with his wife, in the room where he accepts visitors seeking his religious counsel. He had a proposal. Would Ali be his temporary wife? He would pay her 5,000 Iraqi dinars upfront -- about $4 -- in addition to her monthly expenses. About twice a week over the next eight months, he would summon her to a house he would rent. The negotiations took an hour and ended with an unwritten agreement, the couple recalled. Thus began their "mutaa," or enjoyment marriage, a temporary union believed by Shia Muslims to be sanctioned by Islamic law.<>

“The Shia practice began 1,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq and other parts of the region, as a way to provide for war widows. Banned by President Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led government, it has regained popularity since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq brought the majority Shia to power, said clerics, women's rights activists and mutaa spouses. "During Saddam's time, there was no religious freedom," said Faris al-Shareef, a sheik who lives in the mainly Shia city of Hilla. <>

“Many Sunnis believe that the practice is outdated and ripe for abuse. They also see it as more evidence of Iranian influence on Iraqi life. Mutaa is widespread in Iran's Shia theocratic state. "It is a big insult to women," said Ibtsam Z. Alsha, a Sunni lawyer and the head of the organization Women for the Common Good of Women. Women's rights activists also bemoan what they say is an increase in mutaa on college campuses. Some female students do it for money. Others do it for love when their parents forbid them to marry a man from another sect. <>

“Amani, a 22-year-old Baghdad University engineering student, said she is a Sunni but agreed to enter into a mutaa relationship with her Shia boyfriend because her parents disapproved of him. "I hated my family because they did not allow this marriage," she said. "I did this to spite my family." Still, she has not told them about the relationship. "If they find out, it will be my end," she said. A woman cannot terminate a temporary marriage before it expires unless the man agrees, said four sheiks interviewed for this article. Once the marriage is over, she has to wait at least two menstrual cycles before she can have another relationship so that paternity can be easily determined if she becomes pregnant, they said. <>

Critics of Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' in Iraq


Kurmanji bride

Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post, “Opponents of mutaa, most of them Sunni Arabs, say it is less about religious freedom and more about economic exploitation. Thousands of men are dying in the sectarian violence that has followed the invasion, leaving behind widows who must fend for themselves. Many young men are out of work and prefer temporary over permanent wives who require long-term financial commitments. In a mutaa arrangement, the woman is entitled to payment only for the duration of the marriage. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, January 20, 2007 <>]

"It's a cover for prostitution," said Um Akram, a women's rights activist in Baghdad. "Some women, because they don't want to be prostitutes, they think that this is legal because it's got some kind of religious cover. But it is wrong, and they're still prostitutes from the society's point of view." Um Akram, like the mutaa spouses interviewed, asked that only parts of her name be published. <>

“Many intellectuals consider ancient traditions such as these an obstacle to Iraq's effort to become a more modern, democratic society. In recent years, extremist religious groups have gained more power in Iraq. "These steps are taking the whole country backwards and are definitely hurdles to the advancement of the country," said Hamdia Ahmed, a former member of parliament and a women's rights activist in Baghdad. "The only solution is to separate Islam from politics."

Stories Behind the Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' in Iraq

Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post, Although the temporary arrangements are becoming more common, they are still controversial, and people usually conduct them secretly. Ali had a normal marriage once. It lasted only three months because the couple did not get along. Her chances for another permanent marriage, she said, were slim. Men often prefer virgins over widows and divorced women, she said. She welcomed Rubae's proposal because he was a well-known sheik in her neighborhood. Her family was fond of him. "He was a good guy, and he was a religious man," she said. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, January 20, 2007 <>]

“Rubae had been in 15 mutaa marriages before. A year ago he entered into a permanent marriage with a woman who had been his mutaa wife for a day. When she became pregnant eight months ago, she suggested he take a temporary wife but asked him not to tell her if he did. She does not know about his involvement with Ali. "As a pregnant woman, she cannot give me my needs," Rubae said. "She treats me real good and she wants me to be happy." <>

“He chose Ali partly because her blond hair, light brown eyes and petite figure had always attracted him. "When she puts makeup on, it destroys her beauty," he said. He also liked that she was religiously devout, and he said he wanted to keep her from a relationship outside of marriage. Ali didn't think of him in a romantic way at first. "After we got married, I started loving him," she said. The money he gave her helped. Her father owns a bakery but money has always been tight, so much so that she had to end her education after elementary school. But money wasn't her only reason for entering the enjoyment marriage. "I have needs just like any other woman," she said. <>

“Um Ahmed, a 28-year-old woman from Najaf, lost her husband in 2005 when he was caught in the crossfire of a fight between two Shia militias. Soon after his death, she had her first mutaa relationship, with a man who was in a permanent marriage. He paid her 50,000 Iraqi dinars upfront -- or $38 -- and gave her money whenever she needed it during their six-month relationship. She said she needed it often. She is a tailor and the only one in her family of 10 who works. "When a human being needs money, the need will make a person do anything," she said. "It's better than doing the wrong things. This is religiously accepted." <>

Temporary Marriages and Children in Iraq

Nancy Trejos wrote in the Washington Post, “Most mutaa contracts stipulate that no children be produced. If a woman were to become pregnant anyway, Islamic law would require the man to support the child, the sheiks said. But the clerics disagreed over how much power they have to impose that rule. Rubae said the man who refuses his child would be whipped or even killed. "We as the sheiks should be sure this thing will stay legitimate," he said. [Source: Nancy Trejos, Washington Post, January 20, 2007 <>]

“Shareef, the sheik from Hilla, said some men take advantage of their rights under religious law but refuse to accept their responsibility when a child is born. In some of those cases, he said, a sharia court, using Islamic law, is not as effective as a secular court in enforcing the rules. "I am supporting the idea of the government regulating mutaa marriages, just like the permanent marriages, so these man cannot run away," he said. "Otherwise the women are losing their rights." <>

“Um Akram, the women's rights activist in Baghdad, said more women are asking her organization for help in getting national identification cards for children born of mutaa relationships. Parents must present a marriage certificate to obtain the identification cards, which are required by schools and employers. Um Akram said some single women have given up their children for adoption to married couples who can use their marriage certificates to register them. "The men just hit and run, and they don't want to have a family," she said. "The children are paying the price." <>

“Ali and Rubae agreed not to have children. They simply wanted to enjoy each other. On the days he could see her, he gave her flowers, perfume, clothing and a watch. They had meals together. Sometimes he could spend the whole day with her. Other times, just five or six hours. Ali said she cried when the marriage ended early last week. "It's just like a permanent marriage," she said. "When he leaves, I become sad." Her sorrow did not last long. Rubae said Jan. 12 that he had decided to marry her again. This time, he said, he would marry her for a year, enough time for his wife to fully recover from childbirth.” <>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Arab News, Jeddah; Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong; A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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