Organized Religion

MISYAR – Temporary Marriage in Sunni Islam

The adherents of Sunni Islam have been vocal in criticizing the Shia practice of temporary marriage called Muttah. This form of marriage is a valid part of the Shia doctrine and is being followed predominantly in Iran and several parts of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussain. However it might come as a surprise that a similar type of marriage also exists in Sunni Islam. It is known as Misyar or traveler’s marriage. It is carried out in Sunni majority countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.

A Muttah marriage is conducted in absence of any witnesses. Allah and the Koran are considered as witnesses. Muttah also has a predetermined date of expiry. In Misyar, presence of two adult male witnesses is mandatory. However it does not carry a preset date of termination.

In Misyar, both husband and the wife retain their homes and arrange for visits for a certain number of nights. The husband gives up his right to unlimited sexual access. The wife predictably relinquishes a lot more, including her right to maintenance money, housing as well as equal attention by the husband (in case of polygamy.) Moreover the custody of children born out of such a union goes to the husband or his family after age seven. The Muslim marriage is already skewed heavily in favor of men. However a provisional arrangement such as Misyar completely destroys the fundamentals of a family life whereby a husband completely relieves himself of family responsibilities.

The proponents of Misyar argue that such an understanding can meet the needs of young people with limited resources to afford a separate home, of spinsters, widows and widowers. It also fits the needs of a conservative Islamic society wherein people can be sentenced by law for fornication and other sexual deviances. However,the irony of this argument is that instead of creating viable economic opportunities; a lower form of marriage has been invented. This system fails to address the inherent gender inequalities in which widows and divorcees are relegated to a lower form and the only option for them to have male companionship is through abandoning their rights. The sociological effects on the women who are treated as unworthy individuals also remain unanswered.

Further support for such a marriage is derived from its legal angle. Islamic scholars argue that this marriage needs to be assessed on the grounds that it is actually a contract in which rights and obligations of both the parties have been explicitly laid down and hence known and agreed by all. The basis of the legal argument is that such a contract automatically becomes valid and binding since the terms are clear, consented to by both the parties and within the boundaries laid down by the religion.

Image source: http://waeshael.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/wifes.jpg/sikedish

However this sort of reasoning makes no mention of the completely unequal bargaining powers of the two parties and the fact that the woman has almost no power to insist on the conditions specified in such a contract. The fact that a women agrees to a marriage which provides her with almost no rights compared to what she would be entitled to otherwise, is clear evidence of her lower bargaining position. By evaluating such a contract entirely as a legal document to which the two parties have consented is to completely ignore the inherent gender inequalities which actually led to the creation of such a legal instrument.

Moreover, the societal consequences for children born out of such a union can be utterly devastating. A home from which a father is absent for no apparent reason can have a deep psychological impact on young impressionable minds. The situation for the woman can become worse if the wife is abandoned or renounced by her Misyar husband. This can also result in her having to raise kids as a single mother with hardly any means of subsistence. Additionally, since a Misyar marriage does not have an expiry date, the woman cannot marry another man unless she is divorced by her Misyar husband.

There are other reasons that force women to cave into such destructive choices. In 2008, Saudi Arabia had around 200,000 women who received no support from their blood relatives. The requirement of the Saudi government for these women to produce Mehrams who would provide them with permission to work or travel often compel them to enter into Misyar marriages for the only purpose of earning a livelihood or gaining permission for travel.

Although legal loopholes have been developed to justify the act of temporary marriages, these marriages are no better than a legalized form of prostitution.  The victim in every case turns out to be a woman with little or no say. Such arrangements should be discouraged and steps need to be taken to completely eradicate this menace.

About the author

Aftab Zaidi

28 Comments

  • This particular custom also existed in Christianity and is practised in some parts of the world even today. The Christian term for it is “handfasting” and it involves a temporary “marriage” of one month and one day or one year and one day following which the male party is free to return the woman to her parents. Obviously, this custom was widely used during the feudal era by wealthy nobles to exploit poor girls. And, often the girls’ parents were complicit in this as they considered their daughters a “burden.” Mr Zaidi rightly points out the devastatingly cruel effects of this system, and it is a travesty that it continues to exist in today’s world. In rigidly religious societies, all that this can lead is to the exploitation of girls from poor families.

    • Why do you wish to criticize the so-called practice of ‘handfasting’ in some Christian groups rather than discussing the Muslim practice of MISYAR for Sunnis and Muttah for Shia?

      • Worse; he has not actually studied handfasting rituals.

        In the middle ages in Great Britain handfasting was legal marriage except it was not performed inside a Church.

  • This is not a practice in Sunni Islam as far as I am aware. I have read entry to medium level books of fiqh in all 4 Sunni schools of law and never is this mentioned in any of the sections on marriage. Please cite some actual textual justification other than that “it is practiced in Sunni majority countries . . . “

  • This is a cultural activity and has zero evidence to back it up in the Qur’an or Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, sa allahu alahi w’ali w’salam. If you want to spread misleading falsehood around, at least put some fake sources in there!

  • Lol, when you want to be fake, why not provide some fake references too? May carry some fake weight?

    PS: This has nothing to do with Islam. I am aware that some Scholars have permitted it but it is NOT backed by Quran or Ahadees (Sayings of our Prophet (S)), hence it nullifies the very saying of the Scholar IF it clashes with the Quran or Hadees.

  • Legality of misyar marriage ( Ref Wikipedia )

    Misyar marriage fits within the general rules of marriage in Sunni law, on condition merely that it fulfil all the requirements of the Shariah marriage contract i.e.:
    The agreement of both parties;
    Two legal witnesses (Shahidain)
    The payment by the husband to his wife of Mahr in the amount that is agreed[3]
    The absence of a fixed time period for the contract
    Shuroot, Any particular stipulations which the two parties agree to include in the contract and which are in conformity with Muslim marriage law.
    Moreover, as explained by the Saudi Islamic lawyer Abdullah bin Sulaiman bin Menie, a member of the Higher Council of Ulema of Saudi Arabia, the wife can denounce at any time, as she sees fit, her renunciation of her financial rights, and require of her husband that he give her all her rights, including that he live with her and provide for her financial needs (“nafaqa”). The husband can then either do so, or grant her a divorce.[4]
    For these reasons, Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawi observes that he does not promote this type of marriage, although he has to recognise that it is legal, since it fulfils all the requirements of the usual marriage contract.[5] He states his preference that the clause of renunciation be not included within the marriage contract, but be the subject of a simple verbal agreement between the parties.[6] He underlines the fact that Muslims are held by their commitments, whether they are written or verbal.

      • Not all gods are equal. The Buddha Maitreya, if he were to exist, would be as good as a god can get 🙂

    • Islam has no such law of temporary marriages .Even Muta as practized by Shias has some responsibility upon the man but on the whole all marriage laws in Islam are certainly better than those practized by Hindus in this country whose marriage is just bound by standing in front of a Stone and going round the fire and finally this has given rise to Live in relationship with which the courts are grapeling to find some legal binding because more often than not, the partnership remains always brittle.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status …” (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) The word of this religious Gods allows discrimination against women and I wonder if God is inferior to humans. This simply tells you that the God of all these religions is a myth and God did not create us but we created God. This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief but widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. We men and women should note the fact that for the first nine months of our lives we lived in a womb of a woman and that was the most fundamental existence of our lives. We would not have been if we did not survive then with the help of this women in whom we lived in. This muttah and the misvar are simply forms of abuse to satisfy mans desires and in this case, it is sexual desires. Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, if the leader is allowed to abuse children then what is the position of women.

  • Its not right to term Misyar as temporary marriage of Sunnis. Because it is a practice invented by perverts for lust. This Hadith will clear the doubt about temporary marriage

    Sahih Bukhari,(Al-Maghaazi)[59:527]Narrated ‘Ali bin Abi Talib: On the day of Khaibar, Allah’s Apostle forbade the Mut’a (i.e. temporary marriage) and the eating of donkey-meat.

    Sahih Muslim (Kitab Al-Nikah) [008:3251] Iyas b. Salama reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) gave sanction for contracting temporary marriage for three nights in the year of Autas 1847 and then forbade it.

    Sahih Muslim (Kitab Al-Nikah) [008:3259] Rabi’ b. Sabra reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) prohibited the contracting of temporary marriage.

    • **Sahih Bukhari,(Al-Maghaazi)[59:527]Narrated ‘Ali bin Abi Talib: On the day of Khaibar, Allah’s Apostle forbade the Mut’a (i.e. temporary marriage) and the eating of donkey-meat.**

      Oh no. Next time I think of marriage I will also think of donkey-meat.

  • I am a member of the mainstream Islamic faith and I am in my fifties. I have never heard of the term ‘MISYAR’ before in my entire life. I just heard of it today when one of my dear friend mentioned of this term in a family get-together. There were other friends in this company as well who likewise never heard of this term. This friend of ours invoked all of us to look it up for future discussion amongst us.

    To us, this is a newly created term or concept. I believe there are men and women in the Islamic faith that will justify their desire and practice of fornication gladly adopt this position. And then again many other folks in multitudes will follow suit.

    I believe, Allah’s Messenger (May Allah be pleased with Him) as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari said it in DISGUSTwhen he related the concept of temporary marriage in the same breath as eating donkey’s flesh. (I ask for Allah’s and the Prophet’s (PBUH) forgiveness if I am incorrect with my personal interpretation and suggestion).

    In the Holy Quran, Allah has forbidden taking advantage of the female by the male or the vice versa. Therefore, the concept of MISYAR is totally out of the picture in Islam as this is completely in conflict with this true guidance.

    With this small piece of writing, I have attempted to clarify the position of the majority of the people in the Islamic faith and put an end to this concept and the term ‘MISYAR”. But, I know this is just the beginning of this s controversy as there are some followers who will disagree with me. Then again, I also know there will be others who just want to smear the Islamic faith forthe reasons of their own. May Allah guide us all, believers and non-believers alike. Thank you for your time.

    • “I am a member of the mainstream Islamic faith”

      You & millions more Muslims are ignorant of your Cult of Death!

      TEMPORARY MARRIAGE OF ENJOYMENT
      Marriage of enjoyment (or pleasure) differs from the conventional marriage in that its aim is not having a regular marital life and begetting children, but to enjoy sexual relations in a “legal” way. The man who practises such a marriage is often someone who spends a long time abroad for any reason, and thus marries a woman temporarily. The period of marriage is limited to the time when the husband leaves the country, and then the marriage is automatically dissolved.

      The traditions relating to marriage of enjoyment indicate that Muhammad warranted such practice for his friends especially during the raids (maghazi). Yet, `Umar Ibn al-Khattab strongly opposed it, as he said, “The Messenger of God permitted mut`a [marriage of enjoyment] three times, and after that he forbade it. By God, if I find that anyone practises mut`a, while being married, I will stone him with rocks, unless he brings me four witnesses that the Messenger of God permitted it after he had forbidden it.”(1) A tradition in Bukhari claims that he prohibited it.(2) Still, it is a bone of contention between many jurists. It is narrated that `Imran said, “We practised the tamattu` [marriage of enjoyment] in the life-time of the Messenger of God, and then the Qur´an was revealed (3) [regarding tamattu`] and somebody said what he wished [regarding the same] according to his own opinion.”(4)

      Regardless of the disputes on the details of mut`a in the Sunni schools of thought, one can say that it is equal to fornication, yet the Shiites turned it into some sort of legal marriage. The Sunni jurisprudence, however, allows mut`a, even if it doesn’t call it by name. For example, a man may agree to marry a woman in addition to his marriage contract, and bind themselves to divorce as soon as the term they fixed is finished.(5)

      Since the Sunni schools of thought all agreed that mut`a was cancelled and prohibited on the basis of traditions narrated about Muhammad,(6) we would like to treat the subject within the Shiite jurisprudence. According to the Shiites, the legality of mut`a is established in both the Qur´an and the Hadith, and in the traditions about their infallible Imams. Their Qur´anic proof is: “and wedded women, save what your right hands own. So God prescribes for you. Lawful for you, beyond all that, is that you may seek, using your wealth, in wedlock and not in licence. Such wives as you enjoy thereby, give them their wages apportionate; it is no fault in you in your agreeing together, after the due apportionate. God is All-knowing, All-wise. Any one of you who has not the affluence to be able to marry believing freewomen in wedlock, let him take believing handmaids that your right hands own; God knows very well your faith; the one of you is as the other. So marry them, with their people’s leave, and give them their wages honourably as women in wedlock, not as in licence or taking lovers. But when they are in wedlock, if they commit indecency, they shall be liable to half the chastisement of freewomen. That provision is for those of you who fear fornication; yet it is better for you to be patient. God is All-forgiving All-compassionate” (Sura al-Nisa´ 4:24,25).
      Abu `Abdullah from Ja`far al-Sadiq (the sixth Imam of Twelver Shiism) narrated the following about nikah of enjoyment: “God had made it lawful in His Book, and by the mouth of His Prophet, so it is lawful till the day of Resurrection.” One day Abu Hanifa said, “O Abu Ja`far, such as you say that, even though `Umar prohibited and forbade it?” He replied, “Even if he did so.” He said, “I adjure you by God not to make lawful that which `Umar has declared prohibited.” He answered, “You follow the saying of your friend [`Umar], but I follow the saying of the Messenger of God. What your friend said is untrue.” Then, `Abdullah Ibn `Umar came forward and said, “Does it go well with you if your wives, daughters, sisters, and cousins do this?” But Abu Ja`far avoided him when he mentioned his wives, daughters, and cousins.(7)
      `Abdurrahman narrated: I heard Abu Hanifa asking Abu `Abdullah concerning mut`a, for which he answered, “Which of the two mut`as are you asking about?” He replied, “I have already asked you concerning the mut`a of Pilgrimage, now tell about the mut`a of women in general; is it legitimate?” He answered, “Praise be God! Have you not read the Book of God Most High? It says, ‘Since you have thereby sought enjoyment with them, give them their marriage portion as is stipulated.’ ” Abu Hanifa said, “By God! It is as though I have never read this verse before.”(8)

      In a tradition ultimately related by `Ali, Abu Hanifa said to Ja`far Ibn al-Nu`man, “O Abu Ja`far, what do you say concerning mut`a; is it lawful?” He replied, “Yes.” He asked again, “Then what keeps you from commanding your women to practise it and earn money for you?” Abu Ja`far answered, “Not all professions are desirable, even if they were lawful. Certain folk have certain lots in life and certain social status. But what do you say, Abu Hanifa, concerning [new sweet wine]; don’t you claim that it is lawful?” He answered, “Yes.” Abu Ja`far asked, “What keeps you then from letting your women stay at taverns selling wine and earning money for you?” Abu Hanifa said, “Tit for tat; and your arrow penetrates even more.” The Abu Ja`far said to him, “The verse in Sura al-Ma`arij [70] speaks of prohibiting mut`a, and the tradition of the Prophet also cancelled it.” Abu Ja`far replied, “Abu Hanifa, Sura al-Ma`arij is a Meccan Sura, and the verse pertaining to mut`a is Medinan, and your tradition is anyway doubtful and bad.” Abu Hanifa said to him, “The verse pertaining to inheritance, as well, speaks of cancelling mut`a.” Abu Ja`far answered, “Wedlock has been already established without inheritance.” Abu Hanifa asked, “Where do you deduce that from?” Abu Ja`far answered, “If a Muslim man marries a woman of the people of the Book, and then dies, what do you say about her?” He answered, “She does not inherit from him.” He said, “See, wedlock is established without inheritance,” and they departed.(9)

      The Suni schools of thought consider mut`a as abolished on the grounds of Sura al-Mu´minun 23:5, which says, “Believers will succeed! …who guard their private parts except with their spouses and whomever their right hands may control, since then they are free from blame.” Nevertheless, the Shiites claim that this verse is Meccan and that it has been revealed before mut`a was allowed.(10) It seems that the Shiite interpretation is more in harmony with historical reality, since in many credible traditions (that the Sunnis hold as genuine) we have indication of the fact that Muhammad not only allowed marriage of enjoyment, but commanded his friends to practise, as well.(11) Jabir Ibn `Abdillah narrated that “mut`a will remain forever.”(12) Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said in Musnad, “God has given permission for the practice of mut`a, and the Messenger of God made it a law.”(13) It is evident from the stories related about Muhammad’s friends that they had a hard time trying to understand this permission and adapt it to the morals prevailing at that time. Such a fact is vouched for by the above-mentioned statement of `Umar.
      We gather from the Shiite traditions that those who seek the “enjoyment of women” are bound by no numerical limitation. Abu `Ubaid narrated that: He mentioned for him the mut`a [and asked] whether it was one of the four [women]. He answered, “Marry a thousand of them; they are hired.”(14) The justification that the Shiites give for the marriage of enjoyment is strange. They say that it was warranted for the single man so that he could keep himself restrained (chaste). Abu al-Fath Ibn Yazid narrated: I once asked Abu al-Hasan concerning mut`a, and he answered, “It is lawfully and absolutely warranted for those who are married, as to those who are not, they should keep themselves restrained by mut`a, but if the latter do get married, they are not in need of it, yet it is still warranted for them if they are away [from home].”(15) The reference here is made to the phrase “keep themselves restrained” occurring in Sura al-Nisa´ 4:6, which is utterly irrelevant to the issue of mut`a even according to the best known and oldest Shiite interpretations.(16) It is strange also to know that not all women are fit for mut`a! There are conditions and a description that women have to meet in order to be suitable. The first of these conditions is that the woman has to be a chaste believer. Abu Ja`far was once asked concerning mut`a, and he answered, “mut`a today is not the same as it was before; they were believers then, but today they are not, so ask them.”(17) Abu Sara narrated: I asked Abu `Abdillah about it [meaning mut`a], and he said to me, “It is lawful; so only marry a chaste woman, for God Most High said, ‘…who guard their private parts’ (Sura al-Mu´minun 23:5). So do not place your private part where you do not trust your dirham!(18) Whoever wants to marry a woman according to the marriage of enjoyment has to molest her. If she responds with wantonness, then she is not chaste.”(19) Muhammad Ibn Abi al-Fudhail narrated: “I asked Abu al-Hasan concerning the wanton beautiful woman; whether it is permissible for a man to enjoy her for a day or more.” He said, “If she was known as a prostitute, then she should not be enjoyed or married.”(20)

      As regards the stipulations for mut`a marriage, they are summed up as follows: Fixed time and fixed hire. Aban Ibn Taghlib narrated: I said to Abu `Abdillah, “What should I say to the woman when I am left alone with her?” He replied, “You should say, ‘I marry you for enjoyment according to the Book of God and the tradition of his Prophet, knowing that you inherit nothing and no one inherits from you, for such and such days. And if you like, for such and such years, for such and such dirhams.’ You should fix the price that you agree upon, whether little or much. If she says yes, then she accepts; she is your woman and you are worthy of her.” I said, “I am ashamed to mention the condition pertaining to the days.” He replied, “It is more damaging for you [if you don’t do so].” I asked, “How is that?” He answered, “Unless you stipulate [the days], your marriage would be binding, and you will have to pay her alimony during the days of `idda [40 days after divorce], and she would inherit from you, and you would not be able to divorce her except according to the divorce of the Sunna [or tradition].”(21)

      The jurists say that it is unlawful to enjoy a Jewish or a Christian woman. Al-Hasan al-Taflis said, “I asked al-Ridha, ‘Can a Jewish or a Christian woman be married for enjoyment?’ He answered, ‘Enjoying a free believing woman is more favourable to me, and she is more irreproachable than they are.’ “(22)

      1. Ibn Maja, Nikah 44.
      2. W. Juynboll, p.228; al-Bukhari, Nikah 32; Ibn Maja, Nikah 44, “The Prophet of God forbade mut`a and domestic asses in the year of Khaibar.” Muslims conquered the valley of Khaibar in 628 A.D., and there is a tradition that says that Muhammad commanded his friends in the year of conquering Mecca, i.e. 630, to enjoy women (Muslim, Nikah 24).
      3. Sura al-Baqara 2:196.
      4. al-Bukhari, Hajj 35.
      5. W. Juynboll, p.228; al-Mabsut, 4:202.
      6. al-Hidaya (Cairo, n.d.), 1:195: “Malik Ibn Anas narrated: The enjoyment of women remains lawful, but we say that it has been abolished by the consensus [ijma`] of the Companions of Muhammad.”
      7. Abu Ja`far Muhammad al-Kulini, al-Furu` min al-Kafi (Tehran, 1378), 5:449.
      8. ibid. 4:449-450.
      9. ibid. 4:450.
      10. ibid.
      11. Muslim, Nikah 44.
      12. Abu Dawud, Manasik 23.
      13. Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, 2:95.
      14. al-Kulini, 5:452.
      15. ibid. 5:452-453.
      16. Abu Ja`far al-Tusi, al-Tibyan (al-Najaf, 1975), 3:118. Abu `Ali al-Fadl al-Tabarsi, Majma` al-bayan (Tehran, 1382), 3:9.
      17. al-Kulini, 5:453.
      18. ibid.
      19. ibid. 5:454.
      20. ibid.
      21. ibid. 5:455.
      22. Musnad al-Imam al-Ridha (Tehran, 1392), 3:273.

  • I was surprised to read this article . I know that in Shiaism temp marriage viz. mutah’ was there. Mutah was illegal from sunni point of view was because a marriage dont with an intent of divorce is null and void. However here there is a difference. Because of a lot of influence of womens rights the wifes in todays world are very assertive. A second marriage is looked down upon. So men in order to not broadcast his second marriage may keep his second marriage secret. There have been incidences like all the relatives of the first wife get together and create so much problem that the male even not wanting has to divorce his second wife, a gross injustice to her. A misyar marriage is sort of less advertised marriage. It fulfills all the requirements of a regular marriage. However usually done by the girls side who otherwise would hardly have a chance of a marriage or a marriage to a well accomplished man. The girls parents are in the ceremony the priest does regular marriage ceremony, alimony is given, and there is nothing in it like a one night marriage cf. mutah. Misyar is a marriage that is not done as grand public event but as a private family affair. In other words the happiness of the girl is somewhat subdued for the girl in this and is sort of a compromise marriage.
    I am pasting a URL for further reference.
    http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/M/misyar.html

  • Wow! Something overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims have never heard of is being propagated as something common… no doubt the person has no authentic narrations anywhere…. that being a problem in itself I challenge the writer to prove it through Quran and Authentic Sunnah.

    And when people make sweeping statements that, “Islam is a death cult” it only confirms the extent of their bigotry and xenophobia

  • Mutah marriage is Prostitution…..just like dev dasi in hindu religion….
    In prostitution/mutah/dev dasi/mistresses…..a man give money for sex….he doesn’t has any obligation for that girl
    Same with mutah….no paper work in marriage… no witnesses….no obligations….give money for sex….if children born out of this illegal sex….man dont take responsibility…..just like paid sex…….

    Misyar is different thing….its not paid sex or time bound…..
    If a women want to marry a man….all responsibility of thay women is on man….but in Misyar…..she wiaved of some responsibility like financial etc….but a women considered as a wive not as mistress…
    A man who earns little….n can afford only single family…… but he get a misyar marriage proposal from a educated or financially sound women…who either widow or divorce…….he will accept it…..
    So women get a husband n men help a woman….both r happy….

    A question…. if ur old sister or female family member… got divorce or became widow….. what will u do….
    Remarried her…..which option u choose…..Paid sex,dev dasi,mutah…..
    Or Misyar.

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