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Mut'ah (Arabic: متعة‎), is a marriage contract between two parties for a fixed period of time. The duration of the marriage is agreed upon at its inception and it is automatically dissolved upon the completion of its term. This temporary marriage shares many similarities with permanent marriage, but also has differences, the fixed time being the prominent one. There exists universal consensus amongst the Shi'a and Sunni scholars that Islam had legislated this kind of marriage, however the Sunni view suggests that this marriage was abrogated and made impermissible during the life of the Prophet by the Prophet himself. The Shi'a maintain the view that no such abrogation was administered by the Prophet, rather it was banned by the second caliph Umar.



The institution of Mut'ah was established by Allah (swt) through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and was practiced primarily by men who had to travel away from their homes in order to avoid sinning. It was practiced until the reign of the second caliph Umar, until he forbade it to do so.[1] As Mut'ah was not banned by the Prophet (pbuh), one can not take the verdict of Umar as binding, since only Allah (swt) through His Prophet, has the authority to make such a decision.


There is a consensus amongst Shi'a scholars and as well as many Sunni scholars that Mut'ah has been mentioned in the Qur'an, in the following verse:

وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ إِلَّا مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۖ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَأُحِلَّ لَكُمْ مَا وَرَاءَ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا بِأَمْوَالِكُمْ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ ۚ فَمَا اسْتَمْتَعْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْهُنَّ فَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ فَرِيضَةً ۚ وَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا تَرَاضَيْتُمْ بِهِ مِنْ بَعْدِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا

[4:24] And all married women except those whom your right hands possess (this is) Allah's ordinance to you, and lawful for you are (all women) besides those, provided that you seek (them) with your property, taking (them) in marriage not committing fornication. So, to those of them whose company you have enjoyed, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise.

The word, al-istimta' (to enjoy) used in this verse refers to the marriage of Mut'ah as confirmed by various traditions.[2] It was a common practice and a prevalent custom among the Muslims at the time this verse was revealed. Sunni scholar, Ibn Kathir in his exegesis records through a narration, that that words "So, to those of them whose company you have enjoyed" were revealed about the Mut`ah marriage.[3] Since temporary marriage has been specifically made lawful by the Qur'an and the Holy Prophet, therefore, this provision subsists as unrescinded.


The narrations of the Imams greatly encourage people to recognize the practice of Mut'ah so that the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is not forgotten and abandoned. Imam Sadiq (as) has been quoted to have said that, "One of the matters about which I shall never keep precautionary silence is the matter of mu’tah".[4] While the Imams have encouraged people to remember the practice, they have in general also discouraged Mut'ah for those who are not in need of it. Imam Kadhim (as) said to his companion Ali ibn Yaqtin, "What do you have to do with that when Allah has made you needless of it".[5]


Scholars of law have argued that the essential natures of permanent and temporary marriage are the same, and that the word "marriage" applies to individuations of this concept: One of them permanent marriage, the other temporary, just as the word "humanity" encompasses both men and women.

Similarities to Permanent Marriage

Like in permanent marriage, the marriage is bound to a contract and no witnesses are required for the nikah. It is necessary that in both kinds of marriages that the individuals be mature, of sound-mind, and be free from any kinds of prohibitions on marriage. It is not permissible to marry a married woman, nor is it permissible to marry a woman who is in the waiting period of divorce or death, and not with a woman with whom marriage is forbidden because of family relationship, marriage or nursing. It is also not permissible to marry a polytheist. Similarly, it is not permissible for a woman to marry anyone except a Muslim who does not have any prohibitions on him in terms of marriage.

Prohibitions in terms of marriage flow from both temporary and permanent marriage. A man who does mut'ah is not allowed to marry step-daughers from a temporary wife, nor may a man marry two sisters in mut'ah just as he is not allowed to do so in a permanent marriage. The children of a temporary marriage are like the children of a permanent marriage in terms of inheritance and support, and all the rights which accrue to a child. The dowry in both kinds of marriage is the same, in the sense that one may decrease it or increase it. There is a difference of opinion amongst the jurists whether a virgin woman requires her father's consent

The woman who does mut'ah must observe a waiting period after the end of the time of the temporary marriage, though there is no waiting period if there has been no sexual relations. This is the same as in a permanent marriage, when a woman is divorced without sexual relations. A woman in a permanent marriage and temporary one must both observe the complete waiting period if her husband dies, whether or not there has been sexual relations. Every condition that has been agreed upon by the husband and wife is binding in a temporary marriage and permanent marriage, so long as these conditions are allowed by Islamic law.[6]

Differences from Permanent Marriage

The main difference is that in a temporary marriage, the time-period has to be explicitly fixed and specified. In a permanent marriage, however, it is not allowed to fix any time period. A temporary wife does not inherit from the husband unless this condition was made in them Mut'ah marriage contract. It is also not obligatory for the husband to provide daily living support for a temporary wife unless it is in the marriage contract. However, for a permanent wife, than this is her right, even if the man and wife have agreed that this is not binding upon them. It is makruh to do mut'ah with a virgin girl, whereas it is recommend in permanent marriage.[7]


  1. Hadith # 2874, Sahih Muslim; Book of Pilgrimage
  2. Verses 23-28, Tafsir al-Mizan by Allamah Muhammad Hussain Tabatabai
  3. 4:24, Tafsir Ibn Kathir
  4. Fixed-Term marriage and the problem of the harem, The Rights of Women in Islam by Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari
  5. Chapter on the dislike of Mut'ah`a when one is free of need from it and it involves abomination or the corruption of the women, Wasail al-Shia by Shaykh Hurr al-Amili, #26420
  6. المساواة ‌بين‌ الزواج‌ الدائم‌ و المنقطع‌, Fiqh al-Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq by Muhammad Jawad Maghniyyah; page 240
  7. التباين‌ ‌بين‌ الزواج‌ الدائم‌ و المنقطع‌‌, Ibid; page 242
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