Friday, 27 May 2011

Islam Watch - "Mut’ah—Islam's Law of Desire…!" by Lennard James

Law of Desire…!

"Religion: Relationship of human
beings to God or the Gods or to whatever they consider sacred
or, in some cases, merely supernatural.
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Muhammad's statements in the hadiths express extreme ambivalence
about women (Walther):

"I have left behind no temptation more harmful to my community
than that which women represent for men."

"The whole world is delightful, but the most delightful thing
in it, is a virtuous woman."

"If a man and a woman are alone in one place, the third person
present is the devil (shai’tan)."

"I stood at the gates of Paradise, most of those who entered
there were poor, I stood at the gates of Hell, most of those who
went in there, were women".

If the veil is to protect women, then Mut’ah (temporary
marriage in Islam) has surprisingly many contradictions. In Iran,
fleeting 'temporary marriages' are endorsed by the clergy. One
particular respect, in which Shia'ite and Sunni branches of Islam
differ, which is in the institution of temporary marriage:

"A major difference in both the customs is that the Shia’ites
practice of Mut’ah, or temporary marriage is an ingenious
expedient created to resolve the tensions of momentary lusts
without resorting to either dishonor or have sexual repressions.
Mut'ah may last only for a few hours, but it legitimizes any
offspring from this union. Sunnis disavow such a concept, even
though their treatment of women is considerably less generous than
that of the Shia’ites when it comes to family inheritance and
participation in religious rituals" (Occhiogrosso).

are marriages in the name only; they are not least bound to Muslim
men, because they have the right to deny their responsibilities in
case any child is born of this temporary liaison… This controversial
law allows Muslim men to fornicate, so long as they register their
intentions with a religious Shari’ah court, where they fill out a
form specifying how long they intend to 'enjoy' their

Dr. Mahran Doltchahi, a professor at the Free University in
Tehran, comments: "The enjoyment of marriage is nothing but a
legal cover for prostitution. How can anyone in the world claim that
a marriage for 10 minutes is a legal act?

The real victims of the Laws of Desire are women from
deprived socio-economic backgrounds. Desires under a thin red veil
are the very excuse of fornication and prostitution under the legal
cover in Islam. Jan Goodwin, in "Price of Honour", provides a
colourful cultural vignette of Mut’ah:

“You probably had your chador on the wrong way around' my
friend explained. 'That's one of the signals women use if they're
looking for sigheh”. ‘Sigheh or Mut’ah’ is an
agreement between a man and a woman which is sanctioned by a
cleric and can last as little as a few minutes or as long as
ninety-nine years…

It is usually, where the man pays the woman an agreed sum of
money in exchange for a temporary marriage. The usual motives is
sex, but in some temporary marriages, where the agreement s are
agreed upon for other purposes. When sex is the motive the
transactions differ from prostitution, in that the agreed couple
has to go before a cleric to record their erstwhile contract and
in Iran, any children born of the union are legitimate. Otherwise,
the Mut’ah is free of the responsibilities of marriage: the couple
can make any agreements they like regarding how much time they
will spend together in this agreement. It has also, as to how much
money will be involved and what services, whether sexual or
nonsexual relationship each will provide. The Shia’ites believes
that Muhammad approved of Mut’ah. The Sunnis being the majority
branch in Islam don't agree to this Law. Even in Shia’ite Iran,
Mut’ah had fallen from favor until Rafsanjani encouraged it after
the Iran-Iraq War which ended in 1988. In a 1990 sermon, he argued
that the war had left a lot of young widows, many of them without
hope of any remarriages. Such women he said needed both material
support and sexual satisfactions. At the same time, plenty of
young men who couldn't afford to set up house for a bride were
postponing their marriages. Sexual tensions needed a healthy
release he said, and since Mut’ah existed for that purpose within
Islam, why not use it? His remarks sparked a heated debate amongst
Iranian women, some of whom bitterly opposed these practices as
exploitative. They argued that, the state should provide for these
war widows adequately, so that they don't have to sell their
bodies in Mut’ah. But others spoke out in its favor. Mut’ah, they
said wasn't just a matter of money. Widows and divorcees had
sexual needs and a desire for male company, and the "husband" was
a welcomed male presence for the children in their homes. Iran's
satirical weekly magazine the Golagha, ran a cartoon lampooning
the likely effects of Rafsanjani's argument. It showed two desks
for marriage licenses, one for Mut’ah and one for permanent
wedlock. The clerk at the permanent desk had no customers; while
the queue for Mut’ah stretched out the door." (Goodwin)

Shahla Haeri, author of the "Law of Desire", says ‘conservative
clergy are behind a campaign to preserve enjoyment of marriages
She cites one of Iran's leading imams, Jafar El Sadek, as declaring
'partners in enjoyment in marriages are especially blessed. When
they bathe, every drop of water turns into seventy angels who will
testify on their behalf on the Day of Judgment

"Khomeini was alone among senior clergies in condemning the law
and the hypocrisy of those who were in favour of it. This is still
remembered on the streets of Tehran, there is the Persian story he
once quoted on television "A religious leader said to a prostitute
'You are drunk and every moment you go and visit someone
different'. She replied 'Oh Sheik! What you say about me is
correct. But what you pretend about yourself is that true too?"

"The Shia’ites doctrines, projects a double image of women
through the contractual laws of temporary and permanent marriages.
We may ask here, ‘What is a woman from a Shia'ite perspective?’ Is
she a precious commodity that may be owned, bought, or leased? Or
is she a person created like a man who can be in charge of her own
life, negotiate contracts, control their outcome, and exchange
gifts? Is she a decision-making adult or a minor?

Looking at the women's status developmentally, and through a
discussion of the different forms of Shia'ites marriage contracts,
it is shown that at any given points in her life cycle a Shia'ite
Muslim woman may be perceived to be all or some of the above
simultaneously... Such legal ambivalence is reflected in a variety
of vastly popular binary images of women. Such images of women as
controller/controlled, seducer/ seduced, cunning/gullible, and
pious/adulterous; all have a wide currency in the Persian-Islamic
literatures. In one of the most fascinating literary treasures of
the Middle East, the tales of ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ where,
the superimposition of many of these binary images is elegantly
portrayed. Indeed, the whole story is based on one such dominant
binary opposition, that of order/disorder...

Through the cunning of an adulterous queen, society today is
brought to the brink of disorder! But the mediation of another
woman restores order to society and a sense to the king. The
underlying ambivalence towards women is not reflected just in
literature and folklore alone... The Quran itself conveys this
ambivalence towards women as well. In all Holy Books, women are
sometimes depicted as objects to be treated as kindly or harshly
and at other times as persons created of the same material as men
(compare the Surahs of Women 34 and the Cow 223). Many hadiths and
sayings of the Prophet, the imams, and other Muslim leaders
further underscore this ambivalence. For example, the Prophet
Muhammad is frequently quoted as having said: 'Women are the
trappings of Satan' (cited in Burhan-i Qat' 1951 63, 2:681; Razi
1963 68, 350). In another context, however, he is alleged to have
stated: 'From your world I do not like anything but women and
perfume' (quoted by Ayatollah Mishkini 1974, 118). Such
ambivalence finds its resonance in the following popular adage in
Iran: 'Women are a pain, bala. May no house be without it?'

A Mut’ah woman is especially a target of cultural and legal
ambivalence... Personally, she might be more mature and
experienced than other women (because she has married at least
once and been divorced), and legally, she is freer than married
than a virgin women to negotiate on her own behalf or choose her
male partner(s), and exercise her own decision-making powers… She
is her own person as it were. A divorced woman's status is the
closest that a Shia'ite Muslim woman can come to having legal
autonomy. Autonomy, however is not a trait socially approved of
for women in Iran? Although some men may welcome it and even be
fascinated by the alluring autonomy of women, as is apparent in
the ‘Mut’ah myths'. They are at the same time fearful of the
arbitrariness implied in it; just as they may be selected for a
treat. They may be let go unceremoniously, because temporary
marriages is a contract of lease and its objective is sexual
enjoyment only… Mut’ah women are seen not only as objects of
exchange (indeed, they are referred to as the objects of lease)
but also as temporary sexual partners for the day... There is thus
a close structural association with prostitutions... Consequently,
the customs of temporary marriages and its propriety involved
cultural questionings with conflicting feelings, and the women who
make use of it are also perceived with moral ambivalence...

Much to women's disappointments, the temporary marriages often
bestows them neither with the masculine protection nor with the
social prestige’s that they so earnestly seek" (Haeri). But
Khomeni also reduced the age of marriage and permitting girls as
young as nine to marry. Muhammad himself married his favorite wife
A'isha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, one of his closest associates
when she was six years old. Muhammad was 52 and A’isha was by that
time only 9 years old and still played with dolls, when they
sexually consummated their marriage! Muhammad followed an Arab
custom in marrying a child who had had her first menstrual cycles.
The legal marriage age for girls in Iran was only in 2002
increased from 9 to 13years. "Khomeini lowered the marriage age
for females from eighteen to thirteen, but permitted girls as
young as nine, even seven in some cases, to be married if a
physician signs a certificate agreeing to their sexual maturity.

'In his book Tahrir Al' Vassilih, Khomeini writes about the
legal requirements for having sex with girl children' explained a
woman lawyer who is concerned that child brides are dying since
this ruling was instituted… 'In villages where child marriage is
most common, doctors here often don't even see the girl,' she told
me. 'They just take the family's word that she is physically
mature enough to marry. Consequently, we have had very young girls
badly injured and when they have had what amounts to forced
intercourse. Infection sets in and they have died.' 'Only with
girls under seven did the Ayatollah say that sex was forbidden".

Khomeini has gone so far as saying

sex with infants is acceptable:

"A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a
baby. However, he should not penetrate. If he penetrates and the
child is harmed then he should be responsible for her subsistence
all her life. This girl however would not count as one of his four
permanent wives. The man will not be eligible to marry the girl's
sister". The complete Persian text of this saying can be found in
"Ayatollah Khomeini in Tahrirolvasyleh, Fourth Edition, Darol Elm,

Child marriages in Afghanistan

  1. Roshan Qasem will be joining the household of Said Mohammed
    55, his first wife, their three sons and their daughter, who is
    the same age as Roshan.

  2. Mohammed Agha of
    district central Logar province had

    slaughtered his 14-year-old wife.

  3. Nasrin was banned from
    meeting any one outside the four walls of her house. Revealing the
    ordeal of her teenaged daughter, the dejected mother said ‘Daad
    Mohammad (the accused) used to tie her (Nasrin's) hands and feet
    and beat her severely

In contrast to the severe legal punishments for women with a
statement on men and Mut’ah:

"No one can deny that most, if not all married men have had
sexual relations, legitimate or illegitimate, with other women. Is
it wise then to forbid married men from having relations with
other women? Is such a law just and in accordance with human
nature? Of course not, such law has not been practical and will
not be so! A. A. Muhajir “Polygamy and Mut’ah” (Haeri).

This is consistent with Muhammad's approval of polygamy,
including marriage unto slaves. Islamic law requires a man to
provide each of his wives with a household of her own. Thus marital
polygamy was usually the privilege of the prosperous (Walther).
However, in addition to the four wives, Muslim men can also select
any number of slave concubines for themselves:

‘marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four;
but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then
(marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more
proper, that you may not deviate from the right course (Surah

The Quranic passages on marriages, according to Shia’ites, also
spell out the conditions for Mut’ah, in which 'as to whom you profit
by' means 'among them whom you have enjoyed':

‘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.
Then as to those whom you profit by, 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 (Surah 4.24).

The parties to a marriage-contract are not the bride and groom,
but the groom and the bride's male relatives. Marriages can thus be
forced (Walther):

‘the parties to the contract are the bridegroom and the bride's
guardian... her closest male relative, usually her father or
brother or, if the need be, even the judge himself. Two free male
witnesses, or one male and two female witnesses, must be present
on this occasion. The Sunnah of the Prophet recommends that the
bride should not be married without her consent. However, silence
is sufficient an indication of this agreement in the case of a
virginal bride, since she is considered to be too shy or timid to
speak for herself. When the girl is a minor, her guardian can also
force her into marriage, but she has the right to annul this as
soon as she is of age. The Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali [schools of
Sunnah] even permit an adult woman to be forced by her guardian to
contract marriage.

An important part of the marriage contract is the fixing of the
dowry (haq-e-mahr or saddq), which is a form of 'bride price', not
an endowment for the bride's welfare from her family. However, the
haq-e-mahr was not a purchase price, but as compensation from the
bridegroom had to given to the parents of the bride for the loss
to the tribe of the sons that the woman would bear. The haq-e-mahr
was not paid when the girl married her cousin on her father's
side; that is, when she remained in the tribe. This is still true
among Bedouins of today... The saddq was the wedding gift which
the girl received. As early as the time of Muhammad, a distinction
was no longer made between these two terms (Walther).

Wiebke Walther notes: "In the context of a divorce, the Quran
says that they (women) have the same right as is exercised over
them, though the men have a rank above them
". In fact, husbands
are given free reign in matters of separation and divorce:

"You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to
you whom you please, and in whom you desire of those whom you had
separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most
proper, so that their eyes may be cool and they may not grieve,
and that they should be pleased, all of them with what you give
them" (Surah 33.51).

Under the triple talaq salutation, a husband merely has to repeat
the oath of divorce three times for it to have immediate effect on
marriage. Walther further notes that the Islamic law permits every
man in a healthy mental state to repudiate his wife (talaq) without
having to give any valid reason for it, and without even consulting
a judge. There are only a limited number of ways in which a wife can
free herself from her husband. The ‘khula' or redemption was adopted
from the heathen pagan practices in pre-Islamic times, and it
consists in the wife's purchasing her freedom from her husband by
the payment of a certain sumfrequently
equivalent to the dowry. It is laid down in the Quran that, after
the divorce, the husband must provide for a wife, who is suckling a
child, until it is weaned; this can extend to a period of two years.
The mother has the right of custody for girls until they are of age
or until they marry and for boys until puberty or the age of seven
years. However, the father is the legal guardian of the children;
only when they are poor, he is obliged by law to maintain them. Thus
the mother usually returns to her family, which maintains her, with
the children she has to look after.

A Muslim woman can not marry a non-Muslim, but a Muslim man is
permitted to marry a Jewish or a Christian woman. After a divorce, a
woman must wait for three months before remarrying. Men, however,
are permitted to remarry immediately. (Surah 2:234) Muhammad
introduced the waiting period in order to determine whether the
woman was expecting a child, so that the paternity could be
established without any doubt. If the woman was pregnant, she could
only re-marry after the birth of the child.

"And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for
three courses; and it is not lawful for them that they should
conceal what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in
Allah and the last day; and their husbands have a better right to
take them back in the meanwhile if they wish for reconciliation;
and they have rights similar to those against them in a just
manner, and the men are a degree above them, and Allah is Mighty,
Wise" (Surah 2.228).

Walther also notes "Here, as in later traditions in which
women are defined as mothers, sisters, and daughters, their roles
are defined from a man's point of view; as women are seen in their
family relations and in their sociability with men

"Amongst His signs is that He hath created for you of your own
species spouses that ye may find rest in them, and hath set love
and compassion between you." (Surah 30.21)

However, this very apparently 'merciful' Surah is cited by
Qurtubi as a basis for a woman to have to submit to the sexual
demands of the husband on call:

"When a man calls his wife to his bed, and she refuses, the One
Who is in the heaven will be angry with her until he [her husband]
is pleased with her"  (Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton)

Such Quranic passages are reflected in hadiths, where sex on
demand is a holy duty:

"The prophet of Allah said: When a man calls his wife to
satisfy his desire, let her come to him though she is occupied at
the oven." (Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton).

Muhammad imposes a taboo on women as unclean during menstruation,
but ordains intercourse the rest of the time under commandment of
God, [as do the Jews]:

"And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a discomfort;
therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge
and do not go near them until they have become clean; then when
they have cleansed themselves, go in to them as Allah has
commanded you; surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him),
and He loves those who purify themselves" (Surah 2.222).

Ever present is the role of the female as a sexual beast of
burdens, light, or heavy:

"He it is Who created you from a single being, and of the same
(kind) did He make his mate, that he might incline to her; so when
he covers her she bears a light burden, then moves about with it;
but when it grows heavy, they both call upon Allah, their Lord: If
Thou givest us a good one, we shall certainly be of the grateful
ones (Surah 7.189).

As in the Decalogue, where one is taught not to covet one's
neighbour's house, wife, servants, or cattle (a wife having
intermediate status between cattle and property), women are equated
to domesticated beasts:

Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before
me. They said, "Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman
(if they pass in front of the praying people)." I said, "You have
made us (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used
to lie in my bed between him and the Qiblah. Whenever I was in
need of something, I would slip away. For I disliked to face him."

To al-Ghazali, woman is here created as a mere plaything. She is
a recalcitrant domesticated animal, valued only in her fear of her
husband (Rafiqul-Haqq and Newton):

"In the company of women, looking at them, and playing with
them, the soul is refreshed, the heart is rested, and the man is
strengthened to the worship of God... this is why God said: 'That
he might rest in her.' (Surah 7:189)" (Essid ).

"If you relax the woman's bridle a tiny bit, she will take you
and bolt wildly. And if you lower her cheek-piece a hand span, she
will pull you an arm's length... Their deception is awesome and
their wickedness is contagious; bad character and feeble mind are
their predominant traits"...

"[A man's wife] fears him, while he fears her not, a kind word
from him satisfies her, where nothing of hers has importance in
his eyes, it is she who must tolerate the presence of concubines,
and it is she who worries when he is ill whereas even her death
would leave him indifferent."

The reference to women as domestic animals is reinforced in al-Tabari's
account of the prophet's last and most famous speech (Al-Tabari, Abu
Ja’far Muhammad b. Jarir. [The History of al-Tabari. Vol. IX, The
Last Years of the Prophet
, Translated and annotated by Ismail K.
Poonawala, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1990, P.

"Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals (‘awan)
with you and do not possess anything for themselves. You have
taken them only as a trust from God, and you have made the
enjoyment of their persons lawful by the word of God, so
understand and listen to my words, O people."

Despite the high price of dowry settlements to wives' families in
Saudi Arabia and the shunning of divorced women, more than twenty
percent of Saudi marriages end in divorce within a year... Marriages
suffer most from all the usual afflictions, infidelity,
incompatibility, house-hold violence, but the biggest problem is
polygamy by Muslim men... Many Saudi husbands constantly change
partners, a practice that causes constant heartaches (Wright L)….

I would like to end this article by just saying this ‘the
Muslim husband’s mindset has come to dominate their wives by their
prophet’s ideology which has a harsh manifesto that is invading
their women’s private space. Muslim women are a vulnerable group,
especially in areas where protests against restrictions on personal
freedoms are unwelcome with other women right out side Islam’...

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