Kuwaiti Shaykh Explains and Justifies Islamic "Pleasure Marriages"

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Translations of Arabic/Islamic Media

Translated from the original Arabic by Al Mutarjim

In the following video, originally posted on YouTube (July 17, 2011), Kuwaiti Shaykh Yasir al-Habib, a Shi'ite, explains and justifies the Islamic practice of zawaj al-mut'a, or temporary marriage (lit. 'pleasure marriage'), which is in a sense Islamically-sanctioned prostitution. In the longer clip which this excerpted portion is taken from, Shaykh al-Habib starts out by saying that Sunnis often try to embarrass Shi'ites by saying that they're going to marry their sisters in a pleasure marriage.

Al-Habib responds by saying that, first of all, in Islam a brother has no authority over the actions of his sister. And secondly, he contends that Sunnis want him to deny pleasure marriage simply because some people find it repulsive, to which he counters that "the Messenger of Allah didn't find it repulsive." Then he turns the argument around, explaining that Sunnis attempt to deny pleasure marriage while accepting marriage with the intent to divorce, which is essentially the same thing.

He also brings up a hadith or saying from one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, who said that, "We contracted temporary marriage giving a handful of the dates or flour as a dower during the life time of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and during the time of Abu Bakr until Umar forbade it because of Amr Ibn Huraith" (from al-islam.org). The last point about Umar forbidding it is where most Shi'ites and Sunnis disagree--the Shi'ites do not accept Umar as a legitimate caliph or successor to Muhammad, while the Sunnis do.

I tell him, “Come on, if you’re a man, then give me your sister in marriage, a marriage with the intent of divorcing after one night.” I could imagine something like that, now that you mention it. You know? Now, even if you find this repulsive, the Messenger of Allah didn’t find it repulsive. The Messenger of Allah approved this marriage by recognizing it. The Messenger of Allah permitted and authorized (temporary) pleasure marriages. Now even if they later put it in a written hadith that he later forbade pleasure marriages, the important thing is that it was present (during the time of the Prophet).

If the marriage was by nature considered repulsive by the Shari’ah, meaning it was not pleasing to Almighty Allah and His Messenger (PBUH), then the Prophet from the beginning would not have permitted it. Why did he permit it? I mean, it wasn’t considered contrary to the honor of Muslim women. Why did he authorize his companions to marry Muslim women for a short time, and to “enjoy them (sexually),” [Qur’an 4:24] even with a handful of dates? A handful of dates is given to any woman to enjoy her sexually, that’s it. If you say that this is adultery, then you’re accusing the Messenger (PBUH) of adultery, or that he legitimized adultery. If you say this is repulsive, you’re accusing the Messenger (PBUH) of being repulsive, or that the Messenger of Allah legitimized that which is repulsive, Allah forbid. Is it not so?

Pleasure marriage came to solve a societal problem. It doesn’t mean that it always has to be applied. However, if my sister did that, according to its rules and laws, whether she were a widow and her husband had passed away, or she were divorced, and so forth; if she needed it (for whatever reason), then this marriage would be according to the tradition (sunnah) of Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). There is no shame in this. No shame at all.