Nikah mut'ahArabic: نكاح المتعة, romanized: nikāḥ al-mutʿah, literally "pleasure marriage";:1045 or Sigheh (Persian: صیغه) is a private and verbal temporary marriage contract that is practiced in Twelver Shia Islam in which the duration of the marriage and the mahr must be specified and agreed upon in advance.:242:47–53 It is a private contract made in a verbal or written format. A declaration of the intent to marry and an acceptance of the terms are required as in other forms of marriage in Islam.
According to Twelver Shia jurisprudence, preconditions for mut'ah are: The bride must not be married, she must attain the permission of her wali if she has never been married before, she must be Muslim or belong to Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book), she should be chaste, must not be a known adulterer, and she can only independently do this if she is Islamically a non-virgin or she has no wali (Islamic legal guardian). At the end of the contract, the marriage ends and the wife must undergo iddah, a period of abstinence from marriage (and thus, sexual intercourse). The iddah is intended to give paternal certainty to any children should the wife become pregnant during the temporary marriage contract.
Some sources say the Nikah mut'ah has no prescribed minimum or maximum duration, but others, such as The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, indicate the minimum duration of the marriage is debatable and durations of at least three days, three months or one year have been suggested.
Historically there were many types of marriages, used for various purposes, as opposed to a full marriage; in mut'ah some of the rights of the husband and wife are non-existent. This was primarily used by those who could not stay at home with their wife and traveled a lot. For example, a traveling merchant might arrive at a town and stay for a few months, in that period he may marry a divorced widow, and they would take care of each other. When he has to leave to the next down, the marriage is over, and he might sign a mut'ah contract at his next place. Although in modern times such a thing is considered obsolete, due to the availability of fast travel, and primarily exists in Iran and Shia regions for sexual pleasure reasons as a means of Halal dating.
Mut'ah, literally meaning joy, is a condition where rules of Islam are relaxed. It can apply to marriage (the nikah mut'ah) or to the Hajj (the obligatory pilgrimage) (the Mut'ah of Hajj). Mut'ah is a sensitive area of disagreement between those who follow Sunni Islam (for whom nikah mut'ah is forbidden) and those who follow Shia Islam (for whom nikah mut'ah is allowed). Shias and Sunnis do agree that, initially, or near the beginning of Islam, Nikah mut'ah was a legal contract.
In the sixteenth century, during the reign of Akbar, the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, who was believed to be a Hanafi Sunni, debates on religious matters were held weekly on Thursdays. When discussing nikah mut'ah, Shi'ite theologians argued that the historic Sunni scholar Malik ibn Anas supported the practice. However, the evidence from Malik's Muwatta (manual of religious jurisprudence) was not forthcoming. The Shi'ite theologians persisted and nikah mut'ah was legalized for the twelver Shia during Akbar's reign.
The only Sunni Arab jurisdiction that mentions nikah mut'ah is Jordan; if the nikah mut'ah meets all other requirements, it is treated as if it were a permanent marriage.
The thirteenth century scholar, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi said,
Amongst the Ummah there are many great scholars who deem Mut'ah to have been abrogated, whilst others say that Mut'ah still remains.
The people of Faith are in agreement that Mut'ah is halaal, then a great man said Mut'ah was abrogated, other than them remaining scholars, including the Shi'a believe Mut'ah remain halaal in the same way it was in the past. Ibn Abbas held this viewpoint and Imran bin Husain.
De facto temporary marriages were conducted by Sunnis by not specifying how long the marriage would last in the written documents themselves while orally agreeing to set a fixed period.
Even though nikah mut'ah is prohibited by Sunni schools of law, several types of innovative marriage exist, including misyar (ambulant) and ʿurfi (customary) marriage; however these are distinct from the Twelver Shia understanding. Some regard misyar as being comparable to nikah mut'ah: for the sole purpose of "sexual gratification in a licit manner". In Ba'athist Iraq, Uday Hussein's daily newspaper Babil, which at one point referred to the Shi'ites as rafidah, a sectarian epithet for Shia regularly used by ultraconservative Salafi Muslims, Wahhabi clerics were labeled hypocrites for endorsing Misyar while denouncing Mut'ah.
The Twelver Shias give arguments based on the Quran, hadith (religious narration), history, and moral grounds to support their position on mut'ah. They argue that the word of the Quran takes precedence over that of any other scripture, including the An-Nisa, 24, known as the verse of Mut'ah.
Nikah mut'ah has been used to cover for child prostitution.
Some Western writers have argued that mut'ah approximates prostitution. Julie Parshall writes that mut'ah is legalised prostitution which has been sanctioned by the Twelver Shia authorities. She quotes the Oxford encyclopedia of modern Islamic world to differentiate between marriage (nikah) and Mut'ah, and states that while nikah is for procreation, mut'ah is just for sexual gratification.