Mutah Marriage: A Suitable Option For A DivorcÚ

It is an unfortunate reality - divorce is on the increase. Marriage breakdowns have reached an unprecedented level not only in the West but also in Muslim society as a whole.

I have repeatedly asked myself:

"Why are permanent marriage relationships increasingly ending in divorce?"

"Why did I get divorced?"

After much reflection I have made the following observations.

I believe that in some cases marriages break down due to the incompatibility of each partner. Sometimes this is inevitable, however, the present day record of divorce becoming a social norm indicates that something is going wrong somewhere. I believe that in most cases divorces take place due to the inherent contradictions and fallacies within the permanent marriage systems adopted by couples and societies.

There are many cultures in the world today, the most dominant culture being the fast spreading, corporate-created, media-pushed Western culture. Each culture has its own corresponding system of permanent marriage. Likewise, Islam also has its own distinct form of permanent marriage i.e. Nikah marriage. However, along with most aspects of their lives, Muslims have confused Nikah marriage with the other forms of permanent marriage as practised by the prevalent divergent cultures. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the institution of Nikah marriage is close to extinction. This may seem as an exaggerated statement, but this maybe because we do not realise what the term 'Nikah marriage' truly signifies. To most of us Nikah marriage only represents the Arabic phrases repeated parrot-fashion in the presence of a Maulana (or by the Maulana himself) as a prelude to the commencement of the wedding celebrations.

This is where the misunderstanding begins.

Nikah marriage is a whole institution, a major part of the overall Islamic way of life. Nikah marriage as an institution as well as including the Arabic sentences pronounced at the inception of the marriage, also covers: the monotheistic aims and objectives of the husband's and wife's union; it clearly defines the rights and responsibilities of both the husband and wife; it covers the issues surrounding contraception, the rearing of a healthy family, inheritance and Hijab; Nikah marriage also has its own unique and humane system of divorce. In most present-day Muslim societies the only aspect of Nikah marriage being practised is the initial reciting of the Arabic Nikah formula (and even this - when done by non-Arabic speaking Muslims - is commonly done without any understanding). In our age of intellectual confusion, Muslims who are entering into so-called Nikah marriages are knowingly or unknowingly discarding the Islamic Nikah system of marriage and replacing it with the contradictory values of the other cultures.

Thus Nikah marriage is truly dying out.

I have come to realise that the main reason for the breakdown of my own permanent marriage was because it was not a pure Nikah marriage with pure Islamic values. My permanent marriage was trying to flourish in a cauldron of immiscible, contradictory cultural values - ingredients which, when brewed together were just waiting for an explosion.

My short taste of permanent marriage was an experience involving a love-triangle of three different cultural systems.

Firstly there was the very unique breed of family-marriage culture that my former wife was accustomed to. I cannot refer to it as a general Eastern culture, because there is no homogeneous Eastern culture. The East has a mixture of many varying traditions and cultures. Even if we specifically try to evaluate Pakistan for example, we cannot come up with general statements referring to a united Pakistani culture. In the urban city areas you will find certain attitudes, in the villages other traditions, amongst Pashtons in the North other practices, amongst Punjabis their own views, and Sindhis have their different ways too.

The background of marriage relationships to which my former wife was familiar was very peculiar, possibly peculiar to her relatives. I'm not sure as to how widespread such attitudes are held by others in Pakistan, but I will draw a rough outline of my personal experience of it.

Amongst the married people in her family, including the elders and her own parents, a bizarre form of matriarchy is practised. The wife is dominant over the husband and, in turn, the wife is heavily influenced by her brothers and maternal uncles. So, ultimately the wife's brothers, family and relatives control the husband. This is the system that my former wife and her family desperately tried to implement in my permanent marriage. It didn't work. In such circumstances, our permanent marriage materialised into a temporary one. If such an arrangement does last however, as it has done with my former wife's mother and father, it lasts at the expense of the husband's honour, self-respect and self-determination. If the husband wants the marriage to remain permanent in such a situation he is forced to play an extremely passive role having no control over his own life or family. Even crucial decisions concerning the lives of the father's own offspring are made by his wife's brothers.

The measure of success of a permanent marriage system is not just that it achieves permanence of marriage, it should also consider the following questions: How much felicity does each member of the couple achieve? How positive is the atmosphere for the healthy upbringing of the next generation? What impact does such a system have on the overall society? Does the system take into consideration the physiological, psychological, spiritual and other natural differences between the two sexes?

It is obvious that the above system is not a healthy one.

The other permanent marriage system that influenced my marriage is the one proposed by the dominant Western culture. This culture and its values for permanent marriage are being experimented with by an increasing number of Muslim couples. This culture can be addressed as a whole because it is a lot more homogeneous than the so-called 'Eastern culture'. Western culture is the culture of 'Sexual Freedom', 'Liberalism', 'Secularism', 'Capitalism', 'Modernism', 'Democracy', 'Materialism', 'Equality of the Sexes' (- that is, identical roles, responsibilities and functions of both sexes) and other similar notions.

My permanent marriage was exposed to this Western culture in two ways. Firstly, it belongs to the society in which I was born and brought up. Secondly, it was the culture to which my former wife looked up to as one which was superior to the Pakistani / Indian / Hindu culture from which she came.

For me it was the culture that I had seen from the inside, I had seen most aspects of it in practice for the last 20 years. I saw it as lived by the English society in which I grew up. I and other people like me are in a better position to judge its successes and its failures since we are aware of the truer, fuller picture. We know its reality and are not duped by the myths it has managed to propagate around the world. We have seen its inherent contradictions and we know very well the self-destructing societies which it has born fruit. For my former wife and other misinformed people, however, it was the culture that one must adopt if one wants to materially progress and be successful.

Let us take a look at the Western permanent marriage morality: permanent marriage as a whole in the West is dying out. Hardly anybody gets married now days. Even those few that do go ahead with permanent marriage, very few of them last for more than a couple of years. If this is the growing trend, then surely this is a clear indication that the Western permanent marriage system does not work. There is something inherently wrong with it. One of the main points I will say is that the overall Western outlook to life is based on self-interest. This core axiom of their way of life emanates its effect into the Western marriage system. Thus, in a relationship, where both individuals are infected with the mental disease of material-selfishness, it is clear that it is most definitely not going to last.

The third cultural ingredient from which my permanent marriage was composed was the Islamic morality of permanent marriage. I tried quite hard to implement this marriage system. We had entered into a Nikah marriage by reciting the Nikah formula at the inception of our marriage, therefore it naturally followed that we kept to our words and abode by the rules of the Shariah concerning the rest of our permanent marriage. However, I have to admit that some of my attitudes to permanent marriage were influenced at the time by traditional un-Islamic values and at times I managed to trick myself into thinking that those attitudes were Islamic. Despite that, I put a lot of effort in trying to realign our marriage to truer Islamic values. These efforts were however met with stiff resistance from my former wife and her family. I tried to fulfil my Islamic obligations in my role as a Muslim husband. I know that I made mistakes - the more I think about it, the more I realize how wrong I was on certain issues. But my criteria for judging if I committed an error or not is the standard set by Islam. However my former wife did not feel obliged to fulfil her specified role as defined by the Shariah, simply because she did not consider the Shariah as the scale upon which to judge her intentions or actions. This is where the real conflict lay.

I do believe however that if both participants in the relationship wilfully choose to implement the Islamic Nikah system of permanent marriage they would live a blissful permanent marriage that is truly lasting. I say this because the Nikah marriage takes into account all factors that lead to human happiness in a permanent relationship setting. It takes into account: the individual's natural urges, desires, physiological limits, psychological requirements and spiritual potentials; it keeps in mind the social implications and encourages society's continual march towards perfection; it clearly defines the woman's role as a caring wife and a mother, the man's role as a providing husband and a father and defines the co-operative role of the children; it recognises woman's natural security and economic needs while providing for the satisfaction of man's natural sexual urges - it takes absolutely all of relevant reality into consideration. It is the system devised by the Creator of all, the Knower of all. It makes sense that He is the one that has come up with the perfect system of permanent marriage - Nikah marriage.

But what is paramount for the success of the Nikah marriage system is the commitment of both the husband and the wife to its wholehearted implementation. They should sincerely play their complimentary roles as laid down by Islam. If even one of the couple strongly holds either to the Western or 'Eastern' relative values of permanent marriage then the Nikah marriage won't work - because by definition it can hardly be called a 'Nikah' marriage.

Nikah marriage is the permanent marriage system as laid out in the Shariah. The Shariah is derived from the revelation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.). Both of these are the sources of Islam. Islam is the gift from Allah to His creation. If abided by, one gains the pleasure of Allah, closeness to Him and simultaneously attains a peaceful life of contentment.

Another marriage institution proposed by Islam is the temporary marriage, that is Mutah marriage.

The main reason behind why Nikah marriage is not fully implemented by present-day Muslims is because there is a genuine confusion in the minds of people as to what permanent marriage entails. People refer more to prevalent social norms than anything else when it comes to moulding their own moral outlook to life. Due to this attitude of referring to society, confusion has taken place. The confusion is largely due to the fact that institutions of permanent marriage exist in every culture and every society in one form or another. In this global community of ours no society is isolated from the ideas of another. Ideas are continuously being mixed with one another, and likewise ideas on permanent marriage have also been diluted into this mixture of opinions.

The concept of Mutah marriage however, is unique to Islam. It is very difficult to confuse Mutah marriage with any other social traditions and cultural opinions on the issue because there is nothing else like it. In order to enter into a Mutah marriage people are forced to refer to the Shariah because there are no other reference points to which people can even confusingly refer to. Despite possessing its own positive attributes, functions and social effects the reintroduction of Mutah marriage to the Muslims is a good method of getting them into the habit of referring to Islam for guidance in their practical and social lives in general. If the attitude of consulting the Shariah is re-educated into the Muslims' consciousness by re-introducing Mutah marriage it can further/simultaneously be developed to reintroduce Nikah marriage as a distinctly Islamic permanent marriage system. This could eventually help to lead Muslims developing an attitude to once again refer to the Shariah for all aspects of their lives.

My personal reasons for doing Mutah marriage are exactly this. I have seen that most Muslim females that have been brought up in the Western-dominated world of today do not have a clear understanding of the Islamic institution of Nikah marriage. Their outlook, knowingly or unknowingly, towards permanent marriage is strongly influenced by Western values. This is the case not only with Muslim females but with most Muslim males also. For example, one of the rights of a husband according to Nikah marriage is that the wife is not allowed to leave the house without the husband's permission. How many Muslim females are there in the world, especially in the West, that are happy seeking their husband's permission every time they want to leave the house? Not many. Likewise, one of the rights of the wife according to the Nikah marriage system is that it is the sole responsibility of the husband to provide for her economic needs, ie, food, clothing, home etc. How many Muslim males are happy fulfilling this responsibility on their own? Now a days a lot of Muslim husbands expect their wives to go out, neglect the other important needs of the family, and work to help towards the economic security of the household - something that he himself should be able to provide. These attitudes held by a lot of Muslims, male and female, though in conflict with Nikah marriage would be fine if practiced within the framework of a Mutah marriage. In the prevailing circumstances, where Muslim clear thinking is heavily clouded by the pollution of Western indoctrination, I believe the Islamic Mutah marriage is more easily digestible practically for such a society. In order to successfully implement Nikah marriage a radical change of thought is needed. Individuals both male and female need to re-evaluate their ideas about marriage. However we know that a lot of Muslims have a phobia of words like 'radical change', and are quite complacent. Therefore Mutah marriage, can be comfortably harnessed by Muslims who wish to preserve their independence (economic, personal etc.) as an individual, and simultaneously wish to fulfill their natural needs by entering into a relationship without conflicting with the Laws of Islam. It can also be used to initiate a gradual movement towards a more committed relationship.

I would marry a potential permanent wife first through Mutah marriage, then, when we are both ready, and we are fully satisfied that we are ready to be good Nikah spouses and good, co-operative parents for any children to be born from our relationship, I would contract a Nikah marriage with her.

S.M. is 21 years old, and a Website project manager, from London, U.K.