There’s a brouhaha brewing overseas as many Western periodicals and newspapers detail that one of Iran’s hard-line ministers is encouraging temporary marriages. Why? Because he believes temporary marriage is one way to avoid the sin of extramarital sex.
What is a Temporary Marriage?
In Shiite Muslim tradition, a temporary marriage (sigheh) allows a man and a woman to be ‘married’ for any length of time based on a contract they sign. It can be as short as a few hours and as long as a few months or years. Money is exchanged, often in the form of a dowry.
It’s important to understand that for one, Iran is a Shiite majority nation. This practice does exist, but it’s not very common because it is considered a license for prostitution. There is a movement advocating giving this tradition more institutional support because it would help this very conservative nation fight against illicit, sexual activities. It’s important to note that extramarital sexual relations are banned under Islamic law.
Opponents of this measure say that it is just another form of prostitution. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president first made the suggestion in the 1990s. Of the 70 million that make up Iran’s population, more than half of them are under the age of 30. There are many young Iranians who cannot afford to get married and buy a home. Temporary marriage is considered a solution to this conundrum.
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi is the first Iranian official in over a decade to offer his support to this practice. He was quoted by their state-run television as saying
Temporary marriage is God’s rule. We must aggressively encourage it. We have to find a solution to meet the sexual desire of the youth who have no possibility of marriage.
The sigheh or temporary marriage is banned in Sunni Islam. In other Sunni countries there is the practice of the urfi marriage. This is an unofficial arrangement that is kept in secret (something like a ‘secret marriage’ that we were discussing last week). The urfi marriage requires the participants to sign a document in front of witnesses. Simply destroy the piece of paper and the marriage is ended.
Temporary marriages allow poor women and some widows to support themselves. But opponents believe strongly that supporting temporary marriages would encourage the moral decay of Iran by supporting prostitution. The practice of prostitution has been illegal in Iran since 1979.
This is a tough problem and I can see the arguments on both sides of this issue. I feel for the young people of Iran and for the ministers and clerics seeking to meet both the fundamental religious and basic needs of their people.
What do you think of the idea of temporary marriage?
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