13 May 2013
The BBC reports that an Islamic practice, nikah mut’ah (temporary marriage), is gaining in popularity amongst young Shia Muslims in the UK. Described as “basically a contract,” temporary marriages allow young Muslims to meet and get to know each other before entering a permanent marriage and without breaking Islamic law. These informal marriages are the subject of a recent BBC Radio Asian Network special report entitled, “Married for a Minute.”
Sara, a Muslim woman who entered into a temporary marriage and spoke to the BBC about her experience, said that she entered into the arrangement because “It allowed us to meet without breaking the bounds of Sharia [Islamic law]. We both wanted to date, to go out for dinner or go shopping and just get to know each other better before getting married, which we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.” Though statistics are not gathered on these informal arrangements, Muslim leaders interviewed by the BBC claim that the practice is experiencing a revival amongst Shia university students in the UK.
Temporary marriages are not universally accepted in the Muslim community. The practice is largely confined to the Shia community, with Sunnis considering these informal marriages haram (forbidden). A Sunni spokesperson for the UK Islamic Sharia Council said that “There is no difference between mut’ah marriages and prostitution” and that she has never come across a Sunni scholar who has declared such practices halal (permissible).