Muta’a vs. Biblical Marriage

Posted: October 25, 2010 in christianity, islam, marriage

NPR recently reported on the common Shiite Muslim practice of muta’a – temporary marriage.  This custom, dating back to the times of the prophet Muhammad, allows a man to marry a woman and then legally annul that marriage after a specified period of time.  The story reports:

“The idea is that rather than having an affair, a man who wants to be sexually involved with a woman should marry her — for a few months, or even, hours — so the relationship will be legitimate”

Many widows and single women, without the economic support provided by a husband, are forced to seek the help of other men, often religious leaders or government officials.  However, many times these men will only support the woman if she agrees to a muta’a.  According to the Muslim scholar interviewed in the article, this represents an abuse of the ancient custom.  However, the man also argued that the custom can be practiced rightly:

“Shammari says he has temporarily married at least five women, while traveling. Each time, he says, he paid them. He made sure they used birth control. He kept his agreement to be married for only a month. And he didn’t do anything to sully their reputations afterward.

This, he says, is the right way to do muta’a marriage.”

Compare this vision of marriage to the one presented in the Bible.

(1Cr 7:3-4 ESV) – “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

(Eph 5:22-33 ESV) – “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

(Col 3:18-19 ESV) – “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

(1Pe 3:1-2, 7 ESV) – “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. … Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Whereas the practice of muta’a clearly serves the interests of men and takes advantage of women, the Bible is concerned that men and women are both treated with love and respect.  Whereas the practice of muta’a is, by its very nature, temporary and devoid of long-term commitment and fidelity, the Bible presents marriage as a life-long relationship devoted to mutual submission, service, and affection.  Whereas the practice of muta’a is a picture of man’s unrestrained lust, the Bible presents marriage as a picture of the sacred, covenantal love of our faithful Savior.

The differences could not be more stark.

Praise God and His Son, Jesus the Messiah, that He has called us to Himself.  Let us pray that God would give us grace to live up to the high calling that He has given us in marriage.  And let us pray for those who do not know Him, that He might draw them to Himself and into His marvelous light.


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