Arabic question: "Say this so it's OK for us to have sex."

A friend of mine (American) was telling me about a Lebanese man she was dating. As they were fooling around on one of their dates, he said, “I want you to say this phrase so it’s OK if we have sex.” She asked for a translation, and he refused to give one. She hasn’t seen him since, but she is dying to know what he wanted her to say.

A few years ago, I saw a documentary about prostitution in Muslim countries, and one of the things they mentioned in the documentary was that Muslim men would temporarily marry the prostitute they were hiring, then divorce the woman after the act, so that religiously speaking, it would be morally OK to have sex (polygamy being acceptable in Islam). I was wondering if this was what my friend’s date had in mind?

I think that’s the deal. Here’s someone’s dissertation on the subject of mut’a, as these temporary marriages are called. As the lawyers would say, “That’s a loophole big enough to drive a truck through!”

Mut’a Fucka!

I heard the end of a report on NPR recently that seems to have been describing this custom in Iraq.

I just searched on the NPR website and came up with this:

They don’t use the word mut’a in the description but it seems right.

There was a group in Malaysia that was supposedly doing this ten years or so ago back when I was there a lot on business. Reportedly it was a front for prostitution. The government outlawed the group. The Malaysian government is was very corrupt at the time (it still probably is) so this may have just been an excuse to get rid of a group that they felt was a threat.

So does this go with the thing I once heard that in Islam all it takes to make a divorce final is the man to say “I divorce you” three times?

I think Sal Ammoniac correctly answered the question. Since Lebanon has a significant Shi‘ite population, mut‘ah fits the story told by tiltypig. The Shi‘ite holy city of Qom, Iran, known for its large population of seminarians, is also home to a population of women who make themselves available for “temporary marriages” on a shall we say ongoing basis.

There’s an article on it by Shahla Haeri in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World that says: “After the dissolution of each temporary union, no matter how short, the wife must undergo a period of sexual abstinence (‘iddah); in case of pregnancy, ‘iddah serves to identify the child’s legitimate father. Herein lies the legal uniqueness of temporary marriage, distinguishing it, in Shi‘i law, from prostitution, despite their striking resemblance.”

In war-torn Shi‘ite countries like Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq, when there are lots of widowed women and lots of unmarried religious students, or guys who can’t afford to marry because the economy is shot… it’s just a matter of putting two and two together. What would concern me more than the prostitution angle is what sorts of financial support and protection of human rights are available to those women. Are they being exploited or are they financially independent? Does the law protect their rights?

hajario, I was in Malaysia in 1994 at the time Dr. Mahathir’s government was cracking down on Darul Arqam. (That was just his warmup for his biggest act of repression, throwing Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in prison and having him beaten up.) Coincidentally, I was living in an area on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was just on the other side of a hill from Sungai Pencala where Darul Arqam was located. It was in the news a lot at the time. All kinds of accusations of “deviance,” which is the term they use when cracking down on officially disapproved forms of religion. A young woman I worked with had Darul Arqam literature on her desk, right at the time this was going down, and I wondered at her boldness letting it be seen at work. The Arqamites wore distinctive uniforms, and they had rapidly grown in popularity. In the spring and summer of 1994 they were everywhere. Their leader was just about to declare his candidacy for Parliament so he could take over as Prime Minister or something. The government obviously felt it was a political threat. They were squashed immediately and AFAIK not a peep has been heard out of them since.

That was the group, Johanna. I was in Penang at the time. Didn’t they wear polka dotted turbans or something? The guy who ran the cash register at our company cafeteria was a member he wore the turban and had an (as I remember it) Al Arqam bumper sticker on his car. He didn’t show up for work one day and we never saw him again.

IIRC, that, and three months.
There’s a built-in cooling off period.
And in the case of a temporary wife, divorce is not relevant.

You’re right, Mr. Slant. That was in the sentence that came right before the part I quoted from Shahla Haeri’s encyclopedia article. I was almost going to include that but I was too lazy to type. She said there is no divorce provision in mut‘ah, because it automatically expires at the set time.

Sounds like a political desparecido case if I ever heard one. My co-worker did not wear the olive drab uniform, and nothing happened to her over it. She was just a fellow traveler.

Having lived in a state where political repression is that blatant, it makes me appreciate our Bill of Rights that much more; long may it live.