LEBANON - HEZBOLLAH - MUTAA TEMPORARY MARRIAGES
By Hanin Ghaddar - November 25, 2009
Mohammad, a 40-year old Lebanese Shiite who lives in Hezbollah's stronghold
"And Hezbollah has been very successful in this regard," Mohammad
continued. It is hard to disagree. Hezbollah liberated
Mutaa is a form of "temporary marriage" only acceptable within Shiite communities, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures. In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The woman says: "I marry myself to you for [a specific period of time] and for [a specified dowry]" and the man says: "I accept." The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal. A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the "Party of God"-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained.
Temporary marriage has long been practiced by Shiites around the world.
However, it has recently become more commonplace in
Hezbollah's recent encouragement of this phenomenon highlights the
compromises it had been required to make in order to remain the preeminent
force among its domestic Shiite constituency. As the party gained
strength due to its effectiveness in fighting
According to Shiite writer and activist Lokman Slim, Hezbollah party members are not allowed to practice temporary marriage for security reasons, unless assigned by the party to do so. "We should make a clear distinction between Hezbollah as an organization and Hezbollah as it runs the community's culture and social affairs," Slim said.
But for everyone else, Hezbollah apparently decided to expand its support
for this practice after the 2006 war, to maintain its support base and keep the
The havoc wreaked by the 2006 war and a more difficult domestic political situation also encouraged Hezbollah to shift its position in order to consolidate support. Sheikh Mohammad Ali Hajj, imam of the Imam Ali Mosque in the Sad Bouchrieh district of Beirut, remarked that after 2006, Hezbollah had to strengthen its support among its communities. "They created a military group, The Resistance Saraya, which took in anyone ready to join, religiously and ideologically committed or not," he said. "They had to contain the Shiite community around it with all its aspects, the good and the bad, and found measures to control it, including the temporary marriage," he added.
Hezbollah is in charge of enforcing resolution in the event unpleasant scenarios arise, such as pregnancy or disagreements between couples. "It is only a matter of more control rather than being tolerant," Slim explained.
There is no doubt that Hezbollah's legitimization of mutaa has
created semi-official channels that Lebanese Shiites use to hook up. Hassan, a
30-year old Shiite from
"My cousin, a hard-core Hezbollah supporter, finds pleasure in using his mini-market as a hub where both men and women refer to him to hook them up in a temporary marriage. He even has Excel sheets to help him organize and control the contacts, and of course he practices temporary marriage himself," he added with a smile.
Nevertheless, Hassan remains very critical of those in the community who use this kind of marriage as a cover for prostitution networks functioning inside the suburbs. "Some made it a trade and Hezbollah usually turns the blind eye to these networks because they do not want the Lebanese Internal Security to interfere in its stronghold."
However, once the sex trade got out of control, Hezbollah finally requested the ISF to enter the southern suburbs to help control some of the community's illegal practices, such as traffic, drugs, and prostitution. This month, The ISF with Hezbollah and the heads of local municipalities in the southern suburbs under the slogan "Order comes from Faith," initiated by Hezbollah, to control these crimes.
There is also no shortage of ways that Shiite men and women make contact to
form a temporary marriage; sometimes, the experience ends up bringing them
closer to Hezbollah. Ali, for example, is a 26-year old man from southern
The men and women are put in separate rooms, but he finds a way to communicate. "If I want to approach a girl, I ask her for her number and call her later, but mostly I get approached by girls who directly ask me if I am interested in temporary marriage," Ali said. "Although they are veiled from top to bottom, you can always guess how she looks like from her face and eyes," he added with a wink.
With his designer jeans, trendy haircut, and sharp sense of humor, Ali seems
to be an unlikely Hezbollah supporter. He has always supported the resistance
and what Hezbollah has achieved in this regard; however, in the last couple of
years, he has developed a strong support for Hezbollah on issues he was
previously critical of, such as its affiliation with
Coincidently or not, these developments took place as he was drawn to practice temporary marriage. In his southern village, it is difficult to meet girls and have normal relationships with them, and he acknowledges that getting closer to the party's social network has helped him meet more girls who were open to this kind of marriage. Gradually, Ali stopped drinking alcoholic beverages, took up praying and fasting, and never skipped a Hezbollah's rally or village events, where he also meets potential "wives." However, it is obvious that the slickly dressed Ali never gave up his love of fashion.
It is, of course, not only men who take advantage of mutaa. Zahra, a fully veiled 25 year-old Shiite woman who is completing her master's degree in English literature, comes from a family of Hezbollah supporters and party members, and has been a lifelong Hezbollah member herself. She explained that she practices temporary marriage because it is a religious duty.
"I take good care of myself, and make sure I look perfect every time I go into a mutaa marriage because I should please my husband, temporary or not," she said. "It is my religious duty to do so. God allowed this kind of marriage for a reason, and I never question God's wishes."
Zahra is divorced and believes that Islam has acknowledged sexual desires
for both males and females, which is why temporary marriage is permissible.
"It is also a religious duty to fulfill your sexual desires," she
insisted, noting that temporary marriages with women whose husbands had been
While the practice of mutaa may sound exceedingly strange to those
outside of these communities, it is an important outlet for many Lebanese
Shiites. As the community is increasingly defined by Hezbollah's conservative
ideology and isolated by the increasing sectarian divisions in
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