Your Dispatches: January 2011 Archives

Haiti...just another death by cholera

Amy E. A. Osborne is a Canadian medical student who vounteered in Haiti over the Christmas break.  She writes...

 i was hunched down by a bed, making a patient drink ORS when Deska, our driver, came up and tapped me frantically on the shoulder. he tells me there is an emergency. i follow him to the other ward and find a teenage boy lying half-naked on one of the cholera beds. i think to myself that he must be mortified to be lying there, so exposed, his naked buttocks hanging over the hole cut in the cot so his diarrhea will simply fall into the bucket placed below his bed.

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Hezbollah and temporary marriage

Ruba Ali Al-Hassani of Toronto heard Hanin Ghaddar's report from Beirut about Hezbollah promoting mut'a, an old Muslim practice of temporary marriage on our January 6th program.

Listen to Rick's conversation with Hanin now

I am a Shi'ite Muslim, and while I on a personal level do not condone (mut'a), I feel the need to correct the erroneous information provided in the interview.

Mut'a marriage was not something that Ali, (prophet) Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, introduced. While Ali is an important figure to the Shi'ite community in Islam in particular, the law on mut'a marriage was introduced during Muhammad's time.

The context to it was to serve the needs of traveling Muslim men who had to be away from their wives. Whether they were single or married (Islam allows men to have up to 4 wives at the most), mut'a marriage was deemed a practical solution to help with people's (not just men's) needs in a legal and halal ("kosher") way. The only way sex can be practiced legally is in a marriage. Therefore, temporary marriage, with less responsibilities and less of a commitment than permanent marriage, seems to be the solution.

As marriage in Islam is a contractual relationship, so is Mut'a marriage. Your interviewee claimed that no contract is required; that the man and woman only need to recite a verse/statement. By doing so, she reflected a very common misunderstanding of Mut'a marriage. In fact, this misunderstanding is one of the reasons it is misused. The contract is there to protect the parties to the marriage, especially the woman.

The contract outlines how long the marriage will be, providing dates and times. Conditions can be placed. For example, living conditions, meeting places, etc. Also, a condition to the contract could be that no physical touch would take place. In such cases, the purpose behind the Mut'a marriage is to allow both partners to spend time in private, in a legal/halal/"kosher" way (Islamic law does not permit that an unmarried couple be alone in a room, lest sexual behaviour outside marriage should take place).

Some Muslims (though not all, and not all Shi'ites practice this) engage in Mut'a marriage not for the sexual aspect, as outlined above, but to provide the couple with a halal/kosher means to spend time together and get to know each other.

However, due to culture and personal preferences, many Muslims do not engage in Mut'a marriage. While some use it properly, and some misuse it.

It would be greatly appreciated if the information provided in today's interview be corrected on your show, in order to avoid any misunderstanding of Mut'a marriage.

thank you,
Ruba A. Al-Hassani
Ph.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School
Teaching Assistant, York University

Hanin Ghaddar's piece about this, in Foreign Affairs magazine.