Thursday, September 23, 2010

Muta' in Iraq

IWPR reports on the rise of muta', or temporary marriage, in Iraq:
"Despite a lack of hard figures, anecdotal evidence indicates that the popularity of mutta marriages has grown dramatically in recent years.

"According to Mazin al-Shehani, the former head of a Baghdad provincial government committee in charge of displaced people and immigrants, a succession of recent wars – from the Iran-Iraq conflict to the United States-led invasion – is responsible for the rising popularity of mutta...

"'The high number of widows has made Iraq a market for mutta,' he told IWPR. 'There was no other answer to the problem of widows... it was the spontaneous solution.'

Shehani, who is allied to a popular anti-American Shia cleric, Muktada al-Sadr, said mutta had historically served to 'satisfy the needs of a woman who could not get married for whatever reason'.

"Dr Saeed al-Essadi, a professor of psychology at Basra university, said the rise of mutta was linked to unemployment and a weak economy, which had made it prohibitively expensive for many people to get married and raise a family.

"Strict sexual mores that prohibited unmarried men and women from mixing had, he said, also contributed to mutta's popularity.

"Several observers argued that the internet and mobile phones had also played a part in the mutta boom by fostering virtual courtships that could only eventually be consummated through temporary marriages."

The rise in temporary marriage is almost certainly due to the combination of modern technology and post-war economic factors. A critical aspect to this, however, is that the practice is permitted only among Twelver Shi'ites. If it becomes prominent, then it will be perhaps the most visible, emotionally charged everyday difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq. What might the consequences of this be? Greater sectarian tension at a social level? Sunnis drifting into Shi'ism so as to be able to practice it?



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