Halala, Temporary Marriage, And Muta’a
Munir M Hasan, PhD
I have come across many people who ask about the religious validity of Halala. Halala is considered a process in which a divorced woman, if she wants to remarry the same husband, she first has to marry another man, and after getting divorce from the second husband she is allowed to remarry her first husband. This is understood on the basis of a verse of the holy Qur’an which says:
[2:230] So, if he (a husband) (finally) divorces her (his wife), it is not lawful for him to remarry her until after she has married another man and gotten divorced. In that case there is no blame on either of them if they reunite in marriage, provided they think that they can keep the limits of Allah.
Many scholars interpret this verse in a way and advise a divorced woman to marry a man first other than her previous husband, and after getting a divorce from him, remarry her first husband. This interpretation has given rise to a type of marriage which can be called a “short term contract, or temporary marriage”. In this case the second marriage of the divorcee is performed for a defined period which is agreed before marriage, which may range from one day to a number of days only.
To me, this interpretation and practice is being carried out interpreting this verse in isolation neglecting many other verses of the holy Qur’an on marriage. This interpretation and practice is a clear contempt, humiliation, insult and below the dignity of the class of women. There is no concept of any short term contract marriage in Islamic teachings. Before I give the reference of some Qur’anic verses, let us first see how the marriage is understood in various major religions of the world.
Marriage is considered a permanent and life time contract between a man and a woman not only in Islam, but also in other religions as well. For example, in Christianity, on the occasion of marriage, the couple is asked to pronounce the words:
“I, ____, take you, ____, to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, . . . . . “
Jews also consider marriage as a life time contract which can be broken only in some extraordinary circumstances. The Talmud reflects the tragedy of a failed marriage when it says, “Even God sheds tears when a couple divorces.” In an obsolete funeral custom in some Hindu sects, the wife of a deceased husband used to end her life in a tradition called “Sati” where a widow used to immolate herself on her husband's pyre or commit suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband's death. And in Islam, divorce has been defined as the worst possible action in all the actions which are permitted. Some verses of the holy Qur’an are quoted here to show the relationship of husband and wife as the lifetime partners.
[30:21] And of His signs, another one is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may find comfort with them, and He planted love and kindness in your hearts; surely there are signs in this for those who think about it.
[25:74] And they pray: "Our Rabb! Make our wives and our children to be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders of the righteous."
[16:72] It is Allah Who has made for you mates from your own species and He is the One Who gives you sons and grandsons (through those wives);
(One of the purposes of marrying is to have children and grandchildren.)
[4:12] You shall inherit one half of your wives' estate if they leave no child, but if they leave behind a child then you will get one fourth of their estate, after fulfilling the terms of their last will and the payment of debts. Your wives shall inherit one fourth if you leave no child behind you; but if you leave a child, then they shall get one-eighth of your estate; after fulfilling the terms of your last will and the payment of debts . . . . .;
(These orders of Allah apply to a married couple when one of them dies before the other.)
[4:24] All women other than these are lawful provided you seek them in marriage with gifts from your property (dowry), desiring chastity and not lust.
Although the divorce has been allowed in Islam, but before taking this action, initially some stages are defined to keep them united and avoid divorce.
[2:229] Pronouncement of divorce is twice: then she should be allowed to stay with honor or let go with kindness;
[4:35] If you fear a breach of marriage between a man and his wife, appoint one arbiter from her family and another from his; If they wish to reconcile, Allah will create a way of reconciliation between them. Indeed, Allah is All Knowing, Aware.
So, the marriage is a lifetime binding between a man and a woman. The purpose is not only to love each other and get physical and mental satisfaction, but also to form a family set up where their children may be brought up in a congenial environment. And if due to any reason it becomes difficult to live together, still Qur’an imposes some restrictions in an attempt to keep the marriage intact. Initially, it is ordered that final divorce cannot be given in one sitting or on one occasion. It has to be done in three stages on three different occasions. In verse 2:229 two opportunities are given to keep the marriage intact by re-uniting after the pronouncement of the first and second divorce. It is because, the decision of divorce might have been taken due to some misunderstanding or due to anger, and they might realize it later. So they are given time to reconsider their decision before a final (third) decision of divorce is taken. And during the intervening period it is desired to try to resolve the issue through arbitration to keep the marriage intact.
It can be seen that in the presence of such Qur’anic orders there is no room for the short term or temporary marriage which destroys the whole philosophy and purpose of marriage.
Then what is the meaning of the verse 2:230 as quoted above? As I mentioned earlier, the concept of Halala has been devised by some scholars considering just one verse of the holy Qur’an in isolation neglecting many other verses on marriage. Considering other verses as well, it become clear that the actual message of the verse 2:230 is that:
Divorce is not a child’s play. It has to be taken very seriously with cool mind.
The real purpose of this restriction is that the man should think seriously before final (third) divorce. It should be kept in mind that he will not be able to marry the same woman again. And this serious thinking, especially about their children, may also become a strong tool for the reconciliation to avoid divorce.
When a divorce has taken effect with all the efforts of reconciliation, then it is not worth to remarry the same woman with whom it was not considered possible to live.
And finally, after the divorce, the divorced woman is allowed to enter into another marriage contract like an ordinary marriage with the same aim as that of the first marriage – to live together for the life time. However, by chance, if even this second marriage of woman fails and ends up with the divorce, only then the first husband is allowed to marry her.
The conclusion is that whenever a marriage is solemnized, the aim should be to live together for life time. The pre-defined temporary marriage is like Muta’a which is not permitted in Islam. Halala, also being a temporary marriage, is like Muta’a and is not allowed at all.