Temporary Marriage In Iran

Dinesh D'Souza

I wasn't in the audience at Columbia, so I didn't get to pose a question to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I would have guessed that he is pretty capable of answering questions about the Holocaust ("at least we didn't do it") and Iran's nuclear aspirations ("entirely peaceful").

Even his stated goal of wiping Israel off the map doesn't break the register on my surprise-o-meter. Nor would I be entirely astonished if there are many leaders in Israel who'd like to see today's Iran wiped off the map.

I would have liked to ask Ahmadinejad about the Shia practice of sigheh (in Farsi) or muta (in Arabic). This is the practice, widespread in Iran, of "temporary marriage." Such marriages are forbidden in Sunni Islam but they are permitted in Shia Islam.

The origin of temporary marriage is in the early days of Islam, when warriors would go to faraway battles and not return home for several months or even years. During this period, they were permitted to enter into temporary marriages which could be dissolved after an agreed-upon period by the man simply proclaiming the end of the arrangement.

Since Islam allows polygamy up to four wives, this was not considered a radical departure from the rules of the Koran.

Whatever you think of the original arrangement, it is mightily abused today in Iran. Mullahs who are traveling on pilgrimages routinely take temporary wives, sometimes for a week, sometimes for a day, sometimes for a few hours. In the West we call this prostitution.

In Iran it is hallowed by the name of sigheh and it has the full sanction of the law. One can only imagine the plight of poor women in Iran who are driven by necessity to become de facto prostitutes. I'm sure there are some at the ACLU and on the left who would say the women are noble "sex workers" whose only deprivation is that they are not paid the minimum wage. They are, after all, consenting adults. But anyone who believes in female dignity and family values has to consider sigheh a complete scandal.

I'm curious how a fellow like Ahmadinejad, who likes to portray himself as a defender of human dignity and of the Muslim family, would respond to what his mullah friends are doing on a regular basis. These abuses of power--financial, political, sexual--are more likely to discredit and ultimately bring down the regime of the mullahs than all the "tough questions" about nuclear weapons and the Holocaust.

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