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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Think We'd Just Call It Prostitution

In Iraq, a 1400 year old custom of Shi'ite Muslims has seen a resurgence: Temporary Marriage. Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, had outlawed this practice, but now it's back in vogue. The way it works is this. If a man sees a woman he wants to have sex with, he "marries" her for an hour or a night or a couple of days. He then has sex with her. And he pays her for it. Naturally, there are some restrictions. She must be unmarried at the time. A married man can do this, but a married woman cannot. A widow is good. A virgin is OK as long as her father consents. They say they do this to cut down on promiscuity. After all, it's not fornication if she's your wife - even if only for the hour. I'm not making this up. (I mentioned this practice in a class I was teaching 6 months ago, and people laughed. I think some thought I was kidding.) The other reason they say they do this is so that widows can make money and provide for themselves. I'll make an outrageous suggestion. If we're concerned about the plight of widows and orphans, why not just GIVE them the money?

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Elle said...

Give a woman some money, she shops for but a day.

Teach a woman to whore, she can shop for a lifetime.

John H said...

Malise Ruthven describes this practice in his (?) excellent book on Islam, "Islam in the World".

It stems in part from the erosion of the improvements to the position of women that Muhammad sought to provide in the Qur'an.

Muhammad's idea was that a husband could divorce his wife by three declarations separated by about a month, to give time for a reconciliation. This separation was not made absolutely explicit, however, so later Muslims were able to change this so that there was no need for any period in between each declaration: hence, "I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee". Classic example of legalism in practice ("strict" adherence to the law resulting in evasion of the law's true intent).

Similarly, the Qur'an allowed women to divorce their husbands and to retain/recover their dowry (bit hazy on the details I'm afraid) if they did so, but this got whittled away by all sorts of clever dodges (such as making the bulk of the dowry conditional upon the wife not divorcing her husband - cunning, eh? Not sure whether or not the husband is allowed to tell his wife that her money is "Corban"...)

Bowman said...

It isn't always for money. A lot of the times it is just a convienant way for a man and woman to get to know each other better. A woman can demand, in the contract, no sex to be involved. It is a good way for Shi'ite muslims to date, since dating in the western sense is a big faux pas.

I recommend the book, "Nine Parts of Desire" by Geraldine Brooks for a more detailed description of the practice.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

So the practice of "Pleasure Marriage" is, for some, a substitute for dating? Why call it "marriage?" In our culture, people date and then get married. You're saying they marry in order to date? Seems to me that belittles marriage. The article I cited discussed the financial/sexual angle.

Bowman said...

Yes, there isn't dating in most muslim socities.

Belittles marriage? Perhaps. But at least shi'ites have this option whereas sunni muslims don't. Consequently, the chances of a happy marriage are a lot slimmer since it is much harder for a man and woman to get to know each other before getting attached.

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