Salaam Alaikum Sheikh.
I wonder if you can help me with an issue I have inshAllah.
Recently my husband spoke to me about possibly entering into a muttah marriage with another woman. I feel very strongly that polygamy wouldn't work for us no matter what way he does it. It has left me anxious and find myself constantly worrying about what his plans are. Is muttah marriage permissible? Can he do it without me knowing? It feels so wrong to me on so many levels. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
[Name Withheld for Privacy]
Al-salamu 'alaykum Sister:
I pray that Allah grants you peace and tranquility.
To be clear, mut'a marriage is a marriage contracted for a specified and temporary period of time. The marriage automatically expires per the term specified in the contract unless expressly renewed by the marital partners.
Generally speaking, most Sunni scholars forbade mut'a marriage and considered it null and void--meaning, they considered it not to be a legitimate marriage.
Most Shi'i scholars permitted mut'a marriage under certain conditions of hardship and necessity. In other words, they considered it justified under exceptional circumstances.
But to address your question and the particular set of circumstances that you've raised: I do not believe it is permissible for your husband to engage in a mut'a marriage (or any marriage for that matter) behind your back or without your express permission. Marriage is based on consent, tranquility, and repose. Allah has specifically commanded spouses not to cause harm to one another, and instructed that ihsan (good deeds or goodness) can only elicit ihsan. The deserve of ihsan can only be ihsan, (55:60) Allah has taught us.
This means that if your husband takes another wife (temporary or not) without your permission, this gives you the right to talaq (divorce). Allah does not demand that people endure more than their capacity and ability, and Allah is most Merciful and Compassionate. Your husband should not expect you to handle more than your soul and spirit is able to handle. Moreover, for most women in the modern age, polygamy is demeaning and marginalizing because the social networks that used to exist in pre-modern societies that supported and upheld polygamy no longer exist. Consequently, polygamy often victimizes and isolates modern women in ways that are fundamentally unfair and that are inconsistent with the reasons that polygamy was permitted in the first place.
My counsel to you is to not accept a marital relationship that will traumatize you because ultimately this will not only rupture and break your family but it will alienate you from Allah and affect your relationship with the Divine. Marrying behind your back is cheating and lying and deception are never permitted in Shari'ah law. Ultimately, if your husband insists on taking another wife, you have the right to leave him. Only Allah knows best, and you and your family will be in my prayers.
Wa al-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,
Shaykh Abou El Fadl