A Wife For an Hour In Iran

How the Islamic Republic is increasing its abuse of women -- and using a religious cloak to do it.

According to a recent Farsi-language news story, a man identified as Ahmad, a devout Muslim from the Islamic Republic, conducted sigheh, a “temporary marriage,“ with a woman identified as Elnaz. 

Sigheh is allowed under Iran’s Islamic and Sharia law. After three days Ahmad allegedly stole money from Elnaz’s family and left her. After the marriage contract, it was revealed that he also has another wife and children. Elnaz cannot take him to court, divorce him, or marry another person because the marriage was Islamic and legal. Iranian officials and media outlets are also blaming her for what happened to her. 

Under Iran’s Islamic and Sharia law, there exist two kinds of halal (religiously permissible) marriages: permanent and temporary. The latter is called ”sigheh” or “motaa” (enjoyment). Sigheh is a verbal contract that can last as long as desired; an hour, two hours, half a day, a week, a year, or more. Although sigheh is sold to women as a real marriage and that the man will truly treat the woman as his wife, the real story is different. Normally, in such a contract, the man gives something to the woman (money, place to sleep, etc.) in exchange for sex and complete control over her body and emotions. 

The practice of sigheh only increased after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Intriguingly, Iranian leaders and Imams have their own Islamic justification for such an act. They argue that this tradition began with Muhammad during the wars he engaged in for several reasons, including that Muhammad’s troops were away from the wives for a long period and needed to release their sexual desires. As a result, Muhammad said that Allah allows temporary marriages.  Iranian clerics also argue that many of Muhammad’s troops were killed during holy wars.  Therefore, many women were left without husbands. The story goes that Muhammad allowed the men to temporarily marry as many women as they desired.

In addition, according to Iranian imams, Muhammad said, “Whoever does one time temporary marriage in his life, his status will be elevated to Imam Hassan (his grandson and Shiite second Imam) and whoever does two times temporary marriages in his life, his status will be elevated to Imam Hosseinn (his grandson and Shiite third Imam) and whoever does three times temporary marriage in his life, his status will be elevated to Imam Reza (his grandson and Shiite eighth Imam) and whoever does four times temporary marriage in his life, his status will be elevated to me, he would be like me, and his place would be with me in heaven.“ So the more temporary marriages, the better. 

In reality, in these situations, several crimes are occurring against women. The “pious” Muslim man or cleric in Iran will normally prey on women who live in poverty and are financially desperate. Some men blackmail women by forcing them into a temporary marriage. Many personal stories reveal how Iranian officials and judges exploit detained girls and promise them that they will set them free if they marry them temporarily. Some virgin girls who are about to be executed are forced to temporarily marry the judge because virgins should not be executed according to Islamic law. 

In addition, in sigheh, the man not only thinks that his action is halal according to Islam and God, but also he feels positively about his treatment of the woman because God is going to reward him. In Shia Islam, it is said that those men who participate in temporary marriages get a special blessing from Allah (God) because they are doing a favor to the women. 

Furthermore, these kinds of temporary marriages give the men a robust tool to prevent the victims (the women) from suing them for rape. The man can argue that the sex was conducted legally according to the Islamic law. 

Although it is referred to as “marriage,” sigheh provides the perfect environment for the man to easily dodge responsibility and relieves the man from any kind of commitment. In reality, he treats the women as a sex tool. And normally, no one will permanently marry a woman who was once in sigheh even if she was forced into it. The word “marriage” here belies the fact that sigheh is solely “a pay for sex” contract. 

Ironically, this Islamic law, which was aimed at helping the Shia Islamic Imams exploit women, is now being used against them as a method of resistance. Many young Iranians who want to escape punishment for being together argue that they are in sigheh when they get arrested by the moral and religious police. 

Sigheh, the temporary marriage, is another Islamic method in Iran to exploit, subjugate and dehumanize women. Iran’s Imams and clerics have their “Islamic” way to sleep with women for as long as they desire and to force women into sex. While Iranian mullahs and officials criticize premarital sex in the West and they bash the Western concept of having a boyfriend or girlfriend, they are totally fine with their actions of “religiously” and “legally” paying women for sex or forcing them into sigheh.