hidayah & azfar | Photo by Azlan DuPree

When love is always in transit, and can be dangerous, are there alternative solutions that society will accept? Dina Zaman looks at Islamic marriages in this thought-provoking article.

hidayah & azfar | Photo by Azlan DuPree


I have many friends working in international development. The non-profit sector is teeming with women specialists working in poverty, conflict countries, landmine defusement. The work they do means borders, cultural differences, and gender are transient. Marriages, relationships and fidelity – all these are negotiated, just like how peace and conflict are. They are a pragmatic lot, my friends.

It was at one of these dinners which were organised when one or a few of them were in the city for a flying visit, that the subject of misyar and muta’ah marriages were raised. Some being observant Muslim women, didn’t want pre-marital sex. They are still young, smart and attractive. The jobs they have however are not conducive to a conventional marriage.

Nikah Mutaah is a fixed-term marriage, and quite popular among the Shi’a community and in countries like Iran and Iraq. The marriage is contractual, and the duration is fixed. When the contract ends, the union is dissolved. The wife receives the same rights as other wives in non-Mutaah marriages. Mutaah is also known as the traveller’s marriage, as it benefits professional nomads and the ilk. [1]

Nikah Misyar on the other hand is somewhat like a permanent marriage, but the spouses give up their rights on each other, such as providing for household expenses per se. [2] Wikipedia has quite a compact description of both marriages:

Nikah al-Mut‘ah resembles an ordinary conventional marriage in many, but not all, aspects. It commences in the same way as a Nikah except that a date of expiration for the marriage is added to the marriage contract and the wife has her rights restricted to some extent. The duration is decided by the couple involved. There are no restrictions about minimum and maximum duration. If the period is longer than what can be reasonably expected to be a lifetime, it will transform into a nikah.
During the period of the marriage, the couple are considered husband and wife, just as in a permanent marriage. At the expiration, the marriage is voided without undergoing a talaq (divorce). In case of sexual intercourse, the woman must observe the iddah (waiting period) before she can marry anyone else.
Nikah Mut’a is a marriage with a pre-set time. It is important to note that different Marja (authorities) may give different fatwa (legal rulings) on some issues. Many of the following rules may be changed in the Islamic marriage contract.
The marriage is agreed to be voided after a pre-set time. This permits the couple to expect and prepare emotionally for the end of the marriage.

The couple do not inherit from each other. Since the marriage is not permanent, the couple is not considered a single, merged unit.
The husband is financially responsible for any children resulting from the marriage. As it is believed that a woman should not be burdened with the responsibility of providing for a family, she is allowed to work and spend her money as she chooses.
The wife may leave her house against her husband’s will.
The husband need not pay for the wife’s expenses. This complements the above point.
The wives are not counted toward the maximum of four. Since the husband is not required to support the wife, and the marriage is not permanent, the circumstances leading to the restriction of having no more than four wives does not apply. However, many Shi‘a scholars have ruled that one cannot take more than four temporary wives.
The woman observes iddah at the end of the marriage. That is, she must wait before remarrying – but only if she had sexual intercourse.
Men are not allowed to marry women of non-monotheistic religions, and women can only marry Muslims.
Misyar marriage fits within the general rules of marriage in Sunni law, on condition merely that it fulfil all the requirements of the Shariah marriage contract i.e.:

  • The agreement of both parties
  • Two legal witnesses (Shahidain)
  • The payment by the husband to his wife of Mahr in the amount that is agreed.
  • The absence of a fixed time period for the contract
  • Shuroot, Any particular stipulations which the two parties agree to include in the contract and which are in conformity with Muslim marriage law.

Moreover, as explained by the Saudi Islamic lawyer Abdullah bin Sulaiman bin Menie, a member of the Higher Council of Ulema of Saudi Arabia, the wife can denounce at any time, as she sees fit, her renunciation of her financial rights, and require of her husband that he give her all her rights, including that he live with her and provide for her financial needs (“nafaqa”). The husband can then either do so, or grant her a divorce.
For these reasons, Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawi observes that he does not promote this type of marriage, although he has to recognise that it is legal, since it fulfils all the requirements of the usual marriage contract.He states his preference that the clause of renunciation be not included within the marriage contract, but be the subject of a simple verbal agreement between the parties.He underlines the fact that Muslims are held by their commitments, whether they are written or verbal.


The reader of the piece will argue that the Sunni Muslim should not even consider such marriages, especially Mutaah, as it is a predominantly Shia practice, but bear with the writer, as she seeks to ask the reader to suspend his or her belief and consider the predicament of her friends.

The friends I have, as I mentioned earlier, work in conflict areas. In the many cultures and countries they work in, the patriarchal system is practised. In countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, whereby a woman cannot enter certain spheres without a husband or muhrim, what is she to do?

I have a friend who I mentioned briefly in an article I had written for The Malaysian Insider, who has had 10 husbands. And she’s just 35 years old. She works in war torn countries. To do what she does, she has to have a husband.

“Helps that I’m a Shia,” she said.

But what about the Sunni Muslim woman who has to encounter such challenges? And this predicament is not just confined to women who work in such fields. What about the jetsetting professional, who desires some companionship, and yes sex, but in a halal manner. These women are young. Menopause is no longer a deterrent to a healthy sexual life, what with the latest in medical care. Why should they be denied of what is rightfully theirs? Also, with the way marriages end up in divorce these days, there is no such thing as forever.

Our dinner grew more lively.

“Basically, what you’re saying is this proposition is a halal friends with benefits arrangement,” I proposed.

“Yeah. It’s legalising fuck buddies. Look, I certainly don’t have the time to deal with all the shit that comes in a marriage. But I want it to be legal. Halal. I am Muslim. I cannot negotiate on that.”

Another friend disagreed. In Iran, such marriages happened only to working class women and “… prostitutes..” and that Iranians themselves frowned upon such practices. What on earth were women like us considering such a thing!

Polygamy was a no-no.

“We’re not the village bicycle who steals other women’s husbands.”

Of course various scholars have debated on this topic many times before. Murtada Mutahhari, whose book The Rights of Women in Islam I was recently introduced to, wrote [3]:

The defects and harm that have been mentioned in connection with fixed-term marriage are as follows:-

1. Marriage should rest on a stable foundation. A couple, when they are first joined by the pact of marriage, should consider them attached to each other for ever, and the idea of separation should not enter their minds. So a fixed-term marriage cannot be a stable pact for the couple.

That the foundation of marriage should be stable is quite right, but this objection arises when we replace permanent marriage by fixed-term marriage and wish to annul permanent marriage.

No doubt, when both parties have the means for permanent marriage, and have full and satisfactory information regarding each other and have full trust in each other, they may very well find themselves in the pact of marriage for ever.

Fixed-term marriage has been allowed in the shari’ah only because permanent marriage by itself, could not cope with human needs in all conditions and ,circumstances, and dependence entirely upon permanent marriage would unavoidably create a situation in which people would either be advised temporary asceticism or would be left to be drowned in the depths of sexual communism. It is quite clear that any young man and woman who had found all the desired prerequisites for a permanent marriage would not be greatly enthusiastic about a temporary alliance.

2. The women and girls of Iran, who subscribe to the Shi’ite faith have not welcomed fixed-term marriage and have considered it rather as an insult to them. Thus, the general opinion of the Shi’ahs has rejected it.

Our reply is firstly that the dislike of mut’ah (fixed-term marriage) is due to the misuse made of it by sensual persons. The law should apprehend such persons, and we shall discuss shortly this point of misuse. Secondly, the wish that fixed-term marriage should be welcomed like permanent marriage is misplaced and wrong, because the philosophy of fixed-term marriage is based upon the non-availability of means, and the inability of both the parties, and one of them, to become permanently married.


Still, Mutahhari was observant of modern day challenges. He noted that the current socio-economics of a society and also changing social mores made permanent marriage less viable. The book gives quite an exhaustive explanation on the pros and cons of such marriages versus permanent ones.

In 2006, Tok Guru Nik Aziz gave his support towards such marriages. [4] “These types of marriages, which Nik Abdul Aziz said were allowed in Islam, essentially permit husbands to not have the responsibility of providing for the materialistic needs of wives but just their sexual needs… He said such marriages were viable if consent had been obtained from the women who were willing to enter into such arrangements. ‘It is for them to decide if they want their spouses to provide for their sexual needs once a week or once a month,’ he said here yesterday,” The Star quoted on May 27.

In light of how the dynamics of relationships have changed, perhaps we all need to relook at these marriages that are illegal in Malaysia. And perhaps, provide a solution to men and women like my friends where love is always in transit and can be dangerous.


Further reading:
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikah_mut%E2%80%98ah
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikah_Misyar
[3] The Rights of Women in Islam – Murtada Mutahhari
[4] http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/5/27/nation/14367319&sec=nation

Dina Zaman writes for The Malaysian Insider and The Star. She is now working on her second book, Holy Men, Holy Women, which is being serialised in The Malaysian Insider.

16 replies on “Halal Fuck Buddies #LoyarBerkasih”

  1. As an atheist/agnostic who doesn't subscribe to religious believes or dogma, I find this pathetic. If you want sex and companionship minus all the inconveniences, then go ahead with it. Just don't try to manipulate religion and bend it to suit your selfish needs. Have fuck buddies, organize swap/swinger parties for all you care, just don't try to justify it's "halal-ness" by quoting scriptures and/or scholars and/or some Arab culture etc. It simply makes a further mockery of religion.

  2. Heh, you would probably need to add a mandatory blood test to ensure no close relative/sibling copulation will happen. Given such types of marriages and the lack of a "surname" to trace the lineage; you would end-up with high potential in-breeding resulting in birth defects including autism … etc.

  3. Heh, you would probably need to add a mandatory blood test to ensure no close relative/sibling copulation will happen. Given such types of marriages and the lack of a "surname" to trace the lineage; you would end-up with high potential in-breeding resulting in birth defects including autism … etc.

  4. My concern is – what happens IF children are born out of such union? It’s all well if wives are super-independent and high-earning, I guess. But even then, is it really in the best interest of children when parents are merely legal fuckmates but physically absent most of the time?

    And does it mean that husbands don’t need to provide for children from the ‘misyar union’ wives if it is just the wives who give up their rights to material wealth/need?

    My point is: just because it’s legal doen’t mean it’s good. Anyway, my other point is that even if the authorities do’t really promote or ‘legalise’ ‘misyar’, many modern couples are already ‘misyar’ed. And I’m probably in one already (but don’t realize it till I read the article above!).

    Let me share: I have a ‘halal fuck buddy’ too but i prefer to call him ‘husband’. We had an agreemend called ‘nikah’.

    He travels the world 80 per cent of the time due to the nature of his job. I’m the ‘wife’, independent, have a well-paying job and takes care of the children when he’s away.

    The money he provides for the family goes to the children’s needs and education. I made it clear that he don’t need to give me money/car/house/jewellry just because I’m ‘wife’. (Altruistic, you say? Well, I’m too busy making money/mummying my kids to even care, lol).

    Thus far, readers, I assure you that my needs are met (no, I don’t have to resort to anything ‘haram’, and I accepted the limitations of being a woman – we can’t take-on another husband).

    Because ‘husband’ is high-earning and traveling, I cannot deny him his right to take on another wife should he wish to. I made it clear that he can do so [(with the provisions that: (a) – he inform me about it before commiting to such marriage; (b)- his future wife must be independent and educated woman like me, and; (c) – he and I must explain to the children about polygynous marriage to minimise distress and worries they might have about such union].

    It sure sounds like I’m in a ‘misyar’ union – or is it ‘nikah misyar with the possibility of a polygyny sould the need arise’?

  5. Kudos Dina for this well written article! I like how you don't really take a side, but present things as they are. These loopholes that women are taking shows a lot about how people are starting to view religion and marriage. In an ideal world, women wouldn't be banned from public without a man, but we don't live in an ideal world. These women have limited options in life, and if they somehow managed to find a legal and acceptable loophole for them to have their needs met, good for them.

  6. dont need to look that far. this exists in places in indonesia, where "marriages" last for a few hours to legalize prostitution.

  7. you know the author is full of crap when half the article is copy pasted from Wiki. Also, this model of marriage doesn't exist in Islam. Yes, it might be practiced by a small minority but it doesn;t mean applying 21st century frustrastions will make it lawful. Overall, one of the worst articles I've ever read.

  8. hey Dina! how do i get in touch with you? you hit the spot on this one… need to talk…..from an ex astro colleague… Will Poh

  9. Aiya… a written or a verbal agreement would do just as fine. A verbal one between consenting adults would be the least troublesome, no?

  10. Interesting article, Dina. Thanks for sharing.

    I'm however surprised that your friends had to resort to such marriage arrangements in order to enter certain areas in conflict zones. Having worked in Afghanistan before, I had never heard or met any women (whether international or local) who had to resort to this. Women can engage a muhrim (who do not have to be her husband) to travel into conservative areas.

    I'm not sure whether the information that such marriage arrangement is necessary for reasons of accessibility/mobility is valid. I tend to believe that it's more for the purpose of validating/making sex halal.

  11. Ok, this one's mind-blowing! I'm not sure I could engage in the halal fuck buddy system, never mind the halal certification. It'd be too confusing for me if I were to go into a few due to my occupation. However, the two marriage models prescribed here do sound very revolutionary, I mean it's marriage that's designed around a need. I am perhaps still stuck in the 20th century.

  12. Wow! My head is spinning with all these categories of "marriage" and legalese. I like the statement that I think aptly defines all of this: “Yeah. It’s legalising fuck buddies. Look, I certainly don’t have the time to deal with all the shit that comes in a marriage. But I want it to be legal. Halal. I am Muslim. I cannot negotiate on that.”

  13. Interesting. Practicality over riding semantics. But here where we're ruled by dogma…… it will be a cold day indeed….

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