Real relationships, marriage disrespected across the world

November 8, 2010 — by Anika Jhalani

“Toot it and boot it.” “Take it and break it.” “Love it then shove it.” Clearly, everlasting love is mundane; Sinatra has been replaced with Soulja Boy, movies like “Borat” are rented over “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and engagement rings are now rare commodities.

Halfway across the world, the same problem exists but with a very different approach. It seems as if Shiite Muslim men can’t buy enough diamond rings. In order to satisfy their desire for many woman, Shiite men have been practicing temporary marriage for centuries. This kind of marriage, referred to as Muta’a, the Arabic word for pleasure, allows Muslim men to marry any woman who accepts their offer for any period of time, and then take a divorce and move on.

Recently, reporting on this sensitive issue has been broadcast by international news groups. The National Public Radio investigated cases of Muta’a in Najaf, Iraq, by following the stories of several woman who released details on how they suffered from this practice. Some woman wished to stay anonymous as they told their stories. They often described it as their only choice. One woman, Kawthar Kadhim, passionately explained her story of approaching a religious scholar to help her tuberculosis infected father and being turned down unless she entered Muta’a.

The initial reaction Americans have to the practice of Muta’a is shock. These marriages can last for several hours to months. The women who agree to it are so impoverished that they must accept the proposal to survive. However, many people in Muslim communities accept Muta’a as part of their culture.

According to some interpretations of the Koran, the prophet Muhammed told his fellow travelers that they could enter into temporary marriage with other women for a couple ounces of dates. Nowadays, women are simply offered a home or a job depending on the man they marry through Muta’a. Some religious leaders claim Muta’a is a legitimate and fair practice since no woman is forced to enter into it, but there are those who abuse it.

Muta’a marriage is controversial because it is often abused to the point where it becomes borderline rape or prostitution. Corrupt religious figures refuse to give women jobs unless they enter into Muta’a with them. Sometimes, when women come to religious places for guidance, they receive seminars on the benefits of Muta’a marriage and are brainwashed into thinking it is the right, and often the only choice.

Many Americans may view this practice as grotesque, but Muta’a is not very different from “romantic” endeavors here in our nation. People have started to set aside love and look at marriage as either a fiscal arrangement or a completely outdated custom. The term “gold digger” may come to mind when describing these women, yet in context, the circumstances faced by these members of the Muta’a cannot be termed as such.

We are often quick to judge other cultures, even when our own are not so different. It is time to be introspective rather than judgemental; Muta’a and romantic relationships in America are similar, just with different labels. If we choose to question foreign practices, we should try to fix those in our nation first.

Whether it be in Shi’ite Iran or here at home, love needs a comeback. Women shouldn’t be forced into Muta’a, and the Judge Judy divorce court shouldn’t be on prime-time television. The attraction techniques used by men are becoming slow and outdated, but whatever kind of date they use to reel her in, nutty or romantic, women deserve more than a “hit it and quit it.”

Where is the love? Soul mates should not be as extinct as dinosaurs, and the Shane Company shouldn’t be filing for bankruptcy. Whether it be in Shiite communities or American ones, marriage should not be temporary or taken lightly. Forget New Boyz; she is going to, and should, tie them down.

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