Mosque sermons in Tajikistan tend to focus on issues that affect people's everyday lives.
These days, the hot-button topic of many sermons in Dushanbe has been temporary marriages -- a phenomenon that was almost unheard of in Tajik society until recently.
Recently, at a gathering following Friday Prayers on June 8, prominent Dushanbe Imam Eshon Abdul-Basir Saidov warned women against entering into temporary marriages, which religious leaders say have become a trend in Dushanbe over the past two or three years.
Echoing concerns voiced by his fellow imams, Saidov says dozens of Tajik women have fallen victim to "Iranian-style temporary marriage," known as mut'a.
Fairly widespread, and legally approved in predominantly Shia Iran, mut'a is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a religion which automatically dissolves upon the completion of a term agreed upon by both parties prior to the marriage.
Mut'a is not recognized by Islam, and Sunni school of thoughts which is followed by the majority of Tajik Muslims.
Nevertheless, says Zurafo Rahmoni, the head of the Culture Department of Tajikistan's Islamic Revival Party, "nowadays we increasingly hear about Tajik women entering into mut'a matrimony with Iranian citizens living here."
Tajikistan has a sizeable Iranian community, the majority of which reside in Dushanbe and other major cities.
"These women are ultimately being left with no rights or protection both during and after their so-called marriages," Rahmoni says. "In all cases, the men eventually leave the country, leaving their temporary wives behind. The most painful part is that sometimes children are born into such unions."
Rahmoni blames the trend on the "dire" economic situation that prevails in Tajikistan.
"Many Tajik men have left the country for migrant work," he says. "There are foreign men coming to work in Tajikistan, and that's why the [mut'a] practice is on the rise in Tajikistan. Social and economic hardship are contributing factor to the rise of this phenomenon in recent years."
There are no official statistics about Tajik women who enter mut'a unions, but Rahmoni puts the number at "hundreds."
Tajik imams have dubbed mut'a "un-Islamic" and "contradictory to Tajik religious beliefs and traditions."
"Mut'a is an attempt to legalize prostitution," says Imam Saidov. "It shouldn't be recognized as a religious matrimony, and we consider it a sin."
In his Friday sermon, religious leader Saidov said Tajik women's "naivety and lack of awareness of their religious and civil rights" was to blame for their falling victim to temporary marriages.
For Maya, a 25-year-old hairdresser from Dushanbe, her temporary marriage was initially "love at first sight" with a man from a foreign culture.
Maya, who declined to give her full name, said she met her former partner -- an Iranian businessman -- a year ago in a city restaurant popular with well-to-do foreigners.
A marriage proposal came "surprisingly swiftly," and Maya accepted. She says the religious marriage ceremony was conducted by a friend of the groom, with two others attending as witnesses.
"He mentioned something about short-term marriages, but I didn't quite understand it, I thought he was just being cautious," Maya admits. "But he left six months later. I live with my baby daughter. I don't get any support from him, financial or moral."
To prevent such cases, Tajik imams are calling on women not to enter into religious matrimony with foreigners -- namely followers of Shi'a Islam -- without officially registering their marriages with the secular authorities and even signing legal, prenuptial contracts protecting women's rights in marriage and/or divorce.
Tajik laws do not recognize religious marriages -- temporary or otherwise. As a measure aimed at curbing polygamy, Tajikistan has banned mullahs from performing Islamic marriages, or "nikah," unless the couple presents their official marriage certificate.
Polygamy is a criminal offense in Tajikistan which carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.
Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Kayumars Ato in Dushanbe and it also has been amended since it was originally posted
What is Mutah? Is it Islamic?
“Mutah” translates literally to “pleasure” in Arabic. In the Shia context, Mutah refers to a “temporary marriage.” A man pays a woman a sum of money (i.e. a so-called “dowry”) and he can have sexual relations with her for however long they agree for in the Mutah contract. The Mutah time period can be as little as one night, or even one hour–enough time for the man to do the sexual act. For all intents and purposes, Mutah is prostitution: a man pays a sum of money in order to have sexual relations with a woman.
Mutah is considered permissible in the Shia faith. It is completely rejected by the mainstream Muslims (i.e. the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah). The Shia Ayatollahs slander the Prophet by arguing that he encouraged Mutah, whereas the Ahlus Sunnah valiantly rejects such blasphemy and adamantly holds that the Prophet categorically forbade Mutah.
Shi’ism not only allows Mutah but actively encourages it. Naturally, many Shia apologetics have a hard time accounting for this; oftentimes, the Shia laity themselves (especially the women) are in denial as to their own beliefs. The fact is that Shi’ism not only allows Mutah, but it actively encourages it and even forbids anyone from saying that Mutah is wrong. According to Shi’ism, the more Mutah a man engages in, the more reward he supposedly gets. Any person who does not believe in Mutah is considered to be a Kaafir (disbeliever) by the Shia Ulema. There is no debate on this amongst the Shia Ulema, and there is Ijma (consensus) amongst them on the Kufr of denying Mutah.
Al-Kafi is one of the four Shia books of Hadith; of the four, it is considered the most authoratative and authentic. We read one such Sahih Hadith, in which the Imam says:
“One who engages in Mutah once in his lifetime reaches the status of Imam Al-Hussain. One who engages in it twice becomes equal in status to Imam Al-Hasan. The one who performs it three times reaches the position of Imam Ali. And he who practices it four times acquires the level and position of the Prophet Muhammad.”
This is pure blasphemy to say that all a man has to do to get to the level and position of the Prophet is to have Mutah with four women. To say that a man who engages in prostitution can in any way, shape, or form be compared to the Prophet is heresy.
Here are some more Shia Hadith from Al-Kafi (narrated in al-Kulaini, Furoo al-Kafi, Volume 2, p.196):
1. Abaan Ibn Tulugh related that he said to Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, “Often during my travels I come across a very beautiful woman and I am not sure if she has a husband or if she is an adultress or if she is one of dubious character.” The Imam responded, “Why should you worry about all of these things? Your duty is to believe what she says, and if she says that she has no husband then you should engage in Mutah with her.” (Al-Kafi)
2. Zanaarah said, “I asked the Imam: ‘with how many girls can one do Mutah with?’ He replied, ‘with as many as you like; they are like hired girls.’” (Al-Kafi)
3. “If a man contracts Mutah once in his lifetime, Allah will grant him paradise.” (Al-Kafi)
4. “If a man does Mutah, he is saved from shirk.” (Al-Kafi)
Let us examine another Shia Hadith on the matter of Mutah:
Imam al-Sadiq (as) said: “The one who does not believe in our return [Al-Raj’ah] and does not consider our Mutah to be Halal is not from us.” (al-Bihar, al-Majlisi, v53, p92, Hadith #101)
And another interesting Shia Hadith:
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: “He who believes in seven things is regarded as a believer: the disavowal of idols and tyrants, the declaration of the divine leadership of the Imams, the belief of Rajaa, legality of Mutah, the illegality of the flesh of eel, and the illegality of passing the wet hands over the slippers (during the ritual ablutions).” (Narrated by Ali bin Ahmed bin Abdullah who narrated to us from his father from his grandfather from Ahmed bin Abi Abdullah al-Barqi from his father from Amr bin Shemr from Abdullah)
These are very peculiar beliefs indeed. How is it that Mutah is considered commendable in Shi’ism? Mutah is nothing other than prostitution. To believe that Mutah is permissible is to negate all the Islamic exhortations in regards to chastity, sexual modesty, and righteousness. Furthermore, it is complete blasphemy against our Prophet to say that he encouraged prostitution. Mutah is Zinnah (fornication); it is immoral and reprehensible.