Shias claim Muta to be legal and according to Islam. Is this claim correct? What does the Quran say? What does history say?
Fixed-Term/Temporary/Pleasure Marriage are different names for the Arabic word of "Mut'a" which is a contract between a man and woman, much in the same way the Long-Term/Permanent/Conventional Marriage is. The main difference is that the temporary marriage longs only for a specified period of time, and man and woman will become stranger to each other after the expiration date without divorce. One misconception regarding temporary marriage is that some people think that the woman engaged in temporary marriage can have contract every other hour. This is completely misrepresentation of temporary marriage. After such contract has been expired, the woman has to wait for two months (Iddah) before which she can not marry any one else. This issue, among others, will be discussed later in detail. Besides, there are many other conditions for performing Muta as well.
The first one who legislated Mut'a with all the rules pertaining to it, was the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF), after it was revealed in Quran. All Muslims agree that the Messenger of Allah legislated Mut'a and made it legal after his migration to Medina, and the Muslims practiced it during his lifetime. (see al-Mughni, by Ibn Qudamah, v6, p644, 3rd Edition). However there is a disagreement between the Shia and most of the Sunnis concerning whether the Prophet later banned it or not. Most Sunnis assert that although the Prophet legislated it, he later forbade it. This is while the Shia believe that temporary marriage was never abandoned by the Prophet (PBUH&HF). Besides no Quranic verse was revealed to ban the previous Quranic verse which made Muta legitimate, and Hadith can not oppose Quran. Allah revealed it in Quran, and it was being widely practiced to the end of his lifetime and during the period of Abu Bakr and the early days of Umar's rule, until Umar forbade it.
Allah, to whom belong Might and Majesty, said: (...Except the forbidden women) the rest are lawful unto you to seek them with gifts from your property (i.e., dowry), provided that you desire protection (from sin), not fornication. So for whatever you have had of pleasure (Istamta'tum) with them by the contract, give unto them their appointed wages as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what you both agree (in extending the contract) after fulfilling the (first) duty. Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise. (Quran 4:24)
In the above verse, the Arabic equivalent of the word "marriage" or any of its derivatives has NOT been used. Rather the derivative of word "Mut'a" (pleasure/temporary marriage) has been used, i.e., "Istamta'tum". The word Istamta'a is the tenth verbal form of the root m-t-a. As we will show shortly, the word Istamta'a has also been widely used in the authentic Sunni collections for Temporary Marriage. Of course, Mut'a is one type of marriage, but some of it's regulations are different than the permanent marriage, including the fact that the couple can extend this contract by mutual agreement as the end of verse specifies.
Moreover, if we look at the Sunni commentaries of Quran, many Sunni scholars such as Fakhr al-Razi confirm that the above verse (4:24) was revealed about the Temporary Marriage (Mut'a). They straightforwardly mentioned that temporary marriage became Halaal (permitted) DUE TO the above verse, but they assert that it was later prohibited. It is astonishing that many Sunni commentators mentioned under the above verse that: Ali said: The Mut'a is a mercy from Allah to his servants. If it were not for Umar forbidding it, no one would commit (the sin) of fornication except the wretched (Shaqi; an utmost wrong-doer)." Tafsir al-Kabir, by al-Tha'labi, under commentary of verse 4:24 of Quran; - Tafsir al-Kabir, by Fakhr al-Razi, v3, p200, commentary of verse 4:24;
A very similar tradition has also been narrated by Ibn Abbas (RA), and was mentioned by al-Tabari and al-Tha'labi in their Tafsir of Quran. It is interesting to note that Umar did not attribute the prohibition of Mut'a to the Prophet (PBUH&HF). They were others who did that after Umar mainly to justify what he did. Umar clearly mentioned that: "Mut'a WAS permitted at the time of the Prophet and I PROHIBIT it!" The great Sunni scholar, Fakhr al-Razi, who has been given the title of "Imam al-Mushakkikeen" (the leader of ever-questioners/ever-doubtful) by the Sunnis, in his voluminous commentary of Quran mentioned under the verse of Temporary Marriage that: Umar said: Two types of Mut'a were (legal) during the time of the Prophet and I forbid them both, and I punish those who commit it. They are: Mut'a of pilgrimage and Mut'a of women. Tafsir al-Kabir, by al-Fakhr al-Razi, v3, p201 under verse 4:24 - Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v1, p52
Also in another Sunni commentary it is reported that: Umar said, while on the pulpit: "O folk! Three were (allowed) during the time of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF), and I forbid them, and make them Haraam, and punish on them. They were: Mut'a of women, Mut'a of Hajj (pilgrimage), and saying 'Hayya Ala Khair al-Amal'." Sharh Al-Tajreed, by al-Fadhil al-Qoshaji, (Imama Section) - al-Mustaniran, by al-Tabari