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Muta Marriage under Muslim Law in India

Muta Marriage
Muta Marriage


Muta Marriage 

In Shia law, there are two types of marriages: permanent and temporary (muta). The key difference is that in permanent marriage, the term is not specified, while in temporary marriage, it is.

A Shia male can enter into a muta marriage with a Kitabia woman (Muslim, Christian, or Jewish), or even with a fire-worshipper, but not with a woman of any other religion. However, a Shia woman cannot contract a muta marriage with a non-Muslim. Sunni law does not recognize muta marriage.

In a muta marriage, all the formalities of marriage must be observed, including offer and acceptance. It's crucial that the period of cohabitation and some dower are specified, or the marriage will be void. If the period is not specified, it's considered a permanent union, regardless of what the parties call it. 

In the case of Shobrat Singh v. Jafri Bibi, the court presumed a muta marriage based on cohabitation, leading to legitimate children. There's no minimum duration for a muta marriage, and the limit of four wives in regular marriages doesn't apply. The husband isn't obligated to provide residence to the muta wife.

Key aspects of muta marriage include:

- No mutual inheritance rights between spouses, but children are considered legitimate.

- Wife isn't entitled to maintenance unless specified, but she's entitled to maintenance under the Cr.P.C.

- If unconsummated, wife gets half the dower; if consummated, full dower.

- Iddat of three courses is required after consummation.

- Husband can refuse procreation and isn't obligated to provide residence.

- Marriage ends on term expiry, mutual consent, or death of either party. Husband can't divorce but can terminate early by gifting the term, entitling the wife to full dower. If the wife leaves before term expiry, the husband can deduct the proportionate part of the dower.


Distinction Between Muta and Nikah  


- Temporary marriage for a fixed period, often called "Marriage for pleasure."

- Recognized only by Shia Ithna Ashari school.

- Divorce not recognized; contract terminates on expiry unless extended.

- Dower must be specified; unconsummated muta entitles wife to half dower.

- Wife not entitled to maintenance unless specified, but entitled under Cr.P.C.

- No mutual inheritance rights; children considered legitimate.

- No limit to the number of wives.


- Permanent marriage recognized for socio-religious purposes.

- Recognized by both Shia and Sunni.

- Divorce recognized with formalities required.

- Dower not required to be specified; implied dower accepted.

- Wife entitled to maintenance.

- Mutual inheritance rights; children legitimate.

- Limited to four wives.

Distinction between Sunni and Shia Law of Marriage 

Sunni Law:

- Presence of witnesses necessary; absence makes marriage irregular.

- Proposal and acceptance can be informal.

- Marriage under compulsion or without intention valid with suitable dower to an equal man.

- Marriage with a Jewess or Christian valid, but irregular with idolatress.

- Marriage with wife’s aunt or niece irregular.

- Prohibition by affinity from marriage or illicit intercourse.

- No restriction on marriage duration.

- Plurality and unlawful conjunction prohibition during Iddat.

- Marriage during pilgrimage to Mecca valid.

- Period of Iddat varies based on menstruation status.


Shia Law:

- Witnesses not necessary.

- Proposal and acceptance must use terms of Nikah.

- Marriage under compulsion or without intention void.

- Prohibition against marrying non-Muslims.

- Marriage with wife’s aunt possible with wife's permission.

- Illicit intercourse before marriage creates prohibition.

- Muta marriage recognized.

- Prohibition during Iddat only for revocable divorce.

- Marriage during pilgrimage prohibited.

- Iddat period differs from Sunni law, with exceptions.

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