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Mutʿa (Arab., mattaʿa, (of God) ‘let one enjoy something’). Temporary marriage in Islam, a contracted marriage for a limited period. Based on Qurʾān 4. 24, this became a divisive issue between Sunni and Shīʿa Muslims. Sunnis take this to refer to marriage in the ordinary sense, Shiʿites that it authorizes mutʿa. The latter hold that the original text (suppressed by Sunnis) added, ilā ajalin musamman, ‘for a definite period’. Both parties agree that the Prophet Muḥammad allowed mutʿa in the early days, when Muslim men were engaged in campaigns which took them far from home for long periods. Sunnis then refer to ḥadīth in which Muḥammad makes it harām, appealing to the principle of ‘gradualism’ through which the true sunna became established (cf., badāʾ); and ʿUmar was explicit in forbidding it. However, the Shiʿites do not accept that ʿUmar had authority to prohibit what Muḥammad allowed.
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