How is Mutah (temporary marriage) different from prostitution?

This was a question asked by an atheist friend of mine and I couldn't answer him satisfactorily.

Edit: The question is not about that its legitimate anymore but one would have to justify the circumstances (from a non Muslim point of view) in which it was once allowed. (From Sunni perspective)

  • add shia or sunni tags
    – smali
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 8:35
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    These comments help explain general circumstances under which muta is allowed.
    – infatuated
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 20:19

3 Answers 3


That's a very good and common question. There's actually a brilliant wisdom behind the practice that points to the superior wisdom of Islam.

In prostitution there is no moral basis, no moderation, no legal considerations, and no respect and responsibility in the sexual relationship. Prostitution is therefore an act solely motivated by one's arbitrary carnal desires and done without any regard to human decency, respect and responsibility.

Whereas in Mut'a a person who is unable to commit to a permanent relationship can instead satisfy his or her sexual urge/desire (which could otherwise led him/her to prostitution or other harmful/sinful forms of sexual satisfaction) through a safe, moderated, legally binding natural relationship which guarantees the dignity and rights of the sides involved in the relationship. Above all, in Mut'a, one's consciousness of Allah's decrees and oversight works to sanctify the relationship from a purely animistic pursuit into a sacred human practice. This is how Mut'a is made essentially distinct from and incomparable to prostitution.

For a comprehensive study of the origins, terms and validity of Mut'a according to Sunni and Shiite Jurisprudence see:

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    Hardly, its just like saying Mutaa is different from prostitution because its considered to be legal "among Muslims". Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:39
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    @HashirOmer, "its just like saying Mutaa is different from prostitution because its considered to be legal among Muslims". You fail to see how legal terms which work to enforce moderation and responsibility essentially distinguish Muta from prostitution.
    – infatuated
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:41
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    What i can understand is in short your answer looks like no more than an advertisement of some product named "legal prostitution". I am sorry, but it sounds like that... "It is illegal otherwise, name it mutta and it will be legal and no one will say you anything... use our product and be safe." Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 11:54
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    @ZiaUlRehmanMughal, Yes, but you would have to pretend that I didn't mention any of those several factors that distinguish Mut'a from prostitution. You would also have to take the complaint to Allah and Prophet Muhammad who allowed Mut'a to be legally practiced by muslims!
    – infatuated
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 16:33
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    @ZiaUlRehmanMughal, Evidences for what, legality of muta or what makes it different from prostitution? The original question asks for the latter and my answer was based on ijtihad not textual evidence from hadith or Quran. But if you are asking about textual evidence for permissibility of Muta in Islam, it is Quran: 4:24.
    – infatuated
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 8:13

This question ultimately needs to be asked from Allah. The verse exists in Quran. Yet the following answer to provide more context.

Literally this question has been asked by Abu Hanifa. The answer to it has been recorded in Al-Kafi Vol. 5, Pg. 450:

سأل أبو حنیفة ، أبا جعفر محمد بن النعمان صاحب الطاق فقال له : یا أبا جعفر ما تقول فی المتعة أتزعم أنها حلال؟ قال : نعم ، قال : فما یمنعک أن تأمر نساءک أن یستمتعن ویکتسبن علیک ، فقال له أبو جعفر : لیس کل الصناعات یرغب فیها وإن کانت حلالا و للناس أقدار و مراتب یرفعون أقدارهم و لکن ما تقول یا أبا حنیفة فی النبیذ أتزعم أنه حلال؟ فقال : نعم ، قال : فما یمنعک أن تقعد نساءک فی الحوانیت نباذات فیکتسبن علیک؟ فقال أبو حنیفة : واحدة بواحدة و سهمک أنفذ

Abu Hanifa asked Abu Ja’fa Mu’mun al-Taqh: “What do you think about Mut’ah? Do you think it’s halal?”.

“Yes!” Mu’min replied.
Abu Hanifa asked: “What has refrained you from ordering your women (sisters and daughters) to Mut’ah and making money out of it?

Mu’min said: “Not everything is desired by everyone. People have different ranks and all make effort to present their rank better (than what it actually is). Now tell me, what do you think of non-alcoholic beverages (ماء الشعیر)?

Abu Hanifa said: “It’s halal!”

Mu’min said: “So if you

think it’s halal then what has refrained you from putting your women to it and start selling and serving non-alcholic beverages and make money for you?!”

Abu Hanifa said: “Action and reaction and yours more severe!”

For the sake of brevity, I haven't pasted the entire discussion. But more questions are answered.

In Kafi (the most important Shia' book), the following chapters exist:

  • Temporary marriage ( 8 narrations)
  • Temporary marriage is only for emergency situations (4 narrations)
  • Temporary marriage is only allowed with a pious woman (6 narrations)
  • Required conditions of Temporary marriage. (5 narrations)
  • Repeating the conditions after permanent marriage. (5 narrations)
  • Minimum Mahr required for Temporary marriage. (5 narrations)
  • The period‌ of waiting (aka عده) for Temporary marriage. (3 narrations)
  • Increasing the time [of a Temporary marriage]. (3 narrations)
  • Defining time [for a Temporary marriage]. (5 narrations)
  • Mahr is not paid if there is a violation. (5 narrations)

I'll share one of the narrations which shows a stark contrast from prostitution:

-Muhammad ibn Ismael said: I was with Imam Reza (PBUH). A man asked if a women marries a woman temporarily with the condition that she doesn't get pregnant but she does. [What happens then?]

-Imam Reza said: "He did like the notion of disowning a child and said: "Does he deny his own child?!"

-And if he accuses his wife [of cheating with another]?

-It is not becoming of you to marry a woman who is not a believer or a Muslim. Allah says: The fornicator does not marry except a [female] fornicator or polytheist, and none marries her except a fornicator or a polytheist, and that has been made unlawful to the believers.. Such a marriage is forbidden for believers.

If you're still not convinced on how they are different? Well these two are truly incomparable.

  • In your comments I see you said:

Hardly, its just like saying Mutaa is different from prostitution because its considered to be legal "among Muslims"

Sex with a non-Mahram becomes is ZINA. Yet it becomes halal/recommended when she becomes your wife. (She becomes your wife by 2 tiny lines of words). Same logic is applied to Mut'ah.

  • Most important note: How is marriage different from a permanent marriage between Muslims where they haven't done the aqd (عقد) its ceremony as the way the Prophet did? Can't you just say they are a few silly words? Well without those silly words the marriage is considered Zina! With it it's considered Halal and rewarding. My point is we live in the realm of God/Allah. In his realm sayings those words (with the 100% intention of your heart that you approve and mean them) is what makes Allah accept it. Prostitution isn't accepted in the realm of our King, Allah. It has no rules. Permanent marriage or Mutah is accepted by Allah and blessed. How is having 4 wives different from men having for themselves and divorcing the women per agreement? Really not that much.

  • A prostitute will sleep have intercourse with multiple men, perhaps in the same day or week. Yet for Mut'ah, she can't even touch other non-Mahram men. As a result women of prostitution don't physical and mental issues. (too much sex isn't good for the body, it's never lovely, it get's kind of abusive when the person has paid for it and really demands you to do this and that and may get rough on the women)

  • Mutah is also heavily used as a fiance-ship period ie the boy and girl get to know each other, for like 2-3 months. If things were going good, then they make the marriage permanent. This gives the bride and groom a good chance to see if they are a good match and if needed divorce early. (I know non-Shias who have a fiance but not married and still can't touch or see their fiance without hijab. Some of them can't bare it and just remove their hijab.)

  • Prostitution is a way of making money. Mutah is not about that at all. It's more about fulfilling needs. He can go to a prostitute and pay to get love or go to women from people of the book or Muslim and simply get love. That itself is a good limitation and motivation. Really do you want to have sex with someone who's paid to make love to you or sex with someone who truly loves and wants you?! Such women aren't women of the street, they are socially acceptable women. In other words prostitution is a business transaction but Mutah is a social arrangement.

  • For prostitution there is no agreement. Mutah there is an agreement and a timeframe specified. Parties have rights.

  • For prostitution the mother may not know who the father is. Mutah has Iddah to avoid that.

  • If your entire purpose is to discuss this with non-Muslims as you mentioned (and avoid defamation as mentioned your comments) well brother ask the non-Muslims how many out of wedlock marriages or abortions do non-Muslims have and compare it to Islam. Islam has a far less rate on that. Why because you either don't do or if you do it's religiously legalized. Also in the west, men usually just have fun with the woman as in they're collecting a trophy and then say "women goodbye, I don't think we're a good match. It's not you it's me and say goodbye." Do you know how devastating that could be for a women?! The women won't ever be the same women. In addition the women is entitled to dowry and period of commitment. If a boy is known to sleep with women and walk away from his commitment then he is likely to lost his status quicker and more girls would know of his dirty tricks.

  • Mutah is meant as a solution for younger boys and girls. This problem is more common in the west (47% of high schoolers have intercourse). No matter what you do boys and girls get away with it. They're curious. With Mut'ah they can have a protected relationship ie there is a certain commitment period, there are notes they agreed on, the women won't be sleeping with others for a specific period, neither the boy is expected to just drift away before his commitment. (They can even agree to have no intercourse)

  • Marriage is about sexual desires but also a whole lot more. It's about a permanent bond and spiritual journey, having your own progeny, finding solace, etc. Mutah isn't meant to be permanent, though you can still finding some of the traits of a marriage example finding solace within a Mutah relationship. It really depends. Example a husband who's finding it really difficult to be in a relationship with a disgruntled wife. In that case he may have a longer relation with a pious women who's only bound to him.

A prostitute can be any women. For Mutah if the man is married then he has to seek permission from his wife to sleep with non-Muslim ladies. If the lady is a Muslim then he doesn't need her permission.

Having that said, they both do have some similarities as in a man may just have severe sexual desire and needs them addressed (on a travel, his wife is sick, deceased, in a separation, not getting enough sex). In the long run, masturbation and porn would be reduced. Many studies point out to the issues with masturbation and people will be brought closer, usually a person who needs sex, also wants love and vice versa.

In addition men have been given a great touchstone by Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq.

He was asked about what kind of women are good to do Mutah with? Imam replied: A lady who listens with heed when you explain Mutah (it has certain boundaries: time frame, dowry and you shouldn't be with another) to them. ( ie she isn't the kind of woman who is like "I don't care about this, I just want sex, let's get over with it"... She has modesty but also wants to have a joyful time with a man).

I know of it being a narration but I definitely have not quoted it verbatim

Having said this all I would tell you among Shias, 70% of them do Sighe/Muta'ah just prior to their permanent marriage (only as a fiance period). Roughly 0.01% do Mutah before marriage or some others do Mutah when their wife isn't available or they just want to enjoy themselves. Culturally it's not a common thing to do these days. For married men, being with another woman requires extra devotion, time, money.

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    Just to name one thing: "For prostitution there is no agreement. Mutah there is an agreement and a timeframe specified. Parties have rights." Where prostitution is legal there are also laws for it. A prostitute is still a human with rights, she's not at the man's mercy. You judge what you don't like. That's not what you should do on this site. Bring facts and don't make questionable claims for which you have no backup. ("in the west, men usually just have fun with the woman as in they're collecting a trophy" Sure, there are some men who think like that, you make it sound like all do. Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 20:07
  • @TheRavenQueen are you accepting the other notes? Can you make your note about the entire answer so I can make one edit and address them all? This would help us avoid constant commenting.
    – Thaqalain
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 16:29
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    Mutah prevents the woman from sleeping with other men for a period of time. The woman doesn't receive money. If the man is married and wants to have Mutah with a non-Muslim woman he needs the permission of his wive. It's often used before committing to a marriage. These are the points that are relevant for the question that I could find in your answer. If you can provide backup for these and phrase it without any moral judgement from your side you're good to go. Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:20
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    @Honey, I red your detailed answer, on the whole, it was a helpful informative answer which evaluated the issue from diverse aspects. God bless you. Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 12:20
  • I think this answer can be made more appropriate. Despite saying that marriage and prostitution have difference of two lines ( which is wrong because the purpose of marriage is explicitly mentioned to be much more), it's better to say that sex becomes allowable after a legal and social contract . Commented May 27, 2023 at 16:36

In Islam marriage between man and woman becomes lawful by contracting marriage which includes temporary marriage and Permanent marriage which there are only some different together. In Temporary marriage, the period of matrimony is not fix and forever. Matrimonial relation is contracted with a woman for an hour, or a day, or a month, or a year, or more. After this period expires, the marriage is automatically dissolved. So both of them are legitimate in Islam. Similar rules that apply for Permanent marriage apply for Temporary marriage - if certain types of women are haram for a man to contract Permanent marriage then the same rule applies with Permanent marriage. A man cannot contract Permanent marriage with a married woman, as is the case with a normal marriage. A woman cannot enter into Permanent marriage, till the time she has become pure by observing the 'iddah (waiting period) from her earlier husband; just like in Permanent marriage. Also, the same principle/rights apply - two people cannot contract temporary marriage with the same woman at one given time

After expiration of temporary marriage, again she has to observe 'iddah, before getting married (either Permanent marriage or temporary marriage) to any other person. And there are most different between Islamic marriages (either Permanent marriage or temporary marriage) with prostitution which does not have any laws or regulations

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    Its highly unlikely that a non muslim would accept this. Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 18:25
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    @Hashir Omer, i explain that temporay marriage is legimitate as permanentin shia view and differentite between them and prostitution Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 18:40
  • Well, staying for a while(iddah) and muttering a few words(nikah) doesn't seem appealing at all(To a non muslim of coarse) Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 16:35
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    @hashir why would a non Muslim care about mutaa marriage?
    – user4456
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 6:41
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    @Mhmd He may use it to defame Islame Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 19:23

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