Temporary Marriage, Shi’ite Variety

Here’s a nice, long article about the practice of temporary marriage in Shi’ite Islam in Iran, from Mother Jones magazine. There is also a Sunni version of temporary marriage.

THE CLASH over the June 2009 presidential vote was a reminder of how deeply divided Iranian society is. The schism between Iranians who believe in the legitimacy of the Islamic republic and those who never will is also reflected in attitudes toward sigheh. Many young Iranians reject it precisely because it’s promoted by the clerics.

“Most of us, we like to imitate all things from Western countries,” said 27-year-old Sina Ahmadinejad (no relation to the president). “Being boyfriend and girlfriend is much fancier than sigheh.” For young liberals like him, dating has become an act of protest, while sigheh remains inescapably Islamic—and uncool.

Still, some young Iranians are beginning to experiment with sigheh in a way that can feel like defiance. Three years ago, Amir, an English teacher, and his girlfriend, Tara, decided to move in together. “It’s impossible to rent an apartment with your girlfriend,” Amir said. “They check if you are officially married.” So Tara proposed a sigheh. After a quick trip to the registry, they broke the news to their friends over pizza and champagne.

The real celebration came later, when they began planning a trip together. Usually, unmarried heterosexual couples have to engage in elaborate stratagems to go on vacation, often coordinating with friends so that men and women travel in separate cars and check into different hotel rooms, only to reconfigure in coed pairs behind closed doors. For the first time in their adult lives, Amir and Tara wouldn’t need to go through those contortions.

Barely an hour into the drive, a policeman pulled them over. In the trunk of Amir’s car was a bottle of whiskey. Drinking alcohol is punishable by 80 lashes or, after repeated offenses, death. The officer eyed the couple suspiciously, demanding, “Are you married or are you single?”

“Tara is my wife,” Amir answered calmly, presenting his gold-lettered marriage certificate.

“Okay, go,” the officer ordered, and the newlyweds drove on.

Read the whole thing at the link, if interested.

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