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(Arabic: "pleasure"), in Islamic law, a temporary marriage that is contracted for a limited or fixed period and involves the payment of money to the female partner. Mut'ah is referred to in the Qur'an (Muslim scriptures) in these words: "And you are allowed to seek out wives with your wealth in decorous conduct, but not in fornication, but give them their reward for what you have enjoyed of them in keeping with your promise" (4:24). Partners who engage in mut'ah must do so freely and must predetermine the compensation and duration of the contract. The woman, therefore, has no claim for maintenance, and the two do not inherit from one another unless there is a previous agreement on these matters. Any children from a mut'ah union go with the father. No extension of the mut'ah is permitted, but cohabitation may be resumed if a new agreement is reached with new compensation for the woman. All Muslim legal schools agree that mut'ah was recognized and practiced in the Prophet Muhammad's time. Most Sunnite Muslims, however, think the practice to have been forbidden by 'Umar I, the second caliph, and thus to have been abrogated. In consequence, Sunnite leaders have denounced mut'ah as simple prostitution. The Twelver Shi'ites, in contrast, consider mut'ah to be still valid and defend it as a guard against prostitution or license in circumstances in which regular marriage is impossible

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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