Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tajikistan Imams Warn Women About Temporary Marriages

At least Tajikistan is doing something right. The Sunni Muslim-majority (albeit secular) country is trying to educate its women about those bogus Islamic temporary marriages so popular in Iran. The ones used to legitimize sleeping around. Approved and legal in Iran, it's not legal in Tajikistan and the Mosques are trying to warn women about the inherent problems- like they have no legal rights to anything once that temporary marriage contract is over.
It's a relatively recent phenomena, and becoming more prevalent.

Recently, at a gathering following Friday Prayers on June 8, prominent Dushanbe Imam Eshon Abdul-Basir Saidov warned women against entering into temporary marriages, which religious leaders say have become a trend in Dushanbe over the past two or three years.

Echoing concerns voiced by his fellow imams, Saidov says dozens of Tajik women have fallen victim to "Iranian-style temporary marriage," known as mut'a.

Fairly widespread, and legally approved in predominantly Shia Iran, mut'a is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a Islam which automatically dissolves upon the completion of a term agreed upon by both parties prior to the marriage.

Mut'a is not recognized by Sunni Islam, which is followed by the majority of Tajik Muslims.

Nevertheless, says Zurafo Rahmoni, the head of the Culture Department of Tajikistan's Islamic Revival Party, "nowadays we increasingly hear about Tajik women entering into mut'a matrimony with Iranian citizens living here."

Tajikistan has a sizeable Iranian community, the majority of which reside in Dushanbe and other major cities.

"These women are ultimately being left with no rights or protection both during and after their so-called marriages," Rahmoni says. "In all cases, the men eventually leave the country, leaving their temporary wives behind. The most painful part is that sometimes children are born into such unions."

Rahmoni blames the trend on the "dire" economic situation that prevails in Tajikistan.

"Many Tajik men have left the country for migrant work," he says. "There are foreign men coming to work in Tajikistan, and that's why the [mut'a] practice is on the rise in Tajikistan. Social and economic hardship are contributing factor to the rise of this phenomenon in recent years."

Imams have gone so far as to call it 'legalized prostitution', "un-Islamic" "contradictory to Tajik religious beliefs and traditions."

"Mut'a is an attempt to legalize prostitution," says Imam Saidov. "It shouldn't be recognized as a religious matrimony, and we consider it a sin."

In his Friday sermon, religious leader Saidov said Tajik women's "naivety and lack of awareness of their religious and civil rights" was to blame for their falling victim to temporary marriages.

Since these women are unfamiliar with temporary marriages, they are ignorant participants.

For Maya, a 25-year-old hairdresser from Dushanbe, her temporary marriage was initially "love at first sight" with a man from a foreign culture.

Maya, who declined to give her full name, said she met her former partner -- an Iranian businessman -- a year ago in a city restaurant popular with well-to-do foreigners.

A marriage proposal came "surprisingly swiftly," and Maya accepted. She says the religious marriage ceremony was conducted by a friend of the groom, with two others attending as witnesses.

"He mentioned something about short-term marriages, but I didn't quite understand it, I thought he was just being cautious," Maya admits. "But he left six months later. I live with my baby daughter. I don't get any support from him, financial or moral."

The women are being told to register those marriages with the secular authorities, and to sign a prenuptial agreement. That's pretty darn progressive or a Muslim country.

In addition to not recognizing religious marriages in any form, they also ban polygamy, SMS-text message divorces, and underage marriages. In fact, they want to raise the legal age to marry (for women) to 22. Currently, the legal age to marry is 18.

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