Muta: Osama Abdallah's struggle continues

Sam Shamoun

Osama just can’t leave well enough alone it seems, since he doesn’t learn when to give up. He just doesn’t seem to know when to stop so as to prevent himself from being further discredited. He has again attempted to respond to our claim that the Quran permits a form of prostitution in the guise of temporary marriage otherwise known as muta.

In an expanded version of his audio file(*), Osama quotes the following text:

It is not allowed to you to take women afterwards, nor that you should change them for other wives, though their beauty be pleasing to you, except what your right hand possesses and Allah is Watchful over all things. S. 33:52 Shakir

And says regarding it:

Also in regards to Muta in Islam, Allah almighty clearly forbid it in the noble Quran. Let us look at noble verse chapter 33 verse 52… There are a few important points to notice in this noble verse. First, Allah almighty ordered prophet Muhammad to make marriage permanent. When he told him "it is not lawful for thee to marry women after this, nor to change them for other wives", this clearly makes marriage a permanent marriage. Also, temporary marriage or marriage that is destined for divorce intentionally is not permitted. Also, irresponsible divorce is not allowed in the noble verse. Notice when Allah almighty told the prophet "nor to change them for other wives, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess", which is the slave girls that he owned. Basically God almighty is telling the prophet, or allowing him, that he can have sex with his right hand possessions. But as far as free women he is not allowed to divorce his current wives for unjust reasons, and he is not allowed to marry women after this. So the bottom line of marriage in Islam, the way God almighty sees it and prefers it, is that marriage is not to be destined for divorce unless there are good reasons, justified reasons. And temporary marriage violates the spirit and the sacredness of marriage in Islam because it is a marriage that is destined for divorce, intentionally destined for divorce. So whether a man allures a woman and marries her, he lies to her and he marries her by telling her that, you know, this is going to be a permanent marriage, and then divorces her a day or a week after that, or whether the couple agreed to marry for, say, an hour or a day and then divorce, all of this is strictly forbidden according to God almighty, and the way God almighty sees marriage and wants marriage in noble verse 33:52. People can play games but they cannot play games on God almighty. That’s the moral and the bottom line of noble verse 33:52.

Osama then claims that Muhammad prohibited muta during the battle of Khaybar in light of the so-called revelation of Sura 33:52.

There are many blunders in Osama’s argument, but the main problem is that he misinterprets a command given only to Muhammad personally, and erroneously applies it to all Muslims. Any cursory reading of Muslim commentaries will easily prove that this passage is addressing Muhammad only, but for argument’s sake we’ll assume that it is addressed to the Muslim community as a whole.

To see the hole that Osama has dug for himself, one in which he will not be able to come out of, all we need to do is to compare the time period between the composition of Sura 33 and Muhammad’s prohibition of muta. According to Sayyid Abu Ala’ Mawdudi this Sura was complied at A.H. 5 or A.D. 627/628:

Period of Revelation

The Surah discusses three important events which are: the Battle of the Trench (or Al-Ahzab: the Clans), which took place in Shawwal, A. H. 5; the raid on Bani Quraizah, which was made in Dhil-Qa'dah, A. H. 5; and the Holy Prophet's marriage with Hadrat Zainab, which also was contracted in Dhil-Qa'dah, A. H. 5. These historical events accurately determine the period of the revelation of this Surah. (Source)

Osama placed the prohibition of muta during the time of Muhammad’s expedition to Khaybar, which sources date at 7 A.H. (628-629 A.D.). Osama conveniently forgot to mention that Muhammad allowed Muslims to engage in muta during the conquest of Mecca in 8 A.H. (629/630 A.D.), where he then supposedly permanently banned it. This is why Muslim sources claim that Muhammad permitted muta on more than one occasion.

Thus, according to Osama’s erroneous application of Sura 33:52 for roughly three years Muhammad willfully violated the express command of Allah which he received in approximately 5 A.H. (626/627 A.D.). After all, Osama would have Muslims believe that from the time of 5 A.H. till the conquest of Mecca in 8 A.H. Muhammad permitted muta to be observed against the will of Allah.

In other words, Muhammad allowed temporary marriages to take place which included a deliberate, willful intention to divorce, something unethical and contrary to the spirit and sacredness of marriage. Muhammad, in Osama’s words, tried to play games with marriage and on Allah by permitting marriages that were deliberately designed and intended to end in divorce, despite Allah’s express prohibition of such evil and immoral relationships.

It would have done Osama some good to have actually read our rebuttals carefully since he would have avoided making this egregious mistake of claiming that the Quran expressly forbids muta. He would have done well to have heeded the late Muslim scholar Ala’ Mawdudi’s comments on Sura 23:6:

(4) Some commentators on the Qur’an cite this verse to prove the prohibition of mut‘ah (temporary marriage). They argue that a woman in temporary marriage is neither a wife nor a slave-girl. So far as her not being a slave-girl is concerned, this is quite obvious. Now as far as her being a wife is concerned, we find that none of the laws with regard to marriage apply to her. She neither inherits her male partner nor does the latter inherit her. Nor is the waiting period ('iddah) applicable in her case, nor divorce or maintenance, nor the other rules in respect to matters pertaining to marriage such as ila’, zihar and li‘an. A temporary wife is also not counted as one of the four wives, the maximum one may have at any time. As she does not belong to the category of either wife or slave-girl, those who have sexual relations with temporary wives fall into the category of those ‘who seek beyond what is lawful’, and such people have been branded by the Qur’an as transgressors (See verse 7.)

This argument appears quite weighty, yet it is marred by the fact that it is difficult to say with absolute certainty that the verse categorically forbids mut‘ah. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade in a categorical and definitive manner IN THE YEAR OF THE CONQUEST OF MAKKA. That mut‘ah was considered permissible BEFORE THAT is something which is borne out BY AUTHENTIC TRADITIONS. Let us suppose that the verse under discussion prohibits mut‘ah. Now this verse is unanimously considered a Makkan verse, revealed a few years before the Hijrah. It seems simply inconceivable that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have allowed the practice of mut‘ah (temporary marriage) TILL THE CONQUEST OF MAKKA, even though it had been forbidden by the Qur’an. It would, therefore, be safer to hold that mut‘ah WAS NOT FORBIDDEN BY ANY QURA’NIC VERSE, but rather by the Sunnah of Prophet (peace be upon him). Had this matter not been clearly resolved by the Sunnah, mut‘ah could not be forbidden simply on the basis of this verse. (Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an: English Version of Tafhim al-Qur’an, translated and edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari [The Islamic Foundation, Leicestershire, United Kingdom, 1998], Volume VI, Surahs 22-24, pp. 83-84; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The problems aren’t over yet for Osama since his exegesis (more like eisegesis) leads to another major dilemma. The Quran permits Muslims to divorce, and even prescribes how and under what circumstances should divorces be observed (cf. 2:226-237, 240-241; 4:34-35; 33:49; 65:1).

Remember that Osama is trying to apply the fifty-second verse of Sura 33 to all Muslims. He obviously doesn’t believe it is limited to Muhammad since his use of it to refute the practice of muta presupposes a broader application that impacts the sexual practices of Muslims in general.

What this basically means is that Osama’s application of Sura 33 makes Muhammad guilty of violating the law on two counts since not only did he go on to allow muta, he also contradicted the words of Allah by granting men the right to divorce. Even worse, since Osama believes Allah authored the entire Quran then it is his god who is guilty of breaking the alleged divine law. Allah supposedly revealed the prescriptions for divorce in spite of specifically saying that no one could ever replace their wives for other women. Here again is what Sura 33:52 says, this time with added emphasis:

It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, NOR TO CHANGE THEM FOR (OTHER) WIVES, even though their beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens): and God doth watch over all things. Y. Ali

There is no exception clause stipulated in this verse, i.e. it does not say a Muslim cannot change wives for others except for such and such a reason. Thus, this passage says that a Muslim must remain permanently married to all the wives he has taken and cannot divorce them for any reason in order to marry others. This is in stark contradiction with what is stipulated in several places of the Quran which allow for divorce.

It is even worse than that. The first clause of the verse says that they cannot marry any more women after this, i.e. not only can they not divorce the wives they have, but Muslim men cannot marry any women at all (no matter whether these men are currently married or not). As we noted, Muslims have generally understood this passage to be addressing Muhammad alone, forbidding only him from marrying any further women. However, since Osama wants to read it as a command to all Muslim men this means that Allah just abolished marriage altogether, since from then onwards no Muslim man may marry anymore! Marriage dies out with the first generation of Muslims. This is obviously ridiculous, but that would be the implication of Osama’s interpretation.

Osama puts himself in deeper trouble, causing more problems for both himself and other Muslims, since he also claimed that Sura 60:10 forbids Muslim women from marrying unbelievers. He stated:

By the way, Allah almighty did later on forbid Muslim women from marrying unbelievers in noble verse chapter 60 verse 10 when he said, "They, your women that is, are not lawful wives for the unbelievers, nor are the unbelievers lawful husbands for them."

Osama conveniently forgot to quote what immediately follows:

O you who believe! when believing women come to you flying, then examine them; Allah knows best their faith; then if you find them to be believing women, do not send them back to the unbelievers, neither are these (women) lawful for them, nor are those (men) lawful for them, and give them what they have spent; and no blame attaches to you in marrying them when you give them their dowries; AND HOLD NOT TO THE TIES OF MARRIAGE OF UNBELIEVING WOMEN, and ask for what you have spent, and let them ask for what they have spent. That is Allah's judgment; He judges between you, and Allah is Knowing, Wise. Shakir

That text also forbids Muslim men from marrying unbelievers, something which Osama didn’t care to comment on. Quranically speaking, an unbeliever is one who isn’t a Muslim:

The true religion with God is Islam. Those who were given the Book were not at variance except after the knowledge came to them, being insolent one to another. And whoso disbelieves in God's signs. God is swift at the reckoning. S. 3:19 Arberry

Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be AMONG THE LOSERS. S. 3:85 Arberry

The above reference shows that marrying non-Muslim women essentially means that one is marrying a loser!

The Arabs said, "We are Mu'mens (believers)." Say, "You have not believed; what you should say is, `We are Muslims (submitters),' until belief is established in your hearts." If you obey GOD and His messenger, He will not put any of your works to waste. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. S. 49:14 Khalifa

The last text states that people can be called Muslims without being believers, but certainly not vice versa since one must first be a Muslim before one can become a true believer.

Yet the Quran says that Muslim men can marry women who are not Muslim, specifically from the Jews and Christians who are also called the people of the book:

Today the good things are permitted you, and the food of those who were given the Book is permitted to you, and permitted to them is your food; Likewise believing women in wedlock, and in wedlock women of them who were given the Book before you if you give them their wages, in wedlock and not in licence, or as taking lovers. Whoso disbelieves in the faith, his work has failed, and in the world to come he shall be among the losers. S. 5:5 Arberry

But to be a Jew or Christian means that one is not a Muslim, and therefore an unbeliever, one of those whom the Quran classifies as a loser! Even Osama realizes this since he says:

There is even a big dispute about marrying Trinitarian women because Trinitarians had been declared as blasphemous people. God almighty said, "In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. Say, ‘Who then hath the least power against God if he were to destroy Christ the Son of Mary, his mother, and all, everyone one that is on earth. For to God belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He creates what he please for God has power over all things.’" This is noble verse chapter 5 verse 17.

The only problem with Osama’s assertion is that Sura 5:5 provides absolutely no prohibition stating that a Christian woman is only lawful for marriage provided that she is not a Trinitarian. Osama’s comments simply help expose his book for being incoherent, incomplete and full of errors and contradictions.

Finally, Osama recently posted a rebuttal by Umar(*) to our paper on whether or not Mariyah the Copt was Muhammad’s wife(*).

In that particular rebuttal, the writer cited Ibn Kathir to prove that Sura 33:52 has actually been abrogated:

My Response:

Now, watch this missionary tactic, first Sam quotes Ibn Kathirs[sic] commentary, for Sura 33 Ayat no 50. But lets ask Sam why he didn’t[sic] quote the commentary for Ayat no 52? Heres[sic] why :

"More than one of the scholars, such as Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd, Ibn Jarir and others stated that this Ayah was revealed as a reward to the wives of the Prophet expressing Allah's pleasure with them for their excellent decision in choosing Allah and His Messenger and the Home of the Hereafter, when the Messenger of Allah , gave them the choice, as we have stated above. When they chose the Messenger of Allah their reward was that Allah restricted him to these wives, and forbade him to marry anyone else or to change them for other wives, even if he was attracted by their beauty -- apart from slave-girls and prisoners of war, with regard to whom there was no sin on him. Then Allah lifted the restriction stated in this Ayah and permitted him to marry more women, but he did not marry anyone else, so that the favor of the Messenger of Allah towards them would be clear. Imam Ahmad recorded that `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: "The Messenger of Allah did not die until Allah permitted (marriage to other) women for him.'' It was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i in their Sunans. On the other hand, others said that what was meant by the Ayah "


Umar’s appeal to Ibn Kathir to prove that Sura 33:52 has been canceled basically destroys Osama’s use of this text. After all, how can Osama use a reference which Allah has abrogated to prove that muta is unlawful? This is what we mean when we say that Osama and his staff of writers do a better job of discrediting their own religion and prophet than any Christian could ever hope to do. Their rebuttals often contradict not only what the Quran and their Islamic traditions teach, but they also refute the writings of each other!

Lord Jesus willing, our rebuttal to Umar’s paper is shortly forthcoming.

We now summarize all the errors that Osama’s rebuttal introduced into our debate regarding muta:

  1. According to Osama, Sura 33:52 forbids muta. Yet for many years after this verse was recited Muhammad continued permitting muta to be observed.
  2. Sura 33:52 also expressly forbids divorce for any reason, and yet other references permit Muslim men to divorce their wives. Even more, if taken to address the community as a whole, then it forbids Muslim men to marry at all.
  3. Believing men in Sura 60:10 are forbidden from marrying unbelievers, non-Muslims, whereas Surah 5:5 permits them to marry unbelieving Jews and Christians.
  4. One of Osama’s writers approvingly cites Ibn Kathir to prove that Sura 33:52 has actually been abrogated, thus contradicting and refuting Osama who tried to use it as a valid and binding injunction against muta! If it is abrogated then it is no longer binding upon Muslims, and if it is no longer binding then it can’t be used to refute the practice of muta.

Osama writes in regard to his audio presentation:

Listen to my AUDIO rebuttal and you be the unbiased Judge between us! (Source; 12/06/2005)

Indeed, we highly encourage the readers to hear for themselves and be the judges as to where the truth is to be found.

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