Within Islam, a temporary marriage generally implies a short-term marriage between a man and a woman that does not come with a long-term commitment and may or may not have an explicit, pre-established timeline or endpoint. The partial religious legitimation of temporary marriage via Islamic fatwas has recently revived the institution. Some suggest that the rising popularity is an attempt by individuals to fulfill sexual desires within the confines of a religiously-legitimized institution; while others argue that it can lead to exploitation and perhaps slavery of women and girls. Conclusions supporting both the positive and negative aspects of temporary marriage are largely anecdotal. There is an absence of systematic empirical work on this complex phenomenon, particularly with regards to its positive and negative effects on the women involved. This paper aims to answer how, and under what conditions, temporary marriage can be either exploitative or liberating for individual women. Our research utilizes first-hand accounts provided online to better understand how and why the institution of temporary marriage has been revived both within the MENA region and expanded into the West. We review narratives from individuals who have engaged in temporary marriages and analyze support for the competing views within the literature. Overall, we argue that temporary marriages can create a private space for the participants to feel better about their relationship, even if those outside still criticize and shame them. However, this private space also gives exploitative men more leeway to take advantage of their partner.

Author Biography

Sammy Z. Badran is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Saint Martin’s University. His research focuses include social movements, authoritarian elections, and human trafficking within the Middle East and North Africa. His current project is titled, “Demobilization in Morocco: The Case of the February 20 Movement”. This Fulbright-funded work investigates the impact of reforms and repression on protests within Morocco during the Arab Spring. Sammy is the author of, “The Contentious Roots of the Egyptian Revolution (2014) in Globalizations.

Brian Turnbull is an Adjunct Instructor at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. His research focuses on the politics of under-represented groups in South Asia, contributing to our understanding of the interaction between gender and electoral institutions. His current projects are entitled, “Women Who Only Serve Chai: Gender Reservations and Autonomy in India”, which stems from qualitative work as a Fulbright scholar funded by the US-India Education Fund (USIEF), and “Quota Ceilings: Analysis of Gender Restrictions at the Local Level in India” These works explore the challenges to establishing substantive representation for women within a patriarchal society using electoral quotas.