Roshan Iqbal traces the intellectual legacy of the exegesis of Qur’an 4:24, which is used as the proof text for the permissibility of mut’a (temporary marriage) and asks if the use of verse 4.24 for the permissibility of mut’a marriage is justified within the rules and regulations of Qur’anic hermeneutics. Iqbal examines seventeen Qur’an commentaries, the chronological span of which extends from the first extant commentary to the present day in three major Islamicate languages. Iqbal concludes that doctrinal self-identity, rather than strictly philological analyses, shaped the interpretation of this verse. As Western academia’s first comprehensive work concerning the intellectual history of mut’a marriage and sexual ethics, this work illustrates the power of sectarian influences on how scholars have interpreted verse 4:24. This book is the only work in English that includes a plurality of voices from minor schools (Ibadi, Ashari, Zaidi, and Ismaili) largely neglected by Western scholars, alongside major schools, and draws from all available sub-genres of exegesis. Further, by revealing ambiguities in the interpretation of mut’a, this work challenges accepted sexual ethics in Islamic thought—as presented by most classical and many modern Muslim scholars—and thus opens up space to theorize Islamic sexual ethics anew and contribute to this crucial conversation from the perspective of Muslim feminism.
Roshan Iqbal is associate professor at Agnes Scott College.
Note on Transliteration
Chapter 1: Mutʿa Marriage: Obsolete or Cutting Edge?
Chapter 2: Tafsīr: Development of the Genre
Chapter 3: The Evolution of Tafsīr: Reaching New Heights
Chapter 4: Tafsīr: The Modern Period
Chapter 5: Rethinking Marital and Sexual Ethics in Islamic Law
About the Author
Professor Iqbal’s work combines an interesting exegetical history of temporary marriage in Islam with a powerful call to Muslims to place their debates about temporary marriage in a broader ethical context regarding Islamic sexual ethics.
Iqbal’s book tackles a difficult and controversial topic—temporary marriages in Islam (mutʿa)—in a remarkably evenhanded way, avoiding common pitfalls of sectarianism or ideology. Her book examines this controversial practice through the lens of Qur’anic exegesis, paying attention to the inherent pluralism of the genre. The book is an excellent read for anyone seeking to understand the historical development of diverse Qur’anic interpretations surrounding the practice of mutʿa, its modern prevalence in some Shiʿi communities, and the ethical issues to which it gives rise.
This intriguing analysis of one Quranic verse explores the ethics of temporary marriage. Drawing from Shi`i, Sunni, Sufi and feminist commentaries on the Quran, Roshan Iqbal shows how scriptural interpretation is a dynamic interaction between an interpreter, her social and devotional community, and the wider political world. Iqbal questions both traditional Islamic norms of marriage and challenges contemporary secular assumptions about sexual autonomy, urging us to craft a sexual practice based on care and compassion.