Cleric encourages ‘temporary marriages’ for students


An Iranian bride and groom are reflected in a mirror as they attend a mass wedding ceremony at the country's grand hall in Iran's Interior ministry building in central Tehran August 19, 2007. More than 800 Iranian students were married at the same time.

Article Highlights

  • When Sunni Muslims disparage their Shi‘ite counterparts, they often criticize the practice of sigeh, temporary marriage.

    Tweet This

  • In its inception, the Shi’ite practice of temporary marriage was a mechanism for society to provide for war widows.

    Tweet This

  • In Iranian cities, the age of marriage has steadily been creeping upwards. @MRubin1971

    Tweet This

Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.

Source: رائتی: دانشجويان پسر با زنان بیوه ازدواج کنند “Qara’ati: Daneshjuyan-e Pesar ba Zanan-e Biveh Azduaj Konand” (Qara’ati: Male Students Should Marry Widows),”, 27 September 2012. 

When Sunni Muslims disparage their Shi‘ite counterparts, they often criticize the practice of sigeh, temporary marriage. In its inception, temporary marriage—in which men pay a ‘dowry’ and marry women for a pre-determined period of time, sometimes only hours—was a mechanism for society to provide for war widows. Most Sunnis—and, frankly, many Iranians—see it simply as religiously sanctioned prostitution. The practice received a second wind as a result of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), which killed several hundred thousand young men, leaving behind a multitude of young widows. It has persisted since. That mosques and mullahs profit from sigeh arrangements adds cynicism to the discussion of the phenomenon in Iran.

In Iranian cities the age of marriage has steadily been creeping upwards. It is now not uncommon to find both men and women in their mid- and late-twenties who have never been married. The reason for this is largely financial: high inflation and distrust of banks has led wealthier Iranians to invest in real estate, placing home ownership and even apartment rental outside the realm of possibility for younger Iranians.

While premarital sex is more common in Iran than in many neighboring countries, it is still far less frequent than in Europe or the United States. In a culture which discourages dating and, among certain segments of society, the mixing of sexes, this can exacerbate frustration and social tension. Simply put, unable to pursue relationships, same gender groupings will often talk politics.

Against this backdrop, Hojjat al-Islam Mohsen Qara’ati’s statement is interesting. A leading Quranic scholar, Qara’ati may simply want to address a renewed gender imbalance inside Iran. The number of widows he cites, however, makes little sense: there is no reason why there should have been such a surge in widows over the last several years. Accordingly, his aim may be twofold. First, he might seek to promote sigeh to somehow legitimize the breakdown of traditional sexual mores on university campuses. In effect, he is saying, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, bless ‘em.’ Alternately, he might seek to use temporary marriage/legalized prostitution in order to channel students’ frustration away from political protest. 


Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author



  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.

    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5851
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845

What's new on AEI

image The money in banking: Comparing salaries of bank and bank regulatory employees
image What Obama should say about China in Japan
image A key to college success: Involved dads
image China takes the fight to space
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.