On August 22, 2021, Dar al-Iftaa al-Misriyyah, the main religious organization in charge of issuing religious decrees (fatwas) regulating the life of Egyptian Muslims, issued a statement dismissing a new type of marriage contract, called the “part-time marriage contract.” Islamic religious scholars affiliated with the organization argued that the part-time marriage contract is in violation of the purpose of marriage in Islam.
Egypt’s current constitution provides that the principles of Islamic law are the main source of legislation. (Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt, 18 Jan. 2014, art. 2.) Therefore, as has historically been the case, matters of family law in Egypt, including the validity of marriage contracts, are governed primarily by rules of Islamic law.
Dar al-Iftaa Statement on Part-Time Marriage Contract
Egyptian attorney Ahmed Mahran is the creator of the new concept of the part-time marriage contract. According to Mahran, the man and the woman agree to put a clause in the marriage contract stipulating that the man will stay just one night per week in the marital residence. Mahran stresses that the principle of the part-time marriage is different from that of a temporary or “pleasure” marriage, which is prohibited by the religious scholars of the Sunni sect of Islam, in that a part-time marriage is a permanent marriage that does not have a clause in the contract limiting the duration of marriage.
Dar al-Iftaa accused Mahran of introducing the principle of part-time marriage in an effort to achieve fame at the expense of Muslim family and social values in Egypt. The organization claimed that the principle of part-time marriage would have a negative impact on the stability and cohesion of the family that are achieved through adhering to the principles of Islamic law. Dar aI-Iftaa concluded its statement by saying that the marriage contract is meant to uphold the continuity of the marriage and its stability and that both spouses must live permanently and continuously together in the marital residence. Any other marriage contract that does not provide those conditions is considered invalid and does not have the legal consequences of the marriage contract.
An Opposing Scholarly OpinionAccording to Al Arabiya news agency and Gulf News, one prominent Islamic scholar in Egypt, Dr. Ahmed Karima, a professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University, does not share Dar al-Iftaa’s opinion. Karima recently appeared on a talk show on Egyptian TV and expressed his support for the concept of a part-time marriage contract. He claimed that the conditions for marriage under Islamic law are (1) two consenting partners, (2) the presence of witnesses, and (3) the provision of a dowry. According to Karima, if such conditions are met, the marriage becomes legally valid and has legal consequences. The legal consequences entail certain rights, including shared inheritance and cohabitation. Karima stressed that part-time marriage cannot be prohibited because it fulfills all the requirements of a valid marriage contract and that, unlike with a temporary marriage, there is no clause in the marriage contract to specify the duration of the marriage.