An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Prostitution in an Islamic Republic

Iran has an Islamic regime. The Islamic dress code is enforced and so many other things. But right under the nose of the law (and sometimes in connivance of the law) – everything goes on. I know of a person from Iran who has been to all night parties full of hashish, liquor and women all under the protection of local police.

Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. So, how is it practiced in Iran? Well, people have found ways to do that too. There are subtle ways to prospect a lady by her clients and it is not easy.

The center for prostitution in Iran’s capital Teheran is roughly 150 km southwest called Qom (also known as Q’um or ghom). It’s a Shi’ite holy city and is known as a place of “both pilgrimage and pleasure.”

So, how does the prostitution process occur? There are over 85,000 prostitutes in just Teheran alone. Here is the how it works:

prostitutes wearing veils and even chadors mill about temples or sit together in public courtyards where men can inspect them. Sometimes a male go-between offers “introductions,” at which point the prostitutes pull aside their headgear so the potential client can get a glimpse, but the whole process is fairly subtle.

It is strange that in a land where laws are so strict, prostitution should go on so rampantly! Well, the religious who want pleasure obviously use religion to their advantage. There is a strange type of marriage allowed in Islam called Nika-hu’l-Mut‘ah,(also Nikah Mut‘ah literally, marriage for pleasure), or sigheh, is a time-delimited marriage contract according to the Usuli Shia schools of Shari‘a (Islamic law). The duration of this type of marriage is fixed at its inception and is then automatically dissolved upon completion of its term.

According to Shiite interpretation, a man and a woman may enter an impermanent partnership with a preset expiration date. There’s no legally required minimum duration (a day, a week, anything goes) and no need for official witnesses—unless the woman is a virgin, in which case she needs the consent of her legal guardian. An Iranian who’s wary of arrest can simply escort a prostitute to a registry, obtain a temporary contract from a Muslim cleric, and then legally satisfy his sexual needs.

Many Shias and specifically Sunnis dispute this type of marriage and call it unacceptable in Islam. But Sunnis have their own version of temporary marriage – which is usually used for pleasure as well. The only major difference being that while sigheh has a fixed term, Misyar marriages (Sunni version) does not have a fixed contract term. In practice this is how it is used by Arab men:

wealthy Arab men sometimes enter into a Misyar marriage while on vacation, in order to have sexual relations with another woman without committing the sin of zina. They usually divorce the women once their holiday is over.

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