The Shiites, who believe Prophet Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law and closest relative, Ali, is his rightful successor, have a distinct set of beliefs regarding the role and status of women. Shiite women equal to men in the eyes of Allah; however, they have certain prohibitions on their behavior so as not to court fitnah, or temptations of the flesh. While all Shiites have essential beliefs regarding women, there are differences in how these beliefs are practiced according to country and personal interpretation.
Traditional Shiite belief is that a man can temporarily marry a woman, a practice known as Mut'ah. This marriage can last only a few days and is typically defined by a contract between parties. After the marriage ends, the woman is paid a mahr or dowry. Mut’ah is a controversial concept among Shiites. Some believe it is adultery or prostitution and eschew the practice. Those who believe in Mut'ah acknowledge it is only for temporary physical relief, rather than love. In the Quran, Al-Ma`ārij 70:29-30 is frequently cited as justification of Mut'ah: “And those who guard their chastity.... Except from their wives or slaves that their right hands possess, for then, they are free from blame."
In some countries, such as Iran, Shiite women must wear a shador, a loose, typically black robe covering her body from head to toe. Modern Shiites, such as those in Lebanon, for example, dress like Sunnis, wearing a veil that covers their head, neck and ears. Shiite women tend to pin the veil on their left side to differentiate themselves from Sunni Muslims. The purpose of the Awrah, or body covering, is to prevent fitnah.
Shiite Muslims traditionally believe that prayer is a time for conservative, humility-based worship. More Shiite men than women attend church services in the United States due to a Shiite belief that church is mandatory for men, according to a 2011 article published by the Pew Research Center. Shiite women worship separately from men, either kneeling behind them, separated by a partition or in a different mosque to help both men and women focus on prayer rather than on socialization and inappropriate temptations.
Elderly Shiite women are encouraged to visit graves as long as they refrain from loud wailing or crying, so as not to distress their departed loved ones. It is frowned upon but not strictly forbidden, for younger Shiite women to visit graves, as those in mourning are vulnerable to fitnah. They can seek blessing from visiting the shrines of the prophets and imams but only if they refrain from engaging in any activities that could court fitnah.
- ReligionFacts: Shi'a Islam
- Imam Shirazi World Foundation: The Shi'a and Their Beliefs
- Correct Islamic Faith: The Shia'ites and Their Beliefs
- ReligionFacts: Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam
- Search Quran and Hadith: Quran and Hadith
- Muslim Women's League: An Islamic Perspective on Women's Dress
- Pew Research Center: Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism
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