Interesting article - too long to post here but here is the link and some of the highlights excerpted http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16717237/ BAGHDAD — Fatima Ali was a 24-year-old divorcee with no high school diploma and no job. Shawket al-Rubae was a 34-year-old Shiite sheik with a pregnant wife who, he said, could not have sex with him. Ali wanted someone to take care of her. Rubae wanted a companion. They met one afternoon in May at the house he shares with his wife, in the room where he accepts visitors seeking his religious counsel. He had a proposal. Would Ali be his temporary wife? He would pay her 5,000 Iraqi dinars upfront — about $4 — in addition to her monthly expenses. About twice a week over the next eight months, he would summon her to a house he would rent. The negotiations took an hour and ended with an unwritten agreement, the couple recalled. Thus began their "mutaa," or enjoyment marriage, a temporary union believed by Shiite Muslims to be sanctioned by Islamic law.The Shiite practice began 1,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq and other parts of the region, as a way to provide for war widows. Shiite clerics and others who practice mutaa say such marriages are keeping young women from having unwed sex and widowed or divorced women from resorting to prostitution to make money. "It was designed as a humanitarian help for women," said Mahdi al-Shog, a Shiite cleric. Both Shiite and Sunni Muslims allow men to have more than one permanent wife, but they disagree over mutaa. Most Shiites believe that the prophet Muhammad encouraged the practice as a way to give widows an income. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, has sanctioned it and offers advice on his Web site. A woman cannot terminate a temporary marriage before it expires unless the man agrees, said four sheiks interviewed for this article. Once the marriage is over, she has to wait at least two menstrual cycles before she can have another relationship so that paternity can be easily determined if she becomes pregnant, they said. Most mutaa contracts stipulate that no children be produced. If a woman were to become pregnant anyway, Islamic law would require the man to support the child, the sheiks said. But the clerics disagreed over how much power they have to impose that rule. Rubae said the man who refuses his child would be whipped or even killed. "We as the sheiks should be sure this thing will stay legitimate," he said.