A female slave, when purchased by a man becomes his sole and entire property: he can dispose of her life, and even of her honour, as he pleases; and he may raise her from servitude to the condition of a free woman, and even of a legitimate wife, without incurring any censure: such is the custom.
The Persians have a connexion of a singular nature, called moutah, which signifies the use of any thing for a certain time. It is in fact, a temporary marriage, the duration of which is fixed by the taker. A man whose circumstances do not permit him to form a jointure for a legitimate wife, takes one on lease; and when he feels himself susceptible of constancy, or pride forbids him to give up to another what he has once enjoyed, the lease is sometimes for 99 years. The contract is executed before the Cadi or the Sheik-ul-Islam.
Legitimate marriage is called naccah, and is contracted before the same magistrates. The female brings nothing but moveables, such as clothes, jewels, &c. for her portion, and the husband is obliged to settle a jointure on her. The Koran authorizes a man to marry four lawful wives, provided he can maintain them. The same book proscribes marriages between relatives within a certain degree. A man may not marry his mother, his aunt, his daughter, his sister, his niece, his nurse, his foster-sister, his wife's mother or daughter, his son's wife, two sisters, or the wife of another. The husband is master of his wife's property, and has the control over her person; it is his duty to maintain her, to provide for her wants, and to treat her with kindness. When any misunderstanding arises between husband and wife, they each choose an umpire out of their respective families, and refer the matter to his decision: but if their dispositions or tastes cannot be reconciled, a divorce is solicited, and granted by the judge. The wife then receives back her portion, and sometimes keeps half her jointure. A man may marry again after such separation, and be a second time divorced; but the third marriage, though allowed, must not be contracted till the woman has married another man. A wife who has been put away, cannot marry for three months after her repudiation; neither can a widow till four months and ten nights after the decease of her husband.
If a commits adultery, and the fact is attested by four witnesses, the husband has a right to keep her a prisoner-for life. It is lawful for the husband to chastise and even beat his wife, in case of misbehaviour.
The Koran treats also of the duties of parents to their children, and those of children to their parents. The mother may commit her infant to the care of a hired nurse; but she acquires an additional merit in the sight of God, by suckling it for two