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Polygamy in Islam

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InshaAllah in this topic we will look at how polygamy was practiced in various cultures and how Islam set limitations and conditions and prohibited injustice.



The practice of spouses, male or female, having multiple partners is referred to as polygamy. The practice of a male having more than one wife is known as polygyny and the practice of a female having more than one spouse is called polyandry. Hereunder we will use polygamy in the meaning of polygyny.



 Mockery and contempt for Polygamy

The topic of polygamy in a western orientated society is usually treated with a great degree of stigma, disdain, and bemusement and is discussed in very hush tones. The mere mention of the word polygamy elicits responses ranging from mockery to awkwardness and contempt. However, in an era full of immorality, corruption, shamelessness, when it is socially acceptable for illicit premarital affairs, extra-marital affairs, fornication, illegitimate impregnation to take place so openly and when gay and lesbian activities and same gender marriages are not only tolerated but are being recognised by law and glorified in the media, then why should the noble teachings of the Quran and Islam not be propounded in an even louder tone? Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah





Polygamy: an age old practice

Polygamy is one of the main targets for criticism on the part of non-Muslims and even some who claim to be Muslims. However, polygamy is not something that appeared with the advent of Islam, rather it was present in human societies since the very beginning, and was practiced in many parts of the world. Mufti Muhammad Adam


Polygamy was regarded as lawful in practically every religion and nation of the world prior to the advent of Islam. The people of Arabia, India, Egypt, Greece, Babylon, Austria etc are among the many nations of the world used to practise polygamy.





Islam came and banned the ill-treatment of women

Before the advent of Islam, polygamy had been practiced unlimitedly in many parts of the world. A man used to marry several women at one time. Even the Prophets (upon whom be peace) were not immune from it. Sayyiduna Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had two wives, Sayyiduna Ishaq and Sayyiduna Musa (peace be upon them both) had many wives, Sayyiduna Sulayman (peace be upon him) had several wives whilst Sayyiduna Dawud (peace be upon him) had hundred wives. In fact, there are only two prophets who never married, one being Sayyiduna Isa and the other Sayyiduna Yahya (peace be upon them both).


Historically, the Jews and Christians were polygamous. The ban on polygamy in Christianity is a man-made prohibition, not divine law. Polygamy was also practised among the Persians, Greeks, Arabs and Hindus. Unrestricted polygamy was permissible in all the religions before the advent of Islam.


When the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) brought the message of Islam, polygamy was still a widespread and well-established custom. It was practiced without any restriction or limitation. Due to this, a man would marry many women, but failed to fulfil their rights, and the women who were in his marriage were oppressed and treated unjustly.


Islam came and banned the ill-treatment of women. It limited unrestricted polygamy, which was the custom of the times of ignorance. It also laid certain conditions in order to practice polygamy


The following verse of the Qur’an was revealed:


“If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, three, or four, but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one…” (Surah al-Nisa, 3)


Mufti Muhammad Adam




The Beauty of Islam

If the wife is chronically ill, or is barren, or for some other reasons it is not desirable for the couple to live as husband and wife. The remedy offered by certain societies is to divorce the wife and remarry. This is unfair. Is it appropriate to turn out a woman in her old or middle age from her home, just because she is ill or she happens to be barren? Islam discourages such cruelty.



The truth of the matter is that any religion or law which aims to establish a system of shame, modesty and chastity cannot overlook polygamy in an effort to eradicate fornication and establish a pure and ideal society. Besides being a preventive measure from adultery, it also remedies the outstanding ratio between male and female. It serves as a means of protecting women from being left without any shoulder to lean onto and reduces the vulnerability of being mistreated and abused.


Unfortunately the beauty of Islam often even escapes the Muslims

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Polygamy in other Religions


Polygamy According to Hindu Law


There is a good deal of controversy as to whether polygamy is sanctioned by Hindu Law. Shri Krishna, a deity among Hindus, had hundred of wives. Vedic teachings permit unlimited number of wives, even in tens, thirteen’s and twenty-sevens at one time. According to Manu the Law on the subject is as follows:


  1. “For the first marriage of twice-born men (wives) of equal caste are recommended, but for those who through desire proceed (to marry again) the following females, (chosen) according to the (direct) order (of the castes) are most approved.” (Here follows the list of women who may be approved of) (Manu, iii 12).
  2. “It twice-born men wed women of their own and of other (lower castes) the seniority, honour, and habitation of those (wives) must be (settled) according to the order of the castes (Varna).” (Manu, ix 85).
  3. “If, after one damsel has been shown, another be given to the bridegroom, he may marry the both, for the same price that Manu ordained,” (Manu, viii 204).
  4. “Among all (twice-born men) the wife of equal caste alone (not a wife of a different caste by any means), shall personally attend her husband and assist him in his daily sacred rites.” (Manu, ix 86).
  5. “But he who foolishly causes that (duty) to be performed by another while his wife of equal caste is alive, is declared by the ancients (to be) as (despicable) as a Kandala (spring from the) Brahamana caste.” (Manu, ix 87).


The above quotations clearly indicate that Manu sanctioned polygamy, “and it is now quite settled in the Courts of British India that a Hindu is absolutely without restriction as to the number of his wives, anyone may marry again without his wife’s consent, or any justification, except his own wish.” (Mayne, On Hindu Law and Usage, p. 113)



Polygamy: According to Jewish Law


In Exodus (Chapter 21, Verse 10) it is stated:

“If he takes him ‘another wife’, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall be not diminish.”



Polygamy: According to Christianity


The Christian writers say that “monogamy (i.e., marrying one wife only) is the divine ideal. The Creator constituted as a between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:18-24 Matt. 19:5; 1 Car. 6:i6) He preserves the number of males practically equal to the number of females.” (The Westminster Dictionary of Bible, 1944 edition)


“And I gave thee (David) thy master’s house, and thy master’s ‘wives’ into thy bosom, and gave thee the House of Israel and of Juda.” (2 Sam. 12:8)


How is it that God Himself gave him his ‘master’s wives’ if His intention was to keep the ‘one man with one woman’ rule? Even in the seventh generation after Adam we find that “Lamech took unto him two wives” (Gen. 4:19); Abraham had three wives; Jacob had 2 wives besides concubines; Moses did not forbid it, instead he brought Laws to regulate it, as has been mentioned in the previous heading.


Christians try to overcome these difficulties implying that the previous prophets had made mistakes in marrying more than one wife. But the insurmountable difficulty faces them in case of Moses. Because Moses had brought a Law from God, and if it was God’s intention to make marriage ‘a between one man and one wife’, why did He give Moses regulations about polygamy? The above-mentioned Dictionary of Bible tries to gloss over this difficulty by saying, “Moses, who was correcting abuses, not suddenly abolishing them, did not forbid polygamy, but discouraged it.”


It is a claim, which cannot be justified, because Moses himself married two wives: one was Zipporah, daughter of Jethro (known in Islamic language as Shuaib), the other was a Cushite woman whom Moses married in the 2nd year of the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness. (Num. 12:1)


There is no mention anywhere in the scriptures or any other writing that Zipporah was not alive at that time.

Thus far we discussed about Moses and the Prophets before him. Now we come to the prophets who came after this ‘supposed discouraging’. We find that polygamy continued to be practiced even after the time of Moses, as by Gideon, Elkanah, Saul, Rehoboam and countless others. For the details, see Judge. 8:30; I Sam. 1:2; II Sam. 12:8; 21:8.

Prophet “David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem.” (11 Sam. 5:13). Prophet Solomon “had seven hundred wives, princess, and three hundred concubines.” (I Kings 11:3)


“And so it was understood by the leaders of Christendom that there is no intrinsic immorality or sinfulness in plurality of wives. One of the greatest fathers of the Christian Church (St. Augustine) has declared that polygamy is not a crime where it is a legal institution of a country, and the German reformers, even as late as the sixteenth century, allowed and declared valid the taking of a second or even a third wife, contemporaneously with the first, in default of issue, or any other cause.” (Ameer Ali, Life and Teachings, p. 220, and also Ameer Ali, Mohammedan Law, Vol. II p. 23)


“When Christianity made its appearance in Rome, history shows that polygamy was recognized and the early Christian Emperors seem to have admitted its validity.” Says Ameer Ali:


The Emperor Valentinian II, by an Edict, allowed all the subjects of the Empire, if they pleased, to marry several wives; nor does it appear from the ecclesiastical history of these times that the Bishops and the heads of the Christian made any objection to this law. Far from it, all the succeeding Emperors practiced polygamy, and the people generally were not remiss in following their example. Even the clergy often had wives. This state of the laws continued until the time of Justinian, who… resulted in their embodiment in the celebrated laws of Justinian. ‘But these laws owed little to Christianity, at least directly.’ The greatest adviser of Justinian was an atheist and a pagan. Even prohibition of polygamy by Justinian failed to check the tendency of the age. (Ameer Ali, Life and Teachings of Mohammad pp. 222-223) “(S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali, foot note 499)


It should be mentioned here that Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian (527-565) was in the 6th century of Christian era; it means that up to 6th century there was no prohibition of polygamy in Christianity, at all.


The following paragraphs from ‘An Apology for Mohammad and Koran’ (by John Davenport) show clearly that the Christian Leaders up to at least 16th century did not frown upon polygamy:


St. Chrysostem, speaking of Abraham and Hagar, says, ‘These things were not then forbidden.’ So St. Augustine observes that ‘there was a blameless custom of one man having many wives, which at that time might be done in a way of duty, which now cannot be done but from licentiousness, because for the sake of multiplying posterity, no law forbade a plurality of wives. (See Grotius, De Jure, vol. i. p. 268 note)


John Milton, who, in his ‘Treatise on Christian Doctrine’, after quoting various passages from the Bible in defence of the practice, says, ‘Moreover, God, in an allegorical fiction (Ezekiel, xxiii) represents Himself as having espoused two wives, Ahelah and Aholiah a mode of speaking which Jehovah would by no means have employed, especially at such length even in a parable, nor, indeed, have taken upon himself such a character at all, if the practice which it implied had been intrinsically dishonourable or shameful.


On what grounds, then, can a practice be considered as so dishonourable or shameful which is prohibited to no one even under the Gospel; for that dispensation annuls none of the merely civil regulations, which existed previously to its introduction….


John Milton has earlier written in the same book (Treatise on Christian Doctrine) as follows:

“In the definition, which I have given (i.e., of marriage) I have not said, in compliance with the common opinion, ‘of one man with one woman’, lest I should by implication charge the holy patriarchs and pillars of our faith, Abraham, and the others who had more than one wife at the same time, with habitual fornication and adultery, lest I should be forced to exclude from the sanctuary of God as spurious the holy offspring which sprang from them, yea, the whole of the sons of Israel, for whom the sanctuary itself was made.



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Polygamy in Islam


Polygamy: According to Islam


Islam did not introduce polygyny but permitted it remedied the ills and abuses around it. The Hindus, Babylonians, Persians, Athenians, Jews and pre-Islamic Arabs recognized no limit to the number of wives a man could marry. Islam limited and restricted it in number; and hedged it with severe restrictions. Nowhere in the Shariah is polygyny condemned or discouraged but neither is it an essential commandment enjoining men to take multiple wives. Coupled with this permission is the emphatic command of justice and equality, financially and physically (i.e. spending equal amount of time with each spouse), if one intends taking another wife. The attitude of husband towards all his wives must be such as to give no occasion to heartburning, jealousy, dissatisfaction, discontent and frustration to any of them. There should be no cruelty, injustice, bias or partiality on the part of the husband. It is expected and seen that complete peace, harmony and tranquillity prevails in the household where the husband faithfully observes the injunctions of Islam regarding the equal status of all the wives in matters of maintenance, and general treatment. Each wife is entitled to have the opportunity of feeling the security of their man and sharing the bonds of love with him as well as enjoying his companionship.


If the husband cannot exercise this equality he is not allowed to marry more than one. Regarding this restriction of number and equal treatment, the Qur’an ordains:


“Marry such as you please, of other women, by twos, threes and fours; but if you apprehend that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then marry one only.” (Qur’an, 4:3)


However, since love and emotions are beyond ones control, a man will be excused if he loves one spouse more than another. It is most irrational to demand a person to have equal love for two people. A person has friends but he has his “best friend’, a mother with many kids has “the apple of her eye” and the father has his “blue eyed boy”.



Natural Need for Polygyny and its Logic


Any society which tried to ban or deny polygyny resulted in nothing but a host of evils and problems that have sunk their societies to the lowest of the low, in the form of prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, unwanted children, increase in divorce rates etc. etc. Trying to stem the natural has spelt only woe for these societies and those who emulate them.



Is polygamy really against the natural law?


The facts and findings answer this question in negative.


“‘Man’, says G.R. Scott, ‘is essentially polygamous and the development of civilization extends this innate polygamy.’ “(History of prostitution, p. 21; as quoted in ‘Polygamy in Islam’ published by Islami Mission, Lahore and Polygamy? p 17)


Dr. Mercier says: “Woman is by nature monogamist; man has in him the element of polygamist.” (Conduct and its Disorders Biologically Considered, p. 292-3; as quoted in ‘Polygamy In Islam’)


Professor Russel, an American scholar, said in a conference, held at the University of California, convened to discuss the Family Rights:


“Marriage to one wife and being tied down to only one wife for the whole span of life is unnatural and unreasonable.” Then, in the course of a long discussion, he summarized his theory by sayings that “man ought to accept the law of more than one wife as an important factor in the struggle for the survival.” (Ittilaat, Tehran, No.  3104).


It is an undeniable fact that in most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U.S.A there are at least eight million more women than men. In a country like Guinea there are at least 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania there are 95.1 males per 100 females. What would such societies do towards such unbalanced ratios?



A survey over six thousand women, ranging in age from 15-59, conducted in the second largest city in Nigeria showed that sixty percent of these women would be pleased if their husbands took another wife. Seventy-six percent of the women in a survey conducted in Kenya, viewed polygamy positively. In a survey taken in rural Kenya, twenty-five out of twenty-seven women considered polygamy to be better than monogamy. (Women in Islam P 40 with reference to Phillip L. Kilbride, Plural Marriage for Our Times)



Some other random examples of the male-female population ratio in some European countries in the early 1900’s:

In France females exceeded men by 423:709, in Sweden women exceeded men by 122:870. In the 1980’s women in Spain outnumbered men by 457,260 while in Australia in the same period there were 644,796 more women than men. In Russia the female population presently outnumbers that of men by ten million; the United Kingdom has four million more women than men; while in Germany women exceed men by five million. In America women outnumber men by 7.8 million. (Polygamy? P 16)



So if these countries boast the “one man one wife” system, the question that begs to be answered is what happens to these millions of unmarried women?



Should they kill the instincts and lead unnatural lives? Should they marry men who are already married or should they allow themselves to become public property or opt for a life of loneliness, insecurity and vulnerability?



What is more dignifying to a woman, an accepted and respected second wife or a virtual prostitute?


Even if we accept, just for the sake of argument, that the Creator creates equal number of males and females (as claimed by Christian scholars), does it prove that there will be no need of polygamy? Well, let us look at this matter in a reasoned way. The girls become capable of re-production, and get the natural sexual feeling earlier than boys. It is because in temperate climate girls are able to conceive at the age of 9 or 10; while in the same climate an average boy becomes able to establish sexual intercourse at the age of about 14 or 15.


Now, suppose a group of people settle together in a place, and suppose that every year 50 boys and 50 girls are born in that community. Also suppose that none of the children die in infancy. In 20 years, there will be 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls.


Out of these 1,000 girls, 550 girls (who were born from the 1st. to the 11th year) will have reached the age of puberty, i.e., will be from 10 to 20 years old.


And out of the 1,000 boys only 300 will reach the age of puberty. These will be the ones born from 1st year to the 6th year, who will be from 15 to 20 years old.


If that community practices monogamy, the 300 boys can marry 300 girls. What will be the fate of the remaining 250 girls? So, the supposed equality in number of boys and girls is wrong not only according to the statistics, but in theory also.


Also, one more fact has to be borne in mind, before claiming this equality of the numbers. All healthy women have to pass through a period, every month, when their condition discourages establishment of sexual intercourse. But the man does not lose his sexual urge at any time. What is the remedy if a man is unable to resist his sexual urge at a time when his wife is having her menstruation?


Either polygamy, which has legal status, or going to the prostitutes, which is forbidden in every religion.

The numerous problems that arise on account of a surplus of single unmarried women can only be addressed if polygyny is actively practiced. Dr. Le Bon, a French scholar, mentions: A return to polygyny, the natural relationship between sexes would remedy evils. e.g. prostitution venereal disease, abortion, misery of illegitimate children, adultery and even jealousy, since the disregarded wife (cheated wife in a monogamous marriage) would find consolation in her cognizance of not being secretly deceived by her husband. (i.e. she would know where he is) (Polygamy? p 17)


Dr. Annie Besant says: “there is pretended monogamy in the west, but there is real polygamy without responsibility. The mistress is cast off when the man is weary of her and she sinks gradually to be the woman of the street; for the first lover has no responsibility for her future; and she is hundred times worse off than a sheltered wife and the mother in the polygamous home. When we see thousands of miserable women, who crowd the streets of western towns during the night, we must surely feel that it does not lie in western mouths to reproach Islam for its polygamy. It is better for a woman, happier for a woman, more respectable for a woman to live in Islamic polygamy united to one man only with the legitimate child in her arms and surrounded with respect, than to be seduced, cast out in streets perhaps with an illegitimate child, outside the pale of law, night after night, rendered incapable of motherhood, despised by all”. (Polygamy? p 18)


Reverend Canon Isaac Taylor, LL.D speaking on “Mohamedanism” at the church congress at Wolverhampton said: “owing to polygamy, Muslim countries are free from professional out-casts, a greater reproach to Christendom than polygamy in Islam. The strictly regulated polygamy of Moslem lands is infinitely less degrading to woman, less injurious to men than the promiscuous polygamy which is the curse of Christian cities, and which is absolutely unknown to Islam”. (Quoted in The Times, London, Saturday, 8th Oct, 1887, Polygamy? p 21)



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Equality & Justice


The Qur’an conditioned the permissibility of marrying more than one wife with justice and fair treatment. It is a grave sin to treat the wives unequally. Any man who wishes to take a second wife also has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives. The verse quoted above includes the command to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife.


Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs. It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognised by the Qur’an:


“You are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)…” (Surah al-Nisa, 129)


The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:

“A man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them will be resurrected with half his faculties paralysed.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)


However, this refers to aspects that are within the capacity of a man such as equal treatment with regards to social, economical and physical needs. As far as the inclination of the heart is concerned, then that is beyond the capacity of a man.

Mufti Muhammad Adam

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Wisdoms behind polygamy


There is much wisdom why men have been given the permission to polygamy. I would just like to mention a few:


1) It is a known fact that there are more women than men and that they have a longer life. More men die due to wars and other incidents. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.


If we restricted men to having only one wife, then there would be many women without husbands. Especially, when a woman is divorced or she becomes a widow, at times it is very difficult for her to remarry. In permitting polygamy, there is a solution to this problem. These women will have someone to look after their social and economic needs.


2) At times, the wife is incapable of procreating and the husband desires to have children. Polygamy can also serve as a solution to this problem.


3) Some men are not satisfied with one woman. Recognising this need of a man, Islam permitted them to marry more than one wife, rather than falling into the trap of adultery and fornication.


In Western society, it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life.


At times, the woman may not be able to fulfil the physical needs of her husband due to illness. By permitting polygamy, the door of extra-marital affairs is closed.


The above are just some of the reasons and wisdoms behind the permissibility of practicing polygamy. This is the decision of Allah, and we as Muslims must accept it.


Allah Most High says:


“It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision. If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path.” (al-Ahzab, 36)




Chastity and Modesty

Before the advent of Islam, in all religions of the world, one man having more than one wife was something considered permissible . The custom prevailed in Arabia, India, Iran, Egypt, Babylon and among people elsewhere. Its natural validity cannot be denied even to this day. The Europeans of the present age tried to break away from the practice of their predecessors and made multiplicity of marriage impermissible. It resulted in the multiplicity of concubines and girlfriends retained out of wedlock and without any obligations and responsibilty of maintainence etc.

The truth of the matter is that a religion or law which aims to establish an infra-structure of chastity and modesty and considers the eradication of adultery as necessary has no way out except that it permits plurality of wives. Apart from being a preventive measure against adultery, it serves as a remedial approach to the problem of comparatively larger female population in some areas as compared to that of men. If such permission was not granted, mistresses and prostitutes would proliferate. This is why nations which do not permit plurality of wives must live in rampant adultery (calling it “free sex” hardly changes the reality).




The reasons why Islam permits a man to marry more than one wife:

1) Taqwa (a God fearing attitude).

2) Preservation of vigour.

3) Even in case of disagreement divorce is avoided.

4) A wife may be effete- incapable of producing offspring.

5) In some countries, or families, there is a surplus of female children.

6) A woman does not generally remain fertile after fifty years of age while a man is fertile even at ninety years of age.

7) Adultery is very common in those countries where it is not allowed to marry more than one wife.




Wisdom behind the Limitation

The point is that it was necessary to set a limit otherwise men would tresspass the moderate limit and have innumerable wives. That would be harmful to themselves and the women. The problem is solved with four wives so it is not allowed to marry more than that.

(See:The wisdom Behind the commands of Islam Pg. 212-220) Source

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Polygamy in Islam: A Preventive Measure against Adultery and a Remedial Approach to the problem of the comparatively larger Female Population

Before the advent of Islam, in all religions of the world, one man having more than one wife was something considered permissible . The custom prevailed in Arabia, India, Iran, Egypt, Babylon and among people elsewhere. Its natural validity cannot be denied even to this day. The Europeans of the present age tried to break away from the practice of their predecessors and made multiplicity of marriage impermissible. It resulted in the multiplicity of concubines and girlfriends retained out of wedlock and without any obligations and responsibilty of maintainence etc.

The truth of the matter is that a religion or law which aims to establish an infra-structure of chastity and modesty and considers the eradication of adultery as necessary has no way out except that it permits plurality of wives. Apart from being a preventive measure against adultery, it serves as a remedial approach to the problem of comparatively larger female population in some areas as compared to that of men. If such permission was not granted, mistresses and prostitutes would proliferate. This is why nations which do not permit plurality of wives must live in rampant adultery (calling it “free sex” hardly changes the reality).

Hence, in short, taking more than one wife was prevalent in all nations prior to Islam without the imposition of any limits. The history of nations and beliefs shows that no religion or law had drawn a line in this matter, niether the Jews and Christians, nor the Hindus, Arians nor the Zoarastrians.
During the early days of Islam, this custom continued without being limited. As a result, people took too many wives to satisfy their greed. Later on they could not do justice to all of them and these wives of theirs lived like prisoners bound in the chains of marriage. Under such conditions, the idea of an equitable treatment of wives was practically non-existent. It was all a matter of personal choice or whim which could make the darling of a day a history of tomorrow. The concern for standing rights was a far cry.
It was the Holy Quran that stopped this great injustice prevailing in the Human society at large. It restricted the plurality or multiplicity of wives by declaring that keeping more than four women under the bond of marriage was forbidden (haram). In addition to that, stern warning was given against contravention of the divine command which emphatically demanded that equality in fulfilling the rights of women taken into the bond of marriage at the same time must be maintained faithfully.
The words of the Holy Quran are:


فَانكِحُواْ مَا طَابَ لَكُم مِّنَ النِّسَاء مَثْنَى وَثُلاَثَ وَرُبَاعَ


On the one hand, permission has been given in this verse that more than one wife can be conjoined in marriage in twos, threes or fours, while on the other hand, after having taken the number to four, restriction was placed that more than four women cannot be taken in marriage at one given time. Thereafter the Holy Quran mentions:


فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُواْ فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ


“But if you fear that you wil not maintain equity, then (keep to) one woman or a bondwoman you own.”

From here we find out that having more than one wife is permissible and appropriate only on condition that equality can be maintained among all wives as required under the Shariah of Islam, and that the rights of all can be duly fulfilled. If one does not have the capability to discharge his obligations in this manner, the rule is to keep to only one wife.
As stated earlier, the injustices of multiple marriages during Jaahiliyah without any considerations of rights of wives had made a mockery  of this field of human relationship. So, the Quranic command was, if you are unable to do perfect justice between wives, then restrict yourself to no more than one, or make do with a bondwoman you may own (with the absence of slavery, this is not currently found). (Source: Ma’ariful Quraan – Mufti Muhammad Shafi Sb R.A.)

Below are some facts for consideration as well:

1. Average life span of females is more than that of males

By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio. A female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, during the pediatric age itself there are more deaths among males as compared to the females.

During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.

2. World female population is more than male population

In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites. The U.S.A as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women. Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million more females as compared to males. Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.

3. Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical
Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain, 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Was Salaam

Shafiq Jakhura (Mufti)

Fatwa Dept.


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Statements of some Western thinkers on Polyginy


The following are statements of some Western thinkers who demanded Polygyny and considered it the only solution for the problems they were confronted with in their societies.


Gustav Le Bon, the well-known French thinker, says in his book Arabic Civilization:

"Polygyny enables the society to reduce social crisis, prevents the mistress problem and cures the society from illegitimate children."


Annie Besant, in her book on Indian Religions says:

"I read in the Old Testament that the closest friend to Allah, whose heart acts upon the Will of Allah, was polygynous. Moreover, the New Testament did not forbid Polygyny except for priests or ministers of the church, who were required to keep and maintain one wife only. Old Indian religious books also permitted Polygyny. It is easy, however, to criticize others in their religious practices. And that is what made people accuse Islam and attack it for its permission of Polygyny. However, it is strange that Westerners are against the restricted and limited Polygyny of the Muslims, while they suffer from wide scale prostitution and promiscuity in their own societies. A close examining look at the Western society illustrates that only a few pure, chaste and honest men respect their clean marital relationships and honor their marriage to one single wife and have no other sexual relationship outside marriage. It is an incorrect and inaccurate statement, therefore, to describe a community as monogamous, in which the men maintain a single marriage, while they are indeed having mistresses, girl friends and other means of sexual relationship outside the marriage to their legal and lawful wife.


If we were to be fair and just, we could see that Polygyny in Islam protects, honors, maintains and respects women in society. Polygyny is better than the Western prostitution that permits a man to have a mistress or a girl friend to fulfill his sexual desires with no respect to the feelings, emotions, needs and honor of the women. The man will disown that woman as soon as he gets his satisfaction. The man has no social commitment or obligation towards the mistress or the girl friend. She is only meant to fulfill his sexual needs of the moment and give him the company he needs temporarily. Even though some people declare both Polygyny and fornication or prostitution as bad and unacceptable, yet it is unfair for the non-Muslims to blame a Muslim for doing the same thing that he does while his society accepts and condones it."


Jawad, a well-known English scholar, says:

"The stiff British system which prevents Polygyny is an unfair and unacceptable system. It severely hurts approximately two million women who have become old maids. These women have lost their youth and were deprived of having children. Thus, these women were forced to throw away the moral values as one throws away the pit of a date."


Mobenar, a member of the previous French Parliament noted:

"There are two and a half million French girls now who cannot find a husband, if we assume that every French young man will marry only one woman. I frankly declare what I truly believe is that a woman will not enjoy a healthy life unless she becomes a mother. I believe that any law which passes a judgment that such a big number of the members of a society should live opposing, contradicting and neglecting to fulfill the natural laws of man on the Earth is but a cruel and savage law that contradicts the simplest meaning of justice and fairness."


In 1959, the United Nations published a special publication stating:
"This publication has proven, by numbers and statistics, that the entire world is now facing a growing problem of illegitimate children, as opposed to legitimate children. The number of illegitimate children has increased 60% in some countries. In Panama, for instance, the percentage of illegitimate births soared to 75% of the total number of births in the country. This means that three out of every four children are illegitimate, born outside of wedlock. The highest percentage of illegitimate births is stated to be in Latin America."


At the same time, the publication proves and indicates that the number of illegitimate births in the Islamic world is almost nil (in comparison with other countries). The editor of the publication goes on to say that Islamic countries are protected against such social problems and disease due to the fact that the people practice Polygyny.


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