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Polygamy in Islam *    (add your comment click here)

Polygamy (plurality of wives) is one of the controversial questions in the family system of Islam. The following are a few points worth of consideration in an effort to clarify the wisdom of polygamy and when it can be used:


 Islam has emphasized that taking advantage of the permission of polygamy is conditional on the observance of several factors and circumstances -as it will be explained later. If the man lacks those material and moral conditions, or he is not competent enough to satisfy all of them, then he will not be eligible to take more than one wife. Also, Islam has emphasized that the basic objective of healthy marital life comes from mutual love and benevolence between the husband and the wife which normally can be found in the form of regular marriage - monogamy. Preservation of that cordiality, stability, and purity in the family life can be seen clearly in the Quranic doctrines as well as in the tradition of the prophet (p.b.u.h):

Quran says:

 “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”(Quran 30: 21)

" live with them ( wife or wives) on a footing of kindness and equity” (Quran 4:19)

“And women (wives) shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (Quran 2:28)

 Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) said:
"The best man among you is the best with his wife".

”The best of your women are those: Who are loving and kindly; who look after their chastity; Who are not arrogant or disobedient to their husbands; Who are faithful to their husband in their absence.”

Imam Ali (A.S.) said:
"By your chastity protect your wife from casting an evil eye on others stealthily and entertaining an idea of sin".
"Be kind to your wife and treat her well. Kindness will change her for the better, will keep her satisfied and will preserve her health and beauty".


Is there a perfect Solution?  (add your comment click here)

As a realistic religion that legislates real solutions for humanity, Islam avoided any utopian doctrine. In many of its laws, Islam keeps in mind the flexibility of the law and the realistic factors and circumstances. A law can not be 100% good for every person, groups, culture, or country. However, Islam considers the over all values and gaining. If the advantages of a law overcome its disadvantages, then that law would be legislated and vise versa.  This concept is driven from Quran: “They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great harm (sin) and some benefits for people; but the harm (sin) is greater than the benefits (2:219). 
Polygamy, like any other law, has its disadvantages and advantages on both the husband and the wife. But do those advantages overweigh the disadvantages?
Let the following brief study judge that:

I)                   Polygamy before Islam

 Polygamy existed before the advent of Islam among several civilizations and religions. All that Islam has done is restricted it and make more organized and civilized.
 In his book, History of Civilization (vol.1 p.61), Will Durant says:
The clerics in the Middle Ages thought that polygamy was an innovation of the Prophet of Islam. But that is not the case. As we have seen, it has been practiced in most societies before Islam.
 Among the history lots of stories were narrated about men who cheated on their wives or got married with more than one. Take an example from the bible: some people accuse prophets and make them look sinful just not to say they had more than one wife. Isn’t that Abraham (peace be up on him) was married Sarah and from her he had Isaac and simultaneously he was married to his made and had from her Ishmael?
The following are some phrases from the bible

"After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him."
2 Samuel 5:13
"He (Solomon) had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines..."
1 Kings 11:3
"And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
Genesis 4:19
"If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the first-born son be hers that was hated: then it shall be, when he maketh..."
Deuteronomy 21:15
"if he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall her not diminish."
Exodus 21:10

The point here is not to say that monogamy never been practiced or not applicable. However, it is just a wondering that
how come the legalized polygamy in Islam is inferior to the unlimited clandestine adultery in other religions and civilizations.



II)                Polygamy and the wife acceptance:


a)   What if a woman does not accept polygamy

First of all, marriage in one of its phases is a legal contract between the wife and the husband. Both partners have the right to add any condition that they think it will help them to protect their future life. So, if a woman thinks polygamy is against her interest, then she has the full right to announce her objection during the marriage contract as a condition and a right for a valid contract or else it will be nullified. Based on that, the husband has to commit to that condition or he would have no right to keep her as a wife if she decides to get divorced and was approved by the Islamic court, especially if divorcing the husband is controlled by the wife.

b)   What if the wife’s condition is disregarded?

Like in any other law, a person might misuse the law to seek his/her interest. If a husband, who previously has committed in the marriage contract not to marry another woman, decides to have a second wife, then his current wife has the right to ask for divorce and raise that issue to the Islamic court. But is it fair that the only thing the wife can do is to ask for divorce in this matter.

Is that Fair?  

Answering that question is not simple since each case has its own circumstances. First of all, the question would be; why is the husband thinking about another wife, especially when both partners have agreed to dysfunction polygamy in their marriage life. In this case and before divorcing, a social worker assigned by the Islamic Court has to study the case and judges it. For instance, may be the husband wants children and his current wife is barren but yet he still loves her and wants to keep her as a wife in addition to his new one. Furthermore, if the wife is the one who is controlling the divorce process -not the husband- then she can divorce her husband if that avails her.    Overall, Same question would be asked. As an American is it fair that I can divorce my wife or she can divorce me at any time.


III)             Polygamy could be a Natural and social need?

What if:

-         There are some men by nature need more than one wife and their wives have no problem with polygamy.

-         Monogamy is not just a theory and is thoroughly practiced, so no more men were allowed to cheat on their wives. Do you think for that group of people- who never naturally get satisfied by one wife- Monogamy is a solution and is sufficient?

-         There are women who have no problem in marrying a man already having a wife especially if a marriage is in their interest.

-         The majority of society are women keeping in mind that:

o       Marriage age of puberty mostly begins earlier in girls than in boys.

o       The power of proliferation of women ceases at a certain age, after which pregnancy is very rare case, whereas there is no such fixed age for men.

In this case where no enough men, do we tell those women just disregard your emotion and desire or just abuse yourself through unlawful acts like being Homosexual.


IV)             Homosexuality but not Polygamy!

It is so ironic that several western countries and some American states legalizing homosexuality under the excuses of genetic and psychological problems or nature, but yet disregarding vehemently any excuse for polygamy.

 Keep in mind that in Homosexuality, a homo is destroying the structure of family by emphasizing strongly and exclusively on his/her lust and disregarding other bonds and factors that could create a continuation of a peaceful tranquil society. In addition to that, Homosexuality makes a person’s live under the emergency of lust and desire which starts growing infinitely and calls for desire saturation at any time or any where jeopardizing the pure ordinary relation between any two people.

While in polygamy, the person is restricting him self to more responsibilities and commitments since he has to be just with his wives and treat them co-equally in everything: money, living, emotion, etc. By that, he is just establishing a bigger family and limiting him self to a clear honest accepted relation.




V)                Polygamy and its Preconditions in Islam


Islam allows polygamy on some condition and here are some of them:

a-                  The wife(s) has no objection about polygamy during or before the marriage contract. And if the husband disregards that, the wife has the right to raise that to the Islamic court.

b-                 Equitable treatment for all the wives

c-                  Number of wives not to exceed four.


VI)             Major disadvantages of Polygamy:

The following are the major disadvantages of polygamy from the Wife Perspective:


A.     Less time with the husband; since his spared time is now shared between two or more wives

B.     Less attention

C.     Jealousy and unshared love; since the woman likes to have full attention and full unshared love from her partner.

D.    Family malfunctioning and Chaos since husband spends less time with the children i.e. less discipline and guiding.

E.     Less money saved or given to the wife and children since money should be shared co-equally with the other family.

F.      Population problems that burden the society since both wives (may be more) are going to have children.

G.    Unfairness and discrimination; since the husband can have more than one partner while the wife should marry only and exclusively one.

But are the above disadvantages are exclusively because of polygamy, or they can be found in monogamy as well. And can any of those disadvantages considered a big obstacle if compared to the advantages of conditional pure polygamy.

The following explain each disadvantage as a case and analyze it to show whether each one is worth it to be considered a case to overweigh the advantage of polygamy.
Over all, the reader has to keep in mind that purity, honesty, justice, and doing good are one of the major attributes that Islam calls for. Therefore, any relation or behavior that is committed by the husband or the wife and it does not fall with in those categories, it would be considered a big sin and inhumane act i.e. a major disadvantages:
 “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition” (Quran 16:90)

1.      Case A”: spending less time with the wife might be because of other factors too. For instance, the husband’s job is based on overtime or even it requires lots traveling per year. So, do we say that he is not allowed to get married because there is certain time he is not sharing it with his wife or his children. Therefore, if a person is rich enough, rather than spending his time at work and traveling from one country to another, he can spends that time with another wife in a more aptly and equally controlled way. Keep in mind that, if a husband has more than one wife, he has to spend his time with his wives coequally. 

2.      Case B”: Less attention to the wife might occur because of other reasons too. If the husband is so much occupied by his job, business, or studying for sure his wife will not get adequate attention. And if she does get some attention and caring it will not meet her expectations. In this matter, Should we tell those kinds of husbands to divorce their wives or not to get married if there have not been married yet. Nevertheless, the wife should understand her husband circumstances. She should bare with him the side affect of marrying another wife since she did not from the beginning had objected about the idea of polygamy and made a condition in her marriage contract.

3.      Case C”:  That is right and the emotion of woman and her interest should be highly considered by the husband. However, if the conditions of polygamy are satisfied and the husband’s desire is above normal then what would be the solution. Should he just go a head and cheat on his wife with women that usually hang out with any guy. And by that he will be transferring diseases, committing adultery, and threatening the family stability. Especially when cheating on the wife becomes habitual with any lady that clicks on his emotion.

4.      Case D: Family malfunctioning is a wide general problem and is not exclusively a result of polygamy. Moreover, it is because of unwise decisions and acts regardless of the size of the family. A person might find a disordered family though it just consists of: husband, wife, and one child. But, all of its members are conveniently ignorant and irresponsible.

5.      Case E: Applying that case in the family is a disaster. And, its argument is so weak because what if there is a big family. Or, what if that family consists of more than 5 or 6 members does. Should the wife start aborting lives to control the budget of the family? Even in the case of using lawful birth control ways, it would be forbidden in Islam if they are used because of the fear of poverty. The Muslim, above all, has to rely on God, in any aspect of life , because God is the one that bestowed upon him/her before any one else, and because of His bestowing and wisdom you have the tools and abilities to make money: “Kill not your children for fear of want (poverty): We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin” Quran 17:31.Therefore, that case is a big deal for those who really weigh things based on money and materialism but it is not so with pious people if the money where coequally and wisely shared. Nevertheless, money is not everything. The husband who is rich now might be poor tomorrow. And the husband whose job is very good today might be jobless one day. But Moreover, the Muslim, above all, has to rely on God, when he is involved in any thing, because God is the one that bestowed upon him/her before any one else, and because of His bestowing and wisdom you have the tools and ability to make money: “Kill not your children for fear of want (poverty): We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin” Quran 17:31.

6.      Case F: That argument could be used in any big family even if it falls under the Monogamy practice. Organizing the population is fine with Islam as long as no abortion is involved even in the early the development phases when the fetus still in like fertilized egg or zygote. So, a husband who has two families with acceptable number of kids rather than having big family with numerous numbers of children will not threat population.

7.      Case G: That might sound a fair complain and objection but if we research it and analyze it, it would not be that valid and practical. It is just a utopian objection that is driven by emotional reaction.
First, because Islam considers the husband as the main supervisor in the family though the wife has it important supervisory role: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Quran 4. 34”
It is the husband’s responsibility to find a job, work hard, make money, make the life of his wife and family comfortable and if the wife is working, the money that she makes will be her exclusively and has the full right not to spend it on the husband. Also, while men emotionally -and even physiologically- more rigid and they are more prepared for hard circumstances and environment women usually are more emotional, benign, and sensitive. Such factors, in addition to some others, make the husband more reliable to be in the charge of supervisory.
Second, the wife is more toward one-to-one exclusive loving relation. Her complex emotions make her more comfortable in being dedicated to one person i.e. one husband; especially if she feels that her husband is the person that can offer her protection, love, honesty, and tranquility. And that might me the explanation why usually women are more jealous than men. They, generally speaking, go crazy if they feel or even see the husband looking or talking kindly to another woman.

Third and as described above, the wife-in general-considers emotion as a priority, and if she is getting full attention and love from the husband side, she will not feel comfortable in sharing her emotion with another man nor giving him her body since any physical contact should first pass through the gate of honest, valid emotion.  However, some women might not be that way, but as mentioned before the law goes with majority. If there are some special cases then they have to be reviewed by an Islamic Court for proper Islamic solution. On the other hand, the husband, especially in the long run of marriage, might give emotion less attention.  He, in general, would be more attracted and attached to physical beauty than emotion; since he sees in that attraction an ultimate satisfaction for his desire. That physiological behavior, which widely seen in men, becomes a threat on the relation with wife if it starts growing or becomes uncontrolled. Since, it will push the husband to have unlawful hidden affairs with other women causing less attention and caring on the wife side. In that situation, when the husband’s sexual desire can not be saturated by just one woman - especially when his wife has pregnancy or menstrual related issues or not emotionally ready when he needs her, what would be the solution?
Fourth, assume the following the husband marries more than one wife and those wives each one of them marries additional husband then what about the children to whom they belong or to whom they listen.  And if the husband wants to apply his supervisory role, the wife of two husbands might end up of two contradicted statement .Also, who is going to spend on the family?  Overall, a family, like any other healthy organization, can not have two principals or supervisors. Can a person imagine a country directed by two presidents?
So theoretically it might sound good for the wife to have more than one husband, but since Islam considers the husband as the main supervisor of the family it would not be practical at all.

In general, Polygamy is not allowed if it will become a destructive behavior and carelessness. And the husband who is misusing it, he is basically misusing the law. In such case, the impious human is the problem not the law itself.

* By Ibraheem Serhan Amely * Copy Rights;   http://www.islamology.com  from imamah.com

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how come the legalized polygamy in Islam is inferior to the unlimited clandestine adultery in other religions and civilizations.