One would ask so many questions like: “Is it fair for Muslim man to take FOUR wives?! Why does Islam accepts this?
In order to answer such question, we need to know first that Polygamy is not introduced by Islam, rather it is a very ancient practice found in many human societies:
The bible did not condemn polygamy, to the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy.
King Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
King David is said to have had many wives and concubines.
(2 Samuel 5:13)
The only restriction on Polygamy is taking a wife’s sister as a rival wife. (Leviticus 18:18)
Oriental Jews regularly practiced polygamy until they arrive in Israel where it was forbidden under a civil law. However, under a religious law which overrides civil law in such cases, it is permissible.
According to Father Eugene Hillman, in his insightful book Polygamy Reconstructed, “No where in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy”
Father Hillman stresses the fact that the church in Rome banned Polygamy was in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture. He cited, St. Augustine, “Now indeed in our time and in keeping with Roman custom, it’s no longer allowed to take another wife.”
Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, has not spoken against polygamy though it was practiced by the people of his society.
African Churches and African Christians often remind their European brothers that the church’s ban for Polygamy is a cultural tradition and not an authentic Christian injunction.
It is written in the bible: “If he takes another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall be not diminished.” (Exodus 21:10)
Islam limited the number of wives to four: “Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four…” (Qur’an 4:3)
But this is under an important condition, namely treating wives equally. At the same time, God, the Exalted, mentions in the Qur’an that treating one’s wives equally is very difficult even if he tries to do that:
” You are never be able to be fair and just as between women, even if it’s your ardent desire…” (Qur’an 4:129).
Since equal treatment of wives is impossible concerning affection and love. this is explicitly related by `Aishah, May Allah be pleased with her, as saying: “The Prophet used to share out among his wives justly, and would then say: O Allah! this is my portion concerning what i have control on, but i seek Your pardon about my portion concerning what You have control on, while I do not have so” related in Books of As-Sunan and by Imam Ahmad. However if a person was treated his wives justly as regards to housing, spending, clothing, spending night, sexual intercourse, and the like, then no harm if he marries more than ONE wife up to four.
But if man fears he can not afford housing, spending, clothing, spending night, sexual intercourse, and the like justly, then it is limited to only one wife, and this is stated clearly in this Qur’anic verse:
“But if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one” (Qur’an 4:3).
This religious ruling was enforced 14oo years ago.
The Qur’an is the only religious book on the face of the earth that contains the phrase “marry only one”. There is no other book instructing men to have only one wife. This means that in Islam monogamy is the rule, if the aforementioned contitions were not met, and polygamy is the exception.
But why Islam permitted the exception of polygamy?
Islam permitted polygamy in some certain cases but not limited to them, such as:
- During and after war in which many men were killed leaving widows and orphans without any means of support. Marriage to such women is a virtue for it’s not only provides them a decent life but also preventing them from falling into illicit relationships.
- If a woman is afflicted with a chronic disease which makes her unable to perform her marital obligations or if she is barren. The husband under these circumstances is permitted to marry another wife who will be entitled to the rights of the first wife.
Thus, Islam has permitted the exception of polygamy for the aforementioned justifiable reasons in order to prevent the possibility of sinful relationships and the disturbing consequences that ensue, whereas such illicit relationships are not condemned in the western world.
Actually, Islam never preaches something unless it has a great wisdom behind: Islam prevents society, by this ruling, from being destroyed or collapsed because of the illicit relationships that might happen because of women’s number that outrages men.
In most human societies, females outnumber male:
- In the US, there are at least 8 million more women than men.
- In a country like Guinea, there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there are 95.1 males per 100 females.
What should society do towards such unbalanced sex ratios?!
There are various solutions: some might suggest celibacy, others would prefer female infanticide (that was a habit before Islam until Islam came and abolished it) others may think that the only outlet is that the society should tolerate all manners of sexual permissiveness: prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality… etc. For other societies, like most African societies today, the most honorable outlet is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and socially respected institution.
Women in other cultures do not necessarily look at polygamy as a sign of women’s degradation. For example, many young African brides, whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise, would prefer to marry a married man who has already provided himself to be a responsible husband. Many African wives urge their husbands to get a second wife so that they do not feel lonely.
A survey of over six thousand women, conducted in the second largest city in Nigeria showed that 60% of these women would be pleased of their husbands took another wife. Only 23% expressed anger at that idea. In another survey undertaken in rural Kenya, 25% out of 27% women considered polygamy to be better than monogamy. Those women felt polygamy can be happy and beneficial experience if the co-wives cooperate with each other.
The problem of the unbalanced sex ratio is truly problematic at times of war. After the Second World War, there were 7,300,000 more women than men in Germany. There were 100 men for every, aged 20 to 30 for every 167 women in that age group. Many of these women needed a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the household in a time of an unprecedented misery and hardship. Many young girls and widows have liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many American and British Soldiers paid for their pleasure in cigarettes, chocolate, and bread.
We need to ask our own conscience at this point: What is more dignifying to a woman?! An accepted and respected second wife or a virtual prostitute?! In other words, what is more dignifying for a woman? The Qur’anic prescription, which is for her own good, or the theology based on the culture of the Roman Empire?!
In fact, Islam puts a solution for each and every problem and always presents the best for mankind.
Search, think then judge.
May God guide us all to His Right Path.
Modified by r-islam