SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT POLYGAMY
I, frequently, drive home after midnight when there is no traffic in the streets. I come to a stop sign and I stop, look and go as law requires me to do. When I come to a red light, I stop until it turns green. It makes no logical sense for me to stop at the red light or at the stop sign at that hour of the night because there is no traffic within my sight and I should be able to breeze through all signs. However, respect of the law stops me.
All civilized societies are built upon law and order, in general, and obedience to your superiors, in particular. In the West, there is a concept of the infallibility of the authority, particularly of popes and kings. Without the acceptance of infallibility of authority, every person may question every order demanding rationale, consequently, no one will do his work because he does not appreciate why should he do it. Children have to respect the authority of their parents and students, their teachers and subordinates, their bosses. The result will be chaos if demands for rationale and justificatiion come for every order or law. In human authority-subordinate relationship we are not allowed to question orders before obedience in many cases. Why then do we question the orders of the God Almighty, the Creator of the entire Universe, the Provider, the Sustainer and the Lord? All we need is verification and confirmation that the order is from God through His human Messenger and that should be enough to accept and obey!
Polygamy was and continues to be a norm of human societies. Made illegal, it flourishes in illegal forms, sometimes covertly, other times overtly. The prophets and the kings of the Bible practiced unrestricted polygamy and continued in the West in a legal form until a few centuries ago. Twentieth century secular humanists and secular nationalists are doing everything possible to abolish the institution of marriage altogether so that human beings may have free sex like animals; they see marriage as a remnant of outdated religious institutions. The same groups are promoting "relationships" between persons of opposite and also the same gender. Sexual relationships has been known since the ancient time, commonly known as homosexuality, an heterophobia, a fear of the opposite gender. The same people are hypocritical when comes to marriage, they promote single marriage so that they could have illegitimate, irresponsible "relationships" and "cheatings".
Polygamy has been practiced in two forms, serial and parallel. Marriage-divorce-marriage sequence is serial polygamy whereas having more than one sexual "relationships" within or without the marriage is parallel polygamy. The modern West is opposed to sexual relationships with more than one person in marriage. However, the West condones and looks the other way, multiple "relationships" without marriage which is hypocrisy and an irresponsible behavior.
In these last decades of the twentieth century "relationship" has replaced "marriage" and the societies in the West have accepted this substitution. According to a local ordinance of the City of Chicago, any two persons, irrespective of gender, living together for six months or longer may claim privileges of a married couple, such as insurance, property and inheritance. This ordinance is not the first such law in the West. Considering such "relationships", late twentieth century Western culture is, perhaps, the most polygamous in the history of mankind. Polygamy, in an irresponsible way, is practiced by Princes Diana and Prince Charles to President Bill Clinton. Recently, on a TV talk show a young man in his early twenties appeared who has been called the "stud" of the town, claiming to have had a "relationship" or "slept" with over one thousand girls. Here is the King Solomon of the Bible of the 1990s. For one stud appearing on TV there are thousands undiscovered by the media. Having multiple "relationships" or many sex partners among the young people of our time is normal. This is polygamy. Islam has a cure for this irresponsible polygamy. Islam deals with the realities of life.
The result of legally required monogamy is the flourishing of "cheating", illegitimate children, single parenthood and incest in about ten percent of the homes, resulting in bulging welfare rolls which are bankrupting countries' treasuries, increasing rape statistics, children molestations, clogging up civil and criminal courts. The situation in the "Muslim" countries where polygyny (having more than one wife) is legal is not as bad. In the Muslim countries more people practice monogamy than in the West. There is a lesson for the West in Islamic restricted polygyny only if the West is willing to open its mind.
Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala says in the Qur'an,
"I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me." 51:56
The concept of worship, 'ibadah, has two components, (a) love of Allah more than the love of anything or anyone in this world, and (b) total and unquestioned obedience to Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala.
LOVE: Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala says in the Qur'an,
"Yet there be men who take to themselves comrades (rivals) apart
from Allah, loving them as Allah is loved; but those that believe love Allah more
"Yet there be men who take to themselves comrades (rivals) apart from Allah, loving them as Allah is loved; but those that believe love Allah more ardently."
"Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): If you love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." 3:31
"O' you who believe! Choose not (in love) your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith. Whoso of you takes them for friends (in love), such are wrong-doers. Say: if your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your tribe, and the wealth you have acquired, and merchandise for which you fear that there will be no sale, and dwellings you desire are dearer to you than Allah and is Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah guides not wrongdoing folk." 9:23-24
"O you who believe! Whoso of you becomes a renegade from his deen, (know that in his stead) Allah will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him, humble toward believers, stern toward disbelievers, striving in the way of Allah, and fearing not the blame of any blamer. Such is the grace of Allah which He gives unto whom He will. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing." 5:54
Above quoted verses show that in a Muslim's life the most important one to be loved is Allah. The love of parents, spouse, children, relatives, country, property, wealth, business, fame, reputation and one's own life is inferior than the love of Allah.
OBEDIENCE: Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala says regarding obedience in the Qur'an:
"Whoso obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah, and whoso turns away: We have not sent you as a warder over them." 4:80
"Say: Obey Allah and obey the Messenger. But if you turn away, then (it is) for him (to do) only that wherewith he has been charged, and for you (to do) only that wherewith you have been charged. If you obey him, you will be guided. But the Messenger has no other charge than to convey (the message), plainly." 24:54
"Whoso obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are with those unto whom Allah has shown favor, of the Prophets and the Sincere and the Martyrs and the Righteous. The best company are they!" 4:69
And there are over twenty verses which call believers to obey Allah and His Messenger. On the other hand there are at least ten verses warning Muslims not to obey others. See verses 3:100,149; 6:116; 18:28; 25:52; 33:1,48; 68:8,10; 76:24 and 26:151.
This establishes that absolute obedience is for Allah through the obedience of His Messenger.
Once an ordinance has been revealed the believers are required to obey them whether they like it or not; Allah does not always give rationale. For example in the matter of riba, usury; people tried to argue with the Messenger of Allah about the difference between trade and usury. Allah revealed, "... they say: Trade is just like usury; whereas Allah permits trading and forbids usury." Al Qur'an 2:275. However, Allah does not forbid our own research and efforts to find a rationale behind Allah's ordinance. Any rationale human beings find may or may not be true but Allah's ordinance stands.
POLYGAMY: The term polygamy is used for more than one spouse; if a man has more than one wife, it is POLYGYNY and if a woman has more than one husband, it is POLYANDRY. The purpose of mating is procreation and in this sense polyandry is a waste because a woman can be impregnated by only one male until delivery. Whereas, polygyny is productive because a man can impregnate more than one
female without physical restriction. In the animal kingdom in many species, herds of females are impregnated by only one male. In case of humankind there was no limit on wives in world's major religions. Islam limited the number of wives to four whereas polyandry remained forbidden.
THE QUR'ANIC ORDINANCE: Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala says:
"If you fear that you might not treat the orphans justly, then marry the women that seem good to you: two, or three, or four. If you fear that you will not be able to treat them justly, then marry (only) one, or marry from among those whom right hand possess. This will make it more likely that you will avoid injustice." 4:3
"You will not be able to treat your wives with absolute justice not even when you keenly desire to do so. (It suffices in order to follow the Law of Allah that) you incline not wholly to one, leaving the other in suspense. If you act rightly and remain God-fearing, surely Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate." 4:129
Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi has gathered information from Ahadith (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad(S) and understanding of his companions) in his Tafhim al-Qur'an regarding the above two verses.
In the period before Islam, Arab men exploited orphan girls by marrying them for their lust and wealth but many mistreated them. There was no limit on wives and when they could not support their multiple wives' families financially, they broke the bounds of justice and equity for search of money. In the above verses, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala reigned the Arab men in by putting limitations on them, (a) number of wives was limited to four, and (b) justice and equity among all wives was demanded. In the verse 4:3 the words, muthna wa thulatha wa ruba'a have been interpreted as two, or three, or four not two and three and four. If Allah desired to add figures to come out to be nine He could have said nine. The Arab scholars from the very beginning understood wa to mean or not and. And muthna means a pair existing at the same time, thulatha means three together, and ruba'a is four together. If Allah had said ithnan wa thlatha wa arba'a, it would have meant two and three and four. Prophet Muhammad(S) was exempted from the limit of four wives through another revelation, that is, the verse 33:50.
Amin Ahsan Islahi has explained the verse 4:3 differently. He argues that the term yatama applies to minor boys and girls, both, therefore, Allah does not order men to marry minors. Islahi explains that this verse encourages Arab men who become guardians over orphans to marry their mothers to provide protection to the whole family but treat all wives and their families with justice and equity.
Why Islam limits to only four wives? The simple answers is that Allah knows best. Islam does not require men to have more than one wife, Islam does not recommend or encourages Muslim men to have more than one but limits to four with conditions of justice and equity among them.
The Qur'an verses 4:2-6 deal with the justice for orphans and addresses to unjust practices of Arab men before Islam. In this context Allah limited the number of wives, however, Allah did not require men to marry only orphans or their mothers. In these verses emphasis is on justice and equity not polygamy.
Islam does not permit polyandry in any form or shape, therefore, any scenarios of permitting polyandry are out of the question.
Polygyny is a permission not a requirement to be implemented. We look at the life of the Prophet(S) to find how he practiced and allowed his companions to practice. He did not put a condition on his companions to seek permission from existing wife/wives before taking another one. However, a would wife had to know ahead of time and make up her mind whether she wanted to enter into a situation of sharing a husband and his material resources.
The Qur'anic verse 4:129 reinforces 4:3 that justice and equity among all wives is foremost. Many men are weak in their emotions and distribution of their resources. Allah is warning them that they must distribute their time and wealth equitably among all wives and their families.
All the talk about having more than one wife is because the first one cannot produce children or she is sick and so on are human rationalizations of a divine order. Nothing wrong with such rationalizations but know that Allah did not say so.
Source: Institute of Islamic Information and Education.