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Polygamy

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

Polygamy means having more than one spouse at a time. Islam has always been targeted and attacked vociferously for being a religion advocating Polygamy. However, it is not true. Polygamy is an ancient practice found in many human societies that existed during different times. None of the other religious books (be it Vedas, or The Talmud or Bible), have any restrictions on the number of wives a man can have. It was later on that priests of these religions passed laws that a man cannot marry more than one woman. On the other hand, Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that says ‘Marry only one’. We shall understand this in course of the discussion.

Polygamy can be of two types: Polygyny and Polyandry.

1. Polygyny

Polygyny refers to a condition where ‘a man has more than one wife’. This practice was seen in almost all societies on earth; and so is its prevalence in Muslim society. But it should be very well understood by us that Qur’an does not advocate Polygamy; rather strict conditions have been laid down for a man who wants to marry more than once. Let us refer to the following verse:

وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تُقْسِطُوا فِي الْيَتَامَى فَانكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلاثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ
أَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَعُولُوا

“And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan-girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then ‘only one’ or that your right hands possess (the slaves). That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.”

(Aayah No. 3, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

I emphasize the word ‘only one’ in above mentioned verse. It is clear from the verse mentioned above that a Muslim male is allowed to marry up to four women at a time. But along with the permission of marrying four, are associated some conditions, failing which, one cannot marry more than one.

Complimenting this is another verse from Holy Qur’an:

وَلَنْ تَسْتَطِيعُوا أَنْ تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّسَاءِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ فَلا تَمِيلُوا كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ فَتَذَرُوهَا كَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ وَإِنْ تُصْلِحُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُوراً رَحِيماً

“You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them so as to leave the other hanging. And if you do justice, and do all that is right and fear Allah, by keeping away from all that is wrong, then Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

(Aayah No. 129, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

This confirms that the permission for a man to marry more up to four women at a time is conditional. One should be very sure that he will be able to do justice with all wives, physically, financially, emotionally and whatever aspects one can think of, related to the relationship of a husband-wife. Do we think it is that easy?

Therefore, Polygyny is not a rule, it is an exception. It is allowed but not compulsory in Islam.

2. Polyandry

Polyandry means a condition where ‘a woman has more than one husband’. Islam has allowed Polygyny, whereas Polyandry is prohibited.

Now comes the big question: Why is Polygyny allowed and Polyandry prohibited?

A. Reasons for allowing Polygyny:

A.1.
Women, typically, have an average life span more than men. Population data of almost all countries show that female population is more during all the times. This is a logical thing to understand because Allah has created these two genders (male & female) with different capabilities as well as different responsibilities. Where a woman has been given the responsibility of taking care of homes, upbringing of children and carry out all the duties associated with a Muslim wife and a Muslim mother; a man on the other hand has to strive for earning the bread for his wife and children. It is the responsibility of a man (ordained by Allah) to protect and maintain his wife (or wives) and children. Refer to following verse from Holy Qur’an:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ

“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other”

(Aayah No. 34, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

Problem of imbalanced sex ratio becomes truly problematic at times of war; and this was very much prevalent during old times. It was men who used to take part in war. Some of them would die during wars and leave behind their widows and orphans. Such women have only two options in front of them: Either get married again or Live unmarried for the rest of the life. Qur’an is saying that a woman shall be protected and maintained by a man. If we go by that, then the lady should opt for first option. But, what if she opts for second choice? She should be ready to encounter another problem. It is natural for some people with bad minds to eye such a widow or a divorcee who is living all by herself and striving to help her children grow. Such people will try to exploit her in all possible ways. A woman, on one hand may be stronger than a man in some things, but generally a woman is physically not stronger than a man. She needs a companion (in form of husband) to protect her from evil eyes. Apart from that, also a thought should be given to the feelings of that woman. She also has some desires; she also needs someone to be with her; she needs someone for her physical needs; she needs someone to take care of her (emotionally, financially, physically etc). We cannot say that once a lady is divorced or a widow, she has no right to live a happy life (as was and still is the case in Hindu religion). There is a chance (however slightest) that a lady is being denied the option of re-marrying after death of her husband or after her divorce, she might opt for other hidden means to satisfy her needs. So, which status is better for a woman: An accepted & respected second wife of a man (the Qur’anic approach) Or A virtual public property (as in the modern civilized approach)? The pious ones will definitely opt for the first option.

A.2. As discussed above, we know that men and women have been created equal by Allah. They are equal, but definitely not identical. The nature is different; the responsibilities are different; the abilities are different. One of these differences is that men are more polygamous by nature. No one can help this; Allah has created the man (male) like this.

A.3. We might sometimes face situations in our lives which can be best solved by Polygamy. An example of such a situation is following: There is a married couple facing a repeated problem of wife being not able to conceive (due to reasons whatsoever); all medical treatments have been done; doctors have tried their best, but still the couple is not able to have a child. The modern world has found a solution to such cases in terms of finding out a Surrogate Mother. I have no doubts that in every manner, the man getting married to another woman and seeking Allah’s blessings in form of a child (i.e. Polygyny), is a far better option than surrogacy. Any doubts?

B. Reasons for prohibiting Polyandry:

B.1. Islam gives utmost importance to the fact that every individual should be identified by his / her father’s name.

ادْعُوهُمْ لآبَائِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ

“Call them by the name of their father; that is more just with Allah…”

(Aayah No. 5, Surah Al-Ahzab, Chapter No. 33, Holy Qur’an).

If a woman has more than one husband, then naturally she will have to sleep with more than one man. In such situation, if she becomes pregnant, it will be difficult to ascertain who the father of that to-be-born child is. Although some might say that modern science has made it possible to check by DNA tests about the actual father, yet tests are tests and are prone to error. It is not such a trivial issue that can be left to the jurisdiction of a laboratory.

B.2. Biologically, a woman having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife. She undergoes several behavioural and psychological changes due to different phases of her menstrual cycle, which is not the case with a man.

These are some of the obvious reasons. Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, may have many more other reasons for prohibiting Polyandry and allowing Polygyny.

Recommended approach for a Muslim:

  • The approach of a Muslim male to this subject should be very cautious. It is clear that a man is allowed to marry up to four females at a time, but at the same time it should be ensured that the conditions laid down for the same are met. In no way should someone try to use it as a shield for satisfying his physical lust. Rather, this permission should be used to help widows, divorced ladies, orphan-girls etc, when we find that there is no other suitable male available for such ladies in need. Muslim brothers should ask themselves: Do they really mean to do it for Allah’s sake when they intend to marry for the second, third or fourth time; or is it just their crooked lust?

Who can be a better example to follow than our beloved Prophet (Muhammad, PBUH)?

  • The approach of a Muslim female to this subject should be straightforward, normal and simple, as they would approach other issues of the religion. Allah has allowed him to do so, should be a reason enough for women to accept the fact that their husbands can marry up to four times. Questioning the legality of this act means questioning Allah. Who can dare do that? Instead, women should support their husbands to use this permission in Qur’an, in order they may go ahead and help the needy. Of course if they feel that their husbands are using it for shielding their lusty plans, then they may raise their concern and stand up to oppose it. But it should not be the case where a man wants to marry any widow or a divorcee or an orphan-girl, with a pious intention of obeying Allah and helping the needy, or in order to be blessed with a child, and then he finds stiff opposition from his existing wife. Muslim sisters should ask themselves: Who are they to prevent their husband from doing something which is allowed for them by Allah?

Lessons should be learned from the lives of Umm-ul-Mumineen.

It should be noted that in many Muslim societies, the practice of Polygamy is rare (or at least very less), because the gap between the numbers of both genders is not huge. However, it is equally worthy to note that number of extra-marital affairs in almost all parts of the world are much more and growing at a rapid pace. It is ironical that if a man marries for a second time legally with observance of all conditions, he is looked down upon; whereas, if the same man cheats on his wife and commits adultery in hiding, he is like a normal being to the society. Do we condemn Polygamy and advocate Extra-marital affairs?

 And Allah knows best.

 May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.

سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ.

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19 comments

  1. Wa alaikum As Salam Warahmatallah Sister,

    If a married sister experiences misuse of the permission of polygamy by her husband, she has several options at her hand:

    1. She can raise her concern first with her husband, explaining him in light of Qur’an and Sunnah about the misuse he is doing, and alert him about the consequences he might have to face in this Duniya as well as in Hereafter.

    2. Secondly, she can take this matter to the elders of her family as well as her husband’s family and request their intervention to talk to her husband about the wrongdoing being done by him.

    3. If she feels that her husband is being misguided by other of his wives, she can even talk to the other wives and discuss with them the Islamic requirements for a polygamy.

    4. If things are way out of control, the wife has the right to register complaint against her husband at local Mufti or Qazi office, and seek their intervention.

    5. The last resort a wife has is to seek separation by Al-Khul.

    And Allah knows best.

  2. Assalamu alaikum,

    Isn’t it true that a woman has the right to discuss polygamy with the man before marriage, and she may put it in the marriage agreement if she does not want him to practice it?

    Jazakallah khair

  3. Wa alaikum As Salam Warahmatallah,

    According to my knowledge, no such thing is done, or should be done. However, if some one allow this to take place, personally I won’t agree to it. This is because of the fact, that no agreement should come into being which is based on any ruling against the rulings of Allah. We are Muslims, and it is an obligation upon us to accept whatever has been revealed by Allah to us in Qur’an. We have to accept it as truth (i.e. have faith on it), and we have to follow it. If someone does not understands the wisdom or reason behind a certain ruling, then he/she may try to learn. If he/she understands, well enough; but even if one does not understands, still he/she has to follow the rulings of Qur’an the way they are ought to be followed. I refer you to a verse form Surah Taubah (Aayah No. 31, Chapter No. 9, Holy Qur’an):

    “They (Jews & Christians) took their rabbis and monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and Messiah, son of Maryam, while they were commanded to worship none but One Ilah – La ilaha illa Huwa – Praise & glory be to Him from having the partners they associate (with Him).”

    This glorious verse of Qur’an warns us about the severity of interfering in laws/rulings made by Allah. If Allah has made something permissible, it is not allowed for us to make it prohibited; and if Allah ahs made something prohibited, then it is not allowed for us to make it permissible. If someone does so, he/she commits ‘Shirk’.

    Therefore, my request to all my Muslim sisters is that they should abstain from forcing their spouses into any such contract which ends up going against rulings of Allah. When Allah has given a man the right to marry more than one women, up to four, and this ruling has been sent to us as a verse of Qur’an, then what makes our Muslim women reject this ruling? Are they not afraid of interfering with laws/rulings of Allah? Don’t they have faith in Qur’an? Or is it that they believe in some part and do not believe in other parts, as per their own liking? Please be reminded of what Allah says of such an approach:

    “Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest? Then what is the recompense of those who do so among you, except disgrace in the life of this world, and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.” – (Aayah No. 85, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

    I leave it here for you and all other sisters in Islam to ponder upon.

    And Allah knows best.

  4. What is the evidence??
    Poligamy is a permision not an obligation.To put such a condition in mariage contract means that you restrict a permision not that you forbid an obligation.
    A women cannot say for ex. In marriage contract that she does not want her husband to fast in Ramadan and a husband cannot say he does not want his wife to pray but he can say he does not want her to benefit financialy from him and she can give up her right if she accept.The same the husband can give up the right to more then 1 wife.

  5. Salam alaikum,

    I am sorry to say that your comments are not at all clear. It seems there is some confusion in your mind but you are not able to pen it down.

    Please try to understand rulings with an unbiased state of mind instead of challenging them.

    Rest is up to you.

    Jazak Allah.

  6. Salam alaikum,
    Ma’am/ sir I am a christian, but I want to marry a Muslim girl we love each other, but the problem is she is already married to a man that she never love. What we can do? Please help us. We are expecting for your response. Thank you and Allah bless us.

  7. Wa alaikum,

    You cannot marry that girl due to two reasons:

    1. A Muslim girl is not permitted to marry a Non-Muslim man:

    “And give not (your daughters) in marriage to Al-Mushrikin (Non-Muslim men) till they believe (in Allah alone)….” – (Verse No. 221, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

    2. It is not allowed for a woman who is already married to marry someone else:

    “Also (forbidden are) women already married…” – (Aayah No. 24, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an).

    Apart from this being against Almighty Lord’s Will, such an act can lead to a turmoil in society, between two families, between two religious groups. Act sensibly. You can’t just do anything simply because you love the woman.

    You should stop thinking on these lines, and completely abandon the thought of marrying that girl.

    And Allah knows best.

  8. As salaamu alaykum, may Allah reward you for your work. Ameen! It concerns me that my husband is misusing polygamy due to the fact he can’t financially afford another wife. Nearly a year ago my husband took another wife. Since I refuse to live with my co-wife the only place he could put her was in a hotel. Once the realize he could not keeping paying for a weekly hotel he moved her in with me despite my objections. She eventually had to leave because of a situation she concealed from my husband and she can’t return for quite some time. Instead of my husband divorcing her or denying maintenance he is now risking his job, taking weeks of pay, and taking days off work traveling to see her. Living me here alone with no family around. He little to no money by the time he returns. And I have recently learned that he is still trying force us to all live together once she returns or if she returns.

  9. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    Dear sister, why you do not want your husband’s wife to live with him in same house where you live? On what basis you refuse to let that happen? When Allah has given him the permission to marry more than one woman, then who are you to try stop him from that?

    It is so weird on part of modern woman that if her husband drinks wine or gambles or involve in Riba based transactions, that doesn’t bother her at all. But the moment her husband talks of another marriage, that is the biggest sin for the modern woman. You do not allow the second wife of your husband to live in same house, and when he tries to arrange accommodation for her at another place and faces financial problems, you state that such a situation is a misuse of polygamy as he cannot afford to keep another wife. It is just so ridiculous on your part, I am sorry to say. If you cooperate with her and let the lady stay in the same house (of course in different rooms), then your husband won’t face this financial problem.

    If you are a righteous lady, you should object to those actions of your husband which are against Islamic principles; there is no point in raising voice against actions which are not in violation of Islamic principles. You do not know what is in heart of your husband. Leave that matter to Allah. If your husband is misusing any Islamic ruling, then Allah will take care of him. Why you cannot leave things to Allah? Why everyone wants to settle all scores by himself/herself nowadays?

    May Allah set your affairs right.

    May Allah help you.

    And Allah knows best.

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