POLYGYNY WAS, IS AND WILL BE PART OF ISLAM
Polygyny, is among the most controversial, yet often misunderstood, issues when it comes to Islam – among non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Undoubtedly, polygyny doesn’t suit everyone; it needs lots of patience and compromise. But as Allah (SWT) gives this right to men, there must be wisdom behind it.
Allah subhanahu wa-ta’ala who is al-Hakim (All Wise) al-Khabir (All Experienced) and who is more knowledgeable about the human beings He created than they themselves are about themselves, has ordained that a man is allowed to marry whom he wills among women as long as he does not bond in marriage under his care and responsibility more than four women. And this is conditioned upon him dealing justly among them the known justice specified by shari’a which includes overnight stays and spending. If he does not have the ability and capacity to deal with such justice, then he should suffice with one, as Allah indicates in Surat al-Nisaa’ in ayah 3, which has a meaning that can be translated as:
“…Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one…” (4:3)
Allah prescribed polygamy, and we believe that polygamy is for the interest of women at the first place before it is for the interest of man. It is not at all a kind of oppression practiced against woman, as some may believe. The One Who prescribed polygamy is Allah Glorified and Exalted Who said in the Divine Hadith, “O My slaves, I have forbidden oppression to Myself and I have made it forbidden among you, so do not wrong one another.” [Reported by Muslim]
Can Allah forbid oppression then allow polygamy that implies oppression to woman? Absolutely not and it cannot be. That is because Allah is the One Who has created the woman and He is the One Who knows best her conditions and knows that polygamy will not harm her in any way. Allah Almighty has said,
Allah Almighty has made polygamy permissible for the interest of woman by not preventing her from marriage, for the interest of man by not stopping his benefits, and for the interest of the nation by the multiplicity of its offspring. It is a prescription from the One Who is All-Wise and All-Acquainted. No one can challenge it except the one whom Allah has blinded his eyes by disbelief, hypocrisy or stubbornness.
The Prophet ﷺ practiced plural marriage, as did the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and also his grandchildren Hasan & Hussain (R.A.). There is scholarly consensus on this matter.
It was narrated that Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said: Ibn ‘Abbaas said to me: “Have you gotten married?” I said: “No.” He said: “Get married, for the best of this ummah are the ones with the most wives.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5069).
It should be noted that there are conditions attached to plural marriage:
Justice & fairness in terms of treatment, time and spending.
The Aayah (verse) above indicates that just treatment is a condition for plural marriage to be permitted. If a man is afraid that he will not be able to treat his wives justly if he marries more than one, then it is forbidden for him to marry more than one. What is meant by the justice that is required in order for a man to be permitted to have more than one wife is that he should treat his wives equally in terms of spending, clothing, spending the night with them and other material things that are under his control.
With regard to justice or fairness in terms of love, he is not held accountable for that, and that is not required of him because he has no control over that. This is what is meant by the verse,
“You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire” [al-Nisa’ 4:129 – interpretation of the meaning].
– Disputes, Stress and Harm to the Family, Some people may object and say that plural marriage means having co-wives in one house, and that the disputes and enmity that may arise between co-wives will have an effect on the husband, children and others, and this is harmful and should be avoided, and the only way to prevent that is to ban plural marriage.
The response to that is that family arguments may occur even when there is only one wife, and they may not even happen when there is more than one wife, as we see in real life. Even if we assume that there may be more arguments than in a marriage to one wife, even if we accept that they may be harmful and bad, the harm is outweighed by the many good things in a plural marriage. Life is not entirely bad or entirely good, but what everyone hopes is that the good will outweigh the bad, and this principle is what applies in the permission for plural marriage.
Moreover, each wife has the right to her own, separate accommodation as prescribed in Islam. It is not permissible for the husband to force his wives to live together in one house.
– Not for this time, Some say it was only at that time of war and not meant for this day and age.
The response to this by scholars is that, Islam came down for all times and till the day of judgement, the scholars anonymously agree that the man has the right to take more than one wife (if he can be just) without any valid reason. Having said that many scholars (Imam Nawawi, Imam Shafi’i and others) have also gone on to say that for many regular men “it is recommended to be limited to one wife out of fear of wronging them or failing to be just.” And other scholars have said it is Mustahab for those who can afford it and feel they can do justice.
Do not reject it
Although the scholars suggest that the masses are better off staying in a monogamous marriage, we as Muslims still have to accept the fact that this is part of Sharia. Rejecting it or hating it is Haram.
Allah’s shari’aa is all just and wise, and He ordains what He wills and does what He wants and it is incumbent upon as human beings to believe and have faith and submit and obey and abide by the shari’a, otherwise then we are not Muslims nor mu’mineen (believers). As Allah also said whose meaning can be translated as:
The ‘Allaamah Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez ibn Baaz rahimullah was asked:
Some women give preference to the societal norms of Europe or the west in general; or in the un-Islamic lands, and they say: “Plural marriage is unlawful.” While we have here the legislative rule permitting polygamy. What is the ruling on levelling this (type of) charge against Al-Islam.
Whoever hates plural marriage or claims that not having plural marriage is better, then he is a Kaafir and an apostate from Al-Islaam. This is because he, and we seek refuge with Allah, is a rejecter of the ruling of Allah and hates that which Allah has legislated. Allah, Glorified be He, says:
“That is because they hate that which Allah has sent down (this Qur’an and Islamic laws, etc.), so He has made their deeds fruitless.” (Muhammad 47:9)
Whoever dislikes that which Allah has sent down then his deeds are fruitless. So whoever dislikes plural marriage or holds that the Sharee’ah has been oppressive; or that the Ruling of Allah regarding this is deficient or not good; or that that which they do within the lands of the Christians from monogamous marriage is better and more befitting, then all of this constitutes apostasy from Al-Islam, and we seek refuge with Allah. Likewise, if one were to say: “There is nothing wrong with ruling by other than the Sharee’ah; it is permissible.” Even if he says that ruling by the Sharee’ah is better, but he says that ruling by other than that which Allah has sent down is permissible or it is good, all of this constitutes apostasy from Al-Islam, and we seek refuge with Allah.
Note: This is not talking about the natural jealousy that a woman has, but disliking this as being part of Islam is what is condemned.
Wisdom behind it
There is no doubt that polygamy, when practised properly in accordance with Islam, achieves many things that are in people’s best interests. Studies show that the growing numbers of families without fathers is doing more harm to the next generation than other factors such as smoking, alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise.
As regards the bad things that happen in cases of polygamy, either they are very small when compared to its benefits, or they stem from bad application of this practice.
To understand polygyny, there are two important points we need to consider. First, Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an allows the option of marrying more than one wife, up to four, with certain prerequisites that must be fulfilled: justice with time and financial support. This is a huge responsibility on men, which is often neglected when Muslim men tend to look at polygyny through the lens of their heated desires, thereby breaking their family’s heart. They forget that the main purpose of polygyny is providing support and care. While most sisters in normal circumstances would never want to share their husband with anyone, the reality is that many sisters find themselves in the situation where the option of polygyny enables them and their kids to live in a family and feel loved and cared for. Thus, polygyny should unite and not tear families apart, nor cause hatred. It should not be forced on anyone, but approached wisely with the right intention.
It is unfortunate that promiscuous sexual behaviour, fornication and adultery have become normal practices in many societies while plural Islamic marriage for men is outlawed; and people are indoctrinated (from an early age) into believing that polygyny is oppressive, demeaning to women and violates women’s rights (even if those women choose to be co-wives).
Although, we hear more stories of heartbreak than the positive stories in relation to polygyny, there are still wonderful examples where instead of jealousy, everyone is content and wives feel sisterly love towards each other.
THE WISDOM BEHIND PERMITTING PLURAL MARRIAGE:
Plural marriage helps to increase the numbers of the ummah, the good men and women should give the Ummah more and more children who would help and serve the Ummah. Polygyny helps in this.
Statistics show that the number of women is greater than the number of men; Allah has made a tradition that the number of men is usually less than that of the women approximately in all the surveys of the world. In addition, men are more liable to death in different fields of life such as wars, car accidents and the like. All of these make the number of woman usually more than that of the men. Therefore, if the man is confined to marrying only one woman, then a great number of women will remain single. The harmful effect is that she would never find a husband to take care of her interests, to give her a place to live, to spend on her, to protect her from haraam desires, and to give her children to bring her joy. This may lead to deviance and going astray, except for those on whom Allah has mercy.
Those children do not find anyone to show compassion towards them or any mature man to raise them properly. When they go out into the world and find out the truth, that they are illegitimate, that is reflected in their behaviour, and they become exposed to deviance and going astray. They may even bear grudges against society, and who knows? They may become the means of their country’s destruction, leaders of deviant gangs, as is the case in many nations in the world.
There are some men who may have strong physical desires, for whom one wife is not enough. If the door is closed to such a man and he is told, you are not allowed more than one wife, this will cause great hardship to him, and his desire may find outlets in forbidden ways.
A wife may be barren, Shall he divorce her because she is ill or because she cannot have children? Is it not better to keep her and marry another one and be just with them?
Women will have a choice to get out of an oppressive marriage, how many sisters are in oppressive marriages just because they feel they have nowhere to go? No one to take care of them and their children. If they know that there are good men who would take them as wives they would readily get out of the oppressive marriages.
Serves as warning for oppressive husbands, majority of men who oppress their wives do so because they know she just cannot leave him, if he knows that she would just leave and opt to be a second wife of a better man they would hold themselves back.
Gives the sister time to actively serve the Society, It gives the sisters time for her own which she can use for her own betterment and to serve the Ummah.
It is an added responsibility on a man not just an added means of pleasure.
While polygamy is frequently seen as benefiting the husband to the detriment of the wives, the reality is that it’s far more difficult for the husband. He has to not only fulfil the rights of both wives and support both families financially and emotionally, he has to juggle his time between them, settle any disputes and difficulties that arise, and all the while ensure that he’s being just and fair. The penalty for him failing to treat his wives equally is being raised up on the day of Judgement with half his body paralyzed.
Remember Polygyny is for men to have more responsibility and not just more pleasure. The woman is not responsible to make this work it is the responsibility of the man.
It is a fact anonymously agreed by the Muslim men & women that there is a shortage of good Muslim men. Now we make it worse by taking away the title of “good” from men who take more than one wife. We are making them lazy and relaxed, when we as an Ummah should urge the good men to take more responsibility and help other sisters. We hold ourselves back thinking how can I spoil that sister’s (the first wife) life. Remember the Hadeeth “you will not have complete imaan until you want for your brother (and in analogy sister) what you want for yourself.
If we know of righteous brothers with good character and sisters (divorced, single mothers, etc) struggling to find good men then we should actually urge these men to take them as wives and take this responsibility. By not asking the right brothers we are actually leaving the sisters in need to be manipulated by brothers who should not be in a polygynous marriage as they will not do justice.
The Ummah needs real men, we need them to be working hard and to inspire a better future generation.
Self-check for men before getting into it.
Having mentioned the wisdom behind polygyny we do not mean to give an outright support to it, that it is good for anyone and everyone. Allah has put a condition there and as mentioned by the scholars not many can fulfil it, so if you are considering polygyny do a self-check to be sure you won’t be committing sins by not being just with co-wives.
The first thing to remember is finding a woman willing to be a co-wife should NOT be your first priority. First, you need to ask yourself if you are really capable of being a husband to more than one woman.
It is not for the faint of heart.
Many men have several reasons to get married again. One of the burning reasons that keeps coming up is their unsatisfied desire to have more sex and/or more children which is legitimate in its own right. However, if you were to follow the Prophetic sunnah, most of His ﷺ wives were widows with children and divorcees. Or these were marriages made in order to form important political alliances in order to strengthen the Ummah (global Muslim community). Your “desire” for having more than one wife should therefore also translate into doing something for the greater good of society. Make an act of worship out of it with the right intentions and not just for your own sexual enjoyment and need for more children.
Muhammad ﷺ came to Aisha’s (RA) house and on that day there was no food in her house so he asked for food from his other wife’s house and when it was brought, Aisha (RA) flipped the entire tray in a fit of jealousy. Imagine yourself in that situation? How would you react? Do you realize what our Prophet ﷺ did? He laughed it off. Can you?
THE CHECKLIST TO SEE IF YOU’RE AN IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR POLYGYNY.
Reality is that most of the time men can’t keep up and these situations lead to divorce once the neglect sets in.
With all things considered, we believe polygyny still can be done if you’re just and up for the lifelong challenge, it is not a hobby it is a lifelong commitment.
It takes character and clear understanding of why a man wants to marry a second, third or fourth wife. Some have genuinely amazing intentions of taking care orphans and widows, some have needs that one wife is suited for
Do your wife, your potential other wife, your children, and the whole Ummah a favour, think your decision to marry another wife through with the head on your shoulders!
Please remember that polygyny was made permissible in Islam in order to provide love and support to women, not only to satisfy men’s desires.
Selecting the right spouse
Choose your wives wisely. Women who agree to be in polygamous marriages should have strong personalities. They have to be more than “pretty” faces. There must be substance there. Above all else they should fear Allah and have knowledge of Islam to know her rights and that of the Husband.
Only agree to marry men who are high on Taqwa (God fearing & Mindful of Allah) and manners, only get into a polygynous marriage with men who are seen as strong (standing up for justice). So a strong personality is a common trait to be looked at for both men & women. Another common thing should be a clear vision, this helps the people involved in it to manoeuvre their way through the tough times.
Recommendations for Men
Marriages fail either because one partner is not fulfilling the rights of the other (or worse, abusing the other), or because the two partners are not compatible. This is the same in monogamy and polygamy. Relationships fail sometimes in spite of one or both partners putting in their best efforts, and that’s why divorce is halal.
Sometimes men try to fix a failing monogamous marriage by taking a second wife – in my opinion this is like trying to put out a fire in the living room by starting another fire in the kitchen. Other men want all the benefits of polygamy but refuse to accept any of the responsibility and end up treating their wives very badly.
Some steps/tips before you get into it:
Women Checklist before getting into it.
Survival guide for Sisters in Polygyny
Polygamy is often seen as the end of a happy marriage, but it need not be that at all. Polygamy can work if the husband and both or all wives go about it in the right way.
Know my Muslim sisters that polygamy is a trial from Allah, not from the husband. Therefore, like any other trial, it is a time to come closer to Allah azzawajal, with submission, patience and tawakkul. Just like any other trial, it is a time to evaluate oneself and to increase good deeds; it is not a time to rebel. More importantly (what seems like a never-ending task, we must strive to separate the anger we may feel against our husbands and channel it towards accepting Allah’s decree.
Instead of perceiving the situation as “my husband did this to me”, it should be, “it is my Rabb’s Decree and He is testing me”. The real struggle lies in accepting it as a test rather than a betrayal by one’s husband. It is indeed an emotional Jihaad (exertion) to separate the two. Perhaps this is also the most effective recipe to cope with polygamy.
Try to remind yourself about the hadeeth where the Prophet ﷺ said, “None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Bukhari) This is in analogy applicable to sisters, so try and think of the need for the sister.
Try not to see your co-wife as a rival. Instead, try to focus on strengthening your relationship with your husband. If you don’t feel secure in your relationship, then it’s only natural that you’d see the other wife as a threat. If you are sure of your relationship with your husband, then ask yourself why you feel threatened, and remind yourself of what you have. If your husband is going to love you and stand by you no matter what, then what can she take from you?
A useful piece of advice I heard from a brother is “the insecurity of the first wife is that the second wife is her replacement and he doesn’t love her any more. The insecurity of the second wife is that the first wife is his first love and he’ll never love her as much as he loves his first.” This reminds us that the other wife has her own doubts, and to see clearly what we have instead. Look at why your husband loves you and try not to dwell on what he may or may not feel about her.
Jealousy is best tackled by focusing on what you have. “Jealousy is when you count someone else’s blessings instead of your own”. If you feel jealous about anything, ask yourself if it’s over something that you really want, or whether you desire it simply because your co-wife has it.
If your husband is not dividing up his time fairly, or not fulfilling your rights in Islam then he is the guilty party so don’t blame your co-wife for this. This applies whether it’s something minor or very serious. Speak to him about the problem and tell him how you feel. If he’s a good husband, he’ll do something to rectify the situation. If he doesn’t and you’re having significant problems in your marriage because of it, then you need to go about dealing with it in the same way you would if you were monogamously married.
Points for Men dealing with their first wife
1. Please do not abuse the aforementioned points. How a woman perceives polygamy is between her and Allah azzawajal. There are sisters who may not be able to cope with polygamy, but it doesn’t give husbands the right to judge their imaan. Further, if the wife makes an effort to struggle through it, then recognize her situation as the one suffering through a test. She undertakes a hard journey and whether she finds peace with it has a lot to do with how a husband handles the situation.
2. What was said above is easier said than done. Most pleasing to shaytaan is to break a marriage and obviously he will take every available opportunity to arouse negative feelings and emotions in a wife. A wife may be able to ward off the waswas at times, but not all the time. Treat her as if she is human, because she is human; don’t expect angelic reactions and submission from her.
3. Remember, not only does a wife fight shayateen’s waswas but she also suffers the antagonizing society’s finger-pointing at her for being the “insufficient’ wife number one. It is easy to say who cares about what others are saying but the reality is very ugly. A husband must stand up for his wife if he does not want to kiss her goodbye.
4. Realize that it is natural for her to be hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to anything that others might say, especially, to what comes out of her husband’s mouth. Shaytaan will make her read assumptions into her husband’s words and actions, so be prepared to explain calmly and patiently.
5. And Remember, it is inevitable for her to compare herself to the other wife, and to indulge in thinking, “Who does he love more/find more pleasing?” Find a way to keep her from doing that if you don’t want her to go mentally insane.
6. There is no right way of jumping into polygamy. No matter what approach you take, it will hurt your first wife, but DO NOT LIE to her. She will find out, especially, if you share a good strong relationship. Many times husbands lie to keep their wives from hurting, but in reality deception and dishonesty hurt more.
7. You might feel happier and more comfortable with your second wife, but remember that she never had you to herself as a lone wife like your first wife did. She has entered into the relationship with you as the second wife, so things will inevitably be easier for her. She hasn’t had to face the same changes and challenges as your first wife in adjusting to a different type of relationship with you.
8. Try to give your first wife extra support in this difficult time.Once she realizes that you still love and support her, she will adjust.
9. Don’t ask what’s wrong because you know what’s wrong. Instead, give her the time, space, and opportunity to talk about her feelings and just listen to and support her to voice them. Let her know that you understand why she feels this way. Ensure her that you will still be there to support her and that you still love her.
10. Connect with Other Polygamous Couples. It’s always useful, in any situation even, to have advice from people who have already faced the same challenges.It is useful not only for advice but to know that she’s not alone with the emotions she has. It provides her with an alternative avenue to share her emotions and discuss them. She will probably feel less inclined to continually press them all onto you. Often this serves as a form of counselling.
Some Q&A about the Matter
Men getting another wife as soon as he has the money
Questioner: As soon as a man receives more money, he thinks of polygyny. His purpose is not to build a family. His purpose is enjoyment.
Shaykh al-Albânî: That is good. That is good. That is good.
Money brings trials and temptations, it is better for the man to spend on Halal and take up responsibility rather than having time and money on hand for the Shaytaan to use against him and get him into Haram acts.
She asked him to divorce her if he takes a second wife
Concerning her request for divorce if her husband wants to marry another wife, this is a mistake. But they should examine the situation, and if she really cannot cope with living with another wife, then she can ask him for khula’ [a kind of divorce instigated by the wife, whereby she forgoes the mahr]. If she can cope with living with the second wife, but it hurts her to do so, then she should be patient and seek the pleasure of Allah. Thawbaan (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger ﷺ said:
“No woman asks her husband for a divorce for no reason, but the fragrance of Paradise is forbidden for her.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood and others, and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani, may Allah have mercy on him).
If she bears it with patience, then Allah will make it easier for her and will expand her chest (i.e., grant her peace and calm), and will compensate her with something good. The husband must also help her by treating her kindly, being patient with her for any jealousy etc. on her part, and overlooking her mistakes. And Allaah is the source of help. Click here to read details.
If my husband takes a second wife, will I be rewarded?
A woman’s being patient in obeying her husband is one of the means of entering Paradise, as it says in the hadeeth narrated by Ibn Hibbaan: “If a woman offers her five daily prayers and fasts her month (i.e., Ramadan) and guards her chastity and obeys her husband, it will be said to her: ‘Enter Paradise from whichever of the gates of Paradise you wish.’” This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ al-Sagheer, no. 660.
Her patience in putting up with her husband’s marrying a second wife will bring a special reward over and above that, for several reasons:
1 – Her husband’s marrying another wife is regarded as a test and trial for her, and if she bears that with patience she will have the reward for being patient in the face of a trial.
2 – If a woman accepts that and treats her husband and the other wife well, she will have the reward of al-muhsineen.
3 – If she feels angry because of that, but she controls her anger – and controlling one’s tongue is part of controlling one’s anger.
Click here for details (beautifully explained in this Q&A – highly recommend you read this)
I reiterate that I believe that polygyny is a solution for the society, “ONLY IF” done by the right people and the right way. It is not for every man nor is it for every woman.
My hope is that rather than relying upon stereotypes and clichés, and rather than being negatively influenced by the many sad stories of polygyny gone wrong, Muslims can finally have access to resources that promote a healthier polygynous model and lifestyle.
My hope is that we reward the good men in the society with more good women, expecting more good off-springs to be raised who would serve the Ummah. Urge the good men to take more responsibilities, we are in times that everyone needs to do more to help the Ummah, as an individual and as a family.
Polygyny was made permissible by Allah for a reason, and while it has been misused by far too many people for far too long, there are also many great benefits that it has to offer to women as well as men.
May Allah guide us all to living according to a standard of ethics and behavior that is pleasing to Him, and grant us success and happiness in our marriages and families. Âmîn.