In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
The verse of the Qur’an 4:3 which permits polygamy (maximum four wives) was revealed following the battle of Uhud, as Muhammad Ali notes, in which “70 men out of 700 Muslims had been slain, and this decimation had largely decreased the number of males, who, being the breadwinners, were the natural guardians and supporters of the females.”
Polygamy in Islam is an exception rather than the rule. It is only recommended as a remedial measure. It is a fact that females mature earlier than males–a report in the Toronto Star Tuesday November 7, 2000, under the heading Early puberty, low birth weight linked?, Section A18, by Lindsey Tanner of Associated Press, says that in the U.S. “it has been estimated that nearly half of black girls and 15 per cent of white ones start puberty by age 8”–and women live longer than men do; and the flames of war usually leave in its ashes many widows. While some women may be financially independent, they have femi-nine needs, which can be met either in the unceremonious cot of concubinage or in the honorable bed of wifehood.
It is not morally healthy for men to have half a dozen para-mours than to have women in the dignity of polygamous mar-riages. To prevent the moral decay of society, Islam allows a limited polygamy to alleviate the problem of female preponder-ancy. Islam allows polygamy even though Allāh, God knows that man is not capable of “impartiality.” This is so because the preservation of the moral standards of society is of higher importance than man’s inability to be impartial with his affections. (And it is morally and socially better that man live with this partiality in polygamous marriage than in promiscuity).
As Muhammad Ali commented: “polygamy in Islam is both in theory and in practice an exception, not a rule, and as an exception it is a remedy for many of the evils especially prevalent in Western society. It is not only the preponderance of females over males that necessitates polygamy in certain cases, but there is a variety of other circumstances, not only for the moral but also for the physical welfare of society. Prostitution, the great evil of civilization, which is a real canker, with its concomitant increase in bastardy, is practically unknown to countries where polygamy is allowed as a remedial measure.”
Seemingly, the reasons why women are not allowed more than one husband are:
(a) Since women matures earlier and live longer, there is no question of there being a preponderance of men (over women).
(b) While in advanced nations with medical techniques it may not be a problem, a woman with multiple husbands may not know who the father of her child is.
(c) Since woman is a vessel (a collector of the man’s deposit), with multiple husband’s these various deposits, which may adversely interact, may lead to the development of disease(s) (perhaps this is how venereal disease originated).
Polygamy is no vice, but a virtue when practiced in accordance with the Qur’an. It is doubtful that a decent woman would not prefer to be a second or even third or fourth wife in the divine sanctuary of marriage but to be in the immoral parlor of concubinnage–a kept woman. Allāh/Islam is not to be cited if Muslims abuse this blessed, beneficial and honorable institution.
(Perhaps an investigation into post World War II Europe to find out how many war-widows, either because of poverty or for sexual gratification, engaged in illicit relation and the number of children born from such illicit relations; in which event these children, or some of them, would have had to endure the stigma of illegitimacy and even not knowing who their fathers are/were. Perhaps even the women might not know whose children they had. Though it is doubtful that Europe would have kept record of such “dark” and disgraceful days. Glory, praise and thanks to Allāh for this wonderful allowance of limited polygamy when needed).
Abraham, Solomon had more than one wife. And Krishna “married the princess Rukmini and took other wives as well.”1
Hinduism allows polygamy –King Dasrat had three wives, Kausiliya, Sumitra, and Kaikeya– and polyandry –Draupadi had five Pandava brothers as husbands at one time.
Hinduism allows Niyoga–contract marriages–in which a childless widow/widower can have temporary marriages with up to twelve spouses, one after the other, for raising children; and in a marriage where the husband is sterile or the wife suffers from a chronic disease; and also “If a man be not able to control his passions while his wife and she is pregnant, he may contract Niyoga with (a widow) and beget offspring on her.”2
The Bible also allows polygamy:
-Lamech had two wives (Gen. 4:19);
-God gave David “his master’s wives” (2 Sam. 12:8);
-Solomon had “seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3. And Solomon is said to be “wise”);
-Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had “eighteen wives and three score concubines” (2 Chr. 11:21).
-Even Abraham enjoyed polygamy/concubinage with Sarah and Hagar, as did Jacob –Jesus’, the Christian’s God and son of God, grandfather– with Bilhah and Zilpah, handmaids of his wives Rachel and Leah, respectively (Gen. 16:1-4; 30:1-13). Notably, Jesus did not abrogate polygamy. Jesus saying that a man may forsake his parents and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh is no abrogation of polygamy. What Jesus was stating here was that husbands and wives are closer to each other than they are to their parents. Jesus had nothing to say about Woman, Slaves, and Orphans. These and “all truth” he left for the Comforter (Mohammad) to give–(John 14:15-16; 16:12-13).
And as Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din notes in his book Introduction to the Study of the Holy Qur’an, “Alexander the Great and his father Philip had each more than one wife….The Hebrews never objected to plurality of wives….Indeed, during the first two centuries polygamy was freely practised in Christendom.” Charlemagne “had two wives at one time, besides divorced ones and some concubines ….Philip of Hesse and Frederick William II of Prussia obtained the sanction of the Lutheran clergy for contracting bigamous marriages….The Anabaptists freely preached that a true Christian must have several wives; and the Mormons regard polygamy as a divine institution.”(pp. ix, x).
Christians may not be practicing polygamy (though they might be dallying in concubinage/adultery) and Secularism may frown on it and even criminalize it, but the Bible –Judaism and Christianity– allows polygamy.
Significantly, unlike the condition under which polygamy was allowed in Islam –“70 men out of 700 Muslims had been slain, and this decimation had largely decreased the number of males, who, being the breadwinners, were the natural guardians and supporters of the females”– there was no such condition in the Judeo-Christian’s scriptural history to justify the allowance of polygamy. Moreover to allow Solomon and his son unbridled polygamy. And even unbridled concubinage.
A word on concubinage. Contrary to the views of the “expert on Islam,” Islam does not allow Muslims to have sexual relations with their female slaves. Islam, having abolished slavery, there could be no such law allowing intimacy with female slaves when there is no such institution as slavery. (See Islam-concubinage).
1. Ency; Brit; 15th Ed; Vol. V, p. 922; Art. Krsna.
2. Saraswati, Swami Dayananda, Light Of Truth, pp. 133-138, 140.