Life and Times Blog

Polygamy #1

I’ve had some thoughts swirling around this for some time now. A recent FB note by a friend, a fairly long Gmail thread, and a Halqa presentation by someone else gave me the nudge to sit down on this.
It’s seen as a controversial subject, polygamy in Islam. I don’t think it should be controversial, I haven’t seen anyone flat out say it’s forbidden, but I have seen plenty of people describe it as a religious virtue.

It seems to be a matter of individual choice. You can choose to do it, or choose not to.
I initially thought I’d present the opposing views on this in a clinical way, merely stating both views without (too much of) my opinion on the matter. But the more websites I read, the more I realised this was impossible. So subjective bombs away.

Just to repeat, no one can definitively say it’s not allowed. Or even look down on those who do it. But on the same note, the converse applies, those who refuse, should have that freedom without the blackmail of being anti-religious, or counter-virtue.

I wasn’t certain whether refusing was being anti-Islamic, so I kept quiet on this, but it seems Tariq Ramadan (who’s views I like), as well as others , have stated publically that women are allowed to refuse upfront to this. SO I’m more comfortable in what I’m about to say.

What are the arguments in favour?

Social Justice
Argument:Women far outnumber men, therefore, without polygamy; there would be unmarried women in this world.
In most cases this is untrue. The hard facts show this.
Where this is true, it would certainly be a cause for social justice. In certain areas, war stricken regions for example, polygamy is necessary and good.

However, in normal communities, women outnumber men primarily only due to their longer average life spans. SO in terms of the entire population there is only a slight skew.
I’ve pulled some stats for Bilal Randerees post a while back https://lifeandtimesblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/marriage-contract-of-bilal-randeree-amina-ebrahim/
This shows that its only beyond a certain age that this age gap happens, so if a man is doing this for the purpose of social justice he would be marrying women in that age category. The population argument does not stand up.

Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW)
This is true. It was the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW); it was also widely prevalent in the society of the time. Islam actually was restrictive, as it limited the number of wives to 4, unlike the open number for Arabs of the time.

BUT this is one of many sunnah, caring for orphans, fasting regularly, tahajjud etc. So it’s all good to say you’re doing it because of the sunnah, but these other sunnah don’t involve consequences for others around you.

So it’s not fair to put the blackmail on women as there is a huge burden on them in most cases. And if a man is claiming to do it solely for Sunnah sake, then is he as fervent and compliant with all the many other Sunnah that do not involve very real compromises for others? If your reason is self-serving, be honest about that, rather than painting your primary driver as being the Sunnah.

One argument against the Sunnah that I have heard, is that the Prophet (SAW) was monogamous throughout his relationship with Khadija (RA). I don’t think that’s an accurate counter, because the fact is that he did have multiple wives, as did many sahabah. Hazrat Umar (RA) was said to have had 7 or 8 in his life time, but not concurrently of course.

Divorce however, was also a lot more prevalent than it is today.

Another counter to this that I’ve heard is that the permission was revealed only after Uhud, and therefore only applicable in that specific context (where there were more widows and orphans). Now I know the context of revelation is of importance, but the Quran is universal, and timeless, so I’m not about to use this as a counter. Because even if it was revealed at that time, it was maintained for all time. Further, there were many other rulings of Islam that were gradually introduced. SO the Quran does allow for it:

Surah 4 vs3. If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.

Yusuf Ali says it seems to indicate monogamy is better.

I have however heard a scholar say that the wording of the verse indicates that the NORM is to marry multiple, seeing as it begins with marrying more, then says if NOT, then marry one.

I have also seen this verse used in an argument discouraging it:
Surah 4 vs129. Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self- restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful

There is a refute against this in one of the links at the end of this post.

What interesting though is that in that time, this was a restrictive measure for the norm of the time, as it was common amongst the Arabs to have more than four. Whilst we see it as permissive, back then it was restrictive.

I think it’s important to distinguish between allowances, recommendations, compulsions.
Polygamy is an allowance, caring for orphans is a strong recommendation. An allowance doesn’t indicate anything more than the option, and according to many, refusing this specific allowance is also an allowance. Individual choice. This way or that.

It’s not advised to ignore recommendations, you can choose to never read tahajjud, but you really should read as much as you can.

Giving charity is a compulsion. Non-negotiable, and not allowed to be refused.

Some go as far as to say that not to allow it is also Sunnah citing this hadith:
I heard Allah’s Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, “Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don’t give permission, and will not give permission unless ‘Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me.”

Fulfilment of desire:

Argument: By allowing polygamy, a man is given a legitimate outlet for his sexual desire, a counter measure to the common ills of today, infidelity, prostitution, STD’s.
This may hold partially true. Although it is slightly denigrating to male powers of self-restraint. And exaggerating of the male libido.
A counter to this that is used is that he wouldn’t be satisfied by 4 either, but I won’t use that, because though he may not be fully satisfied with 4, he is likely to be MORE satisfied with 4 than with one. Satisfied enough not to meander. But whether one or four, he will still have to exercise restraint based on fear of God.
Once more, on the concept of justice, by him finding an outlet for this desire, instead of exercising restraint, what price will his wife be paying, and what restraint will she as a consequence be forced to exercise in other areas of life, and is it fair, is it Just?

Imam Ghazzali warns about the two destructive desires, being this one, and the other being the stomach. Restraint is a core and fundamental part of our system.

Further, the picture of this desirous man is a little extreme, men survive till their mid-20’s, through the most libidous period of their lives, without the fulfilment of this desire, why is it that when they have 1 wife, they suddenly need more? If you show me a man who claims this as his reason, and was married at 18, or 16, for this reason, he at least has a little more weight to his claim. He is allowed to exercise on this, but it is not the only solution.

A friend posted a note on FB relating to this: http://nisaa.ca/featurearticles/comments/over_sexualized_muslim_men_syndrome/

Independent lifestyles of today:
This one is almost used in contradiction to the one about it having been sunnah at the time, but for all time. Because this motivation actually encourages the contextualisation of the ruling.
Some say that women are lot more independent, and that the model of the nuclear family is changing, so much so that there are women out there who would be better off without having to commit the same amount of time to their husbands as was traditionally done.

By marrying a man with other wives, those others could provide for his other needs whilst she pursues a lifestyle she prefers.
This could well be true.

But, in a society with equal numbers of men and woman, it would mean that wealthier men would have more wives to the detriment of poorer men, thus breaking the argument that motivates in the name of social justice. Wealthy men have the upper hand in monogamy too, as they are in more demand generally, but with multiple wives it would mean the deprivation of other men altogether, not just on the basis of selectivity.

(thanks to Shak for the independant women perspective, his writing can be found here: http://www.radioshak.co.uk/2008/07/on-misyar-and-marriage-contracts.html)
I agree that women’s lifestyles and perspectives have changed, but in this new independent paradigm, I also believe that they are less likely to be communally inclined. You can see it in the fact that extended families don’t live together as much, that in-laws have greater boundaries, and conflict. (this is based on pure observation and hearsay though, about the old days).

There are those that punt temporary marriage on these grounds too, but I don’t know a damn thing about that.

So there is a counter to this. None of the arguments for or against are purely one or the other, choice exists.
I’m “countering” not to say it’s not allowed, but merely to say that both agreeing to it AND disapproving of it, is both OK, there should be no blackmail or condescension on either. Of course my own bias means the counter may be more pronounced… I don’t think it’s a good idea in these times. And I personally would not consider it.

http://www.al-islamforall.org/litre/Englitre/polygainis.htm
http://www.islamfortoday.com/polygamy3.htm
http://www.bilalphilips.com/search_pages.php?q=polygamy&imageField.x=0&imageField.y=0
http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1140333531684

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March 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

20 Comments »

  1. Nice write up, although I still think it’s a bit unhelpful to decide on the morality of polygamy starting with an assumption that a guy will always be doing it for nefarious and self-serving purposes, or that a woman is somehow being coerced.

    Saying we shouldn’t be selfish or forced to do stuff we don’t have to aren’t just righteous concepts pertaining to marriage, they’re universal. As such they don’t really belong here and simply muddle the issue by building a context and correlation that may not necessarily exist (polygamy == horny bloke and repressed wife). It’s a bit like someone saying the hijab is wrong because all women are forced to wear it by their husbands.

    On rankings of good deeds: actions should be seen as independent actions. If a guy marries out of sunnah then that’s the end of the matter whether he cares for orphans or not, just like a woman who doesn’t pray (obligatory) may still be doing a good thing by wearing the hijab (possibly not as obligatory). We shouldn’t discount a good deed just because a human may not be up to scratch in other parts of his or her life.

    On refusal: in my view the right of a wife to veto the further marriages of her husband is something that can only be asserted before they get married. The default and unsaid position should always be the halal (in this case, polygamy), unless specifically negotiated and revoked in a (marriage) contract, ie when both parties are in a clear position not to marry in the first place.

    Good post.

    Comment by Shak | March 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. ohkaaay then.right.lets clear up things that many guys just assume we think because we dont shriek it out at every second- there are very few women who marry a man thinking that she will simply end up as a number. Many people don’t have prenup contracts because they actually ‘trust’ their partners…and, as sad as this sounds, the majority of indian men scoff at the idea of a prenup,and book you on a lovely, all-expenses-paid-by-yourself guilt trip if you even mention it.
    So whilst the woman should take some responsibility in not airing out her doubts and list of ‘definitely nots’…i think guys should be a wee bit more honest when tackling the marriage scene. If you’re for polygamy, and reveal this very early on in the courting stage as something you might, in the future, consider- then there wouldnt be a problem about it. A woman has full right to choose and live by her decision.
    what im saying is simple- polygamy is halal.Halal in circumstances that will be carried out in the best interest of the family- which includes his first wife. So be man enough to stand up for your inclinations BEFORE hijacking a wife.otherwise, youre cheating on her from the start. take come emotional responsibility, brothers.

    *ahem*
    that being said, i think being wife no.4 wouldnt be a problem. by that time, the marriage is an institution, no one’s nose(weepy wife no.1 in most cases gets hurt…dont want to Ever do that to her-but in this case: wife number 2 deserves it. and i dont want to be wife n0o.3 because i might just get jealous of wife no.4 if my emotions misbehave.) is (badly)out out of joint, and you know what to expect. And hopefully won’t have wives 1-3 making voodoo dolls from your hair.
    not to mention that if he can keep four wives in luxury… im all for sharing if i had nothing to start with. ah avarice. finally halaal….
    😐

    (im sorry. i couldnt resist.)

    Comment by pserean | March 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’m glad you’ve wrote this note, as being a single woman, recent events have made me consider the depressing fact of a possible polygamous marriage.

    Went for a marriage workshop recently and it was all well and good, but in the end the presenter discussed polygamy as an aside. He suggested women be more open minded to this especially as there are more single women than men in SA. (I was unaware of your research at this stage). His other stats were based on some UK Sheikh’s research that if all the men in UK were to marry four times, there would still be single women left over. He then went to exclude the men that could not afford to marry, the alcoholics, drug addicts, etc to paint an even bleaker picture for single women.

    His other reason to support polygamy (he was definitely in the ‘for’ camp) was to state as you mentioned that in today’s lifestyles, certain “modern”/”independent” women don’t necessarily want a “normal” marriage, and would prefer a polygamous marriage, as it alleviates them of the responsibility of caring for a full time husband, but gives them the benefit of having a husband (when required) and children. Suffice to say, these ideas were incredibly disturbing.

    I think the women’s right to refusal should be included in the marriage contract, but sadly, in today’s times, know of very few couples that have a marriage contract, period. As Pserean commented, most men would never agree to a marriage contract!

    As for my reasons for being against polygamy. I’m not. I’m not against the concept in principle, but generally, think in today’s times, most (and I’m speaking in broad terms) men and women are unable to handle the additional responsibilities, with the required maturity in order to make it work. Having one happy marriage is hard enough as it is…

    My personal reason for being against it is simple. You wait to find someone that makes you happy, cos those that are unmarried yet are doing so out of choice. It’s easy to get married for the sake of being married, but who wants that? So, anyways, after all that waiting, and sacrificing in the process (cos temptations are everywhere) to realise the person you’ve waited for doesn’t feel the same in terms of commitment and trust would be shattering! I would feel lacking if the motive behind the second marriage was self serving (and with all due respect to men, think in most cases it would be self serving)…

    Comment by Anonymous | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. >I think the women’s right to refusal should be included in the marriage contract, but sadly, in today’s times, know of very few couples that have a marriage contract, period. As Pserean commented, most men would never agree to a marriage contract!

    I think the mistake here is in thinking any marriage contract has to be a formal document recorded in writing. It doesn’t. A simple conversation is enough to bind (if a person is going to lie in speech, then they’ll hardly keep to what a piece of paper says). The real point is that it shouldn’t be taken for granted, just like other “obvious” points to discuss like living arrangements, when to have kids and respective responsibilities.

    >So, anyways, after all that waiting, and sacrificing in the process (cos temptations are everywhere) to realise the person you’ve waited for doesn’t feel the same in terms of commitment and trust would be shattering!

    Although polygamy is an extreme example of one, mismatches like these happen all the time. For a person who’s been looking all his life for a more involved and co-dependent marriage, finding potentials who insist on their own careers, social circles and even holidays independent of their spouses can be equally perturbing; all things which some (women in particular) seem to think are reasonable to demand post-marriage.

    Things are changing, and what was once crazy to even think about are commonplace now. Good or bad, I suspect that within a decade polygamy will be just as acceptable, liberating, trustful and committed as something like allowing women to work or travel on her own after marriage is now.

    Comment by Shak | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. >finding potentials who insist on their own careers, social circles and even holidays independent of their spouses can be equally perturbing; all things which some (women in particular) seem to think are reasonable to demand post-marriage.<

    TO an extent,some mismatches force that behaviour, building a bigger life outside the marriage… A deficiency within the relationship force the search for much more outside the marriage. https://lifeandtimesblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/inner-solo-2/

    Comment by Z | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  6. >TO an extent,some mismatches force that behaviour

    Sounds like a bit of a circular argument. Mismatches force mismatches? Nah, I think some of these attitudes are prevalent well before marriage.

    Comment by Shak | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  7. My point is not whether the marriage contract is in writing. I agree Shak that the discussion must take place, but my opinion remains that on pertinent issues such as polygamy, having something in writing is the safer option for the female. Not doubting the integrity of the man, but having something in writing will remind him five or ten years down the line when his views on polygamy has changed.

    Mismatches do happen all the time, which is why I commented that if one wanted to marry for the sake of it (and to a likely mismatch) one could easily, but the time spent on finding someone that IS a match is aimed at avoiding such a situation. I’ve never heard of women demanding their own social circle and independent holidays after marriage, but would ask why. Perhaps, the female is asking (in an extreme form) to maintain a part of her identity independent of the marriage, which were her conditions less extreme be acceptable?

    We can debate and theorise no end, but I think marriage requires compromise by both parties in order to work, irrespective of whether either party is a match or not.

    Comment by Anonymous | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  8. >Not doubting the integrity of the man, but having something in writing will remind him five or ten years down the line when his views on polygamy has changed.

    1) A person who goes against their word will do so whether you wave a piece of paper in front of their face or not.

    2) If the survival of a marriage hinges on a decade old piece of paper then I’d suggest that it’s too late by that point anyway.

    These two reasons are why I find this current trend of pushing for marriage contracts quite amusing and redundant. But I’m digressing.

    >We can debate and theorise no end, but I think marriage requires compromise by both parties in order to work, irrespective of whether either party is a match or not.

    Deffo. My point was that you can’t automatically class polygamy as an “extreme compromise” for the woman to make; not any more than you can a man who allows for the “extreme” things his wife might want. And from my own experience there’s more women out there (by quite a margin; maybe you’ve not met any since you’re not looking for a wife?) who want to travel and socialise independently than men who want to marry more than once.

    Comment by Shak | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  9. *ahem*

    please excuse me for this little aside…
    but shak is right.
    and he’s also wrong.
    yes, there are many independant, girlfriend and family-orientated women out there, often perfectly coiffed, with intimidating degrees to pull out during a pause of conversation…and possibly smartly dressed as expected…. and they might even like polygamy too.
    And whilst i might sound a wee bit cynical/snide for saying this… those women tend to fall into
    The Second Wives Club.
    (if you dont believe me, ask the first wives… ;p)

    As for the independance factor causing a man to look for a more intimate relationship with another wife…whilst it might be a chicken-egg scenario for the most case, from my own experience….i became independant not because i wanted to, but because there was no one else to depend upon.
    I was the kind of girl who mentally shuddered at coffee shops if I was alone…and would rather opt to sit at home then venture out into The Great Unknown (aka Joburg..) alone. If i had company- great. but my backbone Had to be borrowed.
    and my favourite past time-or maybe it was my primary job…- was describing in great relish just how much i loathed my job. well. suffice it to say that after 3 months of marriage, my job-which i had resigned from because i wanted to ‘settle in properly’- suddenly looked like the career equivalent of richard gere.(in runaway bride. and yes. im being facetious)
    and pretty soon… the best part of my day was going to work.

    sometimes, necessity IS the mother of independence.
    polygamy has been around for centuries. so have women. we dont share too well, whatever it is. (after all- we have problems going to the same dressmaker!)
    which makes this…. in most cases…a difficult experience.
    So truth and tact and transparency… Have to be employed.(im sorry. alliteration is hard to pause..)

    p.s in your search for a wife, look for a woman as opposed to a coat. the one might fit better… but the other can laugh at your jokes and talk back.
    oops. maybe thats the problem…
    ;P

    (ok but seriously though… i think when two ppl are compatible, spending time is something they Want to do. but they need to be individual enough to choose to spend time together- not spend their time together because theres nothing else either of them can do alone. company by detraction is never as sweet as company by choice.)

    Comment by pserean | March 12, 2010 | Reply

  10. marriages these days are based on a relationship between two ppl love and care about each other, rather than a you-cook-for-me-and-i’ll-pay-for-your-shit arrangement. ppl now days get married because they have mutual interests and enjoy each others company. so i really don’t understand where polygamy would even come in to play? are we really expected to believe men are such neanderthals? also… religion aside, would those who advocate for polygamy also have no problem with polyandry?

    Comment by sara | March 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Assalaam. I know I’m 2 years late into this, however I feel I could add some of my own thought lest there are more reads.. The elemental reasoning behind the actions of Rasoolullah (Saw) can never be truely known until practiced upon. I am in no way encouraging polygamy by stating this, but I understand that we tend to find speculation in anything we find slightly discomforting, especially for women. From what I understand Rasoolullah married divorcees and widows alike, because of the prevalence divorce and wars like what has been stated above. They were could I say virtuous reasons or righteous reasons for having him another wife. Presently independence and the increasing social strata among women have somehow created this sort of abhorance to polygamy. I’m not sure if its been throughout history but the ideals of society have changed that people forgot about the duties one has to one’s spouse, the responsibility of child upbringing. Polygamy is strict in terms of being equally just to all wives. Its been said to be sinful to treat wives differently. It would be beyond me for a man, out of mere lust to marry a second wive, which according to science in that space-time frame of mind he is in is ot considered to be in good senses. Would he rather use much of his wealth, his time, his affection justly and equally with a second wive whom he wanted for unvirtuous reasons. This kind of relationshp fails to thrive.Its the same reason why premarital relationships are forbidden. Also, we marry for love, I don’t consider that to be love. Because what is truely needed in a relationship and what is presenty there is not the same. It may be great in the beginning, but once its time to provide upon equal terms, does it become difficult. Women should not feel shrouded by this, as they lawfully deserve the best from their husband, equally so as to all the other wives, therefore there would not be a favourite one. If a man decides to marry maybe a widow, whom he feel he could provide shelter, food etc, if his first wive agrees I’m sure there is a great deal of reward for such an act. But religious measures aside. This woman would have had a will of compassion and unselfishness which we know is of higher order of species. Falling to desires of hunger and lust, like what is stated above, shows the amount of control one’s conscious has over one’s mind. In all aspects of selflessness there comes feeling of fulfillment. Why do people like giving charity? They become guilt free. Perhaps its the way we’re created… Sorry to digress.. But polygamy should be done for noble reasons, if its done for other reasons, the duties would to me seem terrible to bear on behalf of husband, as he could find it difficult to treat both of them justly. So in fact I feel the men sorry who marries another woman. Jazakallah for reading, if anyone does 🙂

      Comment by rosebud | December 4, 2012 | Reply

      • Hi, Thats a very nicely balanced view of the situation. It, like all of other aspects of human life, provides the pivot between reaching the “highest order of species” and submitting to “desires of hunger and lust”. What I do take issue with is painting polygamy as a norm of virtue whereas there exists a choice, as outlined above. I take equal issue in statistics being used to justify it, which are clearly false as indicated in the post.

        It can indeed be virtuous, and a true test of this would be the kind of woman taken as a second wife. A man taking a much younger, eligible woman as a second wife to his aged wife is within his full rights, but it is probably not as virtuous as a man taking an older, divorced/mother/widower as a second wife.

        Again, Islam doesn’t place these conditionalities on who a man can take as his second wife, and so we cannot, must not stigmatise it, as there are wisdoms beyond our understanding, but we must equally encourage the best spirit of all religious rules.

        Comment by Z | March 15, 2013

      • >A man taking a much younger, eligible woman as a second wife to his aged wife is within his full rights, but it is probably not as virtuous as a man taking an older, divorced/mother/widower as a second wife.

        Well on that black and white basis I guess we can conclude that our prophet wasn’t as virtuous as we like to think he was. Or let me guess: he was an exception? Perhaps what we need is a points system: so for every old crone divorcee a guy marries, that gives him enough moral points to marry a teenager. Or better still, maybe we can use the average age of a man’s wives to determine his standing.

        Once again, if we enter into this kind of debate with the assumption that men will naturally do no good, then we’ll probably reach that exact conclusion in the end too.

        Comment by Shak | March 16, 2013

  11. Brother shak. I think you are making a vast assumption on what brother z has said. He said “not as virtuous”.. Well if u look at history, the first woman he married was 15 years his senior. The fact that he married bibi ayesha, who actually was far into her maturity does not indicate his lack of virtue, it was a divine act, through a dream he had seen her. It was the will of the Almighty that he married her. We forget that things were much different then than what it is now. So we can’t say he did it for so-called nefarious reasons. It did an act as indicated by his Lord.. Sorry I may be gettin at a different point than u, but ah whatever..

    Comment by rosebud | March 20, 2013 | Reply

    • So he’s an exception then? Well that is what I said :). But I think the real point I was trying to make is that it’s a dark path to decide ourselves which halal action is more or less virtuous than another. The fact that we’re even hypothetically want to “test” someone’s intention based on their actions is quite worrying. I’m guessing a man who picks someone they find pretty over someone they don’t is not being the best he can be either. Perhaps what we need are men to dust off their swords to fall on… or perhaps we should stop expecting everyone to prove themselves to the self righteous.

      But anyway, thanks for highlighting the sunnah. I’m off to find a woman 15 years my senior. Giggity.

      Comment by Shak | March 20, 2013 | Reply

  12. ” it’s a dark path to decide ourselves which halal action is more or less virtuous than another. The fact that we’re even hypothetically want to “test” someone’s intention based on their actions is quite worrying.”
    you’re absolutely right here..

    “stop expecting everyone to prove themselves to the self righteous”
    By the self righteous, you mean who exactly?

    If we take things into perspective about how much life has changed from that time. For example there was still slavery, though islam brought freedom in sense that these slaves were not subjected to vile treatment, instead islam equated the slave and the master. because slavery was common then, islam did not abolish slavery completely. Now we’d we considered a tyrant if we had a slave. Its just an example, but we gotta see things in how things are now… If Rasoolullah (Saw) came during our age, quite possibly polygamy wouldn’t be practised by him. If it would upset his wife, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have another. But there’s a reason why he came the time he did and the past shapes the future etc, I just speaking hypothetically..
    If men want another wife, I guess he should consider her feelings also. If somehow his wife is perhaps infertile or something, then the wife should consider for her husband as well. There’s many reasons, but there must be mutual understanding ultimately.

    Comment by rosebud | March 21, 2013 | Reply

  13. The Prophet SAW was different, he had 9 wives at a given time.12 in total.
    All of these wives, with the exception of Ayesha, Maria, and Zainab, were widows. Zainab was married before.

    So I agree that we cant judge the virtue of an individuals specific action, but my objection is to people passing on the act of polygamy as a virtue. It is halal, and in certain cases I would say its virtuous, my gripe is with dressing an act of halal up as an act of virtue.

    However, even on other acts, I do believe there are stages of virtue, a charity giving man with less that gives up more than a person with greater means would, imo , have done a more virtuous act. Whilst the nuances of his personal reward are beyond our knowledge, as an act, there are degrees.

    Comment by Z | March 22, 2013 | Reply

  14. >There’s many reasons, but there must be mutual understanding ultimately.

    Rosebud, I agree with the sentiment, but technically…. there’s no legal basis for this understanding to be mutual (unless it’s stipulated as such in a marriage contract). There is quite a bit of evidence to show that at least some of the Prophet’s wives would have preferred him not to have married further. But armed with seerah and knowledge and a wider view of the picture we’re able to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    My question is this: why haven’t we done this for the poor hypothetical chap Z has conjured up? Why haven’t we sought to understand his position and reasons before classifying his virtue, like we did for the prophet? Fair enough if we don’t have the time or inclination to do this for a random guy, but the fact that we took the default position of him being a scumbag is what I’m pointing out as a bad thing here.

    Z, I agree that things are never black and white. How on earth can we even measure something like virtuousness anyway? Even doing so in a relative manner is asking for trouble.

    Do people abuse religion? Yes. Do people sometimes neglect the spirit of Islam for the letter? Of course. I don’t disagree with any of these things. However I do think judging people for it is a crime, particularly when that judgement is “extrapolated”. I agree that polygamy isn’t necessarily virtuous – but I can only support that statement if I equally believe that it’s not necessarily a vice. And any kind of stance that says “it is more often than not a vice” is as just offensive as any kind of stance that says “more often than not educated women make bad mothers” just because there’s some kind of statistic/correlation/moral judgement that backs it up.

    >a charity giving man with less that gives up more than a person with greater means would, imo , have done a more virtuous act

    So tell me, who’s more virtuous: a woman who wears a nikaab or a woman who wears a hijab?

    In summary: Islam is about fact and conduct, and not about conjecture and “likelihoods based on behaviour”. Innocence until proven guilty and all that, innit?

    Comment by Shak | March 23, 2013 | Reply

    • Shak, I agree with your point about a adopting a default stance of it being a vice.

      Comment by Z | March 24, 2013 | Reply

  15. I think perhaps its the cultural acceptance of it among indian, south african muslim. It seems quite common in places like saudi arabia and maybe the rest of the middle east. Women maybe are more accepting to it because they are born in the environment where the practice is common. Maybe the reason why we may sometimes question the virtue of polygamy is because it seems like an alien concept to us, though it is a sunnah. I know that all indians maintain some sort of traditions and culture that hasn’t really receded. To some point it has shaped our viewpoints. Maybe the virtue is basically the man taking up the responsibility of looking after another woman, widowed, divorced or not. I understand the mutual consideration isn’t put in stone, but society is so fickle, that for tiniest things there needs mutual consent. I know I’m being stereotypical but if a woman can’t stay with a man’s mother, where will there be peace with another wife.. Society man, sick society..

    Comment by rosebud | March 24, 2013 | Reply


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