Husbandless Vs Polygamy

Makhou Yassine has got a master’s degree in Journalism,Communication, and Translation at  King Fahd Advanced School of Translation inTangier. He is currently a teacher-trainee at CRMEF Tangier.

Tangier, Morocco

Can I marry for the second time?

The above mentioned question poses one of the most controversial issues related to the Sunnah of marriage in Islam. The question mark adjacent to the sentence may get a non-Muslim fully perplexed about the purpose or need for his simply because in the other heavenly religions such questions are not being posed since a man has no validity to marry twice or three times. Inspired by the prophetic wills and the sacred Islamic teachings, a Muslim has the full access, of course, under the umbrella of some reasonable conditions to marry a maximum number of four women. Turning back to the Islamic societies, the issue of whether marrying many times is acceptable or not has sparked conflicting views among people concerning the validity of polygamy.

So, what is polygamy?

Polygamy means a system of marriage whereby one person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types: One is polygamy where a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygamy is permitted, but polyandry is completely prohibited.

The supporters of polygamy defend that religious custom by stimulating the prophetic traditions and also by leaning on some verses from the holy Quran, that legalize the Sunnah of the polygamy,
And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course “An-Nisa, 3”

Furthermore, digging deeply into the biography of the prophet reveals clearly that Mohamed (PBUH) married several times, and here comes the empirical question “Why did the prophet marry eleven women?” To be neutral the question is answered by a non-Muslim John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and Director of the Centre for International Studies at the College of the Holy Cross,

Who says that most of these marriages had “political and social motives” (Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1988, p. 19), this he explained as follows: As was customary for Arab chiefs, many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, pp. 19-20). Esposito reminds us of the following historical fact: Though less common, polygamy was also permitted in biblical and even in post-biblical Judaism. From Abraham, David, and Solomon down to the reformation period, polygamy was practiced (p. 19). 

The answer of John L Esposito came as a refutation of the polygamy opponents’ doubts over the prophet’s serenity when they claim that marrying eleven women is simply a way to satisfy one’s sexual desires.

This fragile claim is being completely confuted by another non-Muslim Caesar E. Farah who writes the following : 

In the prime of his youth and adult years Muhammad remained thoroughly devoted to Khadijah and would have none other for consort. This was an age that looked upon plural marriages with favor and in a society that in pre-biblical and post-biblical days considered polygamy an essential feature of social existence. David had six wives and numerous concubines (2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3) and Solomon was said to have had as many as 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) Solomon?s son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21).

On the other hand, the opponents of the polygamy simply suggest that marrying twice or more is deemed as an offensive act toward the first wife and viewed as a Diminution in the woman’s dignity. In reality, that suggestion seems to be unworkable in comparison to the devastating husbandless women who spark a far reaching social instability. With the vastly expanded notion of being husbandless, then polygamy in Islam opens the floodgate for the unmarried woman to get married.

Why polygamy?

What we should bear in mind is the fact that polygamy can be used only when it is necessary or compulsory; Islam did not make polygamy obligatory. However, it is considered permissible when there are some general or special reasons. Nowadays, it is obvious that in some regions the male population decreases, and the female population increases above normal, specifically during the times of wars when it is more frequent. For example, after the World War I in Germany, there were four or six women for one man. As a result, there was no choice for women but insisting and advocating that a man should marry more than one woman. In such cases polygamy comes to play as a vital role in keeping women safe from the claws of prostitution, to provide them with warm homes, and to guard fatherless children. Sometimes polygamy is a highly appreciated solution when it comes to increasing the population and offsprings, notably when it coincides with the deaths of many men during a war.
In addition to that, in some cases the woman may be ill and cannot satisfy her husband’s sexual needs; it may be a gynecologic disease that cannot be cured, or the woman may be barren and cannot bear a child. In such cases there seems to be  no choice for a man but to divorce his wife and look for another one, but instead of adopting this policy of elimination and sending his wife away, marrying a second woman with consent of the first wife would be a better solution. Thus, the rights of the first wife are preserved.

Conditions of polygamy

As it was already stated, polygamy has its own conditions to be adopted, and justice is one of the most remarkable conditions that a man must embrace. When a person is unqualified to deal justly among wives, then marrying more than one wife is not permissible. Justice means to be just in food, clothes, housing, expenditure, interest, and the equal treatment. However, the Quran denotes that it is very difficult “…..if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one, or that which your right hands possess” ( An-Nisa, 4/7). So if there is a fear that one cannot deal justly or one is oppressive, then the principle of being content with one woman becomes valid. However, justice does not include issues, such as liking, inclination of the heart and love, because they cannot be controlled. Moreover, the validity to polygamy requires a man to be well-funded with a sufficient capital whereby he can respond to his wives’ needs. That’s why it is necessary for a man who wants to marry one woman or more to be able to meet the eating, drinking, clothing and housing expenses of her or them.

Justice, financial capacity, equal treatment among wives, and the wife’s consent to remarry are all deemed essential conditions. If these conditions exist, then the green light for a man to have access to polygamy can be given.

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