Page 127 - Islam In Focus

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2. This permission is valid with a maximum of four wives. Before Islam there were no
limits or assurances of any kinds
3. The second or third wife, if ever taken, enjoys the same rights and privileges as the
first one. She is fully entitled to whatever is due to the first one. Equality between the
wives in treatment, provisions and kindness is a prerequisite of polygamy and a
condition that must be fulfilled by anyone who maintains more than one wife. This
equality depends largely on the inner conscience of the individual involved
4. This permission is an exception to the ordinary course. It is the last resort, the final
attempt to solve some social and moral problems, and to deal with inevitable
difficulties. In short, it is an emergency measure, and it should be confined to that
The Qur’ anic passage relevant to the subject reads as follows:
If the fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans (whom you marry
or whose mothers you take as wives for you), marry 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 (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable to
prevent you from doing injustice (4:3)
The passage was revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which many Muslims were
killed, leaving widows and orphans for whom due care was incumbent upon the
Muslim survivors. Marriage was one way of protecting those widows and orphans.
The Qur’ an made this warning and gave that choice to protect the rights of the
orphans and prevent the guardians from doing injustice to their dependents
With this background it is apparent that Islam did not invent polygamy, and that by
introducing the said regulations it does not encourage it as a rule. It did not abolish it
because if it were abolished, that would have been in theory only, and people would
have continued the practice as is observed today among other people whose
constitutions and social standards do not approve polygamy, Islam came to be
enforced, to be lived, to be practised, and not to stay in suspense or be considered a
mere theory. It is realistic and its outlook on life is most practicable. And that is why
it permits conditional and restricted polygamy; because had it been in the best interest
of humanity as a whole to do without this institution, God would have certainly
ordered its termination. But who knows better than He?
There is a variety of reasons for which Islam permits polygamy. One does not have to
imagine such reasons or make hypotheses. They are real and can be seen every day
everywhere. Let us examine some of these reasons
1. In some societies women outnumber men: This is especially true of industrial and
commercial regions, and also of countries that get involved in wars. Now if a Muslim
society is in this category, and if Islam were to forbid polygamy and restrict legal
marriage to one wife only, what would the unmarried ones do? Where and how would
they find the naturally desirable companionship? Where and how would they find
sympathy, understanding, support and protection? The implications of the problem are
not simply physical; they are also moral, sentimental, social, emotional and natural.
Every normal woman – whether she is in business or in foreign service or in the