Concept of four marriages
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Dear Brother/ Sister,
I am a christian who finds The Holy Quran to be much more meaningful than any book i have ever read in my whole life. I have not finished reading the The Quran even once. But i have one genuine doubt regarding Polygamy.I have read many books and articles but i am hardly convinced that muslim women should make some sacrifice so that the other women who dont have partners because of high Femle to male ratio, will have a happy married life and they will not be a public property. ( As told by Dr. Zakir Hussain in a debate) My question is :'would any man be ready for such a sacrifice if males were more than females?" even if the Quran advocates it. I cant think of such a sacrifice. I am not so broad minded. This is one serious constraint which is holding me back from accepting Islam in totality. Please help.
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Concept of four marriages
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad (saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Please find below an answer to this frequently asked question from the website of our beloved and respected brother and teacher, and one of the most respected scholars in Islam in this day and age, Dr. Brother Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation, India.
Why is a man allowed to have more than one wife in Islam? i.e. why is polygamy allowed in Islam?
Definition of 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; whereas polyandry is completely prohibited.
Now coming to the original question, why is a man allowed to have more than one wife?
Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verse 3 (part):
3 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.
The Quran is the only religious scripture in the world that says,"marry only one".
The Quran is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase marry only one. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the other religious scriptures, whether it be the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta, the Talmud or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.
Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their
scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than
In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as many wives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number of wives. It was only a few centuries ago that the Church restricted the number of wives to one.
Polygyny is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudic
law, Abraham had three wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practice
of polygamyy continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah (960 C.E to 1030 C.E)
issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslim
countries continued the practice till as late as 1950, until an Act of the
Chief Rabbinate of
Hindus are more polygynous than Muslims
The report of the Committee of The Status of Woman in
Islam, published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66 and 67 that the
percentage of polygamous marriages between the years 1951 and 1961 was 5.06%
among the Hindus and only 4.31% among the Muslims. According to Indian law only
Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is illegal for any
Let us now analyse why Islam allows a man to have more than one wife.
Quran permits limited polygamy
As I mentioned earlier, Quran is the only religious book on the face of the earth that says marry only one. The context of this phrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Quran:
"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."
Before the Quran was revealed, there was no upper limit for polygamy and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islam put an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two, three or four women, only on the condition that he deals justly with them.
In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says:
"Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women...."
Therefore polygamy is not a rule but an exception. It is not an order or commandment, but rather something which is permitted. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to have more than one wife.
Broadly, Islam has five categories of Dos and Donts:
i. Fard i.e. compulsory or obligatory
ii. Mustahab i.e. recommended or encouraged
iii. Mubah i.e. permissible or allowed
iv. Makruh i.e. not recommended or discouraged
v. Haraam i.e. prohibited or forbidden
Polygamy falls in the middle category of things that are permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or four wives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.
Average life span of females is more than that of males
By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio. A female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, during the pediatric age itself there are more deaths among males as compared to the females.
During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.
World female population is more than male population
Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical
Even if every man got married to one woman, there would
still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be able to get
husbands (considering that
Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women
In Western society, it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life.
Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property. Islam prefers giving women the honourable position by permitting the first option and disallowing the second.
There are several other reasons, why Islam has permitted limited polygyny, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.
If a man is allowed to have more than one wife, then why does Islam prohibit a woman from having more than one husband?
A lot of people, including some Muslims, question the logic of allowing Muslim men to have more than one spouse while denying the same right to women.
Let me first state emphatically, that the foundation of an Islamic society is justice and equity. Allah has created men and women as equal, but with different capabilities and different responsibilities. Men and women are different, physiologically and psychologically. Their roles and responsibilities are different. Men and women are equal in Islam, but not identical.
Surah Nisa Chapter 4 verses 22 to 24 gives the list of women with who you can not marry and it is further mentions in Surah Nisa Chapter 4 verse 24 "Also (prohibited are) women already married"
The following points enumerate the reasons why polyandry is prohibited in Islam:
If a man has more than one wife, the parents of the children born of such marriages can easily be identified. The father as well as the mother can easily be identified. In case of a woman marrying more than one husband, only the mother of the children born of such marriages will be identified and not the father. Islam gives tremendous importance to the identification of both parents, mother and father. Psychologists tell us that children who do not know their parents, especially their father undergo severe mental trauma and disturbances. Often they have an unhappy childhood. It is for this reason that the children of prostitutes do not have a healthy childhood. If a child born of such wedlock is admitted in school, and when the mother is asked the name of the father, she would have to give two or more names! I am aware that recent advances in science have made it possible for both the mother and father to be identified with the help of genetic testing. Thus this point which was applicable for the past may not be applicable for the present.
Man is more polygamous by nature as compared to a woman.
Biologically, it is easier for a man to perform his duties as a husband despite having several wives. A woman, in a similar position, having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife. A woman undergoes several psychological and behavioral changes due to different phases of the menstrual cycle.
A woman who has more than one husband will have several sexual partners at the same time and has a high chance of acquiring venereal or sexually transmitted diseases which can also be transmitted back to her husband even if all of them have no extra-marital sex. This is not the case in a man having more than one wife, and none of them having extra-marital sex. The above reasons are those that one can easily identify. There are probably many more reasons why Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has prohibited polyandry.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 33 Surah Ahzaab verse 36:
It does not behove a believing man and a believing woman that when Allah and His Messenger have given their decision in a matter, they should exercise an option in that matter of theirs. For whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has indeed strayed into manifest error.
If one trusts, obeys, and follows the guidance and commands of Allah and His Messenger (saws), one can be assured of never ever being misled; but if one believes, obeys and follows any other guidance, other than that of Allah and His Messenger (saws), one can be assured of being led astray.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me alone. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your brother and well wisher in Islam,