Who Practices Polygamy?
Polygamy has been practiced by mankind for thousands of
years. Many of the ancient Israelites were polygamous, some having
hundreds of wives. King Solomon (peace be upon him) is said to have had
seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. David (Dawood) had
ninety-nine and Jacob (Yacub, peace be upon them both) had four. Advice
given by some Jewish wise men state that no man should marry more than
four wives. No early society put any restrictions on the number of wives
or put any conditions about how they were to be treated. Jesus was not
known to have spoken against polygamy. As recently as the seventeenth
century, polygamy was practiced and accepted by the Christian Church.
The Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has allowed
and practiced polygamy in the United States [see
Monogamy was introduced into Christianity at the time of Paul when
many revisions took place in Christianity. This was done in order for
the church to conform to the Greco-Roman culture where men were
monogamous but owned many slaves who were free for them to use: In other
words, unrestricted polygamy.
Early Christians invented ideas that women were "full of sin" and
man was better off to "never marry." Since this would be the end of
mankind these same people compromised and said "marry only one."
In the American society many times when relations are strained, the
husband simply deserts his wife. The he cohabits with a prostitute or
other immoral woman without marriage. Actually there are three kinds
of polygamy practiced in Western societies:
|serial polygamy, that is, marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce,
and so on any number of times;|
|a man married to one woman but having and supporting one or more
|an unmarried man having a number of mistresses.|
Islam condones but discourages the first and forbids the other two.
Wars cause the number of women to greatly exceed the number of men.
In a monogamous society these women, left without husbands or support,
resort to prostitution, illicit relationships with married men resulting
in illegitimate children with no responsibility on the part of the
father, or lonely spinsterhood or widowhood.
Some Western men take the position that monogamy protects the rights
of women. But are these men really concerned about the rights of women?
The society has so many practices which exploit and suppress women,
leading to women's liberation movements from the suffragettes of the
early twentieth century to the feminists of today.
The truth of the matter is that monogamy protects men, allowing them
to "play around" without responsibility. Easy birth control and easy
legal abortion has opened the door of illicit sex to woman and she has
been lured into the so-called sexual revolution. But she is still the
one who suffers the trauma of abortion and the side effects of the birth
control methods. Taking aside the plagues of venereal disease, herpes
and AIDS, the male continues to enjoy himself free of worry. Men are the
ones protected by monogamy while women continue to be victims of men's
desires. Polygamy is very much opposed by the male dominated society
because it would force men to face up to responsibility and fidelity. It
would force them to take responsibility for their polygamous
inclinations and would protect and provide for women and children.
Among all the polygamous societies in history there were none which
limited the number of wives. All of the relationships were unrestricted.
In Islam, the regulations concerning polygamy limit the number of wives
a man can have while making him responsible for all of the women
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 one that your right hands possess. That will be more
suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." (Qur'an 4:3)
This verse from the Qur'an allows a man to marry more than one woman
but only if he can deal justly with them. Another verse says that a
person is unable to deal justly between wives, thus giving permission
"You will never be able to deal justly between wives
however much you desire (to do so). But (if you have more than one
wife) do not turn altogether away (from one), leaving her in
suspense..." (Qur'an 4:129)
While the provision for polygamy makes the social system flexible
enough to deal with all kinds of conditions, it is not necessarily
recommended or preferred by Islam. Taking the example of the Prophet
Muhammad (peace be upon him) is instructive. He was married to one
woman, Khadijah, for twenty-five years. It was only after her death when
he had reached the age of fifty that he entered into other marriages to
promote friendships, create alliances or to be an example of some lesson
to the community; also to show the Muslims how to treat their spouses
under different conditions of life.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given inspiration from Allah
about how to deal with multiple marriages and the difficulties
encountered therein. It is not an easy matter for a man to handle two
wives, two families, and two households and still be just between the
two. No man of reasonable intelligence would enter into this situation
without a great deal of thought and very compelling reasons (other than
Some people have said that the first wife must agree to the second
marriage. Others have said that the couple can put it into the marriage
contract that the man will not marry a second wife. First of all,
neither the Qur'an nor Hadith state that the first wife need be
consulted at all concerning a second marriage let alone gain her
approval. Consideration and compassion on the part of the man for his
first wife should prompt him to discuss the matter with her but he is
not required to do so or to gain her approval. Secondly, the Qur'an has
explicitly given permission for a man to marry "two or three or four."
No one has the authority to make a contract forbidding something that
has been granted by Allah.
The bottom line in the marriage relationship is good morality and
happiness, creating a just and cohesive society where the needs of men
and women are well taken care of. The present Western society, which
permits free sex between consenting adults, has given rise to an
abundance of irresponsible sexual relationships, an abundance of
"fatherless" children, many unmarried teenage mothers; all becoming a
burden on the country's welfare system. In part, such an undesirable
welfare burden has given rise to bloated budget deficits which even an
economically powerful country like the United States cannot accommodate.
Bloated budget deficits have become a political football which is
affecting the political system of the United States.
In short, we find that artificially created monogamy has become a
factor in ruining the family structure, and the social, economic and
political systems of the country.
It must be a prophet, and indeed it was Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) who directed Muslims to get married or observe
patience until one gets married. 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported Allah's
messenger as saying, "Young man, those of you who can support a wife
should marry, for it keeps you from looking at strange women and
preserves you from immorality; but those who cannot should devote
themselves to fasting, for it is a means of suppressing sexual desire."
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam wants people to be married and to develop a good family
structure. Also Islam realizes the requirements of the society and the
individual in special circumstances where polygamy can be the solution
to problems. Therefore, Islam has allowed polygamy, limiting the number
of wives to four, but does not require or even recommend polygamy.
In the Muslim societies of our times, polygamy is not frequently
practiced despite legal permission in many countries. It appears that
the American male is very polygamous, getting away with not taking
responsibility for the families he should be responsible for.
(Note: In this article polygamy has been used to mean polygamy
meaning having two or more wives. Islam forbids polyandry meaning having
two or more husbands.)
Footnote 1: The following email was received
from a reader: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
on Oct. 2, 2001
The practice of plural marraiges ended almost a hundred years ago.
The LDS frowns upon and disapproves of plural marriages. Occassionally,
a man is found guilty of plural marriages, but he (since men are the
ones who practice it) is already seen as an outcast by the church
officials in his ward (simliar to a parish). The polygamist are
shuned until they recant and give up the marriages or face
excommunication. To make matters worse, the LDS do not believe in
divorce either, so these families suffer. These marriages are by
members who claim to be Later Day Saints, but are in reality extreme
off-shoots and no longer recognized and santioned the officials in Salt
Lake City where the LDS equivalent of the Vatican is centered.
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