Polygamy is defined as the condition or practice of having more than one spouse at a time. Though it has existed in many cultures throughout the world, polygamy is still very prevalent in most Islamic societies today. There are however several guidelines laid out in Islamic law governing the practice. Here we will examine the practice of polygamy in Islam and those laws which govern its legality.
Muhammad did not introduce this practice, as has so often been wrongly alleged. The Scriptures and the other sacred books bear abundant proof of the fact that is was recognized as lawful and, indeed, widely practised by patriarchal prophets, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Jews. In Arabia and all the surrounding countries a system of temporary marriages, marriages of convenience, and unrestricted concubinage was also prevalent: this, together with polygamy, had most disastrous effects on the entire moral and social structure, which Muhammad remedied.
Muhammad married Khadija at the age of 25, and he took no other wife during the twenty-six years of their married life. He married Aisha . . . at the age of 54, three years after the death of Khadija. After this marriage, he took other wives, about whom non-Muslim writers have directed much unjust criticism against him. The facts are all these ladies were old maids or widows left destitute and without protection during the repeated wars of persecution, and as head of the State at Medina the only proper way, according to the Arab code, in which Muhammad could extend both protection and maintenance to them was by marriage. The only young person was Maria the Copt, who was presented to him as a captive of war, and whom he immediately liberated, but she refused to leave his kind protection and he therefore married her.
Islamic law allows a man to marry as many as four wives, with a mild restriction. The text of the Qu’ran (which is the governing text of Islam) indicates that a man who has several wives should treat them equally and avoid injustice. If he feels incapable of treating several wives equally, he is advised to remain monogamous. The verse appears in the Qur’an as: “Marry other women who seem good to you: two, three, or four of them. But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry one only….” No further explanation exists in any of...
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Polygamy in Islam serves a strictly religious purpose. Polygamy was a way of life until the Quran was revealed 1400 years ago. When the earth was young and under-populated, polygamy was one way of populating it and bringing in the human beings needed to carry out God's plan. By the time the Quran was revealed, the world had been sufficiently populated, and the Quran put down the first limitations against polygamy. Polygamy has become an established part of traditional Islamic law and practice; Muslims are accustomed to accepting that a man's right to more than one wife is firmly established in the Qur'an and the Hadith. Polygamy (specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to many women) is thus considered unquestionably moral, even though it is obviously unfair; only men are allowed the privilege of it. However, a close study of the Qur'an can enable one to see that the Islamic ideal of marriage is monogamous, with only husband-wife pairs. In fact, the Qur'anic stance on polygamy is the same as its stance on slavery; both are objectionable on ethical grounds, but tolerated due to the particular circumstances of Muhammad's community.
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