Polygamy in Islamic Law

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Muhammad and Polygamy

Muhammad was a polygamist. Besides the numerous concubines, he married fifteen women and consummated his marriages with thirteen.[1] He was also known as a "womanizer".[2]

Narrated Qatada: Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).

Islamic Defense of Muhammad's Marriages

Apologists will attempt to justify his behaviour by claiming he married many of his wives due to them being war widows who were left with nothing and needed to be taken care of. While this may sound plausible, you need only look to actual Islamic sources to discover that this is false.

Many of his wives were not poor war widows. In fact, one of his wives (Muhammad's cousin, Zainab bint Jash) was originally the wife of his step-son Zaid bin Haritha. As was the case with Safiyah bint Huyayy, many of his marriages were clearly based on lust, not compassion. This is nowhere more evident than in his numerous divorces, which numbered six in total.[3] For example; he divorced ‘Amrah bint Yazid on their wedding night,[4] due to her suffering from leprosy.[5] He also divorced a women named Ghaziyyah bint Jabir when he realised that she was 'old'.[6] To make matters worse, he, rather hypocritically, refused to allow Ali bin Abu Talib (the husband of his daughter Fatima) to take even a second wife because "what hurts her, hurts me."[7] He knew that polygamy hurt women, yet through his example he permitted it for billions of other Muslim men.

(For a detailed list of women in Muhammad's life, click here)

Polygamy Permitted in Islam

Regardless of it not being acceptable for the husband of Muhammad's daughter, Islam allows a man to marry up to four wives at any one time:

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.

(For a detailed explanation of what "justice" means in this verse, click here)

Islam also does not require that the man have the permission of his first wife before marrying a second:

It is not obligatory for the husband, when he wishes to marry another, to get his first wife's acceptance, but it is a noble trait of character and good relations for him to appease her by whatever decreases the pain which woman naturally feel in such situations. This may be achieved by smiling,greeting her warmly and speaking kindly to her, and by whatever money you can afford,if her acceptance requires it

The Acceptance of the first Wife is not a Condition for the one who wishes to marry another
FatwaIslam, Permanent Committee for Research and Verdicts: Fatawa Islamiyah Darussalam Vol: 5 No. 353

Islamic Defense of Polygamy

Muslims claim that the reason why Allah allowed men to marry four wives is that men are killed in battle, thus resulting in women being in more numbers more than men. They also claim that the practice of polygamy curbs adultery, thus leading to more happier marriages and less divorces. Here are some points that deal with Islam's defense of polygamy.

World Population shows a surplus of men

Here's a breakdown of the world population according to CIA Statistics

World Population age group 15-64 years: 65.2% (male 2,152,066,888/female 2,100,334,722)[8]

This means there are 51,732,100 extra males in the world at marriageable age. Even the worst war in history did not kill off enough males to make polygamy justified. In WW2, 24 million "military" died, leaving still another 26 million spare men.[9]

GENERAL POPULATION: women and men casualties: 1,986,370,000 (probably mostly women)
Military casualties: 24,456,700

Allah creates more males than females

The ratio of births is 105 males to 100 females. So, if Allah intends the polygamous marriages for war, then why is Allah putting so many extra males in the world that even the worst war in history didn't unbalance the other way?

Men are better off married

Using the same Islamic reasoning, it should be that some women marry an extra man. Science has even proven that single men suffer more health and emotional problems than do single women. Men find it hard to live without a woman. (reference coming soon)

Men die younger and leave more females in old age

Men also die younger, and if polygamy was an institution that really did have women's best interests in mind, then when a man with 4 wives dies, he leaves 4 elderly single women. This means now there are even more females than before, i.e. because males have died off; 65 years and over: 7.4% (male 213,160,216/female 270,146,721) but how many men would take on a 70 year old as an extra wife or two?

Male domination is bad all round

The latest UNICEF study titled The State of the World's Children - 2007 is a research study of women's oppression and overall quality of life of the family. It can be seen from this report that Islamic countries are faring the worst.[10]

Polygamy often leads to divorce

Saudi Arabia has the second-highest divorce-rate in the world, and according to Abdullah Al-Fawzan, a professor and sociologist at King Saud University in Riyadh, Polygamy is responsible for up to 55 percent of divorces. He added that the loss of trust, sincerity, compassion and cooperation were also factors in the failure of marriages.[11]

Another Muslim Perpective Scrutinized

In Islam, why can a man can get married to two, three or four women, while a woman cannot get married to more than one man?

First: Polygamy was not innovated by Islam. It was known in Judaism and other religions. Many of the Prophets (peace be upon them) were polygamous, such as Abraham and Sulayman, as mentioned in the Torah.

Argumentum Ad hominem "tu quoque" logical fallacy

Second: With respect to polygamy, women cannot be compared with men, since comparison implies similarity with regard to the matter in question, which is not the case here. There are major differences between men and women: · Women have menstrual cycles for quite a long period of their lives, while men do not.

Yes, 12 weeks out of the year is such a looooooong time. Especially when those weeks are spread out over the entire course of a year. How can men handle the wait? Also, it is a known biological fact that women who live together will have synchronous menstrual cycles - meaning that the man will still have that week every month where he can't have sex, because all of his wives will be menstruating.

· Fertility for men usually lasts longer than it does for women. Normally, women stop being fertile before 50, while most men continue to be fertile for a while longer.

And that means old men should continue having children although they might die the next day of old age and be unable to support their families any longer?

· Women go through pregnancy, delivery, and post-natal bleeding while men do not.

And for all the woman's hard work and suffering, her husband should be allowed to sleep with other women because he can't handle the post-natal six-week wait.

· Men can sire children several times in one year with multiple partners while women cannot do so. No matter how many partners she has, she can only carry the child of one at a time.

So, populating the earth with as many children as possible is more important than the happiness of the wife and the health of the marriage.

Women have more affection than men and in most cases cannot behave unemotionally. The strong and concentrated affection women have does not allow them to cope in a relationship with many men and at the same time. Her nature prevents her from satisfying two men at one time.

This statement is illogical and also scientifically inaccurate.

If two men should approach one woman, it would cause cause confusion in genealogical relations.

Not anymore thanks to DNA testing! Paternal testing in the United States costs a few hundred dollars. This is also only relevant if you are obsessed with paternity.

Men are the ones commanded in Islam to protect and maintain women. They are obligated to spend on the family while women are not.

In other words, since the Quran commands that women be dependent on men, then men should be allowed to have multiple sex partners because they are obligated to maintain women.

For one woman to have more than one husband, there are many disadvantages. It is practically impossible for it to work.

Two paychecks is a disadvantage? Two men to mow the lawn is a disadvantage?

But more than one woman for one man is lawful in Islam for the following reasons: 1. Polygamy preserves the stability of families, for example if the first wife is barren or afflicted by some illness, polygamy will offer her a chance that can save her from divorce or living alone.

Since adoption is clearly not an option, and a woman's breeding abilities are more important than anything else.

2. The nature of a man makes polygamy something of dire necessity, for their sexual desires can often not be fulfilled by one woman who goes through menses, pregnancy, post-natal bleeding, and sickness, all of which are barriers to sex, or due to the frequent need of men to travel. Polygamy is far better than adultery which is widespread in the West. Polygamy is also better than divorce.

Allah is responsible for the nature of man...and he made men incapable of monogamy? This argument clearly insults men.

3. Polygamy benefits women. The second wife accepts it for her benefit to save her from staying alone; taking into account that she was not forced into it.

Well guess what? A Muslim man does not need the agreement of his first wife to take a second wife.

4. It is the best solution to save women from being lonely. Women live longer than men, they are more numerous than men, and in many cases men are facing danger and death more than women.

This statement is so completely illogical and ridiculous that we're simply going to move on to the next one...

5. Islam has set conditions and controls that secure the woman’s rights. A man cannot have more than four wives. He has to treat all of his wives justly in living expenses, the time he spends with them, and in all matters under his power. Anyone incapable of being just will not be allowed to engage in polygamy. Allah says: “But if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one.”

They forgot this quote: [Quran 4:129] Ye will not be able to deal equally between (your) wives, however much ye wish (to do so). But turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense. If ye do good and keep from evil, lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. Allah said that men will not be able to deal equally with multiple wives...but he still didn't ban polygamy.

We as Muslims believe that what Allah has made lawful is full of wisdom and justice and has been prescribed for the benefit of all mankind, whether we know the reasons for it or not. We should keep in mind that Allah did not even make it obligatory for us to marry in the first place. He encourages people to get married and allows polygamy for people who are capable of being just.

In other words, if you can't understand it...shut your brain off. This Muslim's argument is more offensive to men than it is to women.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Women which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also

  • Polygamy - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Polygamy

External Links


  1. al-Tabari vol.9 p.126-127
  2. "....Layla’s people said, "’What a bad thing you have done! You are a self-respecting woman, but the Prophet is a womanizer. Seek an annulment from him.’ She went back to the Prophet and asked him to revoke the marriage and he complied with [her request]...." - al Tabari vol.9 p.139
  3. Click here for details on Muhammad's divorces
  4. al-Tabari vol.39 p.188
  5. Women in Islam, By Anne Sofie Roald - Page 221 [Quoted: Najla Hamadeh, Page 335-6]
  6. al-Tabari vol.9 p.139
  7. Sahih Bukhari 7:62:157
  8. Global Population Statistics - CIA.gov
  9. WW2 Casualties - Wikipedia.org
  10. The State of the World's Children - 2007- PDF Report from UNICEF, hosted on BBC.com
  11. Somayya Jabarti - Alarming Divorce Rate ‘Must Be Addressed Urgently’ - Saudi Affairs,