Polygamy is expired.

“But some people still like going through the garbage.” –one of my friends
Seriously, why is this even a question? I’ve been putting off this post because it’s just that old and obvious to me. (And also mostly because I’ve alarmed myself at how quickly I’ve been spewing out entries.) But it’s been on my Things to Write About list, which essentially is a mental list because I’m just that disorganized.
Polygamy was only allowed in the following conditions:

  1. There was an incredible amount of people who were living in poverty. Polygamy was used to relieve them of this. We still have an unbelievable amount of world hunger, but are more ways of earning money than inheriting it from your parents–-and orphans don’t need to be saved from starvation, for the most part, not on this side of the world. So what about other parts?:
  2. #1 can only be done if #3 is valid.
  3. The man must be able to treat each wife (limit is 4) equally. This is already impossible to do. It’s even harder when you’re impoverished. There wouldn’t be men in poverty marrying women in poverty or vice verse in an Islamically sound manner because that would defeat the purpose of #1. The same goes if both parties are rich. And I don’t see many marriages where a rich person marries a not so rich person. I doubt that happens. Like, ever.
  4. A woman cannot be forced into marriage or to stay in marriage. When the Prophet’s daughter came to him and told him her husband wanted a second wife, the Prophet told him not to marry again, because it would displease his daughter. This provides that a man cannot marry again if his wife won’t allow it.
  5. Especially in modern times, #3 and #4 are pretty much impossible, and #1 is pretty much unnecessary or doesn’t occur in actual practice.

Conclusion: Polygamy is no longer allowed, under the very conditions and limitations outlined in the Qur’an.

In order to accommodate widows in times of war, men of sound finances and character shall be encouraged to marry these widows. If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly, then you must not take additional wives. This will prevent injustice and financial hardship. (Qur’an 4:3)

This might be a good time to consider what I’ve said already. I quote myself,

The Quran is timeless. Timeless does not mean that context doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, it is precisely the context that makes it timeless, in emphasizing that these actions are only to be taken in the following conditions. This allows us continuous reference.

It is the interpretation, unfortunately, that changes once the contexts of the Quranic verses are forgotten and instead interpretation is derived from culture rather than the actual historical conditions and issues being addressed at the time of revelation. Because these conditions are actually outlined in the Qur’an, they are as important as the rest of the parts. The conditions are a part of the orders, and it is the inclusion of these in part of the whole, the recognition that certain actions are called for in certain conditions, that make the Qur’an timeless.

I have a feeling I’m going to be repeating this a lot.
Here’s where I get accusations of being an apologist. I’m not an apologist, dude, you are. You’re the one defending this oppressive practice by bringing up the supposed “sexual needs” of men. Who’s the apologist?
“But the Prophet did it! Don’t forget, woman!” Not because he wanted to. This is not something you make a goal. Here’s the thing: the Prophet (P) was actually decent* and didn’t aim to marry four women at once. I don’t want to hear it. If you can’t keep it in your pants often enough for just one woman, go convince a different one. I’m not budging. Also, if you call me “woman” like that again I will punch you in the face.
“Nahida, that’s really mean.” –everyone
Cry me a river.
Men will stop at nothing for excuses. Some have been suggested that polygamy is not only allowed but necessary in populations in which women outnumber men. The Qur’an says NOTHING about qualifying polygamy in societies where there are more women than men. The only qualifications for polygamy are WAR and only to WIDOWS who cannot support themselves. This is clear, and would make nearly all polygamous marriages today Islamically unlawful.

*Not that every other man married to more than one woman is indecent. I realize there are women out there who are second wives in polygamous marriages who become very frustrated when no one believes that they’re happy or satisfied. I’m not talking about you.

32 thoughts on “Polygamy is expired.

  1. You listed being monogamous as a privilege, so you do realize that there are polyamorous women–some of them feminists–who are denied acknowledgment of validity of their relationships? And yet you call it an oppressive practice.

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  2. And unapologetically!I don't see why it matters that they're also feminists. First of all, what matters is that they are women, and secondly, I know some of them are feminists. Why would you point that out? Are we all supposed to agree with each other? Some feminists (though few) would call me a traitor for wearing makeup or high heels and deny that they are being genderist–or even sexist, by attempting to convince every other feminist to abandon “feminine” characteristics in order to ensure that they are not characterized as “feminine,” despite the fact that the forceful alienation of femininity can imply that men are the ideal to which women should aspire, irrationally ignoring the valuable differences in the gender spectrum and defeating the purpose of FEMINISM itself by proposing that the sexes are not inherently equal, but that women should strive to be equal. We're not even talking about polyamory. This is one-sided polygamy. But while we're at it, feminists who are polyamorous would tell you that with some men it is an oppressive practice. They expect faithfulness they won't give themselves.

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  3. The Prophet s.a.w was monogamous for the longest period of his married life. His first marriage was to Khadijah Radi allahu anhu, and to her alone. The love they shared is positively the most beautiful example of Islamic marriage I have come across; they shared a deep respect for one and other's intellect and a marked love demonstrated by the sadness he felt in the year of her death and exile from Makkah. Even more interestingly, she supported him financially, allowing him to further the task of furthering the religion.Thus, the first and most resounding example of prophetic marriage was a monogamous relationship, an aspect of the Prophet saw life conveniently avoided by those who would seek to use him as an example to continue the practice of polygamy outside the conditions you have elucidated.

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  4. I recall surah 4 verse 3 referring to polygamy which meaning may translates to: “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. ” This was after a battle where many men were killed and provision of polygamy may was given for the care of the orphans. May they should fear Allah if they marry multiple wives for any other reason.

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  5. bassam

    To say that ‘polygamy is expired’, may be relevant to a (very small) niche of privileged society, where women are not dependent of men for their livelihood, and perhaps face a larger pool of suitable suitors (?) but is definitely not the case for a significant number of Muslim women, who, you could possibly argue ARE living in a different century, where choice and opportunity are concerned.
    E.g a man can be a decent Muslim, have a decent job as say, a builder, and be able to easily support a wife according to the standards of a given ‘sub-economic’ neighbourhood. There would be many unmarried women who would rather be an additional wife to such a man, than be the only wife of an unemployed, violent and/or drug addicted single man (that make up 90% of said sub-economic area). Likewise, his first wife, unhappy as she may be with the situation, is unlikely to be able ‘to do better’, given the ‘calibre’ of men in the location.
    I’m just trying to point out that,regardless of the man’s reasons of wanting to remarry, whether the plural marriage is ‘successful’ (i.e. the first wife doesn’t leave, or doesn’t compel the husband to divorce the second), depends on the relative condition of the women involved and what they can gain, given the cost of having to share a husband.

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    1. I am not interested in reducing women’s options starkly to basic provisions vs. freedom and starvation. What these women would “rather” be when given two less than promising choices is not the solution, and what you describe is not consent.

      The most practical long term solution and objective is to empower women, not to empower men to help them.

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  6. bassam

    what exactly do you mean with ’empower’? enabling them to get an education and employment so as not to be financially dependent on men?
    even so, if women want a family life (i.e. children) they would still need men, and will be in a predicament, if the number of suitable spouses is limited.

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  7. bassam

    no, really, I am indifferent to polygamy.
    I just want to know whether by ’empowerment’ you mean financial independence, because how would you then explain financially independent women proposing to married men (presumably for companionship, children, sex or whatever)?
    or do you mean ’empowered to not need men for anything’ and be content with a long-term single life? (in which case, how do you foresee caring for the elderly on a large scale, without children?)

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    1. There is no “predicament” for financially independent women who want children. Your initial point that they wouldn’t have suitable choices is ridiculous and based on absurd, presumptuous measurements. There are privileged societies where women are financially independent to be held as examples, and women there (including myself) are not in a “predicament” in the absence of polygamy.

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  8. Maliha

    The key words are ‘equal’ & ‘justly’ in the text. It may be (just about!) possible to provide equal material comforts to multiple spouses however it is impossible to love equally or to feel emotionally vested to the same degree in each woman.
    Even parents have favourites among their offspring though most would never mention that aloud in a million years.
    My late grandfather was of the opinion that equal/just treatment would apply to everything: materially, emotionally and in affection. The first may be possible (though its a stretch) the last two would be impossible–hence that leaves us with monogamy.
    I fully concede that this is a somewhat un-orthadox view and most religious conservatives would deem it unacceptable, but it does make sense to me, and I have often wondered why the just/equal regard should only apply to material goods after all the emotional aspect of a relationship is as important and do not think that the Quran is only focusing on material/financial equity thats simply assumed by most Tafsirs and religious authorities.
    What do you think?

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  9. Avid Reader

    Urgh. Polygamy. Disgusting.

    I am so glad I found this post. Everywhere on the interest I’ve read about how stupid people like polygamy and think it’s the norm for muslim marriages.

    Polygamy is not even an exception in Islam. It’s actually discouraged. Borderline Makruh-Haram, in Islamic terms. Polygamy= some people just want to legalize adultery and when that’s not enough, they engage in temporary marriages called “Mu’taa” to enjoy a variety of women. (Ewwwww) They be like, “I enjoyed so and so, this wife was tall, the other was short, the other was fat so I married a fair one….” (URGH)

    Yet they try to justify polygamy as a social necessity when really, they wanna “variety is the spice of life!” about women.

    Have you noticed how they get all defensive about polygamy? It’s like, “It’s my god-given right! How dare you snatch it away, astagufirullah!”

    On on this site- Ummah forums (Warning: Biased website), there was this dirty guy who admitted that his reasons for considering a poly marriage was both of his sexual needs (variety of women) and having a lot of children (20) through poly marriages. Urghhhh. Disgusting man.

    And there was this lady who posted for a second wife to her husband recently, most of the commenters were like “MASHALLAH! May other sisters think like you! Ameen!”

    I was physically disgusted to read anymore.

    I ran for the hillz. LOL

    The subject makes me really angry.

    I agree with everything you’ve written here regarding polygamy. I get infuriated and feel like giving a good kick to the face to those so called men (imams/sheikhs/mullahs or whatever they like to call themselves these days). All of them are fake-arse frauds anyway. It’s usually those men who try and preach how polygamy is a command of Allah and even some stupid women who don’t even know their elbow to their a** become misogynistic towards the smart women who disagree with polygamy.
    And what really p*sses me off is that they say “Astagufirullah” or “Alhamdulila” alot in their bloody speech as if they’re some kind of saint when they just look like they don’t even know what they’re talking about.

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  10. Hina

    So this is a way to help women in poverty but what about the men in poverty? Why not allow wealthy women to marry more than one man to help pull them out of poverty.
    Also here’s another idea, why not create an egalitarian society where women aren’t dependent on men for financial security? That is a much better way to help the status of women which will apply.
    Also this verse from the quran seems to go against the whole, don’t take another wife if your first wife disapproves, “O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allâh has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives? And Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Allâh has already ordained for you (O men), the dissolution of your oaths. And Allâh is your Maula (Protector.) and He is the All-Knower, the All-Wise”. (Q.66:1-5)”

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      1. Hina

        From what I’ve read and heard, it seems that two possible incidents are the cause of this verse. One involved an affair with a slave woman Maria and the other involved honey. Surat Tahrim, where this verse is mentioned also contains more commands directed towards the prophet’s wives and what is expected of a righteous woman and more on how important it is to follow and believe in the prophet.

        I do remember the honey story which was a way to teach people to not be hypocrites.

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  11. Sister

    It doesn’t shock me that you have excluded my comments from publication. Its hypocritical for someone who believes in freedom of speech

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    1. Chill out dude. I have a life and I can’t review comments the VERY SECOND they are submitted. I check this space once a day, and even less frequently at the moment. You submitted your series of ESSAYS only a few hours ago, and left THIS comment only 2 hours after that. (Seriously? You can’t wait 2 hours?) And I am seeing them all now.

      But okay, fine, I won’t publish them. Just because of this comment. And because you can’t tell me what I am. Also, get a blog. In the meantime learn what freedom of speech means. Hint: It doesn’t mean I have to PROVIDE you with space to practice it. If you insist on writing a three-part piece about how we’re all jealous, be a big girl and get your own.

      And I wouldn’t recommend talking about the big bad West seeing as you’re posting from Australia.

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      1. Sister

        Australia and the West allows you to keep multiple girlfriends and a mistress with a wife at home, yet ban publicised and fair polygamy where the husband is just.

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    1. Yup.

      I’m only posting that one about Australia and the West.

      Seriously, get a blog. And go away. You’re not entitled to any space you want under the guise of “free speech.” I don’t have to provide it for you.

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      1. Sister

        Sorry Nahida dear, but this is our deen. We must submit to Allah as he knows what is best for us. A muslim means one who submits to Allah.

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  12. Thijs

    @sister First of all, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. you can only ever pull the freedom of speech card on a government. I think it’s safe to assume Nahida isn’t part of the government. an example: say i publish a book about, uehm i don’t know how to boil children or something…IF the government bans my book, my freedom of speech got attacked. However, if they don’t ban it but you can’t find it in any bookshop, because the bookshops find it distaseful, my right hasn’t been attacked. The bookshops are free to allow what they want in their shop. Likewise Nahida is free to allow what she want on her blog. It’s just basic human interaction, you don’t just barge into somebody’s household and tell them what to do or how to do things better. And you definitely don’t cry freedom of speech if they kick you out, because you know it would not make sense. this is exactly the same thing here.

    That being said, In america, adultery is still illegal in most states. It’s hardly followed, but illegal nonetheless. most states consider it a civil matter and not a crime one so state governments generally don’t meddle with it. you’re right though, it’s legal in europe.

    not that it even matters if it’s illegal or not, adultery and twotiming as heavily frowned upon social wise. There’s a huge social stigma attached to having cheated and most people will get cut from their social group when it’s discovered. it’s the same in non western countries (newsflash: *gasp* in all countries from whatever race or religions, people cheat) Seriously, you’re quite delusional if you think that A) religion/race stops humans from having sex with people outside of their current relationship to somebody else. B) it only happens in the west.

    And in what twisted world is polygamy fair? Women, most of the time atleast, feel a certain connection to their husband (and vica verse). Also women generally don’t like to age. So women psychologically get hurt in the sense that they have to now share their precious person and ‘why is he taking such a younger woman, am i getting old, i must be ugly, oh noes i’m not attractive to him anymore’ which puts a lot of stress on the first wife. The husband on the other hand has more woman to have hot steamy….coffee with! How exactly is this just? Most women when interviewed behind closed doors will actually say that they don’t like it at all and they live in a sad teary world. But hey, keep believing the justification propaganda from the men who want you to think it’s okay. Why would you listen to the tears from the women actually living the life. After all mr I-pull-mysogynistic-bullshit-out-of-my-ass, is a great ulama who said those women are weak and their tears is the work of the devil. and the women should be more considerate of their husband( after all the poor sod now has to please 2 or more women; poor fellow, if only he had a choice to not want more women:'( )

    @Nahida sorry for the wall of text ^^’

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  13. Khaned

    It’s pathetic that majority of Muslim women today don’t even know their privilages. Muslims should read and study the Qur’an in their own understandig rather than following televangelists blindly.
    Although I don’t disagree anything about your post,I have a question related to this topic. I’m wondering why Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) married more than 4 women and one non-widow? I’m asking this because patriarchal clerics says that in normal marriage, polygamy is allowed because Muhammed married a non-widowed woman. I believe he is the exceptional case because he had the duty of keeping family ties without any chaos even thought I don’t have definite answer…

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      1. Heh. xD I’m away at the moment but will respond when I get back. When there’s a new post, check back under this one for the response (a new post means I’ve had enough time.) Just didn’t want you to think I’m ignoring you. Be back soon.

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    1. Back. Most people agree that he had to make these marriages to keep family ties/maintain peace in the community. And if you read the history of his life, you can see how this was necessary. Although, there’s a lot of conflict among his wives that one becomes suspicious of the circumstance. For example, here’s a passage from Untold by Tamam Kahn,

      “Before Asma’s wedding, ‘A’isha and another wife, Hafsa, helped the young bride get ready. They hennaed her hands and combed her hair. They taught her to repeat a saying they claimed would make Muhammad love her more deeply. In fact, the saying was a formula for divorce. Once he heard it, the Prophet was forced to return her to her people. Through the wives’ deception a potential rival disqualified herself before she went from bride to wife.” (page 37)

      And his wife, Zaynab? The stunning woman was actually married before–and to one of the Prophet’s own Companions. When the Prophet saw her he left the home immediately; some say it was because he was attracted to her and others because he was confronted with a marriage that was failing politically (that he had arranged.) Seeing this, Zaynab pronounced a divorce, and married him after a Revelation he received confirming that he was, indeed, to marry Zaynab. To this, ‘A’isha responded bitterly, (and I paraphrase), “Your Lord certainly hurries in pleasing you!” In the case of Zaynab, it was a failed marriage (but she was the one was treated her husband poorly because she disliked his former status as a slave)–in another case, Saffiyah’s, she was the former wife of a husband who beat her. The women weren’t widows, but they were in precarious positions.

      We often hear about how much ‘A’isha was loved but not about how much she was tormented, and only catch a glimpse during khutbas of the intense jealousy in the household. One would hope that the political ties were worth it.

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  14. Pingback: Polygamy is expired. | "Empress Dialogues"

  15. Lana

    Hey Nahida! I’m battling against this guy who doesn’t think feminism and islam exist. He used the typical ‘why are men allowed to marry more then one woman’ and the ‘why can they have sex slaves’ argument on me.

    For the polygamy stance, I used a part of this article (I didn’t take credit for it) to explain to him. I think it was brilliantly written and executed. And he still asks the question – why aren’t these women allowed to marry more then one men? I’m trying to explain it to him in terms that back then, women were still (even before the life of the prophet) under gender roles, sexism, EVERYWHERE in the world. there were *wealthy* women, but only because they were born into wealthy families…. and the rest were under regular circumstances. and the quran does not address women being able to marry because every verse had a specific context and event to which it was referring to – quran sometimes addressed specific events and commented on them – and at that time it wasn’t really women who had been in the front lines in terms of ‘head of household’, or bringing all the financial stability in, due to gender roles, sexism, patriarchy, etc… and my theory is that because this did not exist at the time, that’s the reason why the quran does not address these women. because IT DID not happen in that specific society! it had not been a thing yet! quran addresses current events happening at it’s times, does it not?

    am I wrong? do you see where I’m going here? it’s just a working theory.

    also, can I get an explanation of the entire ‘men can have sex with their slaves’ thing? I know there’s gotta be a sheath for this.

    I quoted another article of yours that explains the positions of slaves in the quran, and how if a man sins, he must free a slave, etc: now the guy posed the question – are the only circumstances for freeing slaves in context of sinning? is there no freeing slaves just to free slaves? must there be a benefit for man?

    you can also email me back a response whenever you’d like. I really like your work and would love commentary on this. <3

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