Islam accepted polygamy, and allows man to take more than one wife under special circumstances, and the maximum limit is four wives.
Islam has not brought something new. Before that, polygamy was common in Eastern countries. Although Islam has not disallowed it, but for the well-being has put some conditions, and limited it to four wives, but the actual law for polygamy is legislated.
Islam in allowing polygamy, did not intend to be partial to man, and did not encourage them in lustful marriages. It has not taken away the rights of women blindly, and has not done injustice on them. Rather the aim of Islam is to defend the natural rights of women; that is the rights of marriage, having a family, giving birth to legitimate children, and train them.
In some circumstances protecting the rights of men was the intention also. On this basis, controlled and limited polygamy is one of the necessities of every society, and it is actually for the well-being of both women and men. Two points are explained regarding this:
(۱) The rate of female births exceeds that of the male, and statistics shows that the number of girls and women of the marriage age are always more than men. This difference is due to two reasons:
A) The death rate of men, particularly young men is usually higher than that of young girls. If we see the figures of the dead ones, due to accident, wars, plane-crashes, drowning, death of workers in mines, factories, and driving accidents, etc., we will find that men are mostly involved. Thus, their death rate is higher. So, the number of females is more than males. For confirmation, look at casualties in the last wars. Like Iraq-Iran war, American attack on Iraq, war of Afghanistan with Russia, the internal wars between them, the Yugoslavian war, and other wars in different parts of the world. In terms of human casualties, these wars are very much frightening. And most of the killed were men and young men, who were unmarried or newly married. Now calculate the effect of these wars. How much it contributed to the increase in number of women over men?
B) Some scholars claim that women have more immunity against diseases than men. Analyzing the figures of death of infants and youth certify this view.
The average life span of women is more than that of men. Figures show that there are more widows than widowers.
On this basis, the number of unmarried widows is more than unmarried men. We see many widows willing to marry but they do not see the chance. But we find many few men who are interested in marrying.
(۲) One of the natural rights of human beings is to marry and have a family. Every human being, male or female, has the right to marry and feel the comfort and love of the family, giving birth to legal children, and train them. Woman is also a human being who wants these things and has the right over them. Therefore, the rules of the society should be so prepared that everyone could enjoy this right.
In short, in every society, widows are present in large numbers who need to marry, and have a desire for it. And if they don’t marry, they may go towards immorality. On the other hand, the number of unmarried men is not so high, who could marry these widows, because most prefer to marry a virgin girl who are present in large numbers. Then what could the widows, who need to marry, do? And what is the solution of this problem? Should we allow unlimited immorality and free sex contact, or allow polygamy as Islam has accepted it?
For solving this problem, and enjoy of the widows, who desire to marry and have a family, and to prevent immorality and sexual promiscuity in the society, Islam has permitted polygamy.
Other case of allowance of polygamy is when the wife is ill or barren. In case the wife is barren or has an incurable illness, or bearing the child or becoming mother is painful for her, while the husband requires children, reason and wisdom give permission to him to take additional wife.
In this way, when the woman is ill and cannot fulfill the sexual desires of her husband, it would be a justification for him to seek another wife.
For solving this problem he can either divorce the first wife, or keep her, and at the same time chooses another wife. Although choosing the second wife is beneficial to women.
At the end, a necessary reminder is that the important benefit of marriage is friendship, comfort and love in the family. For this, monogamy is better than polygamy. Islam also does not encourage that a person should practice polygamy for sexual enjoyment and sacrifice friendship and comfort of the family for short time pleasures. It has allowed polygamy as a social need, and for the sake of supporting the rights of widows who need a husband.
The general social circumstances, and status and resources of the person have differences in this point. If there is no personal or social need, one wife is better than many wives. And in case where multiple wives are the necessity of the society or related to a person or necessary for some special persons, then the husband and wife should co-operate in maintaining this need. One, who intends to remarry, should first study his economic and physical conditions. If he doesn’t have the resources for managing two families, then he should avoid it. After that, he should discuss with his wife and tell her about his second marriage. He should assure her of justice and equality between the two wives, and by every possible means, gains her acceptance.
His wife too, by considering his personal or social needs, should allow him and co-operate with him. She must refrain from anger and sentimentality. She must try to understand the problems and needs of her husband, and the widows. Above all, she should be pleased of Allah’s satisfaction, and support her husband’s legal desires. If the second marriage takes place with the mutual understanding of husband and wife, there would be no problem.
PRE-CONDITIONS OF POLYGAMY
Although Islam has allowed polygamy, there are some conditions, that practically its establishment would be very difficult.
۱) Economic resources for maintaining two families.
۲) Physical strength for fulfillment of sexual desires of two wives.
۳) Observing justice between two families from all respects, without any discrimination.
The Qur’an says:
“Then marry women as may seem good to you, two or three or four; but if you fear that you will not act justly, then marry only one. “( Qur’an 4:3)
In the above verse, the permission for polygamy is on the condition that it should be without any risk of injustice and inequality, which is practically very difficult.
A man who has more than one wife, has to provide the same type and measure of food, behavior, sexuality, and even the ethical behavior between them. He should be equal and just. Although there may be differences of age beauty, ethical, or social status in wives, but it is the duty of man that he should behave similarly with all of them.
Thus, it is clear that observing justice is a difficult task, and very few men will be able to perform their duties. In this case the Qur’an says that if you fear that you could not behave just between your wives, then one wife would be enough for you. On this basis, next marriage is a difficult case and carries much responsibility, and everyone is not competent for it.
THINK AND ANSWER
۱٫ Why Islam has allowed polygamy?
۲٫ Why Islam has defended the right of widows to remarry?
۳٫ Why did Islam allow polygamy?
۴٫ What would have happened if Islam had not allowed polygamy?
۵٫ What are the requirements for polygamy?
۶٫ What steps should the man take if he intends for a second marriage?
۷٫ If there is a need for a second wife, what is the duty of the first wife?