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About the Topic of Polygamy, Again!

 

About the Topic of Polygamy, Again!

Published in September 24, 2017

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

Introduction:

 Our dearest son, Dr. Othman Ali, has sent us this email: (... I've received two questions ... is polygamy confined and linked only to caring for orphans and widows? If so, why Arabs in Arabia practiced polygamy for other reasons during the Prophet's lifetime and shortly after it? ... the other question is that some persons claim that Ramadan is to be fasted only in September (in summers only), as its name literally means "hot weather" and they claim to have calculated the timing of the sacred months of fasting as per the solar calendar instead of the lunar one! This is a heretical view, is it not? What do you think? ...)

Within this article we tackle only the first question about polygamy; the other topic of Ramadan and the lunar calendar will be tackled in a series of articles to be published soon on our website.

 

OUR REPLY:

 

Firstly: the culture of feeling ashamed and disgraced:

  We have written before that some persons feel ashamed and disgraced because of certain Quranic verses when they read the Quran in a superficial way, while feeling that there is a gap between their understanding of the Quranic sharia laws and the modern culture of today. Sadly, those people seek to twist, misinterpret, and distort meanings of Quranic verses, to cast doubts on them, and/or to disregard certain ones to serve their purposes of keeping up with 'modernity'. Within our endeavors to refute such stances by some 'cultured' persons, we have authored the book titled "Slavery: A Fundamental Historical Overview" (found in English on this link:http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=87), and we refute the idea embraced by haters of the Quran who claim it encourages slavery. Likewise, we have defended and tackled the Quranic notion of polygamy in several of our fatwas and videos (for instance, please watch these videos of ours about polygamy, subtitled into English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwXTqCPnJS8    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22uvJE_1m0g   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWTfXkD2-zI).   

 

Secondly: about polygamy in the Quran:

1- We briefly repeat our Quranist view regarding the notion of polygamy in the Quran. we assert that there is no limited number of wives for one man; any man can marry more than four wives, unlike the Sunnite view of confining the number up to four wives. Of course, polygamy must be based on mutual consent of all parties concerned: the man and his wife/wives. Thus, no one should stop a woman from marrying a married man who proposed to her; preventing women from marrying the men they like and whom they have consented to marry is prohibited in the Quran; see 2:232 and 4:19. Husbands have the right to divorce and wives have the right of self-repudiation (or Khole' in Arabic: i.e., to return the dowry to husband to be separated and divorced by court)

2- Husbands can practice polygamy when they have money to pay dowries to wives, without limits as to the number of wives, as we understand this from the expression: "...then marry the women you like - two, or three, or four..." (4:3). The Quranic phrase (two, or three, or four) does NOT indicate that the maximum number of wives to one man is four; it indicates in the Arabic/Quranic tongue unlimited number; all women beyond the prohibited types can be sought in marriage by men as per this verse: "...Permitted for you are those that lie outside these limits, provided you seek them in legal marriage, with dowries from your property..." (4:24). This meaning of unlimited number is expressed again in this verse about the speeds (or number of wings) of angels of God: "Praise be to God, Originator of the heavens and the earth, Maker of the angels messengers with wings-double, triple, and quadruple. He adds to creation as He wills. God is Able to do all things." (35:1).

3- Without making it an obligation or an imposed religious duty, God in the Quran urges men who desire to practice polygamy to prefer widows with children in order to care for orphans who need a father: "If you fear you cannot act fairly towards the orphans, then marry the women you like - two, or three, or four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then one, or what you already have. That makes it more likely that you avoid bias." (4:3). God urges men to marry single women (i.e., widows and divorcées) who are poor and have children, while promising men to be rewarded for marrying them: "And wed the singles among you, and those who are fit among your servants and maids. If they are poor, God will enrich them from His bounty. God is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing." (24:32). God says the following about the difficulty of husbands being fair and equitable toward their wives within polygamy and promises rewards for men and women who are separated by divorce within mutual consent: "You will not be able to treat women with equal fairness, no matter how much you desire it. But do not be so biased as to leave another suspended. If you make amends, and act righteously-God is Forgiving and Merciful. And if they separate, God will enrich each from His abundance. God is Bounteous and Wise." (4:129-130). This is being realistic: absolute justice and fairness are impossible from a man toward his wives within polygamy; justice here is bound inevitably to be relative; besides, divorce is better than leaving a wife "suspended" (i.e., legally married but her husband is deserting her house/bed and she feels like a single woman), and God promises rewards for the pious ones within such cases related to marriage and divorce.    

 

Thirdly: people tend to forget the following points about the topic of polygamy:

1- Mutual consent and freedom of choice for women are preserved; a woman may or may not accept that her husband would take up another wife or other wives. If a wife does not accept polygamy when her husband tells her of his intention beforehand, she can use her rights of repudiation/Khole' and divorce. It is prohibited in Islam to force women to marry men whom they dislike or to prevent them from marrying the men they like. Forced marriage annuls the marriage contract in the first place; forcing women to marry makes this marriage deemed as non-valid, illegal, and corrupt as per Quranic laws.   

2- Married men can marry other women within mutual consent; this means that the women who accept to marry married men do this of their own choice and accord. Typically, women accept polygamy when it serves their purposes and interests (i.e., when they accept to be second wives instead of being single) and refuse it when it goes against their interests (when they are first wives) and this is what is called in the Quran as (following one's whims/desires), a human habit rejected in the Quran regarding the application of its sharia laws.

3- Polygamy is merely one detail within the other details of Quranic laws/legislations related to marriage (divorce, dowry, waiting period, self-repudiation, alimony, treating wives fairly and kindly, etc.), and we are to believe in the whole of the Quranic sharia laws of Islam, not partially. We are to believe in the whole of the Quranic text: "...Is it that you believe in parts of the Book, and disbelieve in other parts?..." (2:85).  

4- Quranic legislative commands are of two types as follows.

4/1: There are obligatory Quranic commands whose violation is a sin; as for the topic of marriage, there are obligatory Quranic legislative commands that protect women's rights as obligations imposed on society/men, such as the following commands below.

4/1/1: Paying dowries is a must for marriages to take place, and mutual consent is obligatory within marriage-contract conditions stipulated by husbands and wives who are to abide by these written conditions agreed upon by both sides: "Give women their dowries graciously. But if they willingly forego some of it, then consume it with enjoyment and pleasure." (4:4); "...If you wish to enjoy them, then give them their dowry-a legal obligation. You commit no error by agreeing to any change to the dowry..." (4:24). A woman can write in the marriage contract a condition to prevent her husband from taking other wives beside her, and if the man agrees to sign a marriage contract containing such a condition, he must respect and abide by it as a religious duty and obligations, and therefore, he cannot practice polygamy once he signs such a contract: "O you who believe! Fulfill your contracts..." (5:1).   

4/1/2: The Quran prohibits husbands from committing injustices against obedient wives: "...But if they obey you, seek no way against them. God is Sublime, Great." (4:34), and husbands must treat wives kindly even if they disliked these wives, among other rights of women in the Quran: "O you who believe! It is not permitted for you to inherit women against their will. And do not coerce them in order to take away some of what you had given them, unless they commit a proven adultery. And live with them in kindness. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike something in which God has placed much good." (4:19).

4/1/3: Divorced wives must not leave the house of the husbands within the three-month waiting period; getting her out of it by force is a great injustice, as we infer from the tone of this verse: "O Prophet! If any of you divorce women, divorce them during their period of purity, and calculate their term. And be pious before God, your Lord. And do not evict them from their homes, nor shall they leave, unless they have committed a proven adultery. These are the limits of God-whoever oversteps God's limits has wronged his own soul. You never know; God may afterwards bring about a new situation." (65:1); "When you divorce women, and they have reached their term, either retain them amicably, or release them amicably. But do not retain them to hurt them and commit aggression. Whoever does that has wronged himself. And do not take God's revelations for a joke. And remember God's favor to you, and that He revealed to you the Book and wisdom to teach you. And fear God, and know that God is aware of everything. When you divorce women, and they have reached their term, do not prevent them from marrying their husbands, provided they agree on fair terms. Thereby is advised whoever among you believes in God and the Last Day. That is better and more decent for you. God knows, and you do not know." (2:231-232).

4/2: The second type of Quranic commands are only pieces of advice for guidance, and their non-application is NEVER sinful; e.g., to marry impecunious widows who have children. Those men who marry wealthy virgins are not sinful for not obeying the Quranic advice of marrying widows. Likewise, those who refuse to apply polygamy are NOT sinful. Those who practice polygamy without choosing widows with orphans are NOT sinners. The sinning polygamous men are those who are committing injustices to their wives and do not treat them equally and kindly; yet, this does NOT annul the validity of the polygamous marriages.       

5- Quranic legislations of polygamy aims to eliminate fornication; God 14 centuries ago warns all human beings against the dangers of fornication as this sin harms societies and families: "And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way." (17:32).  

6- Polygamy has been a widespread practice in Arabia and other regions before, during, and after the Quran was revealed; it is still practiced in Arabia and elsewhere. A form of illegal polygamy is common in the USA and the West; socially, men there can have many female partners and rights of women there include the freedom to do with her body whatever they like, including having an affair with married men (i.e., taking lovers beside spouses), but this is sinful fornication, as no marriage contracts are written. Yet, societies there in the West accept such patterns of relations within mutual consent. Those who adore the West culture in awe do not cringe at such adultery that causes social problems; yet, they feel infuriated and embarrassed by polygamy in the Quran that eliminates fornication and fragmented families!    

 

Fourthly: polygamy in the history of the so-called companions of Muhammad:

1- Of course, facts of history are relative and not 100% true; they might be true or untrue/false accounts. All narratives of history should be verified within research methodology. We focus here on the fact that the so-called companions and later generations practiced polygamy without qualms or fearing to be blamed. Many married men at the time married widows of their late friends or virgin daughters of their friends despite the age difference, provided that mutual consent is obtained. This was the dominant culture of the time, but this was not the only reason; many wars (civil strife + conquests) led to the death of hundreds of thousands of married men who left hundreds of thousands of widows and children. Polygamy was the solution to this social problem to care for them. Besides, so many pretty women were enslaved and captured in wars, and they filled tents, houses, and palaces of Arabs who either married them within polygamy or had sex with them without marriage, a grave sin of course, called fornication, prohibited in Islam.      

2- Of course, Arab conquests (and civil wars after them) are sins and violations of Quranic sharia laws/legislations, and the same applies to enslaving women from conquered nations and having sex with them without marriage contracts and dowries. Such sins contradict the Quranic sharia, as we have explained in our book titled "Slavery: A Fundamental Historical Overview". Such fornication with enslaved women is a major, grave sin practiced by Arabs/companions who conquered other nations; Ali Abou Talib (the supreme Shiite deity) committed this sin more often than not after the death of his first wife, Fatima, though he did not participate in Arab conquests, but he partook of the spoils and enslaved women! For more details about this sin regarding Ali, we refer readers to this book of ours in English titled "The Unspoken-of History of the Pre-Umayyad 'Righteous' Caliphs" (found on this link: http://www.ahl-alquran.com/arabic/book_main.php?main_id=83).

3- In general, when we read about history of the so-called companions in the most ancient historical source (i.e., Al-Tabakat Al-Kobra by the historian M. Ibn Saad), we notice that polygamy was practiced without limits as to the member of wives combined by one man, apart from female slaves kept by these married men who sought sexual gratification with such captured women without marrying them. Let us quote below some examples of famous free wives (and not female slaves) of the so-called companions, from the book of Ibn Saad.

3/1: The wives of Abou Bakr the first pre-Umayyad caliph who did not live long enough to Mary too often: Qotayla daughter of Abd Al-Uzza, Um Roman daughter of Amer, Asmaa daughter of Omayce, and Habeeba daughter of Khirija Ibn Zeid. 

3/2: The wives of Omar the second pre-Umayyad caliph: Zeinab daughter of Mazoon, Um Kulthum daughter of Ali Ibn Abou Talib, Um Kulthum daughter of Jarool, Jameela daughter of Thabit, Um Hakeem daughter of Al-Hareth Ibn Hisham, and Atika daughter of Zeid Ibn Amr Ibn Noufeil. 

3/3: The wives of Othman the third pre-Umayyad caliph: Roqayya daughter of Prophet Muhammad, Fakheta daughter of Ghazwan, Um Amr daughter of Jundub, Fatima daughter of Al-Waleed Ibn Abd-Shams Ibn Al-Mughira, Um Al-Banin daughter of Hisn, Ramla daughter of Sheiba Ibn Rabeia Ibn Abd-Shams, and Naela daughter of Al-Farrafesa. 

3/4: The wives of Ali Ibn Abou Talib the fourth pre-Umayyad caliph: Fatima daughter of Prophet Muhammad, and after her death he married the following women: Khawla daughter of Jaffer Al-Hanafeiyya, Layla daughter of Masood Ibn Khaled, Um Al-Banin daughter of Hezam, Asmaa daughter of Amees, Al-Sahbaa Um Habeeb daughter of Rabeia, Emama daughter of Abou Al-As Ibn Al-Rabei (whose mother was Zeinab daughter of Prophet Muhammad; i.e., Zeinab was the sister of Fatima daughter of Prophet Muhammad), Um Saeed daughter of Orwa Ibn Masood, and Muhaya daughter of Emriu Al-Qais. 

3/5: The wives of Saad Ibn Abou Waqqas: the daughter of Shehab Ibn Abdulla Ibn Al-Hareth, Maweeya daughter of Qais, Um Amer daughter of Amr, Zabad daughter of Al-Hareth Ibn Yaamer, Salma of the Taghlab tribe, Khawla daughter of Amr, Um Hilal daughter of Rabei, Um Hakeem daughter of Qareed, Salma daughter of Khasfa, Teiba daughter of Amer, and Um Hujayr.

3/6: The wives of Talha Ibn Obaydillah: Himna daughter of Jahsh, Khawla daughter of Al-Qiqaa, Um Aban daughter of Otba Ibn Rabeia Ibn Abd-Shams, Um Kulthum daughter of the caliph Abou Bakr, Su'daa daughter of Awf, Um Al-Hareth daughter of Qosama, and Al-Faraa daughter of Ali.

3/7: The wives of Al-Zubayr Ibn Al-Awwam: Asmaa daughter of the caliph Abou Bakr, Um Khaled, Al-Rabab daughter of Aneef, Zeinab Um Jaffer daughter of Merthid, Um Kulthum daughter of Oqba, and Al-Halal daughter of Qais. 

4- Apart from men, there were many widows who married many men, one after the other, such as Atika daughter of Zeid, Sakeena daughter of Hussein Ibn Ali, and Aisha daughter of Talha. We refer readers to our article about these women.

5- Finally, let us mention some brief details about the woman named Atika daughter of Zeid; she married Abdullah Ibn Abou Bakr (the caliph) after immigration to Yathreb, and she agreed to his condition regarding never to marry after his death in return to an orchard he gave her as a marriage gift. After he got killed, she refused many suitors, till Omar the caliph desired to marry her, and he told her to restore the orchard to the family of her late husband so that she can marry Omar, and Aisha (wife of Prophet Muhammad) the sister of the killed Abdullah demanded that the orchard must be restored to her family before Atika could marry Omar, and this was done. Atika witnessed the assassination of Omar inside the Yathreb mosque, and she married Al-Zubayr Ibn Al-Awwam who got killed in the Battle of the camel. Ali the caliph desired to marry the pretty widow Atika, but she warned him that she brings ill-omen to her husbands who were killed, and she refused to marry him by saying that Arabs need him as a caliph, and indeed, Ali was assassinated before marrying her. Strangely, Hassan son of the caliph Ali married her later on and was killed by being poisoned, and he was the last of her husbands.   


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