There are people who know very little about Islam. But there is one thing many seem to know and that is a Muslim man can have four wives.
Islam permits men to engage in polygamy. They may have as many as four wives at the same time. Islam permits men to have one wife and be monogamous or have two, three, or four wives and be polygamous. Nonetheless, the number of wives that a man may have in Islam, if he chooses to engage in polygamy, must not exceed four at a time.
A Muslim man who engages in polygamy should deal justly with his wives in all matters that are within his limit, mainly in matters of maintenance. He is to divide his wealth and the time he spends between his wives equally, especially his nights. A woman may waive her rights and reclaim them at anytime.
SIMPLIFIED DEFINITION OF POLYGAMY IN ISLAM
Speaking from an Islamic perspective, polygamy means a man has more than one wife at a time and the number of wives does not exceed four at a time.
POLYGAMY IN GENERAL
In general, the word “polygamy” refers to a marriage with more than one spouse at the same time. One person from one sex marries more than one person from the opposite sex, simultaneously. It includes a man who has more than one wife at the same time or a woman who has more than one husband at the same time.
“Polygyny” refers to a marriage of one man with more than one wife at the same time.
POLYGAMY OR POLYGYNY?
There is no need to debate whether the proper word is “polygamy” or ” polygyny” when referring to Islam. I am certain no one has ever heard of a Muslim woman having more than one husband at a time – NEVER in Islam.
Arguing “polygamy” and “polygyny” in Islam seems useless and is merely a matter of semantics. We, in Islam, know what polygamy is, so why argue about the words?
POLYGAMY DID NOT BEGIN WITH ISLAM
Islam did not create polygamy. Polygamy existed in varying degrees in different parts of the world, in diverse cultures before the spread of Islam. Polygamy was the practice of Jews, Christians, Buddhist, and pre-Islamic Arabs, perhaps others as well. What Islam did was to organize polygamy, and restrict it to four wives under strict rules of justice.
There were, there still are, and there will be people who misuse what is given them. In those cases, it is wrong to blame the authority or the giver. Blame the man who misuses what he is given. The man who misuses polygamy will be held accountable.
SOME REASONS MEN ENGAGE IN POLYGAMY
Some reasons why men engage in polygamy are:
There were frequent wars between tribes and nations. These wars resulted in an excess of women over men, as many men died in battle. In order to accommodate the excess number of women to men, polygamy was a remedy.
Polygamy healed the wounded heart of a woman whose husband died in battle.
Polygamy helped rehabilitate widows, orphans, and other women that were left without supporters or husbands as a result of war.
Polygamy was the solution for women that were helpless and destitute. A polygamous marriage provided those women with a means of livelihood and protection.
It was a chivalrous act to marry as many women as a man could support.
It was a huge indignity on a family and the entire tribe, if a female remained unmarried or married below her social status. Eligible girls of marriageable age had many offers of marriage. Parents competed with each other in providing enticement in the form of jewelry and property as dower.
Men engaged in polygamy to assure an increase in the birthrate. It was necessary for every person member of a tribe to try to increase the numbers in the tribe to which it belonged.
Polygamy was a solution in some cases where a wife was chronically ill, incapacitated, or unable to bear children.
THE NEED FOR POLYGAMY IS NOT OBSOLETE
There are still wars that leave women widowed.
There are still single women that cannot find husbands.
It doesn’t matter whether a woman is a physician, educator, or a lawyer; it does not matter what position she holds, for many women, marriage is their dream. Regardless of how much she excels in her work, for a woman (not all women, of course) her subconscious aim is that of having a family of her own, shared by a good man who is the father of her children.
There still are reproductively challenged (barren) married women.
The Quran is for all men, for all times. Polygamy is permissible in Islam. That permission was given by Allah (Great and Glorious is He)
IS POLYGAMY EASY TO LIVE?
A life of polygamy is probably a challenge for everyone that lives it. Polygamous marriages are not all the same, just as monogamous marriages are not all the same. Neither polygamy, nor monogamy is easy, shown by the divorce rates.
Polygamy 411 invites and welcome everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims here.
We invite everyone to share their stories about their lives and what they’ve experienced with polygamy.
We welcome all to read the story of my journey, as I lived and live polygamy.
I pray Allah (Great and Glorious is He) blesses us to become better Muslims, become “Believers”, and grow closer to Him.
“Allah has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to Allah: and Allah (always) hears the argument between both sides among you: for Allah hears and sees (all things).”
Quran: Surah Al Mudadilah 58, Iyat 1