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All-Quran Questions

Answers by: Sheikh Ramadan Ph.D.

Why Muslims marry 4 women?

please can i get some of the reasons why Muslims marry 4 women. so that i can be able to explain to my friends who normally says is not good to marry 4 women.

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah


Definition of Polygamy

1.  Polygamy means a system of marriage wherebyone person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types. One is polygamywhere a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where awoman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygamy is permitted;whereas polyandry is completely prohibited.

Now coming to the original question, why is a manallowed to have more than one wife?

2.  The Qur’an is the only religious scripture inthe world that says,”marry only one”.

The Qur’an is the only religious book, on the face ofthis earth, that contains the phrase ‘marry only one’. There is no otherreligious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the otherreligious scriptures, whether it be the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, theGeeta, the Talmud or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number ofwives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. Itwas only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted thenumber of wives to one.

Many Hindu religious personalities, according to theirscriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more thanone wife. Krishna had several wives.

In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as manywives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number ofwives. It was only a few centuries ago that the Church restricted the number ofwives to one.

Polygamy is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudiclaw, Abraham had three wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practiceof polygamy continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah (960 C.E to 1030 C.E)issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslimcountries continued the practice till as late as 1950, until an Act of theChief Rabbinate of Israelextended the ban on marrying more than one wife.

3.  Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims

The report of the ‘Committee of The Status of Woman inIslam’, published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66 and 67 that thepercentage of polygamous marriages between the years 1951 and 1961 was 5.06%among the Hindus and only 4.31% among the Muslims. According to Indian law onlyMuslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is illegal for anynon-Muslim in Indiato have more than one wife. Despite it being illegal, Hindus have more multiplewives as compared to Muslims. Earlier, there was no restriction even on Hindumen with respect to the number of wives allowed. It was only in 1954, when theHindu Marriage Act was passed that it became illegal for a Hindu to have morethan one wife. At present it is the Indian Law that restricts a Hindu man fromhaving more than one wife and not the Hindu scriptures.

Let us now analyze why Islam allows a man to have morethan one wife.

4.   Qur’an permits limited polygamy

As I mentioned earlier, Qur’an is the only religiousbook on the face of the earth that says ‘marry only one’. The context of thisphrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Qur’an:

“Marry women of your choice, two, or three, orfour; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), thenonlyone.”

[Al-Qur’an 4:3]

Before the Qur’an was revealed, there was no upperlimit for polygamy and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islamput an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two,three or four women, only on the condition that he deals justly with them.

In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says:

“Ye are never able to be fair and just as betweenwomen….”

[Al-Qur’an 4:129]

Therefore polygamy is not a rule but an exception.Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim manto have more than one wife.

Broadly, Islam has five categories of Do’s and Don’ts:

‘Fard’ i.e. compulsory or obligatory

‘Mustahab’ i.e. recommended or encouraged

‘Mubah’ i.e. permissible or allowed

‘Makruh’ i.e. not recommended or discouraged

‘Haraam’ i.e. prohibited or forbidden

Polygamy falls in the middle category of things thatare permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or fourwives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.

5.  Average life span of females is more thanthat of males

By nature males and females are born in approximatelythe same ratio. A female child has more immunity than a male child. A femalechild can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For thisreason, during the pediatric age itself there are more deaths among males ascompared to the females.

During wars, there are more men killed as compared towomen. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average lifespan of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one findsmore widows in the world than widowers.

6.   India has more male population thanfemale due to female feticide and infanticide

India is one of the few countries, along with the otherneighboring countries, in which the female population is less than the malepopulation. The reason lies in the high rate of female infanticide in India, and thefact that more than one million female fetuses are aborted every year in thiscountry, after they are identified as females. If this evil practice isstopped, then Indiatoo will have more females as compared to males.

7.   World female population is more thanmale population

In the USA,women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New Yorkalone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and ofthe male population of New Yorkone-third are gays i.e sodomites. The U.S.A as a whole has more thantwenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marrywomen. Great Britainhas four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million morefemales as compared to males. Russiahas nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million morefemales there are in the whole world as compared to males.

8.   Restricting each and every man to haveonly one wife is not practical

Even if every man got married to one woman, therewould still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be ableto get husbands (considering that America has twenty five milliongays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain, 5million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who wouldnot be able to find a husband.

Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarriedwomen living in USA, orsuppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The onlytwo options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already hasa wife or becomes public property. There is no other option. All those who aremodest will opt for the first.

In Western society, it is common for a man to havemistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the womanleads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accepta man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honorable,dignified position in society and lead a protected life.

Thus the only two options before a woman who cannotfind a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property. Islamprefers giving women the honorable position by permitting the first option anddisallowing the second.

There are several other reasons, why Islam haspermitted limited polygamy, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.

By: Zakir Naik

Sheikh Ramadan Ph.D