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OCTOBER 2000

MONTHLY    *    Vol 14-10 No:166    *   OCTOBER 2000 / RAJJAB 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

ISLAM AND FAMILY ISSUES


A Morally Healthy Alternative

Polygamy

A Morally Healthy Alternative

When doors are slammed shut on a second marriage, the society seeks escapes through illicit liaison

Munir Armaan Nasimi

SOME of the Western writers, either out of ignorance of teachings of the Quran and the Hadith or out of malice, have criticised Islam for not giving enough protection to the rights of women. Here we will discuss Polygamy.

It is a fact that the Holy Quran permits polygamy only in special circumstances for the upkeep of a healthy society. Almost all prophets such as Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon (Pbuh) were polygamous. Only exception was Jesus, whom Muslims believe as a major Prophet. He lived for only 33 years, always moving from place to place with his disciples and was haunted by the Jews who, in their knowledge, put him on the cross. As Jesus was single and his mother Mary was virgin; Christianity deprecates the institution of marriage and promotes celibacy. This is the teaching of Catholic Church, whose ministers are not allowed to marry. Even Catholics go to an extent of believing sex as evil, while Protestants glorify the institution of marriage citing some of the sayings of Jesus in favour of family life.

The Mormons, an important denomination of Christians in the US practised polygamy officially till 1890. It is said that in Utah where they are in large numbers, many middle class people at present secretly practise polygamy. They are followers of Joseph Smith. They call him as a Prophet. Brigham Young, one of their saints, left 17 widows and 47 children when he died in 1877. They practised polygamy out of necessity for survival and propagation of their clan. When their prophet practised new religion, they were very much persecuted and many were killed by other Christian fanatic denominations. They took to polygamy as a ‘revelation from God’ for preservation of their tribe. They constitute the best people of USA in relation to their health and morals. They do not consume alcohol, tea, coffee and coke. Pre-marital sex and intimacy is lowest in them. Some of the Christian churches have given permission for polygamy to their converts in Africa considering necessity of time and circumstances.

The verse permitting polygamy was revealed in the Holy Quran out of necessity and due to the demands of the circumstances. After the battle of Uhud in 3rd Hijrah, large number of Muslim men were killed leaving many widows and orphans. The verse came as follows:

“If you fear that you won’t be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry the woman of your choice, two, three or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with wives), then (marry) only one” (Quran 4:3)

From the verse it is quite evident that the permission is given to solve social emergency. It is not obligatory. The negative aspect of the verse, the second part, is to be seriously considered before taking a second wife. Anyone can imagine the social condition of Arabia in early 7th century AD, when one man could keep wives upto ten or more. The number was restricted to four only with strict conditions of imparting justice among wives, which is very difficult.

In the present time due to devastating wars of many years, the number of males is much reduced. How to solve the problem of widows? In Afghanistan due to protracted war, certain districts have large population of war-widows. In some places it has reached 1:6, i.e. one man to six women. Only solution to rehabilitate the war-widows is to have multiple marriages. This is a very honourable way of solving this social problem. Several years ago in Europe, after 30 years of war, male population had been reduced drastically. A law was passed in Assembly in Nuremberg that all able men should marry two women to make up male population and to get the widows settled. The age-old evil practice of prostitution can be restricted by polygamy. In Muslim countries where polygamy is allowed, prostitution has vanished.

Extra-marital sex or legal second wife

The countries where polygamy is illegal, large number of people practise extra-marital sex or live with a mistress. The number of mistress may go up to a dozen or so. The Western society and the church have closed their eyes to this particular sinful act in their own country and criticise Muslim countries for polygamy. French President Francois Mitterand kept a mistress for long years. She stunned the country when she appeared at Mitterand’s funeral with two kids she had sired by him. In some of the provinces of India such as Gujarat, recently there have been certain instances of Maitri-Bandhan i.e. ‘Friendship Tie’ between a married man and a woman other than his wife. They live together without marriage and escape the charge of polygamy. Sometimes, the friendship is registered in the court of law. Neither the government nor the society can do anything to them.

In India it has been statistically proved that more Hindus practise polygamy than Muslims. Hindus are not legally allowed polygamy, while Muslims are allowed as per their Personal law. Muslims are economically poorer than Hindus are. They cannot afford the luxury of maintaining second wife and their children.

In some modern Muslim countries such as Egypt and Turkey one has to show enough evidence of necessity to take a second wife in the Court of law. It is permitted only when the wife is terminally ill or barren. Sometimes first wife’s permission is also needed. At the time of marriage-contract, the first wife may put a condition on husband not to take second wife without her consent. If the husband violates, she can divorce him unilaterally and demand compensation in the Court of law.

Mrs. Annie Besant, a founder member of Theosophical Society, Madras, India in her book Life and Teachings of Mohammed writes “There is pretended monogamy in West, but it is really polygamy without responsibility; the mistress is cast off when the man is weary of her, and she sinks gradually as the `woman of street’, for the first lover has no responsibility for her future. She is hundred times worse of than the sheltered wife and mother in polygamous home. We see thousands of miserable women who crowd the streets of Western countries during the night. We must surely feel that it does not lie within the Western mouth to reproach Islam for polygamy. It is better for woman, happier for woman, more respectable for woman, to live in polygamy, united to one man only, with legitimate child in her arm, surrounded with respect than to be seduced and cast off in the street, perhaps with an illegitimate child outside the pale of Law”.

E-mail : munirarmaan@yahoo.co.uk

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