Wednesday, May 4, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 6

Polygamy.

surah an-Nisa 4:3 - " If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."

surah an-Nisa 4:129 - " Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self-restraint, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful."

This'll be quick. Historically, many societies were polygamous. Specifically, polygynous, meaning that men were allowed to have more than one wife. We have examples of this in the OT. Jacob had more than one wife - Rachel and Leah, as well as their handmaidens. Whether or not he 'married' the maids, he was permitted to have sex with them and acknowledged his children by them. David, Solomon, yadda.

And while modern society has shifted to monogamy, it's a cultural change. There is, to my knowledge, no explicit teaching in the Bible that says, one man, one woman. There are plenty of things that are interpreted that way, but that's a matter of interpretation. There do exist Christian (and I'm not talking about the Mormons. I don't count them.) polygamists. And they have their own interpretations. So let's not get all judgy on the Muslims here, okay?

The Qur'an, here, *limits* the number of wives that a Muslim man can take. He puts a cap on it at four. Prior to this, there was no such limit. They could marry as many as they liked. But there are more conditions placed on it than just the number. A Muslim man is only supposed to marry more than one woman if he can be equal to all of his wives in all ways. Equal support, equal affection. No favorites. They must all be treated exactly the same by him. Which, as is further pointed out in the next quoted verse, is impossible.

It seems to be another one of the instances where a limit is placed on a pre-existing practice, even as it is shown that the practice is not actually preferred. Change needs to be made slowly for it to take root. You can't just say, 'no!' and not have backlash. You have to change the thoughts of the people before you can change the practices. Considering that polygyny is still practiced in Islam, clearly this wasn't entirely done away with, but it was changed, adapted from what came before.

I really don't have an issue with polygamy. It's not for everyone, obviously. Some of us don't share well *raises hand*. But it does work for some, and as long as everyone involved is an adult who made the decision informed and freely, I've got no issues. Unless, like some, they are defrauding the government, claiming to be single women in order to receive aid. But that I tend to hear about with Mormon's more than Muslims.

8 comments:

  1. And even Muhammad (PBUH) wasn't able to treat his wives equally. He divided up his time and kept them in the same living conditions, but when asked, the person he loved most was Aisha.

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  2. *crosses eyes* Shh...don't tell me that. I live under the romantic delusion that he always loved Khadijah the most! :)

    But that's a good point. If Mohammed is supposed to be one of the best examples of humanity and even he was unable to fulfill the obligations to treat all of his wives exactly equally, what hope does any other man have? They should give it up as a lost cause and stick to one.

    It also reminds me of a point I meant to make was that the husband isn't allowed to just marry the wives, realize he can't love them all equally, and divorce them. He must still maintain them equally in all other things. Divorce is allowed, of course, but not just for that.

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  3. My problem isn't with polygyny back then or even today so much as some of the things I hear about it and how men use it as a threat against their wives. But maybe that's just the exceptional, sensational stuff that tends to make news and not the norm. That's what I'm hoping. But then I read it on Muslim blogs so what I am supposed to feel?

    Also can I admit I hate the idea of breeding just for the sake of growing the ummah? I don't believe people are "born Muslim" or "born Christian" but must choose for themselves so mass breeding irks me. For all groups, not only Muslims. Unless of course you just love big families and have the means to support them. But when I hear of men having over 20 kids, I say enough is enough. :)

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  4. Susanne,

    That's true. But if it wasn't the threat of a second/third/fourth wife it would be something else. Bullies are bullies and will always find a way.

    You and me both.

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  5. I agree with you that this was definitely the norm at the time, and rather Islam increased the rights of women as opposed to previously when a man could have as many wives as he wanted and treat them incredibly unequally and unfairly.

    But no, I could never live in a polygamous marriage either.

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  6. Becky,

    It was a good thing, in theory. The sad part is that so many people have the multiple wives and treat it like a 'right'. They seem to be missing the entire point.

    I'm not a good share-er. I've never been 'mineminemine' over anyone I've ever dated, but that doesn't mean I'd be open to sharing them with someone else half the time either.

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  7. I think there's a difference between not being excessively jealous over ones partner, and then not minding to have them be married to someone else at the same time!

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  8. Just a small difference! :)

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