Polygyny anyone?

In the Quran, Allah speaks of how He created mankind and with what qualities and desires He created him … For men one of these deep-seated qualities is the love of women.

Allah said in the Quran:

“Beautified for men is the love of things they covet: women, children, much of golf and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land…” (3:14)

In this Ayah (Verse), Allah speaks of how men covet or desire many things, including women … In another Ayah, we find that Allah has created man with the love or desire of physical pleasure. This of course is no surprise. As all Muslim women should know, we are commanded to help control this desire by answering when our husband calls us (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7, no. 121 – The Prophet said, “If a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then the angels send their curses on her till morning.”).

Allah said:

“Allah wishes to lighten the burden for you: and man was created weak (cannot be patient to leave sexual intercourse with woman)” (4:28)

Again we see that Allah has created man with a distinction different from woman. At this point a picture of man’s nature has started to form.

A part of answering the question of ‘why’ (are Muslim men allowed polygyny) is exploring Allah’s mention of a reward for believing men in Jannah (Paradise). In the Quran Allah mentions the creation of creatures called Al-Hurul-Aiyn… Allah has created these fair females specifically for Jannah to be a reward for the believing men. There are more Ayat regarding this creation for believing men along with further explanation in Hadith. However, what is important here is just to point out that Allah has made the desire of women so much a part of men that it is a part of their reward in Jannah.

Although it may be hard to read, and it sometimes may be hard to make our hearts in line with what Allah has revealed, the reward is great… a woman should make every effort to accept polygyny for the sake of no longer fearing to read what Allah has revealed.

~ From Monogamy to Polygyny: A Way Through by Umm AbdurRahman Hirschfelder and Umm Yasmeen Rahmaan.

What do you think about this excerpt? What are your opinions on polygyny in the 21st Century? Do you think having multiple wives is desirable, doable or even moral in the modern world?


41 thoughts on “Polygyny anyone?

  1. wafa' says:

    even if love of women is created in men, it’s still the worse thing to have more than one wife or more than one lover at a time. Aren’t we equal? why one woman can not be satifiying a man while one man is always more than enough to a woman.
    I believe those who said that certain rules must be in hand for those who want to take another wife and i believe that these rules must be strictly applied.
    having more than one woman at the same time is degrading to both women or more than those.
    beside marriage supposed to be mental, physical and emotional attachment. How can anyone be attached to two at the same time is beyond my thinking !!!

    • Metis says:

      “I believe those who said that certain rules must be in hand for those who want to take another wife and i believe that these rules must be strictly applied.”

      Wafa, can you suggest some rules? I remember putting down a list of some such rules on a friend’s blog once and a male reader got really annoyed with me. It seems like men don’t want rules and go back to the ancient source to argue that the Prophet himself never laid down rules. However, I think it doesn’t mean that rules can’t be put in place. Polygamy can be and is usually very painful for the first wives and it is unfair if it is made very easy for men.

  2. sf says:

    Not in this time or age! Polygyny was there for a reason but all these reasons now are not *met*. It’s become a greedy world where a man would want to have another wife for his own selfish reasons. This is my own opinion. Haven’t seen a dedicated, just, loving husband with multiple wives yet!!!

    • Metis says:

      “Polygyny was there for a reason but all these reasons now are not *met*.”

      Sf, what do you think were the reasons for polygyny and do you think the reasons were good/strong enough and was polygyny then helpful? I was thinking that we use the excuse of mental torture and pain to do away with polygyny today but even early Muslim women went through mental torture and pain, but they still had to endure it.

  3. susanne430 says:

    What happened to “you shall not covet”? Why does God say this to Moses yet Allah makes provision for men’s covetous ways? And men’s covetousness always affects women and their children so I see it as a sin to be avoided (see Ten Commandments, number 10).

    If Islam is a continuation of what God gave originally to Moses and the others, why this discrepancy? Why threaten women that if they do not satisfy their men, they will be cursed? What happened to dedication to one woman and your children? Instead this OKs men’s weakness. I thought faith in God was supposed to help us rise above our weaknesses, our tests in order to NOT be like those who are without God.

    Islam in many regards (such as this) reverts back to normal humanity. There is little reliance on God to help us past our weaknesses. Instead it’s about doing what seems natural *and* it gives God’s approval for it.

    There’s no need to do better…even God doesn’t expect this of you nor will He help you. So go ahead and live like you want. Indulge your weakness and in the process make the women feel guilty and cursed if they don’t comply with your sexual lusts.

    • Metis says:

      “Islam in many regards (such as this) reverts back to normal humanity. There is little reliance on God to help us past our weaknesses. Instead it’s about doing what seems natural *and* it gives God’s approval for it.”

      Susie, I’m currently reading a book by a Muslim historian who writes that women had greater rights before Islam. It is a bit shocking to read such stuff because I’m not used to reading such hard truth from Muslims. Anyway, she writes that emphasis on marriage in Islam worked in favour of men. She writes that celibacy in Christianity:

      “offered women immediate rewards on earth, not just rewards in heaven. Women were able to use the ideals of celibacy and worldly renunciation to retain control of their wealth, travel freely throughout the world as ‘holy pilgrims’, devote themselves to intellectual pursuits, and found inspirations which they could personally direct.” (Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed).

      Your comment reminded me of this quote.

      • unsettledsoul says:

        Metis and Susanne,

        I have heard this also about women having more rights before Islam. Many people use this as the reason Khadija was such an awesome, independent woman, because she was all of these things before Islam came to her. When I say “look at how great a Muslim she was” to other women, I am told she is not a great example because she was not Muslim when she was all of these “great” things. So she was “awesome” before she was Muslim. She was a business woman, she was independent, she was rich, she married a much younger man by asking HIM to marry HER. And once she converted she gave her business away.
        This is all gossip, basically, not anything I have studied, just what I hear when conversations about Khadija are had by Muslims. It interests me though. Anyways, Leila Ahmed’s writings remind me of this gossip I hear about Khadija.

        • Metis says:

          US, indeed that is true. I have read four scholarly works that argue that the status of women before Islam was not as bad as it is made out to be; the works are:

          1) Ahmed, L. (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press

          2) Al-Fassi, H.A. (2007). , Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia, British Archaeological Reports (BAR) Archaeopress, Oxford.

          3) Neilson, P. The Origin of Mutah (Temporary Marriage) in Early Islam.

          4) Hoyland, R.G. (2001). Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam. New York: Routledge

          There was Khadeejah and there was Hind and Asma Bint Marwan; even Raihana who refused to accept Islam or marry the Prophet.

          Leila Ahmed writes about Khadeejah that:

          “She was already in her fifties, however, when Muhammad received his first revelation and began to preach, and thus it was Jahilia society and customs, rather than Islamic, that shaped her conduct and defined the possibilities of her life…In contract, autonomy and monogamy were conspicuously absent in the lives of the women Muhammad married after he became the established prophet and leader of Islam, and the control of women by male guardians and the male prerogative of polygynyy were thereafter to become formal features of Islamic marriage.”

          She explains this discrepancy as:

          “Islamic civilization developed a construct of history that labeled the pre-Islamic period the Age of Ignorance and projected Islam as the sole source of all that was civilized – and used that construct so effectively in its rewriting of history that the peoples of the Middle East lost all knowledge of the past civilizations of the region. Obviously, that construct was ideologically serviceable, successfully concealing, among other things, the fact that in some cultures of the Middle East women had been considerably better off before the rise of Islam than afterward.”

          This somehow explains why there were some strong women who were much opposed to Islam.

      • susanne430 says:

        That’s interesting…I’m glad you shared. I think the choice to marry or stay single is up to each individual and his/her conviction before God. It irritates me when people threaten “this is half your deen” or “you have to do this to please God” regarding such a personal, life-changing choice. Every person answers to God for what s/he does and if they firmly believe God wants them single to dedicate themselves to Him, fantastic. Mama and Daddy and Society should respect that their child is following GOD and not community standards/tradition/custom.

        I think women endure so much junk because they think they will get heavenly rewards later. What if this is a ploy by men to control them here? If I am told angels curse me all night if I refuse my husband, I’ll endure his advances even if I don’t really want to. If I’m told God wants me to accept my husband sleeping with 1, 2 or 3 other wives and bringing more little Muslims into the world then I will endure it even if I hate it with all my being. It’s so wrong! They use religion as a threat…the desire for rewards later as a threat. Yet the Quran is mostly about rewards that appeal to men. The thought of my husband with those undeflowered bright-eyed maidens is supposed to attract me how exactly?

  4. Lat says:

    The verse 3:14 finishes with “..such are the possessions of this world but with Allah is the best of the goals(to return to).”

    I used to read pro-polygny articles before and learned that they pick and choose verses and hadiths to substantiate their claims further and make it sound like an ultimate command from God.The arguements they bring forward don’t always stand for example that it helps a man to stay away from adultery.Cases have shown otherwise.To me most of the post above borders on how interpretation is done to confuse people,using God as their trump card.

    “What are your opinions on polygyny in the 21st Century?”

    Views are definitely changing towards monogamous marriages.This is of course mainly due to women’s education and independence,as you’ve correctly identified in your high divorce post.The past environment favoured widespread polygyny and even polyandry but now times are different with changing perceptions of how ideal marriages should be.

    Non-muslim men have many affairs too and some do have more than one wife,even though the other woman is not legally recognized as such.Funny thing is some women don’t mind this as they comfort themselves by saying they are not doing anything new that past women didn’t do.

    Broken,strained and failed marriages can be seen across the religious belt,including Hindusim, because of this.Whether a religion allows or disallows polygyny,it happens anyway, openly or secretly.If women allow themselves to marry an already married man,what can other women who oppose such marriages do? if men can change their perceptions towards polygyny as not so a viable option anymore,then a real change towards desiring monogamy more can happen.It’s not just about women wanting monogamy but also that men should want it too.

    I once saw a documentary about migrating pigeons.The male pigeon will not ever allow any other female,looking for love, into it’s nest besides it’s partner! If you had a strong partner like that,a female need not worry.I know of devoted muslim men who can roam the whole world as much as they want and still come back to their wives in one whole piece.

    • Metis says:

      Lat, in all fairness the poor authors had written the whole verse but I left … after the first part because that was their focus and I didn’t want to type so much 😀 I’m sorry, it was my fault.

      But yes, I felt they were putting words in God’s mouth. I avoid using the words “Allah said this and that” because frankly I don’t know and I’m very scared of misquoting God. I can understand men making God say things in favour of polygamy but when women do that I get really confused.

      “Broken,strained and failed marriages can be seen across the religious belt,including Hindusim, because of this.Whether a religion allows or disallows polygyny,it happens anyway, openly or secretly.”

      This is what my husband says as well. But the thing is Hinduism allows polygamy in religious law. It is just the secular application of the law that has banned it. It is allowed in most religions if not all. Of course, it is not allowed in Christianity, but that hasn’t ensured that men don’t cheat. But the key word is *cheat.* When it is given religious sanction then women are afraid to raise their voice against it and in some cases they actually support it.

      “If you had a strong partner like that,a female need not worry.”

      Very well-said!

      • Lat says:

        when Hindu men have more than one wife,they actually feel guilty but only a few Muslim men feel this way,when they realise their inability to treat their wives equally and publicly discourage polygyny.Most Muslim men don’t feel guilty enough about hurting their wives.I think it’s cultural conditioning.

        • Metis says:

          “Most Muslim men don’t feel guilty enough about hurting their wives.”

          This is an interesting observation that only someone who lives in a multicultural setting can understand so well. Do you think maybe most Muslim men don’t feel guilty because they subconciously think that Muslim women have to bear it as a religious duty while a Hindu man knows that he has no religious, cultural or social excuse for what he has done?

          • Lat says:

            “..they subconciously think that Muslim women have to bear it as a religious duty..”

            Not as a religious duty like prayer but as a right,a right that he need not even practice.But it depends in which cultural setting he comes from.

            I believe that the Hindu god’s,Krishna?,final incantation/avatharam of 10 avatharams is of monogamy.His previous avatharam, don’t know at which level,was polygyny.That’s why when Hindu men have multilple wives they say their lord did it,so why can’t they? So they do have a religious excuse.But that excuse has runned out 🙂 It can be complicated as both ‘opposing’ camps have a religious excuse.

  5. Coolred38 says:

    Makes it sound like God has a vested interest in Muslim mens sex lives..but Muslim women are just there to fullfill them…without having any of their own desires…except to please their man and ensure he has no desires unfullfilled.

    So God is a man? Yes?

    It reminds me of that little tag team thing men do….one guy sees a girl he likes but she’s with her BFF and he wants to get the attention of the desirable girl so he sends his BFF in to divert the attention of the female BFF. His BFF does this simply so his bro can get laid for most intents and purposes. So are we to assume God is the designated BFF of men…got their back…diverting the other woman (additional wives/first wife) with religious speak and excuses so the Main Bro can get laid???

    God IS a man. It figures

    • Metis says:

      They make it seem like it, don’t they?! Really strange… stranger than fiction!

    • susanne430 says:

      This is how I’ve often felt about Islam especially because of how Allah seemed to help Muh out on so many occasions. I think even Aisha noticed and commented on this. Adoption outlawed in Islam for the sake of Muhammad saving face in the community…odd coincidences!

      And as you noted…men and their damned sexual ‘needs’! Blah!!

  6. Sana says:

    Does not make sense in this world. For whatever reasons I don’t think anything justifies polygyny. It sounds so unfair.
    Above , the men are described as materialistic and selfish.
    I totally agree with coolred,

  7. Stephanie says:

    Very rarely is polygyny an acceptable alternative in this day and age. I can imagine some scenario in a war torn country, one which women are unable to make their living, in which it would be helpful to women. Otherwise, no. And I question the motivation and self esteem of a woman which would willing to enter into a marriage as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wife. I think it shows a strong sense of codependence and an inability to survive on her own accord. This might be a societal and cultural issue as well. Either way, I don’t believe it is good for women emotionally.

    The article cited above beseeches that a woman “just accept it” for the pleasure of Allah, which would indicate if she doesn’t she is somehow going against Allah and His revelation. The woman who won’t accpet her husband sleeping with another woman is then characterized as being disobedient, or, a “bad Muslim”. I have a problem with this type of coercion.

    I personally could never continure in a marriage in which my husband knows sexual intimacy with another, whether within a marriage or not. It’s all the same to me. It’s a betrayal. Luckily, I’m educated and able to survive independently. Not all women are afforded this luxury. I think as a community we should be talking more about how to empower women through education, rather than chastizing the one who rebels against polygyny.

    • Metis says:

      Stephanie, You have some great points in your comment. Thanks for sharing your views! Education is an important point you have raised and I was completely nodding with “I think as a community we should be talking more about how to empower women through education, rather than chastizing the one who rebels against polygyny.”

      Sadly, people like the authors of this really sad book have their priorities all wrong. They think that women are born to bear grief in this world which will allow them to enter Paradise in the Afterlife. Thus their focus is not to do well in this world which seems like such a lost case because what is the purpose of our life on this earth if we can’t even use our brains?!

  8. Organica says:

    I watching a movie this morning “The Road” and the movie revolves around post-apocalyptic times. Humans would have to rebuild from scratch in order to survive and preserve humanity. I can see how Polygyny can fit a primitive world where people become scarce.

  9. Tasmiya says:

    Of course there is a place for it in this day and age. I think that as much as many of us hate the idea of polygyny, there are those that are in favour (men and women) and if they are happy living this way then who am I to tell them otherwise?

    The thing is that many women do NOT want to live a polygynous life but their husbands go ahead and do it anyway. This is what I object to. Nevermind the permissibility of it. Where is the common decency? If a man’s wife is so distraught at the thought of him taking another wife, why do her feelings never come into the equation? If a man wants to eat steak but the wife has an allergy to it, or maybe not even an allergy, the thought of eating cow makes her nauseous and violently ill, then is she not entitled to ask that her husband not eat steak? And isn’t he, as a decent human being able to respect her wishes and NOT eat steak? Yes, in Islam steak is permissible but sheesh, it’s making your wife sick so bloody stop eating it.

    • Tasmiya says:

      Just to add, I have no respect for a man who watches his wife break down and cry but continues to do the very thing that is making her break down and cry, regardless of whether his actions are permissible. Marriage is not supposed to be like this.

    • Metis says:

      Very well said, Tasmiya. I agree with what you have said. My husband often says the same thing, but I feel there should still be some opposition. I mean even child marriages work for some people including for the child brides. People are often oblivious to harm or careless like most people know how cousin-marriages can cause serious illnesses but they still continue to marry within the family several times. Eventually some Muslim governments have taken steps of control such situations.

      “Yes, in Islam steak is permissible but sheesh, it’s making your wife sick so bloody stop eating it.”

      I wish men had that sense. They won’t stop unless the steak makes *them* sick!

  10. mariam says:

    in wikipedia page of Fatemeh daughter of prophet, there is one part that is very interesting for me :
    ” On one occasion, a member of the house of Hisham ibn al-Mughirah proposed that Ali marry a woman from their clan. Ali did not immediately reject the proposal and when word reached Muhammad he is reported to have said, “Fatima is a part of me and whoever offends her offends me.” [29]

    Muhammad re-iterated his affection for Fatimah when she was made aware that Ali had proposed to a daughter of Abu Jahl. From the pulpit Muhammad pronounced, “she is indeed a part of me” and that Ali would have to first divorce Fatimah before the marriage could go ahead.”

    shia reject this story because they believe Ali never never hurt emotionaly anyone including dear daughter of prophet .
    honestly I am in wonder of both sunni and shia.if they believe Polygyny is painful to women why they practice it? and from another hand, do they believe both prophet and Ali discriminated against other women and only Fatemeh had feeling? why prophet had not such sensitivity toward other daughters?
    in mind of those who narrate or reject this story Polygyny is hurtful for women , a practice that is clearly spoken in Quran.a big paradox withouth any answer.

    • Metis says:

      Mariam, I completely agree with you. I have often thought about the same things. Even if Fatima was really not hurt or was hurt only because the woman was Abu Jahl’s daughter the fact is that the Prophet didn’t mention that as the reason. He was seriously disturbed even though in past he had married women from his enemies’ tribes to create friendly relationships. But he knew that polygamy hurts. There are so many ahadith that show that his own wives’ were often jealous and heartbroken and hurt.

      “why prophet had not such sensitivity toward other daughters?” – I have read that all his daughters enjoyed monogamous marriages as long as they lived. I think he had sensitivity towards all his daughters, but the question is why not towards his own wives?

      Yes, there is a “big paradox withouth any answer.”

      • Lat says:

        “..but the question is why not towards his own wives? ”

        Because his other wives didn’t come from a common background like kadijah and therefore her daughters? His wives married him fully knowing the consequences yet they did it anyway.Perhaps the prophet acted on this culture difference and his status of head of state.

        • Metis says:

          I think that is the reason. I never thought about the fact that all hsi daughters were from Khadeejah and maybe her tribe was matrilineal. But he was a Prophet before he was the head of Medina and he was a sensitive man. Also, if influential men practiced polygamy and influential women refused polygamy then it means influential men could never marry influential women 🙂

  11. I’m not a fan of polygyny at all. I don’t think the institution makes sense and it’s something that never fails to rile me up especially when some Nigerian Christians tell me that polygamy is allowed in my religion (always shocked when I go into a tirade against the practice) while completely ignoring the fact that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers had multiple wives.

    Polygyny to me is not only about religion but also about culture. I know people say that polygyny was needed in the past because women couldn’t work then and they couldn’t support themselves but, if the predominant culture gave women the freedom and independence to work and to support themselves why would they need to share a man? Unless of course there was a dwindling male population caused by war or something else.

    Cultures that allow a man to marry several women tend to view women as lesser human beings or simply as trophies that indicate a man’s wealth and success. In Nigeria today, Muslim men who marry multiple wives do tend to be uneducated. I know some men at work who have two wives that they cannot afford but they just have to marry both to show that they have a good job and live in a town. So yes, education does seem to play a role but I think culture plays a bigger one. If the culture frowned on polgyny, people wouldn’t need education to tell them it was wrong and hurtful to women.

    • Metis says:

      ECC, I love your comment. Male population has never dwindled, we know, and even in ancient Sparta when men were dying in wars like flies the *left-over* men didn’t begin practicing polygyny as the norm. Both men and women were polygamous in ancient Sparta because their focus was on procreation to build armies. So you are right in saying that polygyny is not only about religion but also culture.

      “if the predominant culture gave women the freedom and independence to work and to support themselves why would they need to share a man?”


  12. Seema Rehan says:

    One of the first reasons I began to doubt Islam was polygamy. I was the second wife but I didn’t enter into the situation myself. The first time I met my co-wife I saw such sadness in her eyes to see me pregnant with the baby of a man she loved but I didn’t. I still see her eyes in my dreams. I was the cause of pain for another woman and it makes me sick to my stomach. I felt so guilty sometimes I felt like I deserved all the unhappiness because I had caused unhappiness to her.

    Religions that are based on the concept that humans are on earth as a form of punishment force its adherents to suffer pain and misery as part of God’s vicious plan. Polygamy makes a woman miserable and I know it first-hand. There is nothing pious about it.

    Lat’s comment is spot on. When I was married and hurt by polygamy I realized that Muhammad behaved more like head of state than a prophet sent from God. He never felt there was anything wrong with hurting women he was married to because he was never guided by God. Most of the time he behaved conscientiously but not always and women were his strongest weakness.

    I don’t think there is ever a need for polygamy in any century. In marriages where relationship is based on mutual respect, love and trust three is always a crowd, never company.

    • Metis says:

      Oh Seema, your comment made me so sad. It is a sorry state when a woman has to go through unnecessary pain. Personally, I don’t find anything pious about it either and when some women behave like they are doing God a favour by going through polygyny, it makes me very angry.

      I loved this – “In marriages where relationship is based on mutual respect, love and trust three is always a crowd, never company.”

      • susanne430 says:

        I loved that too, Seema. Very nicely put.

        I’m sorry for how the other wife’s sad eyes haunt your dreams. I suspect both you and she were somehow victims of this man’s or society’s (parents??) cruelty. I hate you both had to go through this.

  13. unsettledsoul says:

    Thank you for sharing Seema

  14. Coolred38 says:

    How religious and pious can it be anyways when the husband is constantly threatening you with the potential second wife (or third etc)? Personally speaking and hearing other women we all go through the s ame thing…our husbands will get upset for whatever reason and declares…I will punish you, show you, exercise my rights etc and go get myself another wife…as if God gave men a “go to” ultimate form of punishment to keep women in line.

    Either behave and do as I ask and never upset me or you will find yourself sharing my bed time with another woman…or two…or three.

    The Quran (and God) speaks of never causing injustice to another person, but then deems polygany as a valid option to some supposed situation….completing over riding the injustice done to the women involved through her emotions and sense of fairness, the affect on the children, and the economic burden it generally places on all involved. For whatever reason polygany was allowed in the Quran…it was hardly ever used for those specified reasons (specified in the Quran) and has generally ALWAYS been used to fullfil man’s sexual desires period.

    Don’t tell me God didn’t see THAT coming?

  15. celi says:

    In Hinduism there are a greater set of philosophies than just the ritual aspects. However with the centuries of existence and modification, there are many regional differences, class differences etc. (For instance, there are sects within which believe in a monotheistic philosophy underlying Hinduism too – it’s just understood to be more complicated for the average person to follow and so one would see the God-energy through a favoured form – to build a personal rapport and commune with that Divine energy – i am summarising this very badly but hopefully you get the gist).
    coming to cultural traditions which more of us live by rather than truly reading the scriptures and analysing the religious aspects – it differs a lot.
    for instance, there is no way a man can marry multiple women – according to the communities i know of and people i have spoken to, it was more a cultural practice which supports men who are powerful and want to exercise that power.
    I know that if in my family, anyone would try it, he’d be gelded pretty quick 🙂
    Apologies for any mistakes but like i said, there are differences.

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