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Why Polygamy is allowed in Islam

Islam has allowed a man to marry more than one wife. This has been done for the purpose of solving many social and domestic problems which a family is confronted with from time to time. Many are the times when the general welfare of both man and woman depends upon the husband marrying another wife.

As Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, Chief Mis- sionary of the Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania, wrote in the `Submission to the Commission on the Law of Marriage and Divorce and Matrimonial Status of Women,' which was appointed by the Kenya Government:-

"Polygamy: African society was, and to a certain extent is, a polygamous society. Islam also permits polygamy. It has allowed four wives at a time and has enjoined equailty in treatment of all wives.

"It should be remembered that polygamy is not a compulsory thing nor is it advocated. It is just a permission with certain limitation and conditions. And in some of the circumstances this permission proves extremely useful.

"For example: If the wife is chronically ill, or is barren, or for some other reasons it is not desirable for the couple to live as husband and wife. The remedy offered by certain societies is to divorce the wife and remarry. But is this justice? Is it kind or noble to turn out a woman in her old or middle age from her home, just because she remains sick or she happens to be barren? Islam discourages such cruelty by permitting polygamy." (The Light, vol.1, nos.ll-12)

Unfortunately, the West, and particularly the Christian church leaders, have used this permission of polygamy for criticizing Islam. Their motive seems just to oppose Islam, hoping thereby to hamper its progress, by degrading it in the eyes of the world.

In their propaganda against this permission, the- critics present the following arguments:-

a) that marrying more than one wife is against the natural law;

b) that this permission encourages lust and sensuality, which is detrimental to the family well-being;

c) that the system of polygamy has social disadvantages, injures the delicate feelings of women; causes deep frustrations and disappointments, giving rise to the feeling of hate and hatred which upsets the proper bringing-up of children;

d) that this lam disturbs the familyplanning, as plurality of wives naturally increases the number of children; this in its turn causes economic problems.

Before commenting on these objections, let us first examine whether it was Islam which originally promulgated the system of polygamy,

or it existed since pre-historic days. Also let us see whether it is found in other religions. Then we should see on what grounds and with what conditions has Islam allowed a man to marry more than one wife. Does it offer solutions to the social problems facing many countries today?

Adapted from the book: "Why Polygamy is Allowed in Islam?" by: "al-Hajj Ahmad H. Sheriff"