Polygamy – Pt 4

Fairness is a condition of polygamy

As for the condition set forth by Islam for polygamy, it is the self-confidence of the Muslim to be fair in his treatment to his two wives in food, drink, clothing, housing and sustenance. If one is not sure of his ability to fulfil such duties equitably and fairly, he is forbidden to marry more than one wife. Allah says: ” But if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one”. [Surah 4:3] The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, “Whoever has two wives and is more inclined towards one of them, he will come on the Day of Judgement dragging one of his sides while it is drooping”. [ Transmitted by Abu Dawud – his own wording (3133), Al-Termithy (1141), Al-Nisa’i, 7/63, Ibn Majah (1969), Al-Doramy p.539, and Ahmad, 2/347, 471. All on the authority of Abu Huraira.] The inclination which the Hadith warns us of takes place when he overlooks her rights and not when he merely inclines in feelings toward her, which is part of the equity that is not possible and which is forgiven by Allah. The Almighty says: ” You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives even if it is your ardent desire, so do not incline too much to one of them (by giving her more of your time and provision)”. [Surah 4:129] For this reason, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) used to divide equitably between his wives and say, “Allah, that is my division as it is in my power to do so. Do not blame me for what You have and I have not. [ Transmitted by Abu Dawud (2134), Al-Termithy (1140), Ibn Majah (1971), Al-Doramy Book of Marriage p.540, and Ahmad 6/144 on the authority of isha.] By what he had not got , he meant feelings and inclination towards one of them in particular. Whenever he used to travel, he turned to drawing lots; the one whose arrow appeared would accompany him. He resorted to that in order to avoid jealousy and to satisfy them all. Islam is the last word of Allah by which all His messages are concluded (sealed). Therefore, it came with a general and eternal Law to embrace all nations, all ages and all people. Islam has not made laws for the urban while overlooking the rural, nor for the cold regions and not the hot ones, or vice versa; nor for a certain age while ignoring the rest of the ages and the other generations. Islam appreciates the importance of individuals as well as communities. A man could have a strong desire to have children but find him self married to a wife who is childless because of infertility or illness, or any other reason. Would it not be more respectable and better for her if he married another to realise his wish while at the same time keeping the first and ensuring her rights? Some men are more sexual and lusty, but one could be married to a wife who has little desire for men, or who is ill or has a long period of menstruation or whatever. She does not satisfy the desire of his instinct nor fill his lustful eyes that seek other women. Would he not be allowed to marry another in a lawful manner instead of seeking another as a mistress, or instead of divorcing the first one? In addition, the number of eligible women for marriage might be more than the men able to marry, especially after wars that deplete the best of men and youth. It might be in the interest of the society and the women themselves who would prefer being second wives than living as spinsters all their lives, deprived of married life and what it has of quietude, love and protection, deprived of the bliss of the motherhood their instincts call for. There are only three ways for these surplus women:

1 – to spend their whole life feeling the bitterness of deprivation of married life and of motherhood, which is a severe punishment for them as they did not commit any crime.

2- or give them some freedom to follow their instincts and accept the means of pleasure with corrupt men who, after satisfying their desires, cast them away when their bloom and youth are gone. This is in addition to what might happen afterwards of begetting illegitimate children, increasing the number of fatherless children deprived of physical and psychological rights who become unproductive citizens and tools of destruction and corruption.

3- or to allow them each to marry a married man who is able to sustain and protect her, confident of his fairness as Allah Almighty has commanded.

Doubtless, this last alternative is the ideal, fair solution and a curing balm. That is what Islam has decreed: “And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm Faith”. [Surah 5:50]  


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