As to the claim that the person in authority has the right to prevent some of what is allowed, we have the following to say: what the Law has given to the person in authority is the right to limit some of what is permitted for a weighty interest at some times, or in some cases, or for certain people. He should not generally or utterly prevent it forever because that would be like forbidding, which is only Allah’s right, denied by the Qur’an to the People of the Book. “They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah”. [Surah 9:31] The Hadith came to interpret the verse, “They allowed for them and forbade them and thus followed them”. [ Transmitted by Al-Termithy on the authority of Adeyy ibn Hatim in the interpretation sections (3095) and by lbn Jarir in his interpretation section (16631). Al-Termithy said this Hadith is ghareeb (i.e., it has only one transmitter), but in the section about Hudhaifa, it is mauqf (i.e., it was narrated by the Companions, not by the Prophet [blessings and peace be upon him]) and transmitted by Al-Tabary (16634).] To limit what is allowed is like preventing the slaughter of animals on certain days to lessen their consumption, as happened at the time of `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him; or like preventing excess cultivation of a certain crop so cultivation space will not encroach upon the space attributed to growing grains and other nutritious crops that are staple foods for the people. It is also similar to preventing the highest ranks of military officers or diplomats from marrying foreigners for fear of leaking state secrets through women to the enemies. It is also like preventing men from marrying a Christian or a Jew out of fear that it would affect Muslim women, especially in the communities that have small Islamic minorities and limited Muslim expatriates. But to come to something allowed by Allah in His Book and mentioned by His Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), established in the state, such as divorce or polygamy, and to prevent it utterly and forever is considered something different from limiting what is allowed according to the examples given. The meaning of You will never be able to do perfect justice between wives. [Surah 4:129] As to the illustration from the Glorious Qur’an, it is wholly rejected. It is a corruption of the order of words and carries within it an accusation against the Prophet Mohammed (greetings and peace be upon him) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them), implying they did not understand the Qur’an, or maybe that they did but intentionally deviated from its precept. The verse quoted to illustrate the point also gives an answer if the meaning is perused; Almighty Allah has allowed polygamy on the condition of fairness, then highlights the fairness needed in the same chapter when He 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) so as to leave the other hanging (i.e. neither divorced nor married)”. [Surah 4:129] This verse indicates that complete and absolute justice between women is impossible due to the nature of the human being because complete justice requires equity between them in everything, even in the inclination of the heart and in sexual desire, and that cannot be controlled by the man. He may love one more than the other, incline towards one more than another. Hearts are controlled and turned by Allah in the way He likes. Therefore, the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) used to say after dividing between his women the apparent affairs of maintenance, clothing and spending nights, “Allah, that is my division as it is in my power to do so. So 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.154; and Ahmad 61144 on the authority of – isha] He meant the heart’s inclination. It is this inclination in which one cannot be fair that Allah has pardoned, as the Almighty does not rebuke man for something beyond his ability when it is not in his power to do it. Therefore the noble verse says: “You will never be able to do pefect 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) so as to leave the other suspended (i.e. neither divorced nor married)”. [Surah 4:129] What is understood from this verse is that some inclination, which is the emotional inclination, is forgivable. The amazing thing is that some Arab countries adopt the forbiddance of polygamy, though in their legislation they do not forbid adultery, except in certain cases when one is forced (rape), or in the case of the woman’s marital infidelity if the husband does not drop the charge. Adultery is described by Allah as a great sin: “And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a fahshah (a great sin), and an evil way”. [Surah 17:32] I came to know through the great Imam Sheikh `Abd Al Haleem Mahmud, may Allah have mercy on his soul, that a Muslim living in an African-Arab country which had laws against polygamy secretly married another wife through a legitimate conventional contract, abiding by all its conditions except that it was not authenticated. This is because the country’s established law refused to authenticate or admit it and considered such a marriage a crime for which he would have to be punished. The man used to frequent the house of his (second) wife, so the police watched him and came to assume that she was his wife and that he had committed an offence against the law. One night they waited for him, arrested him at his wife’s place and took him to court accusing him of marrying a second wife. The man was clever and asked those interrogating him, “But who told you she is my wife? She is not a wife. She is a mistress whom I took as a companion and I call on from time to time ” The interrogators were taken aback and told the man very politely, “We are awfully sorry for the misunderstanding. We thought she was a wife and did not know she was a companion.” Thereupon, they released him because, to them, to have the illicit company of a woman as a mistress to commit adultery with is considered within the framework of personal freedom protected by the law.
This article Polygamy (Pt. 1 – pt. 11) was extracted from the book “The Status of Women in Islam” by Prof. Dr. Yusof Al-Qaradawy.