ISLAM – AND THE PLURALITY OF WIVES
BY: SHEIKH ABDUS-SAMAD ABDUL-KADER
LENASIA 1820, SOUTH AFRICA
However, if a man decides to take a second wife in a church or mosque respectfully before his Creator, declaring his noble intention of giving honour and dignity to his families and future children, he will most certainly be charged with BIGAMY. In the booklet “WHAT IS MPL?” published by the Majlis ul Ulama of Port Elizabeth, it is stated: “It is alleged that if a man has registered his first marriage in terms of the existing secular law (that is, minus MPL), he will be charged with bigamy if he marries a second wife. As long as a man does not register his second marriage, he cannot be charged with bigamy. The law allows a married man whose marriage has been registered in terms of the law, to enter into any number of illicit and adulterous unions, and he cannot be charged for bigamy. This is the country’s constitution which is “supreme” (p. 19) However, without the consent of a non-Muslim minister or secular court, a second Nikaah is a criminal offence leading to a fine of R20 000 or years in prison.” (p. 21) (MPL = Muslim Personal Law)
POLYGAMY ... POLYANDRY ... POLYGYNY
POLYGAMY is a state wherein a man or a woman has many spouses. POL’YANDRY is a state wherein a woman has many husbands. Islam allows POLYGYNY —a situation wherein a man may have more than one wife, and that too under certain strict conditions.
The Qur’an says: “If you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women that seem good to you — two, three or four. But if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then (only) one . . .“ (4:3)
The above verse is often quoted by people advocating a strictly monogamous relationship. Verse (4:3) above calls for equal fairness (justice) to be meted out to the spouses. However (4:3) should be read and understood in conjunction with its complementary verse, viz. “And it will not be within your power to treat your wives with
equal fairness, however much you may desire it; and so, do not allow yourselves TO incline TOWARDS ONE TO THE EXCLUSION OF THE OTHER. LEAVING HER IN A STATE AS IT WERE OF HAVING AND NOT HAVING A HUSBAND. But if you put things right and are conscious of Him — behold, Allah is indeed Much-forgiving, Dispenser of Grace.” (4: 129)
The above verse make it very clear that Allah (SWT), being the Ahkamul-Haakimeen (the Most Wise of those who are wise) tells us that it is not JUSTICE that is demanded, but rather that the husband “should not incline towards one to the exclusion of the other.” In other words, one should practise EQUITY, over and above justice. ‘Equity’ should not be confused with ‘justice’. The dictionaries define ‘equity’ as: “The quality of being impartial
or reasonable; fairness.” In the ethical scheme of things, if equity is genuinely practised, then justice has no choice but to fall in line!
THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE AND ITS PURPOSE
If one examines the verses that prohibit marriage between certain persons (e.g. 4:23 and 24) one gets an idea of some of the purposes for Nikaah, as opposed to Zina. The institution of Nikaah (marriage) is a method whereby a record of ‘who’s who’ may be kept, and this is not possible through other systems. Without Nikaah, there will be total biological anarchy, and this would lead to incest with its concomitant biological defects. It should be remembered that it is possible to keep a record of ‘who’s who’ where a man has more than one wife; but this is not possible in a situation where a woman has more than one husband.
SOME CONDITIONS THAT MAY CALL FOR POLYGAMY
• In wartime a large number of men are killed. After the war, the widows of such martyrs are taken as additional wives for social and economic reasons. Remember, women may become widows when the husbands die in accidents or by natural causes leaving behind helpless and destitute children. Then there are women who are divorced for no fault of their own, who are also in need of care and shelter for themselves and their children.
In these circumstances, is it not better and highly desirable for a woman to become the second wife of a man and thus lead a respectable, married life, than to destroy her womanhood, her dignity and nobility through the abject degradation of her self by becoming a “lady of the evening”?
• When it has been proven beyond doubt that the wife is barren, then it is better for the husband to marry a second wife rather than divorcing the first wife and causing problems for her.
• There are always circumstances where there is a preponderance of females over males — either there are more girls being born than boys, or through the natural death of men, or through a spate of divorces, For example a man, after having been married for several years, may meet someone later in life and feels that that person could enhance his business, profession or career by adding radiance not only to his own status but also to that of the entire family, including his first wife...
Comments are invited on whatever I have written above. (Letters can be address to the author, c/o P. O. Box 1925, LENASIA 1820, SOUTH AFRICA). Do you think that a man who takes a second wife is having an “affair”? Would you look down upon a “second wife”? Is bigamy Haraam (prohibited and unlawful), or is it Halaal (allowed and lawful). If it is Halaal, then why is there such a stigma about it? Remember what Allah (SWT) says in the Quran: “0 you who believe! Make not’ unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you....” (5:87)
N.B. Taking of an additional wife should be done in accordance with the other Qur’anic principles (e.g. 4:35), and it should be done without infringing the rights of the first wife and her children.
Courtesy: AL-BALAAGH, VOL.29 No. 3 AUG/SEPT 2004 p. 6
Please report any
broken links to
Copyright © 1988-2012 irfi.org. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer