Why Hedonistic Polygyny Is Against Islam
By A. Faizur Rahman
08 April, 2009
The marriage, under pressure, of
Mukhtaran Mai, the courageous woman who stood up to the atavistic tribal laws
of Pakistan after being honour-raped by a gang of human beasts, has brought
into focus the enormity of the gender bias prevailing in Muslim societies,
particularly through the misuse of the law of polygyny. Without doubt, Ms. Mai
is a victim of both emotional and physical blackmail. That she is also a victim
of medieval indoctrination can be deduced from her unqualified Hindu, March 30,
(“A controversial marriage in
Polygyny, which finds mention just once (4:3) in the Quran, is
one of the most misunderstood concepts of Islamic law. It has been abused over
the centuries by Muslim men without appreciating the spirit behind its
exceptional sanction, which is clearly contextualised in the historical
conditions of the time when a large number of women were widowed and children
orphaned as Muslims suffered heavy casualties in defending the nascent Islamic
Verse 4:2 warns caretakers against devouring the assets of orphans either by merging them with their own, or substituting their “worthless properties for the good ones” of the orphans. And, if the caretakers “fear that they may not be able to do justice” to the interests of the orphans in isolation, the next verse allows them to marry their widowed mothers — on the condition that the new family would be dealt justly on a par with the existing one. For those who are not up to it, the instruction of Quran was: “Then [marry] only one.”
The sanctity of taking care of widows and their children was further emphasised in 4:127; “And remember what has been rehearsed unto you in the Book [in 4:2 and 3] concerning the orphans of women to whom you give not what is prescribed, and yet whom you desire to marry...” It is clear from these arguments that verse 4:3 is not a hedonistic licence to marry several women.
This can be better understood by analysing the concept of marriage in the Quran. Not enough research has been done on the statements of the Quran which repeatedly describe man and woman as “spousal mates” created to find “quiet of mind” (7:189) and “to dwell in tranquility” (30:21) in the companionship of each other. Verse 7:189, which traces the origin of man to a single cell (nafsan waahida), talks of the wife in the singular as zaujaha, thereby emphasising monogamy. Thus, marriage according to the Quran is the emotional bonding of two minds. This cannot be achieved simultaneously with more than one woman.
Chennai-based psychiatrist Dr. Vijay Nagaswami, in his book The 24 x 7 Marriage, echoes similar sentiments when he defines the purpose of marriage as “emotional fulfillment” of the needs of two people, which is not possible if a third person is involved.
It is sad that Muslim women have allowed themselves to be subliminally brainwashed into becoming objects of sexual gratification for men, which has resulted in scores of them suffering in silence. It is time they broke free from the shackles that hold them hostage to the whims of a few patriarchal ulema who have stalled the progress of the Muslim community through their misinterpretation of Islam. Let them take the first step towards achieving this by questioning all medieval readings of Islam that seek to exploit their femininity.
(The author is a student of comparative study of religions. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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