Polygamy in Islam
I read with interest your answer to a question posed on Dec. 30th 2009 regarding polygamy, and for a woman to take up more than one man in marriage. In this respect, I would like to submit, according to my understanding of the Quran that, in the first place, taking more than one wife for a man has some conditions attached to it; it is not that men in Islam are simply allowed to take in upto four wives!
We all refer to Surah an-Nisa (Ch. 4), verse 3, which permit Muslims to take upto four wives. But we should read these verses in their context, which is taking care of orphans. If someone wants to take care of orphans (and their widowed/divorced mothers), it might behoove such Muslim men to marry them (upto 4). This would serve several purposes:
(a) People in society might start slandering the widowed/divorced woman once they see a certain man entering and leaving the house repeatedly. By taking such a woman in marriage, he would be protecting her from slander.
(b) Once (and if) the Muslim man takes her in marriage it becomes incumbent upon him to take care of her and her children that come with her. That makes him feel more responsible to cater to their needs, not just a matter of convenience.
(c) Provide the woman a great peace of mind and gives her (and her offspring) a sense of belonging that they might otherwise find hard to get.
There is no other book that stresses well-being of women and orphans as much as the Quran. Only Allah Knows Best.
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me on polygamy. I quite agree with you in your concern that polygamy should not be promoted as a religiously desirable approach under all circumstances.
My understanding is that we should first carefully look at what the Quranic text was mentioning. I think the Quran is neither promoting polygamy nor is it condemning it. It is simply urging believers in verse 4:3 to make use of the possibility for coming to the help of the orphans.
In general, what we may conclude is that while monogamy is the ideal in Islam, as the Almighty’s own choice in designing the first couple of human race shows, polygamy can be employed to achieve objectives of social welfare. However, it would be difficult to say that other than for goals of societal benefits polygamy was forbidden.
One of the negative things that can emerge as a result of promoting polygamy as a norm is that it can cause men to take unjustifiable interest in ladies for finding new brides given the perception that one is allowed to take more than one wives. Most certainly loyalty between husband and wife are the key to a proper Islamic marriage and an incorrect understanding about polygamy is likely to threaten that all-important feeling of ‘security’ that wives must have about their husbands.