First of all, the word should have really been ‘polygyny’ instead of polygamy. That is because polygamy is a more broad term. Whereas, polygyny means a man marrying more than one wife; which is what’s allowed in Islam. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into the topic. Allah has allowed polygyny and that is neither a secret nor is there anything ‘wrong’ with it when the conditions are met. But, we live in a time where it is becoming more and more common for some Muslims to use it in a dishonest, manipulative, and quite frankly, un-Islamic way. One of those ways is when they practice it to commit zina (fornication). I probably lost you there because marriage isn’t equal to zina. So, what do I really mean?
Yes, polygyny is allowed in Islam as it was in the previous nations
I just want to get this part out of the way just to clarify that this article is not about bashing polygyny itself. It is very clear in the Qur’an where Allah says (interpretation of the meaning), “…then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one…“Surah An-Nisa (4:3)
Some reasons could be given as to why it is a good option such as the men-women ratio, men just being differently built, etc. Whatever the reason may be, we know that it is nothing new and has existed in every society for longer than human beings could have recorded it.
But, in Islam, there is a limitation to how many women could be married at once; four. The interesting part that is often missed is that justice is crucial. That’s another topic.
Initial approach by women
If you were to ask the majority of the ‘modern’ women today if they would be okay with having a co-wife, most would probably say something like, “Absolutely NOT!” But, when approaching married Muslim men in a flirtatious way and they get rejected for religious reasons or for the men being married, many would use the “you are Muslim so you can marry more than one wife” card. Sadly to say, Muslim women aren’t exempt from such behavior. It is obvious that in most cases, their intention had nothing to do with wanting to be a wife and rather to initiate a haram (forbidden) relationship.
Men’s secret marriage
I’m sure we’ve all heard, know someone, or know of someone looking for a second, third, or fourth wife. But, there are men out there who travel to different cities, countries, or even continents to marry another woman without their first wife knowing! Many a time, they live a life where they see no other way but to repeatedly lie. They lie to their first wives of their whereabouts, to their new wives of their first families, and to everyone else who knows them. When they finally decide to come clean or get caught, they make excuses. Some of the excuses most of us have probably read from articles and blog posts are “It’s not haram not to tell your wife that you want a second wife,” or “I knew she wouldn’t have accepted it anyway,” and many more. Whether the first wife must be informed about another marriage is another topic and I don’t have enough knowledge to dive into that. But the question is, do they fulfill all the conditions of nikah (marriage contract)?
Is the marriage valid?
Is a secret marriage allowed in Islam. Well, what we do know is that one of the conditions of marriage is having witnesses. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is no marriage except with a guardian and two witnesses of good character.” Narrated by al-Bayhaqi
So, are their marriages even valid without witnesses? And even if they did have two witnesses (friends, colleagues, etc), would the friends be considered of good character if they knew of those men’s secretive behavior? Besides, what happened to respect, consideration, trust, and appreciation in a marriage? There’s no point building a second marriage while crumbling the foundation of the first.
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” Surah Ar-Rum (30:21)
Women should be very careful with who they accept to get married to. Proper research about the person should be made. That’s the whole point of having a wali (guardian). Sadly, not every guardian does his job. There are also some people who would just want to get married to the first person who promises them the world and wouldn’t care what anyone else says. That being said, these are tragic situations where the new wives and first wives are victims. I really feel for both sides.
Negative connotation surround the word
Because of some of the horrific things that happen as a result of people using polygyny to serve their own malicious purposes, it has gotten a very negative reputation. Of course, anyone could misuse just about anything to serve their agendas, but people should be very careful when getting married. Women should always try to find out if the man is already married, and if he is and they are okay with that, they should first be sure that the first wife is also aware. Respect should be established on all sides before getting into such marriages. If the foundation of marriage isn’t built on trust, truthfulness, consideration, and taqwa (fear of God/Allah), then what’s the point?
As if there isn’t enough debate about the whole polygyny situation; when people start using it for other agendas, it creates even more turmoils, doubts, insecurities, and even hate towards something that could be beautiful if done the right way. We should try our best to stick to Islam as much as possible, value respect and consideration for others, and not use the deen (Islam/way of life) to fulfill our own evil intentions.
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