Imagine a country devastated by war. Men of fighting age are killed, leaving behind women and orphans. State resources have been depleted. There is poverty and misery everywhere. Where lies the relief for the weak and vulnerable, the women, children, and the elderly? Forget about the state. Islam has what no state system of the world can ever deliver. Plural marriages. Yes. Islam allows polygamy i.e. plural marriages. Polygyny is where a man has plural wives, while polyandry is where a woman has more than one husband. Both fall under the term polygamy. When Islam allows polygamy, then it is actually polygyny that is permitted. In other words, a Muslim man may have more than one wife at the same time, or up to four, to be exact.
Plural marriages are no laughing matter, but actually a relief for society of its social hardships and burdens if done properly and in the spirit of the Qur’an. Marriage according to the Quran, is between two consenting adults, who on account of their belief and circumstances decide to live as husband and wife. Purpose of marriage is to find love, tranquillity and fulfilment and to procreate and live as a family. Monogamy is the norm in the Qur’an, but under extenuating circumstances, polygyny is recommended. We read:
And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (4:3) Saheeh International
The words “..But if you fear that you will not be just, then [only] one..” indicate that polygny is conditional to justice. If a man cannot treat wives equitably, then he is ordered to be monogamous.
Besides as it is a man’s duty to support his wife, therefore polygyny is conditional upon a man’s economic status. Only if he can afford to marry more than one woman, should he do so. So its not for everyone, but for special occasions only.
Polygyny in Quran is not for fulfilling the lustful intentions of men, but to provide shelter & support to destitute women. Its benefits are numerous. Some are listed here:
- Polygyny enables wealth creation. As the members in a household increase, aggregate earning of family increases.
- Polygyny reduces poverty. A wealthy man will marry poor women thus they get food and shelter.
- Polygyny creates wealth succession. If a penniless poor woman stays single all her life and dies, then she leaves no inheritance but if a man marries her then through Quranic law of inheritance, she has a right in her husbands property, which then goes to her children or siblings after her demise. This way wealth is not only created but also passed on.
- Polygyny saves from perversion. It is a scientific fact that men due to testosterone have a higher sex drive than women.Instead of meeting their needs illicitly, polygyny allows men to fulfill within the bond of marriage. On the other hand poverty stricken women are also saved from prostitution.
- Polygyny provides childcare and permits women to go to work. A sister wife can look after the kids, while other wives work.
- Polygyny provides companionship social, economic and psychological support is provided to sister wives through their joint family.
- Polygyny provides natural support system for the elderly as Quran orders believers to financially support their elderly parents.Thus children from polygynous marriages will support their elderly parents and not leave them at the mercy of state pension.
- Polygyny maintains social equilibrium in society. Because in society majority are poor and minority are rich. Polygyny applies only to the rich, as Quran makes it a prerequisite on a man to financially support a woman he wishes to marry otherwise he should be monogamous or keep himself chaste until he has the means to marry.
Through this Quranic law, the rich minority is able to share wealth as well as emotional support with the vast poorer majority. Through plural marriages there is equity and just distribution of wealth, increased productivity by more working members in household, increase in manpower by larger families, reduced crime because of harnessing male testosterone and aggression. A young workforce brought by larger families and childcare provided by sister wives and natural elderly care by children when they grow up.
I do acknowledge that there are wrong doings with this practice as well, but in this case I am highlighting the practical benefits of plural marriage if it is done in the light of Qur’anic guidance. We should not cite the example of people failing in relationships when their judgements are of their own, and not from the Qur’an.
Thus I would argue that polygyny is beneficial for society. Due to these facts, observations, I rest my case and conclude that Quranic law of polygyny which involves wealthy men to marry from poor and destitute orphaned women whom they are duty bound to financially support and share in wealth and love has immense benefits for society in all times. It is the duty of Muslims to promote the correct concept and purpose of marriage and the benefits this commandment of Allah has for society at large. How true is the Qur’an:
And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss. (17:82) Saheeh International
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