Polygyny in Islam

Practice of men having more than one wife in Islam

Under Islamic marital jurisprudence, Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny, that is, they can have more than one wife at the same time, up to a total of four. Polyandry, the practice of a woman having more than one husband, by contrast, is not permitted.

Polygyny for Muslims, in practice and in law, differs greatly throughout the Islamic world, where polygynous marriages constitute 41–53% of all marriages. In some Muslim countries, polygyny is relatively common, while in others, it is rare or non-existent. Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tunisia and Turkey, for example, are predominantly Muslim countries that have not adopted Islamic law for marital regulations, where polygyny is not legal.

QuranEdit

  • If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
  • Quran (4:129) - "Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire"
  • Quran (66:5) - "Maybe, his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins"
  • If you fear you can not treat orphans (girls) with fairness, then you may marry other women who seem good to you: two, three or four of them. But if you fear that you can not maintain equality among them, marry only one or any slave girls you may own, that will be more suitable. And give the women their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, eat it with enjoyment, take it with right good cheer and absorb it (in your wealth).
    • Quran 4:3

HadithEdit

  • Abu Dawud 5138 - "A woman was my wife and I loved her, but Umar hated her. He said to me: Divorce her, but I refused. Umar then went to the Prophet and mentioned that to him. The Prophet said: Divorce her."
  • Sahih Bukhari (5:268) - "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty men."
  • Sahih Bukhari (62:6) - "The Prophet used to go round (have sexual relations with) all his wives in one night, and he had nine wives."
  • Sahih Bukhari (77:598) - "Allah's Apostle said, "No woman should ask for the divorce of her sister (Muslim) so as to take her place, but she should marry the man (without compelling him to divorce his other wife)"
  • Narrated Qatada: Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).
    • Sahih Bukhari 1:5:268
  • This did not apply to Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, who was limited to one wife since Ali was married to Fatima, who was Muhammad's daughter. Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama: I heard Allah's Apostle who was on the pulpit, saying, "Banu Hisham bin Al-Mughira have requested me to allow them to marry their daughter to Ali bin Abu Talib, but I don't give permission, and will not give permission unless 'Ali bin Abi Talib divorces my daughter in order to marry their daughter, because Fatima is a part of my body, and I hate what she hates to see, and what hurts her, hurts me."
    • Sahih Bukhari 7:62:157

QuotesEdit

  • A man should marry four wives: A Persian to have some one to talk to; a Khurasani woman for his housework; a Hindu for nursing his children; a woman from Mawaraun nahr, or Transoxiana, to have some one to whip as a warning to the other three.
    • Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl, trans. by H. Blochmann. I, 327. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 7. Also cited in Herklot, Islam in India, 85-86.
  • The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: When a man has two wives and he is inclined to one of them, he will come on the Day of resurrection with a side hanging down.
  • Many Westerners forget that when the Prophet spoke of four wives as the maximum allowable number, he had in mind a reduction to four as compared to the number then often prevailing; moreover, Mohammed specified that a man should acquire more than one wife only if he could treat them all with equal justice — obviously a difficult feat for even the most diligent man to achieve. In effect, then, the Prophet curtailed the number of wives.
  • In my Ummah, he is the best who has the larg­est number of wives­.
    • Katib al-Wâqidî (= Ibn Sa'd): Tabaqât Ibn Sa'd, vol.2, p.146 of the Urdu translation from Nafees Academy, Karachi; quoted by Ram Swarup: Understanding Islam through Hadis (Voice of India 1989), p.57n.
  • 'But if ye cannot do justice between orphans, then marry what seems good to you of women, by twos, or threes, or fours: and if ye fear that ye cannot he equitable, then only one, or what your right hand possesses " (i.e. female slaves)".
    • Suratu 'n-Nisa, or Chapter iv, 3:— quoted from T.P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam

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