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Posts Tagged ‘sourat Al Nissa

WOMEN IN ISLAM: Polygamy (Part 4, April 20, 2009)

Polygamy in Islam is restricted and may be practiced theoretically only when certain strict conditions are met.

It is also the exception rather than the norm in Muslim societies throughout the World.

A World Health Organisation census has shown that less than 5% of Muslim men practice polygyny. This is in contrast to other groups in countries such as India, where 15.25% of men from tribal religious groups practice polygyny; 8% of Buddhists, 6.77% of Jains and 6% of Hindus have plural marriages.

The percentage of polygynous marriages in India is lowest among Muslims, at 5.7%. The fact that Islam permits a man to have more than one wife has been the cause of much ridicule and misinformation.

The fact is that the Mormons, “the pseudo Christian sect in Utah, USA) are still practicing polygamy and the blind eye of the State of Utah is functioning though a recent Federal Law has prohibited this practice.

Prior to the advent of Islam, women were treated as chattels and objects for the gratification of men; it was the same prejudice of the Jews in Judea and in poor agricultural lands. In the modern world, this practice continues under the guise of frequent divorces, affairs, mistresses and prostitution.

Women are left alone to fend for themselves and their children, whilst divorce is so common that there exist groups such as “Single Again“, which cater for people who have been divorced for the second (or subsequent) times.

Islam did not abolish polygyny, as it recognised that in some cases, polygyny would be necessary and even preferable to the alternatives of leaving unmarried widows. However, it strictly limited it, to a maximum of 4 wives at any one time; there are also stringent conditions to be met by a man who wishes to take a second wife.

The initial intention of this law was to bring some order to the people of Arabia and neighboring societies, who had been accustomed to unlimited numbers of wives, and to inaugurate a civil system that would take care of the needs of women. It sought to solve the problem of the existence of large numbers of widows and orphans who were left to fend for themselves after the many raids and warfare among the tribes.

In the sourat Al Nissa it is said: “If you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will 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.”

Thus, any man who wishes to take a second wife has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives; he is commanded to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife. Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs.

It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognized by the Koran In Al Nissa you read: “You are never able to be fair and just with even two women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)” and “A man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them will be resurrected with half his faculties paralysed”.’

In the case of men who had more than four wives when they embraced Islam, such as Ghaylan ibn Umayyah al-Thaqafi, the Prophet asked them to keep four wives and to release the others. The topic of polygyny cannot be considered complete without some discussion on the Prophet’s Id practice and the historical context in which he and his wives lived.

This is a topic which has received much attention from the West, and about which many Muslims are confused. It should be noted that in seventh-century Arabia, adultery, rape and fornication were the norm. The Prophet remained chaste from the age of 25 when he married Khadijah , who was twice a widower and 40 years of age. Their marriage remained harmonious until Khadijah passed away some 25 years later.

The Prophet was 50 years of age and started his exile to yathreb (Medina) in 633. The Prophet’s second wife was Sawdah. She and her husband had been among the earliest converts to Islam. They suffered great hardship at the hands of Quraysh(inhabitants of Mecca), so the Prophet had instructed them to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). There, her husband passed away, and Sawdah suffered much hardship as a widow in a foreign land. The Prophet knew that he was responsible for the welfare of his followers, so he proposed marriage to Sawdah. This marriage brought relief, respect and status to her, and provided the Prophet with companionship and assistance in raising his children from his marriage to Khadijah.

At the time of her marriage to the Pronhet, Sawdah was around 55 vears old. In order to create blood ties and to show his love and respect to his closest Companions who had given up this world for the sake of Islam, the Prophet gave two of his daughters in marriage to Ali and ‘Uthman’; he also accepted in marriage Aishah,daughters of Abu Bakr  and Hafsah the daughters of  Umar.

His marriage to these two noble women not only enhanced his close ties with his Companions, but these women were later to offer deep insight into the Prophet’s life. They were responsible for narrating over half of the ahadith which now form the basis of the Islamic code of conduct. ‘A’ishah alone is known to have narrated over two thousand hadith.

Zaynab was a cousin of the Prophet. She had previously been married to Zayd , the freed slave and adopted son of the Prophet Hi. This marriage had been arranged by the Prophet , but the couple were never happy in their marriage and it became apparent that they were not compatible. At the Prophet’s insistence, they had stayed together for several years, but in the end Zayd could not tolerate it any longer, and decided to set Zaynab free from the marriage contract.

The fact that a former slave had divorced a woman of the noble Quraysh tribe became the subject of much gossip among the pagans and the weaker members of the Muslim community. Not surprisingly, Zaynab confined herself to her quarters and it fell to the Prophet to relieve her of her misery. He married her, and she was around 38 years of age at the time. This action achieved two ends.

One was to demonstrate that Islam makes no distinction between class, race or status, as the Qur’an teaches that the noblest person in the sight of Allah is the one who is most pious. The second was to indicate that adopted sons were not to be counted as blood relatives, as had previously been the custom in Arabia. It was the custom to have blood ties with the various large tribes for unification purposes. Hence some of the Prophet’s marriages were arranged to establish inter-tribal ties and to further the cause of unity.

The Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyah led her tribe of Banu Mustaliq, who had been among the fiercest enemies of Islam, freeing all their Muslim prisoners. The whole tribe later entered into Islam. Maymunah came from the tribe of Najd, who had murdered the emissaries sent to them by the Prophet.

After his marriage to Maymunah, however, their attitude changed and Najd became favorable towards Islam. In all, the Prophet had eleven wives, of whom two – Khadijah and Zaynab – passed away in his own lifetime. After the ayah restricting the number of wives to four was revealed, he contracted no further marriages, but his nine remaining wives were regarded as “mothers of the faithful” and as no other man would be permitted to marry them if he divorced them he kept all his wives on the grounds of compassion. With the exception of ‘A’ishah, all of his wives were widows or divorcees.

His marriages were all for political reasons or were contracted in order to set an example of compassion, as in the cases of Zaynab and Sawdah.

His polygynous marriage all took place rather late in his life, from the age of 55. The prophet Muhammad was in a position of great political power to be choosy but he marry widowers and older women – a sure indication of his upright moral character and desire to set the highest example to his followers.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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