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Wisdom behind the permissibility of polygamy

Q: Why does Islam permit polygamy, i.e. That a man may marry two, three, or four wives at the same time. What are the conditions, characteristics, and advantages of such permissibility? How can we refute the allegations of those who doubt the permissibility of polygamy?

A: It is Allah (Exalted be He) Who makes it Mubah (permissible) for a Muslim to marry up to four wives if he is able to fulfill their rights, is sure that he can do justice between them, and does not fear of being unjust. Thus Allah (Exalted be He) revealed to His Messenger (peace be upon him): And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan-girls then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice. This Ayah (Qur'anic verse) shows that Allah (Exalted be He) permits Muslims to marry more than one wife; two, three, or four according to their will if they do not fear being unjust between them. He (Glorified be He) is All-Knowing and Well-Acquainted with the affairs of His slaves. He is All-Wise in stating His Shari`ah (Islamic law). He legalizes for His slaves what achieves their interest and regulates their life. He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while all people will be questioned. Therefore, it is Wajib (obligatory) to surrender (Part No. 19; Page No. 176) and leave all the affairs to Him (Glorified be He). It is also Wajib to believe in the Divine Decree. All the foregoing is a prerequisite for believing in the Wisdom of Allah (Exalted be He). Besides, since human beings' intellectual capacity is limited; they may or may not know the details of Allah's Wisdom regarding many branches of Shari`ah (Islamic law), but still they have to yield to Allah's will. A Muslim scholar who is faced by those who raise doubts and allegations regarding polygamy should refer the matter to the origin of Din (religion), i.e. believing that the All-Knowing, All-Wise, Most Kind, and Most Merciful Lord of the universe has sent trustworthy and truthful Messengers to give people glad tidings (if they believe in Allah and obey Him) and warn them (against disbelief in Allah and disobeying Him). Allah (Glorified be He) revealed to those Messengers laws that work towards the happiness of mankind and the well-being of the universe. Such messengers conveyed their messages clearly and clarified all the proofs for their truthfulness. If those who doubt polygamy believe in the All-Knowing Lord, in His wisdom, justice, and mercy; and in the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Messengers; the proof is established against them and they have to surrender to Allah regarding His Shari`ah, whether they know the wisdom behind every Divine legislation or not. On the other hand, if those who doubt polygamy refuse to believe in the origins of Shari`ah, there is no need to discuss the details of it with them. Nevertheless, there are some wisdoms for the permissibility of polygamy. Among these wisdoms is that statistics and research prove that the number of newly born girls exceed the number of newly born boys, and that the death rate of males is higher than that of females, as men are subjected to more death reasons such as wars, (Part No. 19; Page No. 177) hard work, long-distance travel and all other sources of difficulties and dangers. Thus, if polygamy is banned; some females will not marry and consequently will not be able to satisfy their sexual appetite and instinct in an honorable way on the basis of which families, tribes, and people are established. This will also lead many women to fall victims to procurers so that honors are violated, progeny decreases, the number of foundlings increases, families are destroyed, and corruption and affliction spread in society. All the foregoing result in fatal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea. Another wisdom of polygamy is to increase the number of progeny as a result of the increase of the number of married women. This will add to the strength of the Ummah (nation), and encourage cooperation to face the difficulties of life and to settle on Earth upon which Allah has made man a successive authority. On the other hand, Shari`ah enjoins marriage to safeguard chastity, increase progeny, protect honors, and maintain the human race. In addition, Allah's universal norm that women usually have menses, pregnancy, and that their postpartum period lasts for a long duration of time is another reason for the permissibility of polygamy. If a man has more than one wife, he will be able to protect his private parts from (Part No. 19; Page No. 178) indulging in Haram (prohibited) practices. He will satisfy his sexual needs with his other wife and thus this will help him to control his desires and not to respond to Satan or to his own whims. Finally, a wife may be sterile but there is harmony between her and her husband and the latter wants to marry another woman only to have offspring, as it is something that Allah loves and that works for the development of the earth and the strength of the Ummah. Allah thus permits such a man to practice polygamy so that he may attain the happiness of having children. There are some other wisdoms for the permissibility of polygamy. However, polygamy, as mentioned above, is permitted by the Shari`ah of Allah the All-Wise, the Praise-Worthy, the Most Merciful, and the Most Loving. Allah Who has created knows the best the needs of His slaves and He is the Most Courteous (to His slaves), and the Well-Acquainted (with everything). He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while all people will be questioned. Slaves of Allah have then to know the just estimate of their Lord. They have to acknowledge the incapability of their own souls and refer the knowledge of what they do not know to Allâh; All-Knower of the Unseen of the heavens and the Earth. People must make themselves busy with doing what Allah commands them to do and avoiding what Allah prohibits. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.