12 Mar Islam and the Concept of Polygamy
Types of Discrimination
In recent times, the religion of Islam has come under criticism due to terrorists’ acts being carried out by radical groups. Yet, this is a distortion of the principles of Islam, whose very name stands for Peace. (Islam means peace). Whether it is fair to vilify the Islamic religion because of a few hateful radicals who practice unthinkable acts of destruction, is a topic that Boomer Yearbook will address in an upcoming blog from our series on psychological articles dealing with Types of Discrimination, but for today, Boomer Yearbook’s psychological articles on types of discrimination will be discussing one Islamic practice that has always been condemned; Polygamy as a type of discrimination against women.
Many Christians believe that polygamy is a license for immorality and feminists have rightfully attacked it as humiliating and a violation of women rights. Since we at Boomer Yearbook believe that knowledge is paramount to finding solutions, let’s begin with a few points to help clarify why Islam allows polygamy:
Beginning with psychological articles review of the history of polygamous behavior, it is important to note that it was not initiated by Islam, but finds its roots in biblical Judeo-Christian writings. Prophets such as David, Jacob, Solomon and even Moses had more than one wife. Jesus, of course, can not be a monogamous example as he never married during his life on earth. However, the First Book of the Old Testament states clearly that King Solomon had not only 700 wives but also as many as three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Again in the 2nd Book (2 Samuel 5:13) King David is revealed as having more than one wife as well as concubines, and The Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 22:7) speaks of the division of wealth between male children born of different wives.
Thus, Jews living during the time of the New Testament were not prohibited from marrying more than once, and a review of psychological articlesrelating to the practice of polygamy during New Testament times reveals that some Biblical Jews were openly polygamous, and that no one condemned the practice as unacceptable.
However, Saint Augustine represents an example of one early dissenting Christian voice against polygamy in that he took strong exception to the practice and in contradiction to accepted Biblical ways, commended monogamous marital unions advising his followers to refrain from taking more than one wife. Saint Augustine, the renowned Roman Catholic theologian, lived during the 4th century; a time during which Romans and Greeks both outlawed the practice of polygamy. Ah, but there may be a catch to the Roman and Greek’s conception of monogamous bliss in that while polygamy was abolished, keeping mistresses, seeking out the services of prostitutes, (hetero and bi-sexual), and divorce became wide spread acceptable practices. Interestingly, many psychological articles have asked the question as to whether man is truly a monogamous creature and if the insistence on one partner has fueled society’s epidemic philandering and divorce rates?
And then again there is the perspective of Saint Paul, universally described as the founder of Christianity. Saint Paul actually spoke out against getting married as he believed that the world would soon end and there was no time to spend on enjoying married life.
Contrary to what is commonly believed in the West, Islam neither orders nor recommends polygamy, but demonstrates a tolerance towards it in such cases where it may be deemed necessary. And its tolerance is limited in that The Holy Quran states (An-Nisas’ 4:3) that “But if you fear that you cannot be equitable [to them], then marry only one”.
Psychological articles look at Egypt as an example of a country that might need to adopt a polygamous policy. Egypt that has a population of 10 million women who are single with 3 million over the age of 30 and never married, making it easier to understand why 800,000 of them would accept to become “co-wives”? These are women who are educated and from good families but they have no choice. It is unfair to them both physically and psychologically, as they do not want to enter into a physical relationship with a man outside of marriage and neither do they want to destroy a marriage and be the evil other woman. According to statistics 165,000 men have multiple wives whereas the other 11 million men, not given an option, have taken only one wife.
For a wife to say that she would rather have her husband have an extra-marital affair and live in sin so she can be the wronged-one, is simply not a choice Islam offers. Alternately, no woman has an obligation to agree to share her husband with another wife in case it is intolerable. Islamic scholars verify the right of a woman to seek an annulment of her marriage contract on the grounds that she can not allow her husband to take another wife.
Muslim men are allowed to take a second wife only if the first wife gives him permission to do so, and if he is able to give equal treatment to all his wives (expenditure, time, sustenance etc). Any discrimination between wives or their children is strictly prohibited by Islam. Polygamy can be practiced only if a joint approval is given by both the man and the woman. No woman can be forced to marry an already married man. If a woman feels that she can not allow this practice it does not make her a bad Muslim and it is not a pre-requisite to embracing Islam. A woman is even entitled to add it to her prenuptial contract that the husband would not take another wife so long as he was married to her.
Somepsychological articles have suggested the Western belief that polygamy degrades a woman may be short sited and ethnocentric. Despite polygamy being permissible under Islam, it is practiced very rarely with psychological articles and research shows only a practicing 2%. Most Muslim men are wary of it as it is not only financially taxing but also hard to maintain physically and psychologically. Some psychological articles suggest that polygamy is practiced, albeit illegally so, by more Western Christian sects (i.e., think the TV series “Big Love”) than amongst Muslims. And to take the argument against viewing polygamy as a type of discrimination unique to Muslims may be an erroneously skewed picture, as it we consider the Western divorce and remarriage rate, as well as serial, non monogamous dating, it would be imprudent to assess and condemn Islam as a majority polygamous religion.
Dr. Billy Graham, a well-known Christian preacher and Evangelist, has some interesting views on this subject. In psychological articles and sermons he argues that in spite of predominantly Christian Westerners loudly condemning polygamy and proclaiming themselves to be strictly monogamous, the practice of keeping several mistresses is unfortunately quite common. He further states in this regard that Islam is much more honest in allowing men to marry more than once under special conditions but at the same time banning “all clandestine and amorous associations”.
The Psychological Article Islam and Polygamy is part of Boomer Yearbook’s continuing series of psychological articles on World Religions, Spirituality, and Solutions to Types of Discrimination. We believe knowledge is power. We’d love to hear what you think.
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