An Attack on Polygamy Is an Attack on Marriage Itself

Why is everyone suddenly talking about polygamy?

CBC:

A man ‘cannot do that to a woman’: Why polygamy in Canadian Muslim community could be another #MeToo moment

Oh…

A documentary was made about Muslim polygamous practices in Canada and now everyone has got polygamy fever, but not in the good way.

The expose from the CBC takes the usual route in portraying polygamy (or specifically polygyny, i.e., one man married to multiple women) as an evil way for predatory men to fulfill their lusts behind the backs of their innocent, naive wives.

Guess what? It is very easy to portray a social, cultural, or religious practice as evil if you exclusively focus on all the worst examples. Are there dirt bag husbands who take advantage of their wives and engage in practices that, while technically halal, are nonetheless damaging and insensitive? Of course! Are there deceptive husbands who act like insensitive brutes towards their loving wives, who clearly don’t deserve such poor treatment? Absolutely! No one denies any of that. No one has ever claimed that every instance of a polygynous relationship is heaven on earth for all parties involved.

But, just like marriage in general, there are good cases and bad cases. And every case has a context. Where is all the “nuance” and “context” we are constantly told about when it comes to this issue?

In a recent sermon at his centre, [Imam] Slimi told his congregation that polygamy “was permitted for a certain time and within a certain context in the past, hundreds of years ago, but here in Canada, it’s not allowed and 95 or 99 per cent of women don’t agree with this and I am talking about Muslim women.”

This is terrible reasoning. Yes, polygamy is illegal in Canada, but just because something is illegal doesn’t mean that it is morally wrong. Liberal activists are constantly making this point when it suits them. Abortion used to be illegal. Same-sex marriage used to be illegal. But liberal activists and their Muslim counterparts have been marching and agitating to change the law in order to further these practices. Why don’t they march for polygamy? Because it’s not morally acceptable according to Western liberal norms, whereas baby killing and male-on-male sodomy are. Western liberal normativity is the moral compass of these Muslim activists, not Islam.

Also, this imam is going a little overboard when he says polygamy was permitted for a certain time hundreds of years ago. Uh, actually, polygamy was not uncommon throughout the Muslim world just one or two generations ago. My own grandfather had two wives and no one called him a predator or an immoral lout.

Furthermore, when did popular sentiment become the standard of halal and haram? Let’s just assume the imam is right and somehow has accurate statistics on 95%-99% of women opposing polygamy. So what? This is not something new. Even many of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ probably would have preferred that he were only married to them and no one else. They loved him more than they loved themselves and they didn’t want to share him with others. They even fought among themselves to spend more time with the Prophet ﷺ. So women’s dislike for polygamy is not something new.

The perfection of the Sharia is that it recognizes that trade offs are a part of life.

This is the natural trade off that some women choose to make if they want to marry high status, high power men. We see it in every society. The most powerful, high wealth, high status men are the most attractive to women and some women voluntarily choose to be one of many just for a chance to be with such a man. In Western society, where marriage is not seen as morally necessary for sexual relationships, most of these relationships are in the form of mistresses, “side chicks,” etc.

Would women prefer not to make any trade off? Would women prefer all the benefits without any of the costs? Of course. But such personal preferences, again, are not determinants of halal or haram, moral and immoral. Men also have to make trade-offs in their marriage decisions. This is built into Islamic law because of things like the mahr, which is a religious requirement for a valid nikah. Marrying a more attractive wife will usually come with a higher mahr. That is expected. Marrying a more attractive wife from a good family will require more mahr and more financial maintenance day-to-day. That’s just how it works. The scholars of fiqh are very explicit about this as well, which is why they emphasize suitability (kafa’a) and how a wali should reject suitors who are not suitable financially, socially, etc.

But we don’t see any feminist activists demanding equality when it comes to mahr and financial maintenance (i.e., nafaqa). Why not? Why aren’t there feminist campaigns against the fact that some women get bigger mahr and get to live in bigger homes and drive fancier cars and go shopping at pricier stores? Isn’t it unjust that some men have to pay more and spend more just because their wives are more desirable? Where are the cries for equality here?

According to the feminist logic, desirable women deserve more and are entitled to all the lavish luxuries their husbands shower them with. And that’s an acceptable trade off because men are the ones who have to sacrifice. But when it comes to desirable men, they aren’t entitled to polygamy because that trade off requires women to sacrifice, and that’s unacceptable. These are the kinds of double standards and injustice that feminism constantly promotes.

The perfection of the Sharia is that it recognizes that trade offs are a part of life. Man-made ethics, however, do not account for human nature and the complexity of human preferences in this way, which is why marriage is increasingly a joke that Westerners prefer to avoid.

And of course there are many Muslim women for whom polygamy presents an attractive alternative to monogamous marriage. It allows them a sexual outlet without needing to worry about the other responsibilities and duties that come with being an exclusive wife. For other women, they would prefer to marry a rich, powerful man as a second wife than marry a poorer, lower-status man as an only wife. Obviously, not all women are like this, but many women are.

And Islam empowers such women (let’s use some of the feminist buzzwords now). These are strong, independent women who want to be second wives. That’s their choice. How DARE anyone tell these women what they can and can’t do with their bodies! /feminism

She is empowered to be a devoted second wife, mashaAllah.

So, yes, many Muslim women seek out these types of marriage arrangements. Islam permits it. It is only the repressive Western legal system that restricts what can be, for many, a fulfilling, happy, productive polygynous marriage. And of course, not all Muslim men desire to have more than one wife or are even a position to have more than one wife.

An Attack on Marriage Itself

Look at how the CBC article attacks polygamy. Polygamy is wrong, they argue, because women can be taken advantage of. But that’s the case with all marriage. By undermining polygamy on the basis of potential abuse, these liberal feminists are undermining marriage to the same extent.

Marriage always has the potential to go wrong. And women are in a precarious situation in those cases. This is for the simple reason that women prefer to marry men who are higher status and higher power than them. This is what women find desirable in a mate, as plenty of research has shown. Even feminist women are more attracted to men who are higher status than they are. Women are attracted to power. No use in denying this. But the consequence of these female preferences is that women find themselves in relative positions of weakness vis-a-vis their husbands. This is unavoidable.

This fact is recognized by the Prophet ﷺ when he said: “I urge you to treat women well, for they are like prisoners with you.” [Tirmidhi] And Sayyidna Umar also remarked: “Marriage is like slavery, so be careful with regard to whom you give your daughter for enslavement.”

This is, of course, anathema to the feminist cause. How can an institution that is tantamount to imprisonment and slavery be allowed in civilized society? But this is the natural result of natural female desires. To avoid it, women would have to consciously decide to marry men who are weaker than them, i.e., men they find less desirable and less attractive. That’s all women need to do to solve this situation. All they have to do is forego their natural desires and settle for the loser, the penniless, the socially immobile. Then they can enjoy the power in their marriages. Isn’t that great?

Well, this is essentially what has happened in the modern West. Marriage rates are dropping, divorces rates are rising. Countless studies show that as women enter the workforce and earn more and more, they are less willing to marry, not because they don’t want to marry but because there are fewer eligible men they find desirable, i.e., fewer men who earn more than they do.

With fewer marriages, zina goes up, out-of-wedlock births go up, all of which correlates with countless social ills, and society as a whole goes down the drain. This is the social crisis happening in the West and women are not happy.

You know who is “happy” in polygamy-free Canada and elsewhere in the West? The 1% of wealthy, high status men who sleep with dozens, if not hundreds, of women without having to marry them or commit to them in any way. The gift of feminism that keeps on giving.

Necessary Disclaimer: This article does not promote breaking the law in Canada, the US, or elsewhere. It only argues against the morality of the law in order to raise awareness of the negative consequences of anti-polygyny laws. With raised awareness, the public will hopefully one day push to change the law. Things are already moving in that direction.

 

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21 COMMENTS

  1. MashaAllah this is an excellent article.

    There is one paragraph that I see may have a problem. Can you please rephrase or remove this paragraph: “Even many of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ probably would have preferred that he were only married to them and no one else. They loved him more than they loved themselves and they didn’t want to share him with others. They even fought among themselves to spend more time with the Prophet ﷺ. So women’s dislike for polygamy is not something new.”

    You may be incorrectly phrasing things. One of the signs of true love is that people want to share the one they love with others, for instance the love of parents – you want others to love your parents and to give them good company. The mothers of the believers have the highest iman and the greatest characteristics of heart after the Prophets, peace be upon them. They truly loved the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the manifestations of this were in their actions, thoughts, and hearts. We should be careful in how we word the descriptions of their actions and thoughts. The blessed companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, wanted to be in Madina near the grave of the beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, but they knew that he wanted them to spread Islam more than anything, so they left Madina, no matter how much they loved being near him physically, and they went to other lands to spread the message, knowing that really closeness to the Prophet, peace be upon him, was in doing dawah. Our mothers, may Allah be pleased with them, did not dislike anything in the shariah (polygamy), and they were well pleased with Allah Azzawajal, wanting things no other way. A person can simultaneously want to always be in the company of the beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, while at the same time wanting that the beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, also spend his time alone with Allah Azzawajal in prayer, with his family, with his companions, and with his wives, out of love for him because the person knows that the Prophet, peace be upon him, wants to give time to others too. And really, this is the way they will spend more time with the Prophet, peace be upon him.

    May Allah bless you and everyone and guide you in all of your works.

    • @Strong: There is nothing wrong with the paragraph that you pointed out. It is documented that the wives of the Prophet experienced jealousy. In fact, Aisha was even jealous of Khadija who was in fact dead. Many Hadith with authentic status confirm this.
      The Mother of Believers have high status but it is incorrect to say that they are the best after the Prophets.
      The best of women according to a Hadith narrated by Anas Bin Malik were Maryam daughter of Imran, Khadija daughter of Khuwailid, Fatimah daughter of Muhammad and Asiyah wife of Firaun.

      • The Mothers of the believers are the highest status after the Prophets, peace be upon them, because the Sahaba are the highest people after the Prophets, peace be upon them. This doesn’t mean that Sayyida Maryam and Sayyida Asiyah are lower. Also, jealousy is different than what I mentioned as a problem. There’s nothing wrong with certain jealousies – but to not be pleased with qadr or something from the shariah is different – the author of the article didn’t intend these meanings, but I think he can word it better.

      • @Strong: Maryam, Asiyah and Fatimah are not on the same level as all of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives. They are higher than many of them as is established by the Hadith that I quoted above. That is my proof for my belief. Could you please quote your proof for your belief.

  2. Solution is that women should control their desires. They should choose to marry men with less power, otherwise they should shut up. Better than shutting up would be being satisfied with men with lower status. More dignified for the women.

  3. I really would like for you to address the issue in depth of how men married with children and with practicing Muslimas choose to marry and get their ‘secret’ nikkah done with their mushrikeen co-workers that don’t even has their basic 101 Tahara down! Why is this trend growing amongst the western Muslims?

    Sharia is balanced and perfect and Allah swt is Just!
    Why are these multiple children left alone questioning Islam? Islam failed in their households so certainly it is not a solution.
    Why can’t we as a Muslim community focus on’ Building A Family Unit’, ?
    You are a well versed brother, why can’t you tell these men to focus on their Fard-al- Ayn?
    We are igniting more fires in already broken house-holds and men that are holding on to the Deen with broken hands.
    I am sure your Grandfather ( Allah yarahamo) opted for a righteous second wife and was loyal to his first wife and Children upholding the truths as a shepard.

    Our men don’t validation to go near Zina, they need to be brought to a halt.

    May Allah(swt) uplift all my broken sisters, their children! And may their oppressors be brought to ultimate Justice. ALLAH IS JUST!
    Our sisters are hurting, May all their tears be replaced by everlasting joy with their Creater.
    Let’s focus on building a happy home..

    Peace

  4. I really would like for you to address the issue in depth of how men married with children and with practicing Muslimas choose to marry and get their ‘secret’ nikkah done with their mushrikeen co-workers that don’t even have their basic 101 Tahara down! Why is this trend growing amongst the western Muslims?

    Sharia is balanced and perfect and Allah swt is Just!
    Why are these multiple children left alone questioning Islam? Islam failed in their households so certainly it is not a solution.
    Why can’t we as a Muslim community focus on’ Building A Family Unit’, ?
    You are a well versed brother, why can’t you tell these men to focus on their Fard-al- Ayn?
    We are igniting more fires in already broken house-holds and men that are holding on to the Deen with broken hands.
    I am sure your Grandfather ( Allah yarahamo) opted for a righteous second wife and was loyal to his first wife and Children, upholding the truths as a shepard.

    Our men don’t need validation to go near Zina, they need to be brought to a halt.

    May Allah(swt) uplift all my broken sisters, their children! And may their oppressors be brought to ultimate Justice. ALLAH IS JUST!
    Our sisters are hurting, May all their tears be replaced by everlasting joy with their Creater.
    Let’s focus on building a happy home..

    Peace

    • As the piece acknowledges, some men take advantage of their wives and act horribly. But this is not a problem with the institution of polygyny itself. Muslim women who have been wronged should not blame Islam, Islamic law, and Muslim men at large for the bad behavior of one jerk.

  5. Daniel Haqiqatjou,

    There are several problems with this defence of polygyny. And at the outset, let me clarify that I’m not Muslim, and I don’t intend to cause any offence, and therefore I apologize in advance if I end up doing so, albeit unintentionally. That said,

    (1) The fact that some women might _choose_ to enter into a polygynous relationship doesn’t mean such a desire is prudent or moral, if there are such things as duties to oneself. Other questions can also be asked: is not a desire for a powerful partner an indirect form of the desire for power? Should we desire power? Are wide differences in wealth and power healthy for a society? Is such a system virtuous? And so on.

    (2) The post uses the term “natural desires” to describe this attraction that many women supposedly feel to powerful and wealthy men. But are they? For our desires are shaped by overt and covert features of social reality, and in response to subconscious impulses generated by economic conditions. On the one hand, a society where women’s voices are marginalized will “naturally” cause many women to internalize that powerlessness and desire the security that a powerful man can supposedly provide. On the other hand, the entertainment industries, also male-dominated, produce cheap literature and films which are full of men of valour saving damsels in distress. Which will again “naturally” create such a desire in many women.

    (3) Then there is the issue of whether polygyny is moral, and this is where one’s view of marriage comes in. Whilst it is tempting to see the marital relationship as a contract, considering that it is built upon promises made by both parties to each other, surely there is more to it; it either involves a man and a woman using each other’s bodies for sex, or it involves the total self-gift of their bodies to each other. The former would be immoral, for no person should be used as an instrument. Then marriage is the latter, and if so, it involves a man sharing his most intimate body parts with a woman, and vice versa. In a very real sense, the man’s body belongs to the woman. One might say that it becomes something like her personal property, only it’s much more profound than that. But if so, then it would be unjust to expect the woman to share her man’s body with another woman — one might as well expect her to share her eye or her liver. And doing so would, in essence, alienate her from what is part of her being.

    (4) There is also the fact that a polygynous relationship would turn each wife into an inferior in the household — the wife has to be content with spending only some of her time with her husband, whilst the husband gets a lot more time. And as the post itself acknowledges, given the superior physical power of the husband, polygyny gives him a lot more bargaining power over his wives than in a monogamous setup. A wife who has issues with her husband will simply end up ignored as he pleases himself with his other wives. But if polygyny is licit, why not polyandry? Surely there are some men who like being dominated by their wives and wouldn’t mind being cuckolded? And while a man can have sex with only a single woman at a time, surely a woman can have sex with multiple men? What makes the former licit and the latter illicit?

    (5) Finally, as men we must ask ourselves — is it virtuous to desire more than one woman? I think not. Romance is single-minded and jealous, and polyamory in general militates against our intuitive and universal understanding of conjugal love.

    • All you have done here is make a series of assertions on the basis of your own personal reflection. As Muslims, we look to Revelation for our ethics and within the Quran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, we see that polygynous marriage is not immoral. And we read about other prophets like Solomon and Abraham who were engaged in polygyny as well, peace be upon them. And their histories are described in the Bible as well.

      • Daniel Haqiqatjou,

        Respectfully, if your criterion is the Qur’ān, then why talk about women’s “natural desires” and so on? You might say that the latter are moral intuitions which support the thesis that polygyny is licit, but then, my own intuitions say otherwise.

        And yes, all of my points are assertions based on personal reflection, but then (with all due respect) so are your arguments in the post. Ultimately, even your belief in the Qur’ān (howsoever justified it may be) is a result of personal reflection. The question is if the Qur’ānic position on polygyny is moral, and surely the Qur’ān can be critiqued or defended using natural reason.

  6. As an addendum (and this is where I probably might cause offence, so again I apologize):

    Surely not all women have a problem with men less powerful than them? In the Islamic tradition itself, one sees none other than Khadījah, a wealthy widow of forty, who fell in love with the young Muḥammad, a poverty-stricken orphan of twenty five. Given that Islam honours her as one of the most righteous women who ever lived, it can hardly be said that women “naturally” seek to marry powerful men.

  7. Instead of campaigning for polygyny due to lack of men with financial means, why don’t you campaign to men who are unambitious losers to work harder and make more money? If there were more suitable men in the market for marriage, the 20% of men wouldn’t have all the women wanting them, and other men could marry.

    • There will always be a hierarchy of desirability. Nothing wrong with that. That’s how people are created. Not all men can become rich and powerful just like all women cannot become beauty queens. That’s Allah’s plan for the creation.

      • Beauty,riches and power are all tests. People should never forget that this Dunya is a test and should learn to play the cards that they were handed to the best of their advantage and never lose sight of our true purpose.

  8. Daniel Haqiqatjou,

    Respectfully, if your criterion is the Qur’ān, then why talk about women’s “natural desires” and so on? You might say that the latter are moral intuitions which support the thesis that polygyny is licit, but then, my own intuitions say otherwise.

    And yes, all of my points are assertions based on personal reflection, but then (with all due respect) so are your arguments in the post. Ultimately, even your belief in the Qur’ān (howsoever justified it may be) is a result of personal reflection. The question is if the Qur’ānic position on polygyny is moral, and surely the Qur’ān can be critiqued or defended using natural reason.

    • @S.N. : The underlying foundation of this and every other issue is that this Dunya is not an ideal place, it is made to test humans.
      Humans have to make trade offs whether they want to or not. It is natural for all humans to dislike having to make a trade off but they have to because the system is designed as such. That is what makes life unpleasant and the Quran does not give guidelines as to how humans beings should enjoy themselves because that is not the purpose of humans in this Dunya. The Quran gives guidelines on how to pass the test and living our life according to these guidelines is not always easy. Being tested is not pleasant or easy.
      Daniel’s point was that some women would be willing to be one of four wives to a certain man rather than the only wife of another type of man. He was saying that there are women who would find the first option more appealing than the second one. In other words they are willing to make this trade off while realising this is a trade off and they are OK with it. They are cool with it. He did not speak of all women or even most women but he spoke of a group of women who do exist in society. From these womens’ viewpoint the polygyny lifestyle is the choice that naturally appeals to them the most out of all their available choices in this Dunya.

  9. All the women who claim to support this are 1) single, and not married. Just wait until you are married for 2-3 years and have children and then comment. Till then you’re support is invalid
    2) white. White women are desperate to have a ring and will marry anyone. I’m talking about converts too.
    3) Dumb. It’s much better to be a second wife than a first wife. Because you MIGHT just get more attention from him…that is until he decides to marry a 3rd…and so on . It’s too bad women cannot decide to have more than one husband

    Ladies and gentlemen, none of you are prepared to truly follow every aspect of the sunnah. You want to pick and choose what appeals to you and your carnal desires. In the end we will all die one day and will be judged by the one that knows every single intention in our heart.

      • Br Daniel,

        Excellent article. I think you only really left one thing out of the whole polygamy thing which is that the father/guardian of the potential second wife is also involved in the decision (if it is done the right way by Shariah dictates). As such there is a second fail-safe in the system to make sure she is not being gamed in taking the second wife position and her interests are being looked out for by her own father/guardian who has a much better understanding of men than she might.

        I actually know a friend whose daughter is not very attractive (I’ve known her ever since she was a little girl, she is smart and personable, but I always felt sad that she would never find a husband due to this) and he has told me that he has had serious talks with her about becoming a second wife to a good, pious individual in order that she would have a better chance at a stable marriage and finding someone due to this.

        As you said, this life is a test and we have to play the cards we have been dealt according to the priorities we make for ourselves.

        May Allah swt guide us to the best decisions.

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