A discourse on polygamy

By M.M. Pickthall

Permitting polygamous marriage in Islam has been made by several non-Muslim writers the text for strictures which appear completely irrelevant because their ideology is altogether un-Islamic.

The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has never been regarded by Muslims other than a human messenger of God; sanctity has never been identified with celibacy.  For Christiandom the strictest religious ideal has been celibacy, monogamy is already a concession to human nature.  For Muslims, monogamy is the ideal, polygamy the concession to human nature.

Polygamy is the nature of some men in all countries and of all men in some countries.  Having set a great example of monogamic marriage, the Prophet was to set a great example of polygamic marriage, by following which, men of that temperament could live righteous lives.  He encountered all the difficulties inherent in the situation and when he made mistakes, the Quran helped him to retrieve them.

Al-Islam did not institute polygamy.  It restricted a widely existing institution by limiting the number of a man's legal wives by giving to every woman a legal personality and legal rights which had to be respected, and making every man responsible for his conduct towards every woman.

Whether monogamy or polygamy should prevail in a particular country or period is a matter of social and economic convenience.

This also explains the Islamic ideology of prohibiting sexual relations outside of marriage.  For promoting respect for both men and women and avoiding practical hardships in future particularly for women, a relationship between a man and a woman must be solemnized and officialized duly in a respectful and sacred manner, not loosely with little or no commitments.

Other topics on polygamy in our forum:

Polygamy as interpreted by "Muslim" modernists

A consequence of not recognizing polygamy in the West

Responsibilities of men looking for polygamy

Discourse on the marriages of the Prophet Muhammad

The story of media bias 


  1. I am not a Westerner nor a person who supports multiple partners.
    It is funny how you defend polygamy.
    This is fact. If a married man falls in love with another woman, he would only be concerned about the woman whom he loves and ignores his existing wife.
    I am irreligious, not a "Qurainst".
    People who want to engage in polygamy are only seeing their partners as toys. I know because I have witnessed it. I live in half secular half Sharia country. Some pious Muslim men marry many, divorce, one, marry many, divorce one and their current wives are always young. I am sorry but you are still stuck with traditionalist thinking by saying polygamy in Islam can be legal in all cases. Some modernist Muslims suck. I know but those Muslims who oppose polygamy are not always modernised but they have other arguments and interpretations of 4:3.
    Polygamy should be banned in countries where women to men ratio are approximately 1:1.
    Traditionalists polygyny only benefits men and degrades women as sexual objects, no matter it is marital or nonmarital unless the polygyny is in places where women to men ratio 4:1 or 40:1 or 50:1.

    1. I don't advocate polygamy and neither do I judge (unlike you). It's a subjective issue. I can only speak for myself, not for the rest of the world, and everyone's situation & mindset differ. I don't care who you are, Westerner or not. Furthermore, if you're not a Quranist and if you don't know how to discuss in a civilized manner without these offensive outbursts of rudeness, then don't come here. No one is forcing you to jump in with your third rate comments. And, don't try to teach me about Pickthall. I've thoroughly studied not only his translations but his detailed biography, his ideology and precisely everything he had to go through for getting his translations accepted by the Al-Azha authorities.

      I published your comment only to give you a piece of my mind. Your two other comments have been dumped in the garbage as they weren't even worth the 'paper' they were written on .. questioning me why I use the word "Allah" as if that's any of your business. This blog does not allow personal attacks nor combative arguments. That's already mentioned in the comments section or can you not read? Your future darn tantrums will be deleted too. Throw them somewhere else, not here. Goodbye.

    2. @ "Cutie doll" .... are you not into realism at all? Aren't you aware that polygamy in practice (maybe not by definition) is far more rampant in the so-called non-polygamous society than within the Muslim community? Among the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world, not more than 15% have multiple marriages. But in the non-Muslim world such as Europe, North America, Australia etc. an average 50% of the total population is involved in multiple relationships, that is, steady extra-marital relations within the first 5 years of marriage. According to statistics, 60% of men are unfaithful to their spouses compared to 40% among women. Also, in many cases where the husbands are having steady relationships with lovers or mistresses, the wives are aware of them, yet they prefer silence to divorce because of the hassles and the financial pitfalls it brings with it. So, for practical purposes, I don't see the screaming difference between a polygamous marriage and a polygamous relationship except that in the former the woman gets a legal status equivalent to the first wife while in the latter she doesn't. Furthermore, the non-Muslim society may boast about monogamous marriages but to what end? With the depth of social permissiveness that exists, the sentiments and emotional rights of women have been violated anyway. A husband isn't entitled to have more than one wife alright, but he is entitled to have any number of extra marital relationships he pleases. His wife can do nothing about it. She cannot take legal action as there's no such directive or injunction in a court of law for punishing unfaithful husbands. That's considered a personal issue. Her only choice is divorce .... and that, even among Muslims, a woman is entitled to initiate divorce if she cannot handle being a co-wife. Polygamy is NOT forced on a Muslim woman. Thus, in a polygamous society, the woman can choose between being a co-wife or divorce. In a monogamous society her only choice is divorce.

      Also let me also add, if a Muslim woman cannot cope with being a co-wife, she's permitted to add that clause in her marriage contract. In that case if the husband decides to marry someone else at any time in future, he will either have to divorce his wife or quit the other woman. That however becomes the same as in the West and other non-Muslim societies. He might not marry a second time, but he can cheat his wife and there's little she can do about that if divorce seems too cumbersome to her.

      So, I don't see the point behind all this raving and ranting coming from you other than your desire to quarrel. Think, keep cool and ponder upon facts prior to responding instead of instant belligerence as if on a combat mission. If you don't favor polygamy, that's fine. I don't favor it either and I'm a devout Muslim. For that reason the Glorious Quran has kept it as a provision because this is a huge world (not a small world as the saying goes) where individual circumstances vary greatly. After all, the truth of the matter is, there are women in the Muslim world who are living as co-wives by choice, not by compulsion, and I'm not entitled to lambast them simply because I'm different.

    3. Very sensibly elucidated Sister Heba.

      Well 'cutie doll' you must be living in a cutie crazy country where "men marry many, divorce, one, marry many, divorce one ...." and so on. They are Muslims only by name, not by practice. As Quranists we are focused on truth, not on superficiality. The Noble Quran categorically prohibits such frivolous approach as you described about the men in your country. But oh! You mentioned you are "not a Quanist" and you are "irreligious" and yet you acquire for yourself the audacity to argue about Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall with someone who knows about the Quran and about its translator far more than you would with all of your massive 'irreligiousity.' !!

      ~ sigh ~ The freaks of planet earth never cease to astonish me.

    4. Many thanks Ruhi. Actually the problem with folks like these who live in so-called Muslim countries and are discreetly going through a phase of Faith disorientation with an ardent desire to assimilate into a different ideology is quaint. They cannot distinguish between a Muslim at heart and a 'Muslim' by mere rituals. Their judgmentalism is brutal and filled with misperception. Unable to recognize the ritualistic ones as transgressors, they take for granted that the interpolations of these transgressors have been derived from the Quran ... despite the fact that they barely know anything of the Quran themselves, let alone the depth of Quranic contents and its infinite perfection. Consequently, claiming to be "irreligious" and distancing themselves from the Quran has become a status symbol with these weirdos and a pathetic gesture of intellectualism & modernism (of sorts). Both segments of such a community are losers in their own different ways and desperately in need to Divine guidance. But the guidance of Allah, The Almighty, doesn't come on a silver platter for the unworthy. HE grants guidance only to those who reach out to HIM and make themselves worthy of it.

    5. Spot on, sis. I couldn't agree more .... Besides, I also don't understand the argument of this person who says "unless the polygyny is in places where women to men ratio 4:1 or 40:1 or 50:1." Even if the female/male ratio is 1,000:1 ..... the man can still look upon the woman as a "toy" or "object of sex," can he not? We're talking about temperament, not arithmetic. The ratio, whatever it be, isn't going to alter the guy's ethical demeanor and neither will it prevent the woman from being emotionally distraught if she's the type who cannot handle being a co-wife. Therefore, why so much emphasis on population ratio?

    6. Precisely! If the guy is a jerk and wants a second or third wife simply with the intent of sexualizing, he will continue behaving like a jerk regardless of the gender equation. Actually a lot of people bring up this point, traditionalists as well as non-traditionalists. The former try to portray it as an excuse to introduce polygamy while the latter attempt to use it as obstacle to introducing polygamy. But no matter which prism you look through, that's a useless condition because it doesn't help to change the mentality of people. The choice of polygamy has to be left on trust, that it's implemented in extraordinary situations where it might genuinely help the second woman to become a co-wife by providing her with security & financial assistance. In that case, if the first wife is willing to understand without coercion, then it's fine; it becomes a personal matter and outsiders have no right to stick their noses into it. Otherwise, she can settle for a divorce. At this point, if the man loves his existing wife more than the other woman or he doesn't want to lose the affection of their children, he will obviously quit the idea of a second marriage and continue living with his first wife to avoid a divorce. Furthermore, again looking at the issue realistically; if the first wife disagrees and the husband gives in, the first wife will feel 'victorious' but the prospective second wife will cry injustice and feel her rights have been smashed.

    7. I read you Sister Heba. Your panoramic perception makes your assessment very neutral .... and that's the secret of logically establishing a legal issue. One requires to analyze all such aspects from a totally nonpartisan standpoint otherwise it could only end up being visibly unbalanced like a seesaw swing.