Introduction there are also Muslim communities that

IntroductionWhat exactly is Polygamy? Well, Polygamy is defined asmarriages that includes more than two partners. It could be when a man hasmultiple wives (polygyny) or when a woman has multiple husbands (polyandry). Though,the most common would be polygyny in all cultures. Well, it is still practicetill the very day and it can be seen to be the most prevalent in Islamicculture. Polygamy is surprisingly common than most people realize. Forinstance, in poorer countries like Benin, it can be found that 55 percent of asixth of women share their husbands, of course it is less common in developedcountries.

Well, there are also Muslim communities that do not permitpolygamy such as countries like Turkey, Tunisia and Israel whereby polygamy isillegal. However, polygamy is legal in Egypt, India and Bangladesh with restrictions.It would seem that polygamy is not wrong to be permitted in these countriesbecause they provide justice to the orphans and widows when wars happened backin the days. In addition to the Quranic verse Surah 4:3, it was not meant toutilize polygamy as a way to oppress women, but to ensure that they were takencare of.In this essay, in order for us to analyze the topic ofpolygamy thoroughly, we will look at the history of polygamy in the first paragraphwhereby we could assess how polygamy is mentioned and practiced in othercultures and religions.

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As for the second paragraph, we will go in detail onpolygamy especially in the Islam aspect by utilizing varies sources fromHadiths and Sunna. This is especially crucial in order to have a deeperunderstanding in the subsequent essay. Then, we will assess why polygamy ispermissible in some but not all Muslim communities and assess the differentinterpretations of Quran for the Surah 4:3 verse on polygamy. To end it, thereis a significant case law on polygamy that would be discuss which is Jesmin Sultana v Mohammad Elias andhow polygamy is seen in the modern culture. Overall this essay will demonstratethe arguments on whether polygamy should be permissible or not, if yes, withwhat sort of restrictions and if no, with what sort of exceptions? Well to start off, in my opinion,polygamy should not be permissible in Muslim cultures, communities and nationsbut with certain exceptions. It will be discussed in the following.1.

History ofPolygamySurprisingly or not, Islam in fact did not invent polygamy,it merely inherited it. Polygamy actually existed long before Islam came intothe scene of world events. When we look at other religions such asChristianity, many holy personalities of the Bible had many wives at the sametime such as Abraham and Jacob. Islam merely reformed and modified the systemof polygamy to only having 4 wives when men at that time are used to havingmore than 10 of them. In order for Islam to set a more realistic expectation,it reduces to only able to have 4 wives.Honestly speaking, the origins of polygamy is uncertain.Some said that there were a lot of wars and many men died.

Hence the womenpopulation boosts swiftly and more women seek for men than men seek for women.Some also said that the more wives a man had the more military and politicalalliances he could forge. For instance, at that time, the number of wives a manhad is deeply connected to the wealth and status of the man. 2. Polygamy in Islam- Hadiths/SunnasAs we know, Polygamy is practiced in Islamic culture includingthe Prophet himself.

Prophet married ten wives during the last thirteen yearsof his life. He in fact did not marry other young women or practice polygamywhen his first wife was alive. He did so that other would follow his example toprovide the widows protection and dignity due to the surplus of women (as aresult of men dying in wars), to set the slaves free and to forge friendlyrelations.

Polygamy oughtto be seen as a segment of justice in the treatment of widows, however isessentially adapted upon the need to offer fair care to orphans, according tothe literal reading of the verse. It filled a practical need for that timeperiod, in enabling widows and orphans to be taken care of in a society inwhich women for the most part did not have independent means of financialsupport. In any case, the content is evident that polygamy is only permissibleif all wives are treated justly. The Quran then goes on to say that it willnever be feasible for a husband to treat all of his wives fairly. Thiseffectively limits the possibility of polygamy today.

A detailed rendering ofthe relevant verses in Surah an Nisa follows:And if youhave reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, thenmarry from among other women such as are lawful to you – even two, orthree, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able totreat them with equal fairness, then only one – or from among those whomyou rightfully posses. This will make it more likely that you will not deviatefrom the right course.” (Surah an Nisaa – Women, 4:3). Barlas (2002)has argued that the main function of polygamy used to, ‘serves a very specificpurpose: that of securing justice for female orphans’. The Quranic idealclearly is to establish monogamous union, which is also affirmed in SuraAl-Nisa, whereby the Quran notes, ‘You cannot keep perfect balance emotionallybetween your wives, however much you desire it’ (IV: 130)The firstimperative in this verse is to deal justly with orphans, and is directedtowards their male guardians who would be managing their property or wealth ontheir behalf. Marriage to female orphans is only supported if and when theguardian fears that he won’t have the capacity to do his obligation genuinely.

The presumption is that marriage to the orphan will give the husband a greaterstake in carrying out his financial responsibility towards her. It does not byany means speaks to a prerequisite for every male guardians to marry theirfemale wards. Second, the verse stresses justice towards the wife (wives) aswell. In other words, polygamy is only possible if the husband have thecapacity to treat his wives justly. Otherwise, he is to marry only one wife, oreven a female slave. The key theme is to prevent him from doing injusticetowards the woman (women) concerned and it will not be within your power totreat your wives with equal fairness, however much you may desire it, and so,do not allow yourselves to incline towards one to the exclusion of the other,leaving her in a state, as it were, of having and not having a husband.

I believethat the reason to not allowing polygamy would be from the Prophet’s example.According to the Surah 4:3, it is noted that polygamy is only permissible toman who can afford it in sense of financially and emotionally. The reason why Prophethimself able to practice polygamy because he is able to treat his wife justlyand able to protect all his women from evil and deviation. As for the one whocannot afford that and fears that he will not be able to treat co-wives justly,he should settle for just one wife, because Allaah says: “but if you fear thatyou shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one”.Ash-Shirbeenifrom the Shaafi’i School of jurisprudence, said in Mughni al-Muhtaj 4/207: “Itis a Sunnah not to marry more than one wife if there is no apparent need.”Furthermore,in order for the man to marry again or enter a polygamous marriage, there arecertain applications and conditions needed to apprehend, there are also certaincriteria made in pre-nuptial agreement by the first wife to avoid the husbandfrom getting second or subsequent wives such as application of takhayyar(eclectic choice) has allowed the incorporation of specific clauses within thecontract of marriage, prohibiting the husband to enter into polygamousmarriages/ other actions detrimental to the interests to the wife. Muslim menare also required to obtain the written permission of the Arbitration Council;2nd or consequent marriage is only permissible once the ArbitrationCouncil is satisfied as to its ‘necessity and just’1nature in accordance with the Rules laid down in pursuance of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961.3.

Permissibility of Polygamyin other Muslim communitiesPolygamy istreated variably in the legal codes of different Muslim nations. While Tunisianand Moroccan individual status law prohibit polygamy altogether. Syria, Iraq,Pakistan and Malaysia have made polygamy subject to court permission, and onlygranted when certain conditions are fulfilled. In permitting polygamy withinthe Islamic family, it raises two fundamental questions: firstly, were thereany rational reasons for permitting polygamous marriages within the Sharia and,secondly, can polygamy be justified in the light of the prohibition ininternational law? An instant response is to suggest that the Sharia has beeninsensible towards women’s rights and that continuation of such practices aspolygamy is discriminatory and contrary to modern human rights law. In determiningthe rationality of the Sharia principles, it is crucial to regard to theseventh century Arabian tribal customs as well as the then persistingsocio-economic circumstances. As we know,some Muslim countries do allow polygamy and some do not. Even so if they do,permitting polygamy and actually legally administrating it are two differentthings.

Countries such as Tunisia, Morocco and Bangladesh does not permitpolygamy (blanket prohibition) whereas countries like Iran, India and Egyptpermits polygamy but with restrictions, meaning the government has set somecriteria and it needs to be met in order for his subsequent marriages to belegalize. Honestlyspeaking, polygamous marriage is not as simple as it seems. Even if somecountries like Pakistan allows polygamy, there are certain procedures to followand it also does not guarantee allowance or legality to it. Pakistan has anumber of limited legislative reforms injected into customary practices and theoperation of family laws. All marriages have to obliged to a system ofcompulsory registration under Muslim law. Prior to entering into a polygamousmarriage, Muslim men are required to obtain the written permission of theArbitration Council (a Council which consists of a representative of existingwife (or wives), his own representative and a neutral chairperson). Also, the petitioner(the men) are required to state the reasons for a proposed polygamous andinform the Council as to whether the consent or agreement of the existing wifeor wives has been obtained. A second or further marriage is only permissibleonce the Arbitration Council is satisfied as to its ‘necessity and just’ naturein accordance with the Rules laid down in pursuance of the Muslim Family LawsOrdinance 1961.

In contrastto Pakistan, the Tunisian legislative prohibition of polygamous marriagesrepresents a positive and forceful claim of the proper understanding andre-interpretation of the Sharia. The rationale behind the law is that thepresent social, economic and political conditions place an irrebuttablepresumption of monogamous Muslim marriages: the condition of justice and equityamongst wives perceived not only in an economic and financial sense, but alsofrom the perspective of love, affection and emotional attachment which cannotbe disturbed equally in a polygamous relationship.Of coursethere are certain conditions that a man has to follow in order for his secondmarriage to be legalize such as he has to be financially sufficient to provideall expenses of each family, physical prowess for completely satisfying thesexual desires of each wife and able to deliver justice and equality to eachfamily without favoritism. 4. Differenttranslations and interpretations of Quran One benefit that I believe polygamy has in Islam would bethat it addresses the social problems of prostitution and extramarital affairs whichis common in the West.

Other than cheating, infidelity is one of the topreasons for divorce in the West. Islam allows a man to marry more than one wifewith full recognition of the rights of all of them. Interpretation by Barlas2002 on polygamy verses on Qur’an: a polygamy marriage serves a very specificpurpose: that of securing justice for female orphans, the idea of Quran isclearly to establish monogamous union which is affirmed in Sura al-Nisa; “Youcannot keep perfect balance emotionally between your wives, however much youdesire it’Islam family laws derive from two fundamental sources of theSharia: the Quran and the Sunna.

The Quran represents the accumulation of theverses revealed by the God to Prophet Muhammad. According to the Islamic faith,every word of the Quran is divine and cannot be opposed. The Quran is focusedat establishing essential foundations for Muslim societies and guiding thesecommunities in terms of their rights and responsibilities. The Sunna on theother hand is the second principal source of Islam.

It represents modelbehavior and practices of Muhammad. The memorization and transmission of theSunna in a literary form is characterized as hadith. Hadith means ‘occurring,taking place’ represents the ‘report’ of Prophet Muhammad’s Sunna.The verse most commonly referred to with the topic ofpolygamy was mentioned in Quran is in the verse of 4:3 translated by Yusuf Ali:If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly withthe orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fearthat ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (acaptive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to preventyou from doing injustice.2Many peoplewould misinterpret the verse for their own benefits to have multiple wives andsaid it is with the permission of the God. For example, most people whopractices polygamy at this modern age probably neglected the verse “but if youfear that you shall not be able to deal justly then only one will be moresuitable”. Hence, we should take a few things into consideration. For the linewhereby “One that your right hand possess” it means slave.

It is of greatimportance to understand the time whereby these verses were revealed. These verseswere revealed after the Battle of Uhud in which many Muslim men were killedleaving abundance in widows and children. Thus, many argue that these Verseshave been revealed “because of Allah’s concern for the welfare of womenand orphans who were left without husbands and fathers who died fighting forthe Prophet and for Islam. It is a verse about compassion towards women andtheir children; it is not about men or their sexuality.”There aredifferent interpretations of Quranic verse Surah 4:3 such as the one byPickthall ‘And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry ofthe women, who seem good to you, two or three or four’ it gives the impressionthat the verse is saying that if one cannot deal fairly with orphans then heshould marry among them any he desires. Whereas the translation made by Yusuf Ali’if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marrywomen of your choice, two or three or four’ it suggests that a person can marryany woman, whether an orphan or someone else.The translation made by Sher Ali on the other hand impliesthat these women whom a Muslim marries must be other than the orphans ‘And ifyou fear that you will not be just in dealing with the orphans, then marry ofother women as may be agreeable to you, two or three or four’.

In contrast tothese translations, the versions of Malik, Sarwar and Khalifa insert words intothe Arabic text in order to give the reader the idea that the Quran isprohibiting Muslims from marrying the mothers of orphans if they are incapableof dealing kindly with these orphans. I believe that all this does imply the legality of polygamybut it should however note the time whereby these verses were revealed. It allleads to one main purpose to the legality of polygamy which is to serve justiceto both widows and orphans whom lost their husbands and fathers to the warswhich happened very frequently back in the days. Other than that, I believethat people might have purposely mistakenly misinterpreted the verses on theSurah 4:3 in order to take advantage and commit polygamy in the name of Islam. Itshould however note that in the case of Jesmin3whereby the High court demanded the repeal of s6 of the Muslim Family LawsOrdinance 1961 and the imposition of provisions banning polygamy.Conclusion In conclusion, I would say that the whole essay supports theidea that polygamy can be discriminating towards women and it is not exactlyacceptable in the modern culture. As laws in Islam is extremely difficult tochange, the issue of legality of polygamy in the Islamic culture has beenchallenged only very recently especially in the past decade only. Althoughpolygamy serves justice to women and children, I believe that it is notacceptable as most countries have already acquired peace and it is a verybackward looking.

Many historic reasons within the Islamic world for justifyingpolygamous marriages are no longer tenable. Polygamy isn’t essential orsignificant today for two principle reasons. One, the specific historicalcontext that legitimized polygamy does not exist today. Women have more optionsenabling them to be financially independent, even in situations where they arewidowed or orphaned. The second, and all the more convincing reason, is thebasic to do equity, which forbids having numerous spouses, since, as individuals,men can’t ever be superbly reasonable and just among them.

1 . “Necessity and just” is defined asphysical unfitness, insanity, infertility, sterility of the wife (wives) and willfulavoidance of a decree for restitution of conjugal rights on the part of theexisting wife (wives)2 ?Qur’an,Sura 4 (An-Nisa), Ayah 33 JesminSultana v Mohammad Elias 1997 17 BLD 4


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