Nowhere in the Quran is it allowed to marry more than one wife for personal satisfaction. The verse regarding polygamy is set in the clear context of taking care of orphaned children. It specifies the only reasoning behind marriage to more than one woman:
“People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate and from the pair of them spread countless men and women. Be mindful of Allah, in whose name you ask one another of what is in the womb, Allah is always watching over you”. (4:1)
“Give orphans their property, do not replace their good things with the bad, and do not consume their property with your own. That is a serious crime”. (4:2)
“And if you fear that you cannot be just to the orphans, then you may marry those who are agreeable to you of the women [Widowed women with children in need of provision]: two, or three, or four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then one, or what you [Already] have (Ma Malakat Aimanukum). This is best that you do not face financial hardship.”. (4:3)
Firstly, the verse of ‘polygamy’ is clearly embedded within the context of taking care of orphans. Where 4:3 is the ‘verse of polygamy’, the issue of orphaned children starts from 4:2.
Secondly, reading 4:3, we notice the verse begins by laying a clear condition, “If you fear that you will not be just to the orphans, then marry…”. The underlined word “then” is the translation for the word “fa/ف”. This term used to mean “in that case/so/then” is connecting the two portions of marrying more than one woman, and being more equitable to orphans, in a conditional manner.
Even to an un-trained reader, it is very obvious to notice that Allah is stating here that the verse is ‘permitting’ another marriage only in order to be more “just” to orphaned children, in other words, to take care of orphaned children better. Orphaned children who have lost their father need care when their widowed mother is unable to provide for them.
How can marrying again solve the problem of helpless orphaned children who are not provided for (e.g. food and shelter)? Of course, it is by marriage to the widowed mother to whom the orphans belong to and who is also is in need of provision.
The discussion of orphans and their care continues well into chapter 4 Al-Nisa further emphasizing that marriage to more than one woman is only permitted in the unique case stated very explicitly within the verse itself.
The next few verses following the ‘verse of polygamy’ 4:3, are shown below for readers information:
“And give women their property willingly, and if they remit any of it to you of their own will, then you may take it with a clear conscience.”. (4:4)
“And do not give the immature ones their money which Allah has entrusted to you, and spend on them from it and clothe them, and speak to them in goodness.” (4:5)
“Test orphans until they reach marriageable age; then if you find they have sound judgment, hand over their property to them. Do not consume it hastily before they come of age. If the guardian is well off, he should abstain from the orphan’s property, and if he is poor he should use only what is fair. When you give them their property, call witnesses in, but Allah takes full account of everything you do.” (4:6)
And the Qur’an continues to address the orphans care and protection. It is striking just how much Allah emphasizes on the protection of such children.
BELIEVING MEN MARRY ONLY ONCE BY DEFAULT
From Quranic point, believing men should marry only once as normal practice. We know this due to a few reasons. One of them is that Allah states:
“And marry off those that are the single (Al-Ayama) among you (minkum), and the righteous from among your male and female servants (Ima-Ikum)…” (24:32)
Polygamy involves marriage to a man who is not single, therefore it is an exception only in the interest of taking care of orphans (marrying their mothers). Also, marriage is encouraged in the Qur’an and marrying once in the ‘normal manner (single women)’ fulfills this. Yet, what is in 4:3, is stated in exceptional terms: in terms of orphaned children’s care (their mothers).
Also notice that in 4:3, Allah has explicitly stated that believing men should only be married to one woman in the circumstance shown, and it is better this way:
“…then you may marry those who are agreeable to you of the women [Widowed women with children in need of provision]: two, and three, and four. But if you fear you will not be fair, then one, or what you [Already] have (Ma Malakat Aimanukum). This is best that you do not face financial hardship.”. (4:3)
Thus, a single marriage is indicated as the norm. Marriage to a widow (in the interest of caring for orphans) is the exception this verse is making.
UNDERSTANDING OF “IF YOU FEAR YOU WILL NOT BE FAIR, THEN ONE”
The verse reads “if you fear you will not be fair, then one”. Thus, a stipulation clearly laid in the verse, is the issue of equability and fairness between existing wife and subsequent marriage to mothers of orphans. We need to pay special attention here due to what many traditionalists have claimed in their literature. Since traditionalists’ motive is to establish that men can marry any women up to four for personal desire/satisfaction, they try to impose a very shallow and biased understanding of what constitutes ‘fair’ in the verse. They claim that as long as a man can provide food, housing, clothing (i.e. material provisions) to equal amounts to all wives, he is being fair. They say in that case he is meeting the requirement of the verse and can marry more than once up to four. Thus they have passed “fatwas” (verdicts) where they state that “permission” is not necessary from first wife for the husband to marry more wives (to any women). In other words, even against the first wife’s happiness, the husband can marry again. Many such traditional so-called Muslims have done just that and bought depression upon their first wife.
This is an understanding lacking wisdom and knowledge. Because to be ‘fair’ is not only about providing material provision, it is also about being fair to someone emotionally. If we take two people and emotionally torture one, then that is unfair – to consider simply providing material provision to equal level to be part of equality is pure ignorance – it is also about what you are doing to someone on the inside.
Thus, if the first wife is against the idea of her husband marrying a second time (even to take care of orphaned children, to a widow), then her wish must be respected to comply with the verse (the part “if you fear you will not be fair, then one”). If the husband marries against her wishes, then he is emotionally harming her (and is being ‘unfair’), thus violating the verse. Supposing the second wife-to-be is happy with the man’s second marriage while his existing wife is angry and upset, then this is not being ‘fair’ between the two since one will be made happy and the other angry and upset.
Such shallow and thoughtless derivation of Quranic verses by these traditionalists portray a worrying element in their own marital relationships – since we see that in their interpretations, consideration of human beings’ emotions, the wife’s feelings or thoughts are completely overlooked and neglected, and an emotionless interpretation is spread that benefits only themselves. The reasoning for this is as stated, their preconceived motive of justifying marrying more women for personal or sexual gratification. Ideas of women’s role as an obedient sexual tool for ‘hyper-sexual’ men is spread widely through extra-Quranic sources in the name of true religion, and is not based on the Quranic religion. In the Qur’an, the relationship between husband and wife is stated in following terms:
“One of His signs is that He created for you spouses like your selves so that you may live with them with affection and mercy – there are signs in this for people who reflect”. (Qur’an 30:21)
Of course, there is no affection, nor mercy in a husband ignoring his first wife’s feelings and thoughts.
Most so-called Muslims simply do not look at the Qur’an and just go along with what they hear or read in textbooks about the Qur’an. By studying the actual verses, we have noticed striking points, which have been deliberately hidden away from Muslims by the clergy.
IN CONCLUSION, THE FOLLOWING IS DEDUCED FROM THE QUR’AN:
1) Marriage to more than one woman is not for personal or sexual gratification at all. It is permitted only to mothers of orphans in the interest of taking care of orphaned children, who otherwise, would not have basic provisions such as food, shelter etc.
2) Even if it is in the interest of taking care of orphaned children, the first wife’s happiness and opinion takes priority and the believing husband will not marry the widowed woman against first wife’s will/happiness.
3) Though only mothers of orphans who are in need of care and protection is allowed, “the marry those who are agreeable to you / فانكحوا ما طاب لكم” is referring to only those widowed women who are agreeable to marriage.
There have been many men, even in modern days who, in the name of being a “Muslim”, marry against their first wives’ wishes and there are first wives who are depressed due to inconsiderate nature of the husband. These men are in violation of all the teachings of the Qur’an described in this article. Not only did they marry against their first wives’ will, the women they married are not widows with young children. Their intention was purely self-gratification.
True believing men abide fully by the sublime morals of the Qur’an. In cases where the actual Qur’an is followed thoroughly, without deviated teachings that go contrary to Quranic teachings, all believers on this path lead a peaceful and content lives.
And it was said to those who were righteous: “What has your Lord sent down?” They said: “All goodness.” For those who have done good in this world there is good; and the Hereafter is goodness. Excellent indeed is the home of the righteous. (16:30)