Polygamy: Some Misconception within Clarifications

Assalaamu’alaykum everyone,

Polygamy has been one of the controversial topics within Islam, which scholars have explained the dalil as well as the hikmah of it from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Allah Knows Best, but it may seem that some Muslims understood this incorrectly, so I wish to repeat what I know from my knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and what I have read from the works of scholars.

If I am mistaken, then it is my own fault. I would accept if I am wrong, so long as one can give me evidence from the Qur’an and/or Sunnah properly understood.

Misconception 1: Polygamy is actually prohibited because nobody can be fair.

“Surah An-Nisa ayat 3 allows men to marry up to four wives but only if you can provide justice, and if you cant do justice marry only one. This is while ayat 129 of the same surah says that you can never be equal”.

This argument is incorrect because of the incomplete reading of Surah An Nisa ayat 129. This is the full translation of Surah An Nisa ayat 129 (Sahih International):

“And you will never be able to be equal [in feeling] between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.”

Does it make sense for Allah to command us to do justice, but at the same time making us completely incapable of doing so? Remember, Allah does not charge a soul a burden beyond its ability (Surah Al Baqarah ayat 233). You cannot be perfect in doing justice between your wives, but Allah gives an advice on how to do it (do not incline to one and leave the other) and when you strive enough with good intentions then Allah will forgive your mistakes.

But if even then if you are afraid to be unable or not up for the task, then marry only one as suggested by Surah An Nisa ayat 3. But, again, if you think you are up for the task, then it is lawful so long as all the parties involved have consented.

Misconception 2: Polygamy for nafs (desire) is prohibited

This opinion may seem to be strong, since Rasulullah s.a.w. himself married most of his wives for political purposes, e.g. Juwayriya of the Banu Mustaliq and Zaynab binti Khuzayma who’s husband was martyred in the battle of Badr. Further, the idea of “I wanna marry you just because I have lust and desire” is just disgusting to the ears of many.

Now I do understand that it may be a very noble thing to marry widows to help them, or perhaps marrying to tighten relationships between two peoples. However, there is no dalil that prohibits polygamy for nafs. It may be incorrect to do polygamy (or any marriage, actually) if it is ONLY for nafs and that it disregards other obligations.

Let us accept the truth: humans are born with sexual desire, and many will argue (convincingly) that men are naturally born with more. One of the functions of marriage is to avoid zina, as one can imply from Surah Al Mu’minun ayat 5-6 (this is the only dalil I can think of from the top of my head, but I know scholars have written about this).

Besides, if it is okay to marry the first wife with “satisfying desire lawfully” as one of the purpose, does it make sense if the second wife cannot share similar purpose? This is bearing in mind that the husband must be fair to all wives (as per Surah An Nisa ayat 3 and 129), so one must endeavor to satisfy all the wives (not just “marry the first one and consumate the marriage, but the second one is just charity or politics”).

Misconception 3: Most Polygamy done today is incorrect and not consistent with the Sunnah

Now this is not a question of dalil but a question of fact. I would like to remind people to bear in mind what is said in Surah Al Isra ayat 36 (Sahih International Translation):

And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.

I understand how there are some Indonesians who are in the news a while ago, who is an ancient dude but has 9 young wives, and this is totally wrong (Eyang Subur). However, to claim that “most polygamy done today is incorrect” can only be done if one refers to a credible statistic of those doing polygamy, judging how it is done (observing the procedure and how the married life is conducted by the husband).

Failing that, you cannot judge that most polygamy done is incorrect and any claim of such is speech without knowledge.

Again I stress to please correct me if I am wrong, but provide me with evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah. I will not accept “but according to my opinion” or “my teacher once told me” or the likes.

Jazakallaahu khayran katheera.