Social System of Islam 31 – Polygamy In Islamic Law 1 Historical Perspectives

Jamal Badawi


Channel: Jamal Badawi


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In the Name of God, the benevolent, Merciful, the creator and Sustainer of the universe, peace and blessings upon his servant and messenger Muhammad forever. I mean, I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except the one true God. And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger and servant of God.

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This is my fashion I greet you with the universal greetings of peace. This is a greeting that has been used by all of the profits from Abraham through the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all. Assalamu Aleikum which means peace be unto you. Today we have our 31st program in our series dealing with a social system of Islam. More particularly, we'll be talking about the topic of polygamy in Islamic law. I'm your host, Tamar Rashid. And I have joining me as usual on the program, Dr. Jamal Badawi of St. Mary's University of Jamal Assalamu alaikum wa Alaykum cinema. Before we get into today's topic, I wonder if I could ask you to go back and just summarize the main points that

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we touched on in last week's program. Surely, the bulk of discussion related to the question of dowry or marriage gift as Islam calls it. And we indicated that if it is not mentioned in the contract, the marriage contract is still valid, that it may not be all paid immediately, it could all be paid immediately, it could all be deferred, a portion could be paid, the other one could be deferred, depending on the mutual agreement of both sides. Well talked about the circumstances where the entire amount of marriage gift becomes due to the wife.

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We also discussed the case of addition of additional conditions in the marriage contract. And we said that so long as the conditions stipulated by one side or the other or both, of course, it has to be mutually agreed

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that these conditions are legitimate and acceptable, so long as they are not in themselves illegal question

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or legal conditions.

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A brief discussion also ensued with respect to the temporary marriage of what our marriage as we're known. And we indicated that while this was permissible in the very early days of Islam, it has not necessarily been continued as such, and that there are clear evidence that the Prophet indicated that it is forbidden, it has been just like a stage, such as the stage stages of prohibition of the drinking, for example, but now it's it's not legitimate.

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This is basically the gist of our discussion last. Okay, well turn into today's topic, I want to

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begin our program by asking you to give us

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a bit of an explanation of a term polygamy and just what it refers to, okay, polygamy is a broader term, which means some form of plurality in marriage. More specifically, the practice of having two or more mates at the same time.

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In the technical sense, I said it's an it's a broad term, because it includes two types

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of plurality of marriage. It may include

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the woman or the wife having more than one husband at the time. And this is what sociologists refer to as polyandry, PR, and why am dry polyandry. But this is not really what we're dealing with. Because whether we're talking about Islam, or related close religion to Islam, like Judaism or Christianity, to the best of my knowledge, polyandry is not permissible at all. So, we're not talking about this form of plurality of manage polyandry, even though technically it is one aspect of polygamy.

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But what we really be we will be talking about, if we were to use the proper term, is polygyny, PLYG Ys, NY polygyny, which means one husband having more than one wife at the same time,

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this is the the topic really that we're dealing with. But since polygyny is not a very common term, I suspect for some people, also

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polygamy even is not common term, but polygamy at least is relatively more non term that polygamy, but if we were to use the very proper term, it should be really polygamy or polygyny in, in Islamic law.

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Now the title for our

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our topic for today's discussion is polygamy in Islamic law?

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Could one imply from this that the ideal Muslim family should be polygamous one? No, this is sometimes the common notion but not necessarily a correct one. Indeed, the ideal in the structure of a Muslim family is that of monogamy that is having just one husband, one wife, and that's it in the children of course.

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Indeed, the we will see as we gone, that this is assumed to be the normal, ideal situation. But in the meantime, Islam also did not

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necessarily condemned polygamy, or regarded as unlawful. So there is no neither outright condemnation or prohibition of polygamy. Nor is there any requirement or desirability, even expressed in favor of polygamy. So it's no more than simply a permissible act, if you will, permissible Act, which may or may not necessarily be desirable in a given setting or situation. And I think this is essential to clarify, that Islam neither introduced or invented polygamy as might be implied by the writing of some non Muslims. That's not true at all. In fact, if you analyze polygamy, factually, and historically, we would find that polygamy is a practice that did exists and

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many ancient civilizations in many cultures, and even was consented to in the teachings of religions close to Islam, such as Judaism and Christianity. In fact, it is more correct even to say that Islam is the only monotheistic religion, which dealt more openly and more frankly, with the topic of polygamy, and was the first face to restrict the existing unlimited practice of polygamy and establish certain conditions and controls over its practice. I think it might be helpful to some of our viewers, if we could spend a few moments just exploring some of the historical background of polygamy before we go on to looking at Islamic position on the on the subject. I wonder if I could

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ask you this to

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give us some description of polygamy as it was practiced in ancient civilizations. While many historians particularly people also in in the area of sociology or history of, you know, social structures

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tell us that polygamy as a practice, was in existence in almost all ancient civilizations. For example, it was practiced in ancient Egypt, was practiced in Persia, that is pre Islamic Persia. It was practiced among the so called indo European peoples. It was practiced among the pre Islamic Arabs.

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It was practiced among the Slavs, which include like people which are now in Yaga Slavia and Czechoslovakia, in Russia.

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But even in some civilizations where the normal code of law was against polygamy, it still provided some way out in case polygamy is absolutely needed. For example, one of the famous quotes in history is known as the code of Hammurabi. In the code of Hammurabi, monogamy was assumed to be the norm. But in the code also, there were some exceptions made

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where a person may tick concubines Besides, of course, his legitimate wife.

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But even in cases where the code of law was relatively more strict, that is against practice of polygamy like the case, for example of the Greco Roman marriages, we find that many authorities on the subject particularly for example, Edward Westermarck,

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he writes, in his short history of marriage, that even in the case of the Greco Roman codes of law, still liaison between married men and mistresses, were not uncommon. So you know, whether the Lord

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He specifically

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restricted or not still, there were, in reality, the practice of having more than one

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woman that the man was

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keeping in touch with.

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This does not necessarily mean that in all ancient civilization that polygamy was the norm. I think this would also be an overstatement. Because this can happen only when you have the sex ratio so low that you have at least two women for every man, which of course doesn't happen. It simply shows that it was practiced, it was acceptable, either legally, openly, or by exception, or, in reality, it was practice. And this is not only limited to ancient civilizations, it included even the practice of polygamy among early Jews and Christians, too. I think many people would be

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surprised to hear you say that it was practiced by the members of the Jewish and Christian communities. I think most people here in the West

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have the impression that polygamy, polygamy is contrary to the Judeo Christian tradition, I want to perhaps I could ask you just to comment a little bit more in terms of the

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attitude of the Hebrew people on polygamy, what we can approach that perhaps on two different levels, we can look at it First of all, in terms of the scriptural text in the Bible itself, or we can look at it also in terms of the historical manifestations and how things were interpreted and practiced by by Jews and more particularly as interpreted by the doctors of law within the stream of Judaism.

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even though the impression, as you said, is quite common that, you know, polygamy is against the the Judeo Christian tradition, we find that common as it may be, it is not really correct. Let me refer first to the, to the Bible. And all of the references I'm making here is from the King James Version, but I suppose in any version, perhaps you'll find basically the same information.

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For example, in the in the book of Judges, in chapter six, verse 34, we are told that Gideon, a figure which is an important figure in the Old Testament, had many wives.

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In fact, in the book of Judges in the citation, I mentioned chapter six, verse 34, it says that this man was so holy, that the Spirit of God came upon him.

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And in the same book in chapter eight, verse 30, said he had many wives.

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who judged Israel, for eight years, had 40 sons, and of course, you can easily understand that you probably wouldn't have 40 sons without having more than one mother, one spouse, dimension of that appears in the book of Judges in chapter 12, verse 14, but even more explicitly, for example, in the second Chronicle, in chapter 11, verses 21 through 23. We are told that Rehoboam had 18 wives, and threescore concubines, it is one non according to the Bible also that David had

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100 100 wives, Jacob is said to have had four wives.

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According to the First Book of Kings,

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chapter 11, verse three, it says that Prophet Solomon had, at least as Muslim regard him as a prophet had 700 wives and princesses, and 300 concubines.

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More important and more strikingly, perhaps, is the case of Prophet Abraham. Now, Prophet Abraham, as it is well known, is highly regarded and respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims, he is regarded as the patriarch in the fathers of the so called monotheistic faith.

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Not only this, the Bible describes Abraham, as the friend of God. So with all this holy and respected

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position of Prophet Abraham, we all know according to the book of Genesis, for example, in chapter 16, verse three, that he was married to two wives. Sara, his first wife was brilliant, and Hagar who was the bond woman of

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Sarah, but again, the Bible mentioned her as a wife. So he had two wives at the same time. One cannot say that he was sinning by or committing any immoral act by having two wives because it was it is quite obvious from the book of Genesis.

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That God consented and agreed to that. God used to tell Abraham of all details things to do, but never told him all right, divorce one and have only one wife. Indeed, it was mentioned in the Bible that when his first son Ishmael was born, that the name was given by the angels inishmaan knees, God hears. So God knew of this and still communicated with Abraham and consented, obviously to his practice of having more than one wife. So I think for some people who may jump to the conclusion that polygamy is immoral from either Judeo Christian oppression perspective, one perhaps can easily said that this great figures who are accepted and whose revelations are regarded as one of the main

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sources of religion and moral teaching could not necessarily be called immoral because they had more than one wife, which shows that it is not immoral, per se, to have more than one wife. But the the point here is that it's not just the text of the Bible. I think it's also the practice even that shows that it was not just a theoretical thing that's restricted to

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the divine. We have given us a good overview of the

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practice of polygamy as evidenced in the in the Bible. Could I asked you perhaps to expand a bit on what actually happened

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in historical practice among the Jews? Well, I could refer him to perhaps two or three quotations that would be quite interesting, not from a Muslim perspective at all. But for example, according to the dictionary of the Bible, and that is the edition, edited by James Heston

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published in 1963, on page six to four, he says, and I quote, polygamy meets us as effect, for example, Abraham, Jacob, the judge, David, and Solomon, and so on, he continues. Then after what he says in Deuteronomy, chapter 17, verse 17, the king is warned not to multiply wives. Later regulations fixed the number at 18, for a king, and four, for an ordinary man, and that's again from the dictionary of the Bible. And noted authority, who is usually referred to by many sociologists and historians on the matter of history of marriage is Edward Westermarck. He has written several books on the subject, in one of his books, a short history of marriage, published in 1960, and 1926.

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He says that

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there's little doubt that the Jews have throughout the ages, more or less practiced polygamy.

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And even in a more explicit and more, perhaps,

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detailed explanation. In his other book, The history of human marriage, published in 1925.

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He says, and they'd like to quote him on that.

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He says, among European Jews, polygamy was still practiced during the Middle Ages.

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And among Jews living in Mohammedan countries, it occurs even to this day, of course, this day, meant years 1926 2520, basically, when you wrote the book, and express prohibition of it was not pronounced until the convening of the rabbinical senate at verse that's in Germany, in the beginning of the 11th century, which means even for about 400 years after Islam, the practice of polygamy among or polygamy among Jews, was not explicitly prohibited until this 11th century.

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And then he continues, this prohibition was originally made for Jews living in Germany and northern France. So it wasn't even universal

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continues. But it was successively adopted in all European countries. Nevertheless, the Jewish marriage code retained many provisions, which originated at the time when polygamy was still legally in existence again, and the pages This appears in volume three of the history of human marriage, pages 42 and 43. So it's quite obvious from that, that it wasn't really something that was

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even regarded as illegal. Some writers, however, say that, okay, he mentioned here that

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polygamy was practiced by Jews living in Muslim countries, and they say right is that because of the influence, influence of Islam because Islam permits polygamy. But that's a superficial conclusion because in Muslim countries and

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Within Islamic law, when you have religious minorities like Jews, Christians or otherwise, Islam does not interfere in the so called personal law dealing with marriage and divorce. And if Jews in Muslim countries who were following their own

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law wanted to prohibit polygamy, Islam would not interfere with Islam neither forced them to practice polygamy, nor prohibited them if they wanted to change their own personal religious law to make it illegitimate. So that's not really an explanation shows that it was in practice. In fact, some writers even mentioned that

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when the State of Israel was established on the land of Palestine,

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that some of the Yemeni Jews who came migrated in 1948 came with two and sometimes more wives. and still they were regarded as legitimate onto the paper.

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Well, I'd like to take a look at the position of Christianity on this matter. Once again, my common belief is that Christianity has been explicit and prohibiting polygamy, how would you respond to somebody who may have that particular point of view? What?

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You know, Judaism is I know, it's a common belief or a common notion. But a common notion does not necessarily mean that it is correct when it is examine objectively as visa v the text of the Scriptures as well as the manifestation and history itself. With the approval of the doctors of law, if you want.

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It is important first to point out that there may be certain references in the Bible which are rather indirect, showing, for example, that Adam and Eve after all, were monogamous family, and this is a good model.

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statements to the effect that God created only created one man for one moment or the reverse, that again, seem to assume monogamy. But this is one thing and to say that there was an explicit thing. prohibiting multiple marriages is another question. And we have shown already that the text of the Bible seem to contradict that notion that it was permissible even to prophets. And as we'll see, event was allowed and practiced by even priests and history as some historical authorities pointed out.

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That's one thing. But it is also fair to say that

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it may be correct to state that the practice of polygamy among Christians,

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has been relatively less common than it was among either Jews or Muslims. But it doesn't mean that it is totally absent. But there are a number of points also that one should keep in mind. We have already quoted the Old Testament on the matter of polygamy, and polygamy in fact.

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And the the Old Testament is for sure part of the heritage of Christianity. In fact, Jesus has been quoted frequently as saying, I cannot to destroy the law or profits I can fulfill. So this is one thing.

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The second point to keep in mind is that even in the New Testament, there's absolutely no explicit explicit text, single verse, to my knowledge, in which Jesus peace be upon him said clearly and explicitly that it is prohibited, immoral or illegal to, to get married to more than one wife.

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On in addition to this, one make points I would also like many historians, and sociologists indicate that the relatively more monogamous orientation in Christianity was, in fact, a combination of a number of factors, not necessarily an explicit legal prohibition. It included, among other things, the attitude of early Christians towards sex, that it's something you know, inevitable evil are something to keep away from, it's better not to get married and all that.

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It might have been partly in the preoccupation of early Christian teachers with soul service, soul saving, which was quite prominent in their minds, and still even in the minds of many.

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In addition to that, Christianity, and the early period spread mainly in the Greco Roman world, where the norm the legal norm, actually was to have one way monogamy. So there was no need really, to legislate it. In other words, Christianity does not really introduce it to the Greco Roman world at this time. But in addition to this as an interesting remark made by Edward Westermarck when he says that in the early days

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Christianity spread, or took root moreso among the lower class people, people who are poor and downtrodden, who could not anyway afford to get married to more than one wife. So in terms of the strict text of the New Testament, I don't think it's really is correct to say that there's any explicit prohibition on polygamy. When have you been able to discover any historical evidence that any Christian church permitted or consented to polygamous marriages? Yes, indeed. In fact, some years back, I wrote just a little brief pamphlet called polygamy and Islamic law. And

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in this, there was a quotation an important one, it might be a little lengthy, but I think it's quite revealing, which came from, again, this measure authority on human marriage,

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Edward Westermarck, and the history of human marriage published in 1925.

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And in this, he says, and I quote,

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considering that monogamy prevailed as the only legitimate form of marriage in Greece and Rome, it cannot be said that Christianity introduced obligatory monogamy in the Western world. Indeed, although the New Testament assumes monogamy as the normal or ideal form of marriage, it does not expressly prohibit polygamy, except in the case of a bishop and a deacon. It has been argued that it was not necessary for the first Christian teachers to condemn polygamy, because monogamy was the universal rule among people in whose medicine it was preached. But this is certainly not true of the Jews who still both permitted and practiced polygamy in the beginning of the Christian era. And then

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he moves on to the attitude of the Fathers of the Church. And he says, some of the fathers that is the Fathers of the Church, accused the Jewish rabbis of sensuality, but no counsel of the church in the earliest centuries of post polygamy, and no obstacle was put in the way of its practice by kings in countries where it had occurred in the times of paganism. And then he started giving explicit examples of polygamous marriages approved by the church. He says in the middle of this sixth century, they are made king of Ireland had two queens and two concubines. polygamy was frequently practiced by merovingian kings. Charles the great, had two wives and many concubines, and one of his

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laws seems to imply that polygamy was not unknown, even among priests.

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in later times, Philip of Hess, and Frederick William the second of pressure, contracted bigamous marriages, with the sanction of the Lutheran clergy. looser, himself approved of the beginning of the former, so did and so did melenchon. on various occasions, looser speaks of polygamy with considerable toleration. It had not been forbidden by God, that's closer, much closer. Even Abraham, who was a perfect Christian, had two wives. It is true that God had allowed such marriages to certain men in the Old Testament, only in particular circumstances. And if a Christian wanted to follow their example, he had to show that the circumstances were similar in his case, but polygamy

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was undoubtedly preferred to divorce. And this parsh portion is quite interesting. He says in 1650, soon after the Peace of Westphalia, when the population had been greatly reduced by the 30 Years War, the Frankish crystek, at Nuremberg, passed the resolution, that dense force every man should be allowed to marry to women. That was not only in history, but even among some Christian sects. It was even advocated as a better solution. That's polygamy. And he say certain sects of Christians have even advocated polygamy with much fervor. In 1531, the anabaptist openly preached at monster that he who wants to be a true Christian must have similar wives. And the Mormons as it's known, as all the

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world knows, regard polygamy as a divine institution. There are a few more points that could be added to this, but I thought that this might give them

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I guess, is a pretty good overview. Unfortunately, we'll have to stop for today because we've run out of time. We want to invite you back next week when we will look at Islam his position on polygamy. Thank you for watching. Assalamu alaikum peace be unto you