Polygamy in Islam

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Muhammad and Polygamy

Muhammad was a polygamist. Besides the numerous concubines, he married fifteen women and consummated his marriages with thirteen.[1] He was also known as a "womanizer".[2]

Narrated Qatada: Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).

Islamic Defense of Muhammad's Marriages

Apologists will attempt to justify his behaviour by claiming he married many of his wives due to them being war widows who were left with nothing and needed to be taken care of. While this may sound plausible, you need only look to actual Islamic sources to discover that this is false.

Many of his wives were not poor war widows. In fact, one of his wives (Muhammad's cousin, Zainab bint Jash) was originally the wife of his step-son Zaid bin Haritha. As was the case with Safiyah bint Huyayy, many of his marriages were clearly based on lust, not compassion. This is nowhere more evident than in his numerous divorces, which numbered six in total. For example; he divorced ‘Amrah bint Yazid on their wedding night,[3] due to her suffering from leprosy.[4][5][6][7] He also divorced a women named Ghaziyyah bint Jabir when he realised that she was 'old'.[8] To make matters worse, he, rather hypocritically, refused to allow Ali bin Abu Talib (the husband of his daughter Fatima) to take even a second wife because "what hurts her, hurts me."[9][10] He knew that polygamy hurt women, yet through his example he permitted it for billions of other Muslim men.

Polygamy Permitted in Islam

Regardless of it not being acceptable for the husband of Muhammad's daughter, Islam allows a man to marry up to four wives at any one time:

And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.

Islam also does not require that the man have the permission of his first wife before marrying a second:

It is not obligatory for the husband, when he wishes to marry another, to get his first wife's acceptance, but it is a noble trait of character and good relations for him to appease her by whatever decreases the pain which woman naturally feel in such situations. This may be achieved by smiling,greeting her warmly and speaking kindly to her, and by whatever money you can afford,if her acceptance requires it

The Acceptance of the first Wife is not a Condition for the one who wishes to marry another
FatwaIslam, Permanent Committee for Research and Verdicts: Fatawa Islamiyah Darussalam Vol: 5 No. 353

Islamic Defense of Polygamy

Muslims claim that the reason why Allah allowed men to marry four wives is that men are killed in battle, thus resulting in women being in more numbers more than men. They also claim that the practice of polygamy curbs adultery, thus leading to more happier marriages and less divorces. Here are some points that deal with Islam's defense of polygamy.

World Population shows a surplus of men

Here's a breakdown of the world population according to CIA Statistics

World Population age group 15-64 years: 65.2% (male 2,152,066,888/female 2,100,334,722)[11]

This means there are 51,732,100 extra males in the world at marriageable age. Even the worst war in history did not kill off enough males to make polygamy justified. In WW2, 24 million "military" died, leaving still another 26 million spare men.[12]

GENERAL POPULATION: women and men casualties: 1,986,370,000 (probably mostly women)
Military casualties: 24,456,700

Allah creates more males than females

The ratio of births is 105 males to 100 females. So, if Allah intends the polygamous marriages for war, then why is Allah putting so many extra males in the world that even the worst war in history didn't unbalance the other way?

Men are better off married

Using the same Islamic reasoning, it should be that some women marry an extra man. Science has even proven that single men suffer more health and emotional problems than do single women. Men find it hard to live without a woman. (reference coming soon)

Men die younger and leave more females in old age

Men also die younger, and if polygamy was an institution that really did have women's best interests in mind, then when a man with 4 wives dies, he leaves 4 elderly single women. This means now there are even more females than before, i.e. because males have died off; 65 years and over: 7.4% (male 213,160,216/female 270,146,721) but how many men would take on a 70 year old as an extra wife or two?

Male domination is bad all round

The latest UNICEF study titled The State of the World's Children - 2007 is a research study of women's oppression and overall quality of life of the family. It can be seen from this report that Islamic countries are faring the worst.[13]

Polygamy often leads to divorce

According to Somayya Jabarti of Arab News, Saudi Arabia has the second-highest divorce-rate in the world. Abdullah Al-Fawzan, a professor and sociologist at King Saud University in Riyadh, states that polygamy is responsible for up to 55 percent of divorces. He added that the loss of trust, sincerity, compassion and cooperation were also factors in the failure of marriages.[14] The Maldives, an Islamic country with a 100% Muslim population,[15] also has the highest divorce rate in the world, with 10.97 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants per year.[16]

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Women which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also

  • Polygamy - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Polygamy

External Links


  1. al-Tabari vol.9 p.126-127
  2. "....Layla’s people said, "’What a bad thing you have done! You are a self-respecting woman, but the Prophet is a womanizer. Seek an annulment from him.’ She went back to the Prophet and asked him to revoke the marriage and he complied with [her request]...." - al Tabari vol.9 p.139
  3. Al-Tabari, Vol. 9, p. 139; Al-Tabari, Vol. 39, pp. 187-188.
  4. Ibn Ishaq, cited in Guillaume, A. (1960). New Light on the Life of Muhammad, p. 55. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  5. Ibn Hisham note 918 (here he has apparently confused her with Asma bint Al-Numan).
  6. Bewley/Saad 8:100-101.
  7. Women in Islam, By Anne Sofie Roald - Page 221 [Quoted: Najla Hamadeh, Page 335-6]
  8. al-Tabari vol.9 p.139
  9. Sahih Bukhari 7:62:157
  10. "An indication of their special relationship is found in the fact that Ali never married another woman as long as Fatima was alive. Sunni sources explain this curiosity in a tradition in which Ali asks for Abu Jahl's daughter in marriage, but the Prophet does not allow him to marry her because it would upset Fatimah." - "The Image of Fatima in Classical Muslim Thought," Denise L. Soufi, PhD dissertation, Princeton, 1997, p. 51-52
  11. Global Population Statistics - CIA.gov
  12. WW2 Casualties - Wikipedia.org
  13. The State of the World's Children - 2007- PDF Report from UNICEF, hosted on BBC.com
  14. Somayya Jabarti - Alarming Divorce Rate ‘Must Be Addressed Urgently’ - Arab News, October 24, 2003
  15. The Maldives is the only country after Saudi Arabia that claims to have a 100 percent Muslim population. As per its constitution, only a Muslim can be a citizen of the country. Propagating any faith other than Islam, importing/publicly carrying literature that contradicts Islam or translation into the Dhivehi language of such books and writings, displaying in public any symbols or slogans belonging to any religion other than Islam, or creating interest in such articles are all against the law and are punishable with imprisonment, fines or banishment.
  16. Highest divorce rate - Guinness World Records, accessed January 5, 2013