God supports monogamy and discourages polygamy. Praise God, we know by now that the only legitimate basis for polygamy in Quran is the care of orphans - if they need that care.
[4:3] If you deem it best for the orphans, you may marry their mothers - you may marry two, three, or four. If you fear lest you become unfair, then you shall be content with only one, or with what you already have. Additionally, you are thus more likely to avoid financial hardship.
Even in the above case of taking care of orphans, polygamy remains discouraged. God states that it is impossible to be equitable to more than one wife. It is justice towards the existing wife's well-being and emotions which precipitates such discouragement. That care and protection for the wife's emotional needs is clearly expressed in the following verse:
[4:129] You can never be equitable in dealing with more than one wife, no matter how hard you try. Therefore, do not be so biased as to leave one of them hanging (neither enjoying marriage, nor left to marry someone else). If you correct this situation and maintain righteousness, God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
The straightforward ruling of monogamy and how it is supposed to be the usual way to engage the institution of marriage according to Quran is in the following verse. God states that marrying another wife is through substitution not addition:
[4:20] If you wish to marry another wife, in place of your present wife, and you had given any of them a great deal, you shall not take back anything you had given her. Would you take it fraudulently, maliciously, and sinfully? Over the years, we have witnessed widespread abuse of these verses by Muslim men practicing polygamy against the ethics and the spirit of Quran, and against the free will of their existing wives.
The underlying reasons behind this ignorant practice of polygamy in the so-called Islamic nations are two:
- The shameful misunderstanding and misinterpretations of the literature and grammar of 4:3 which is inexcusable.
- The brain-wash by all the scholars and the Shariaa authorities that Prophet Muhammad actually practiced unlimited polygamy.
Logical and unbiased thinkers would assume one of the following two case scenarios:
- Muhammad, God’s messenger and His final prophet would disobey God in Quran and execute his own exceptional rulings. Students of Quran, however, know that this cannot be the case and that God would have corrected him or severely punished him had he done that! That’s the pattern we learn from Quran (33:37, 69:44-47).
- Quran, actually and exceptionally, has granted Muhammad that so-called “privilege” of unlimited polygamy!!
That second assumption is and should also be nullified by all students of Quran. Perhaps the one chapter that contributes to the misunderstanding that Prophet Muhammad actually was permitted to be engaged in polygamy is chapter 33. Again, it is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the literature and grammar of the following verses that lead some to the belief that Prophet Muhammad was given the green light for polygamy:
[33:28] O prophet, say to your wives, "If you are seeking this life and its vanities, then let me compensate you and allow you to go amicably.
[33:29] "But if you are seeking God and His messenger, and the abode of the Hereafter, then God has prepared for the righteous among you a great recompense."
[33:30] O wives of the prophet, if any of you commits a gross sin, the retribution will be doubled for her. This is easy for God to do.
[33:31] Any one of you who obeys God and His messenger, and leads a righteous life, we will grant her double the recompense, and we have prepared for her a generous provision.
[33:32] O wives of the prophet, you are not the same as any other women, if you observe righteousness. (You have a greater responsibility.) Therefore, you shall not speak too softly, lest those with disease in their hearts may get the wrong ideas; you shall speak only righteousness.
[33:33] You shall settle down in your homes, and do not mingle with the people excessively, like you used to do in the old days of ignorance. You shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), and obey God and His messenger. God wishes to remove all unholiness from you, O you who live around the Sacred Shrine, and to purify you completely.
[33:34] Remember what is being recited in your homes of God's revelations and the wisdom inherent therein. God is Sublime, Cognizant.
In all the above verses, the feminine plural tense used by God to address the wives/women of the prophet is not and should not be an indicative of polygamy. Addressing the wives of the prophet all at once over few verses doesn’t imply that all these wives had coexisted at the same time with the prophet in a polygamous relationship. God is simply giving them His instructions all together acknowledging that the prophet had actually several marriages. Addressing the wives of the prophet in the above verses all at once is not different from addressing all of them, along with all of his daughters and all the wives of the believers in 33:59.
More significant, is what God has stated in the same chapter in subsequent verses addressing the prophet:
[33:50] O prophet, we made lawful for you your wives to whom you have paid their due dowry, or what you already have, as granted to you by God. Also lawful for you in marriage are the daughters of your father's brothers, the daughters of your father's sisters, the daughters of your mother's brothers, the daughters of your mother's sisters, who have emigrated with you. Also, if a believing woman gave herself to the prophet - by forfeiting the dowry - the prophet may marry her without a dowry, if he so wishes. However, her forfeiting of the dowry applies only to the prophet, and not to the other believers. We have already decreed their rights in regard to their spouses or what they already have. This is to spare you any embarrassment. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[33:51] You may gently shun any one of them, and you may bring closer to you any one of them. If you reconcile with any one you had estranged, you commit no error. In this way, they will be pleased, will have no grief, and will be content with what you equitably offer to all of them. God knows what is in your hearts. God is Omniscient, Clement.
[33:52] Beyond the categories described to you, you are enjoined from marrying any other women, nor can you substitute a new wife(from the prohibited categories), no matter how much you admire their beauty. You must be content with those already made lawful to you. God is watchful over all things.
It is crucial to know as a fact that the above 3 verses are simply listing to the prophet the lawful categories he was allowed to marry from. Those verses are not to suggest to him to marry from those categories all at once!!! Please read, over and over, 33:51-52 where God is reemphasizing to the prophet the rule He has decreed in 4:20; substitution not addition. God is telling him that he is only allowed to be involved with one woman from among the ones he likes. He has to go through separation to be with whoever he wishes to marry from or to retract a previous separation (33:51). Then, he is told that he is not allowed to marry from all other categories nor is he allowed to substitute an existing wife with any woman of those categories (33:52); substitution not addition. This makes the rule for all believers in 4:20 applicable to him with no exception.
Because of the flawed and baseless assumption that the prophet was allowed to be polygamous, there are numerous, shameful justifications that are all demeaning to that honorable messenger of God and to the universal message in Quran. It is unfortunate that such justifications are all injected in history and Hadith & Sunna books. It is time for all sincere students of Quran to advocate the fact that history books shouldn’t be taken for granted as valid sources just as we entirely invalidate Hadith & Sunna books. After all, history is also man-made. It is aptly mixed with the personal opinions and ulterior motives of history makers. According to what we know from Quran, the several marriages of the prophet were not polygamous relationships. There is no ground in Quran for that or for any exceptional laws for the prophet. Had the prophet gotten in any polygamous relationship, it would have been in accordance with God’s laws of polygamy in 4:3; the best interest of orphans.
Peaceful Friday , salaam and God bless.