Is it Islam alone that allows polygamy ?

By May Saleh and Magdy Abd AL-SHafy

Polygamy is not a practice limited to the religion of Islam; rather, it is something well-known in the history of the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, as well. It is only in the later times that their religious men frowned upon it or forbade it outright. However, when we looks into the early history of the religions, we will find that it was at least an acceptable practice, if not encouraged.

Polygamy in Judaism

Polygamy existed among the Israelites before the time of Moses, who continued the institution without imposing any limit on the number of marriages which a Hebrew husband might contract.

Let us look at some of the verses from the Old Testament that allow polygamy:

In Exodus 21:10, a man can marry an infinite amount of women without any limits to how many he can marry.

In 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3, King David had six wives and numerous concubines.

In 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

In 2 Chronicles 11:21, King Solomon's son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines.

In Deuteronomy 21:15 "If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons...."

There are a lot more verses from the Old Testament that allow polygamy

The Jewish Encyclopedia states "While there is no evidence of a polyandrous state in primitive Jewish society, polygamy seems to have been a well-established institution, dating from the most ancient times and extending to comparatively modern days "

Another common practice was the taking of concubines. In later times, the Talmud of Jerusalem restricted the number by the ability of the husband to maintain the wives properly. Some rabbis, however, counseled that a man should not take more than four wives. Polygamy was prohibited in Judaism by the rabbis, not God. Rabbi Gershom ben Judah is credited by forbidding polygamy in the 11th century . yet polygamy is still in practiceamong the 180,000 Bedouin of Israel. It is also frequent among Jews living in Yemen, rabbis permitting Jews to marry up to four wives. In modern Israel, where a wife cannot bear children or is mentally ill, the rabbis give a husband the right to marry a second woman without divorcing his first wife.

Polygamy in Christianity :

History says that Polygamy was practiced among the Christians , it seems that there were some human resolutions that stopped it . In the eighth century Charlemagne, holding power over both church and state, in his own person practiced polygamy . St. Augustine seems to have observed in it no intrinsic immorality or sinfulness, and declared that polygamy was not a crime where it was the legal institution of a country. He wrote in The Good of Marriage (chapter 15, paragraph 17), that polygamy …was lawful among the ancient fathers…….." He declined to judge the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygamy . During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther said, “I confess for my part that if a man wishes to marry two or more wives, I cannot forbid him for it does not contradict the Scripture.”African churches have long recognized polygamy. Early in its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practiced polygamy in the United States. Splinter groups left the Church to continue the practice after the Church banned it. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah, neighboring states, and the spin-off colonies, as well as among isolated individuals with no organized church affiliation.

According to Father Eugene Hillman, ‘Nowhere in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy.’[7] The Church in Rome banned polygamy in order to conform to Greco-Roman culture that prescribed only one legal wife while tolerating concubinage and prostitution.

In the Bible , Jesus never reject the old testament but even said " "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (the Old Testament) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17-18) .

There were some situations that imply that Jesus implicitly approved of polygamy , according to Matthew 5:17-18 above, we clearly see that Jesus honored the Old Testament, and forces Christians to follow the unmodified laws of it that have not been replaced by newer ones in the New Testament. The Old Testament as we clearly see above does indeed allow polygamy without a shadow of a doubt !!. There is not a single verse from the New Testament that prohibits polygamy. Jesus' parable allows polygamy between 1 man (the bridegroom) and 10 virgins (5 became his wives and slept with him)! 19:1-12 Jesus didn't ban polygamy .In Matthew

New Testament insists on monogamy only for bishops and deacons. No church council in the earliest Christian centuries opposed polygamy. St. Augustine clearl)' declared that he did not condemn it. Luther tolerated it and approved of the bigamous status of Philip of Hesse. In 1531 the Anabaptists preached polygamy and the Mormons of today believe in it (see Abd al Ati, The Family Structure in Islam, American Trust Publications, 1977, p 114 : Until this very day, the church in some African countries conducts the marriage of men to more than one wife. In Europe, the attempt to legally enforce monogamy and outlaw polygamy took place as late as the late sixth and early seventh centuries.

In Matthew 19:3 , Jesus was asked " whether or not it is allowed for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus immediately referred to the Old Testament for the answer in Matthew 19:4. According to this , man becomes a one flesh with his wife in Matthew 19:5-6, this doesn't mean that the man can't be one flesh with another woman. He can be one flesh with his first wife, and one flesh with his second wife, and one flesh with his third wife and so on.

In Matthew 22:24-28, the Jews referred to Deuteronomy 25:5 from the Old Testament where it states that if a woman's husband dies, and she didn't have any kids from him, then she must marry his brother regardless whether he had a wife or not. When the Jews brought this situation up to Jesus in Matthew 22:24-28, Jesus did not prohibit at all for the childless widow to marry her husband's brother (even if he were married). Instead, Jesus replied to them by saying that we do not marry in heaven, and we will be like angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).

Jesus' parable allows polygamy between 1 man (the bridegroom) and 10 virgins (5 became his wives and slept with him)!

Multiple wives in Islam

Unlike other religions the question of polygamy is clear in Islam and restricted . Though Islam permitted polygamy , there are certain restrictions concerning this matter . Before the advent of Islam , polygamy was widely a spread custom and the number of wives was limitless , it was Islam that restricted that number .

God says in the Holy Quran what means "Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one." Al-Qur’an (4:3)

"You will never be able to be fair and just among women (wives)...." Qur’an (4:129)

Wives rights in this connection
Multiple marriages lay a heavy responsibility on men, which is why Allah allowed having more than one wife only if the husband treats his wives equally. If a man has more than one wife, he must treat them all in an equal manner, emotionally and financially. For example, he has to provide separate living accommodation for each of his wives.

Since it is very difficult to be just with all wives, in practice, most of the Muslim men do not have more than one wife.
Therefore polygamy is not a rule or an order but an exception. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to have more than one wife.
However men are prohibited from cheating on their wives, meaning a man can't marry another woman without the knowledge of his wife. He should tell her, for she might refuse such situation, and in this case it's totally her right if she asked for divorce.

Marriage is a matter of mutual consent. Only that woman can be made a second or a third wife who is willing to be so. And when this matter rests wholly on the willingness of the woman, there is no cause for objection.

The verse of polygamy was revealed after the invasion Uhad where a lot of Moslems were martyred and where a large number of widows and orphans were left liable to hardships of life .
The reason for multiple wives in Islam was not mainly to satisfy men’s desire and that's it, but for the welfare of the widows and the orphans of the wars. During war times, many women are unable to find husbands, and they might prefer to be a co-wife than no wife.

Polygamy renders the best solution

studying of mortality shows that the rate is higher for men than for women. This disparity is in evidence from early childhood to extreme old age. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: "In general, the risk of death at any given age is less for females than for males."
It is widely established that the number of women outnumber the number of men due to certain reason :

(1) wars . It is reported that In the First World War (1914-18) about 8 million soldiers were killed. Most of the civilians killed were also men. In the Second World War (1939-45) about 60 million people were either killed or maimed for life, most of them men. In the Iraq-Iran war alone (1979-

1988), 82,000 Iranian women and about 100,000 Iraqi women were widowed. All in the space of ten years.

2- Imprisonment : In the U.S , no less than 1,300,000 people are convicted daily for one crime or anther. A number of them - 97% of whom are men - are obliged to serve lengthy prison sentences.Work accidents and street accidents are also among the these reasons .

According to data collected in 1967, in that year a total of 175,000 people died as the result of accidents in fifty different countries. Most of these were men.
For reasons of this nature, women continue to outnumber men. This difference persists in even the most developed societies e.g. in America. According to data collected in 1967, there were nearly 7,100,00 more women than men. This means that even if every single man in America got married 7,100,00 women would be left without husbands.

In facts , some nations do not practice polygamy as this is an act against man-made laws but they really did , the possibility of transferring biological fatal diseases are so high , such communities suffer from ADS , an innocent wife or husband may be the victim . social ills are rampant . The question is which is better to solve this problem ? The best answer is " let's go back to God's solution " A dark picture is awaiting , unless we stop outdoor-relations .

During the Second World War, in which several western countries such as Germany, France, Britain, etc. took part, a large number of men were killed. As a result, women far outnumbered men at the end of the hostilities. Permissiveness then became the order of the day, to the extent that boards with such inscriptions as "Wanted: A Guest for the Evening" could be seen outside the homes of husbandless women. This state of affairs persisted in western countries in various forms, even long after the war, and is now largely prevalent because of industrial and mechanical accidents.

Billy Graham, the eminent Christian evangelist has recognized this fact: "Christianity cannot compromise on the question of polygamy. If present-day Christianity cannot do so, it is to its own detriment. Islam has permitted polygamy as a solution to social ills and has allowed a certain degree of latitude to human nature but only within the strictly defined framework of the law. Christian countries make a great show of monogamy, but actually they practice polygamy. No one is unaware of the part mistresses play in Western society. In this respect Islam is a fundamentally honest religion, and permits a Muslim to marry a second wife if he must, but strictly forbids all clandestine amatory associations in order to safeguard the moral probity of the community." 75