REASONS BEHIND THE MARRIAGES OF MUHAMMAD (PEACE BE UPON HIM)
By Fethullah Gulen
What were the reasons behind the several marriages of the Prophet, upon him be peace?
-Zainab bint Jahsh
-Juwayriyah b. Harith
-Sawdah b. Zam’ah b. Qays
Some critics of Islam, either because they are not aware of the facts about the marriages of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, or because they are not honest and objective about those facts, have reviled the Prophet as a self-indulgent libertine. They have accused him of character failings which are hardly compatible with being of average virtue, let alone with being a prophet and God’s last Messenger and the best model for all mankind to follow. However, if the facts are simply recounted-and they are easily available from scores of biographies and well-authenticated accounts of his sayings and actions-it becomes clear that the Prophet lived the most strictly disciplined life, that his marriages were a part of that discipline, a part of the many, many burdens that he bore as God’s last Messenger.
The reasons behind the Prophet’s several marriages are various, but even in the privateness of some of those reasons, they all had to do with his role as the leader of the new Muslim ummah, guiding his people towards the norms and values of Islam. In the following pages we shall try to explain some of those reasons and, in so doing, demonstrate that the charges leveled against the Prophet on this count are as vile and indecent as they are utterly false.
The Prophet, not at that time called to his future mission, first married at the age of twenty-five. Given the cultural environment in which he lived, not to mention the climate and other considerations such as his youth, it is remarkable that he should have enjoyed a reputation for perfect chastity as well as integrity and trustworthiness generally. As soon as he was called to the prophethood he acquired enemies who did not hesitate to publicize false calumnies against him-but not once did any of them (and in their jahiliyya (ignorance) they were not scrupulous men) dare to invent against him what no-one could have believed. It is important to realise that his life was founded upon chastity and self-discipline from the outset, and so remained.
At the age of twenty-five, then, and in the prime of life, Muhammad, upon him be peace, married Khadijah, a woman much his senior in years. This marriage was very high and exceptional in the eyes of the Prophet and God. For twenty-three years, his life with Khadijah was a period of uninterrupted contentment in perfect fidelity. In the eighth year of prophethood, however, Khadijah passed away and the Prophet was once again single, as he had been until the age of twenty-five, though now with children. His enemies cannot deny, but are forced to admit that, during all these long years, they cannot find a single flaw in his moral character. During the lifetime of Khadijah, the Prophet took no other wife, although public opinion among his people would have allowed him to do so had he wished to. After Khadijah’s death, he lived a single life for four or five years. All his other marriages began after he reached the age of fifty-five, an age by which very little real interest and desire for marriage remains. The allegation that his marriages after this age were an expression of licentiousness or self-indulgence, is as groundless as it is foul.
A question people often ask is: How can the plurality of his marriages be in accord with his role as the Prophet? There are three points to be made in answering this question, but first let us recognize that those who continually raise such questions are either atheists (who themselves have no religion) or are ‘people of the Book’ i.e. Christians or Jews. Both these classes of critics are equally ignorant of Islam and religion, or willfully confuse right with wrong in order to deceive others and spread doubt and mischief.
Those who neither believe in nor practice any religious way of life have no right to reproach those who do. They have relations and unions with many women without following any rule or law or ethic. However they may pretend otherwise, what they do is unrestrained self-indulgence with, in practice, little regard for the consequences of their life-style upon the happiness and well-being of even their own children, let alone of the young in general. In certain circles who advertise themselves as the most ‘free’, sexual relations which most societies condemn as incestuous are regarded as permissible; homosexuality is as ‘normal’ for them as any other kind of relationship; some even practice polyandry-that is, one woman having at the same time many ‘husbands’-the agony of any children from such unions who may never be sure of who their father is, we leave to the reader’s imagination. The only motive that people who live in this way can have for criticizing the Prophet’s marriages is the foolish hope that they can drag Muslims down with them into the mess of moral confusion and viciousness in which they themselves are trapped.
Jews and Christians who attack the Prophet for the plurality of his marriages can only be motivated by their fear and jealous hatred of Islam. They plainly forget that the great patriarchs of the Hebrew race, named as prophets in the Bible as well as the Qur’an, and revered by the followers of all three faiths as exemplars of moral excellence, all practiced polygamy-and indeed on a far greater scale than the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace.
Polygamy was not originated by the Muslims. Furthermore, in the case of the Prophet of Islam, as we shall see, polygamy (or, more strictly, polygyny)has, from the viewpoint of its function within the mission of prophethood, far more significance than people generally realize.
In a sense, the plurality of wives was a necessity for the Prophet through whose practice (or Sunna) the statutes and norms of Muslim law were to be established. Religion may not be excluded from the private relations between spouses, from matters that can only be known by one’s partner. Therefore, there must be guidance from women who can give clear instruction and advice without using an allusive language of hints and innuendoes which leaves the meaning obscure and incomprehensible. The chaste and virtuous women of the Prophet’s household were the teachers responsible for conveying and communicating to the people the norms and rules that concern the conduct of Muslims in their private lives.
Some of the marriages of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, were contracted for specific reasons to do with his wives:
1) Since there were young, middle-aged and old women amongst them, the requirements and norms of Islamic law could be exemplified in relation to their different life stages and experiences. These provisions of the law were first learnt and applied within the Prophet’s household and then passed on to other Muslims through the teaching of his wives.
2) Since each of his wives was from a different clan or tribe, the Prophet established bonds of kinship and affinity throughout the ummah. This enabled a profound attachment to him to spread amongst the diverse peoples of the new ummah, creating and securing equality and brotherhood amongst them in a most practical way and on the basis of religion.
3) Each of his wives, from their different tribes, both whilst the Prophet was living and after he passed away, proved of great benefit and service to the cause of Islam. They conveyed his message and interpreted it to their clans; the outer and inward experience, the qualities, the manners and faith of the man whose life, in all its details, public and intimate, was the embodiment of the Qur’an-Islam in practice. In this way, all the members of their clan, men and women, learnt about the Qur’an, Hadith, tafsir (interpretation and commentary on the Qur’an), and fiqh (understanding of the Islamic law), and so became fully aware of the essence and spirit of the Islamic religion.
4) Through his marriages, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, established ties of kinship throughout the Arabian peninsula. What this meant was that he was free to move and be accepted as a member in each family, each of whose members regarded him as one of their own. For that reason each felt that they could go to him in person to learn about the affairs of this life and of the life hereafter, directly from him. Equally, the tribes benefited collectively also from this proximity to the Prophet; they esteemed themselves to be fortunate and took pride in that relationship, such as the Ummayads through Umm Habibah, the Hashimites through Zaynab bint Jahsh, and the Banu Makhzum through Umm Salamah.
What we have said so far is general and could, in some respects, be true of all the Prophets. However, now we will discuss the life sketches of ummahat al-mu’min-the mothers of the believers-not in the order of the marriages but in a different perspective.
Khadijah, radi Allahu anha, was the first among the Prophet’s wives. At the time of her marriage, she was forty years old and Muhammad, upon him be peace, was twenty-five. She was the mother of all his children except a son, Ibrahim, who did not live long. As well as being a wife, Khadijah was also a friend to her husband, the sharer of his inclinations and ideals to a remarkable degree. Their marriage was wonderfully blessed; they lived together in profound harmony for twenty-three years. Through every contumely and outrage heaped upon him by the idolaters, through every persecution, Khadijah was his dearest companion and helper. He loved her very deeply and did not marry any other woman during her lifetime. This marriage is the ideal of intimacy, friendship, mutual respect, support and consolation, for all marriages. Though faithful and loyal to all his wives, he never forgot Khadijah after her death and mentioned her virtues and merits extensively on many occasions. The Prophet did not marry for another four to five years after Khadijah’s death. Providing their daily food and provisions, bearing their troubles and hardships, Muhammad, upon him be peace, looked after his children and performed the duties of mother as well as father. To allege of such a man that he was a sensualist or suffered from lust for women, is as disgraceful and as stupid a lie as can be imagined. For if there were even the least grain of truth in it, he could not have lived as we know that he did.
‘A’isha, radi Allahu anha was his second wife, though not in the order of marriages. She was the daughter of his closest friend and devoted follower, Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr, one of the earliest converts to Islam had long hoped to cement the deep attachment that existed between himself and the Prophet, by giving to him his daughter in marriage. By marrying ‘A’isha the Prophet accorded the highest honour and courtesy to a man who had shared all the good and bad times with him throughout his mission. In this way, Abu Bakr and ‘A’isha Siddiqa acquired the distinction of being spiritually and physically near to the Prophet.
Moreover, ‘A’isha, who proved to be a remarkably intelligent and wise woman, had both the nature and temperament to carry forward the work of prophetic mission. Her marriage was the schooling through which she was prepared as a spiritual guide and teacher to the whole of the female world. She became one of the major students and disciples of the Prophet and through him, like so many of the Muslims of that blessed time, her skills and talents were matured and perfected, so that she joined him in the abode of bliss both as wife and as student. Her life and her services to Islam after her marriage prove that such an exceptional person was worthy to be the wife of the Prophet. For, when the time came, she proved herself one of the greatest authorities on Hadith, an excellent commentator on the Qur’an and a most distinguished and knowledgeable expert (faqih) in Islamic law. She truly represented the inward and outward qualities and experiences (zahir and batin) of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, through her unique understanding. This is surely why the Prophet was told in his dream that he would marry ‘A’isha, and thus, when she was innocent and knew nothing about men and worldly affairs, she was prepared and entered into the Prophet’s household.
Umm Salamah, radi Allahu anha, was from the clan of Makhzum. She was first married to her cousin. The couple had embraced Islam at the very beginning and emigrated to Abyssinia, to avoid the persecutions of the Quraysh. After returning from Abyssinia, the couple and their four children migrated to Madinah. Her husband participated in many battles and received severe wounds at the battle of Uhud from which he later died. Abu Bakr and ‘Umar proposed marriage to Umm Salamah, aware of her needs and suffering as a widow with children to support and no means of doing so. She refused because, according to her judgement, no-one could be better than her late husband.
Some time after that, the Prophet himself offered to marry her. This was quite right and natural. For this great woman who had never shied from sacrifice and suffering for her faith in Islam was now alone after having lived many years in the noblest clan of Arabia. She could not be neglected and left to beg her way in life. Considering her piety, sincerity and all that she had suffered, she certainly deserved to be helped. By taking her into his household, the Prophet was doing what he had been doing since his youth, namely befriending those who were lacking in friends, supporting those who were unsupported, protecting those who were unprotected. In the circumstances in which Umm Salamah found herself, there was no kinder or more gracious way to give her what she lacked.
Umm Salamah was intelligent and quick in comprehension just as ‘A’isha was. She had all the capacities and gifts to become a spiritual guide and teacher. When the gracious and compassionate Prophet took her under his protection, a new student to whom all the female world would be grateful, was accepted into the school of knowledge and guidance. Let us recall that, at this time, the Prophet was approaching the age of sixty. For him to have married a widow with many children, to have accepted the expenses and responsibilities that entailed, cannot be understood otherwise than in humble admiration for the infinite reserves of his humanity and compassion.
Umm Habibah, radi Allahu anha, was the daughter of Abu Sufyan who, for a long time had been the most determined enemy of the Prophet’s mission, and the most determined supporter of kufr (unbelief). Yet his daughter was one of the earliest converts to Islam. She emigrated to Abyssinia because of persecution by the unbelievers. Whilst there, her husband converted to Christianity. As she remained a Muslim, she separated from him. When, shortly after that, her husband died she was all alone, and desperate, in exile.
The Companions of the Prophet were then few in number and had little in the way of material wealth to support themselves, let alone to support others. What then were the practical options open to Umm Habibah? She might convert to Christianity and so obtain support from the Christians, but that was unthinkable. She might return to her father’s home, now a headquarters of the war against Islam, but that too was unthinkable. She might wander from household to household as a beggar, but again it was an unthinkable option for one who belonged to one of the richest and noblest Arab families to bring shame upon her family name by doing so.
God recompensed Umm Habibah for all that she lost or sacrificed in the way of Islam. She had suffered a lonely exile in an insecure environment among people of a race and religion different from her own; she was made wretched too by her husband’s conversion and death. The Prophet, on learning of her plight, responded by sending an offer of marriage through the king Negus. This was an action both noble and generous, and a practical proof of the verse: We have not sent you save as a mercy for all creatures (al-Anbiya’, 21.107).
Thus Umm Habibah joined the Prophet’s household as wife and student, and contributed much to the moral and spiritual life of the Muslims who learnt from her and, in their turn, passed on their knowledge to future generations.
Through this marriage, the powerful family of Abu Sufyan came to be linked with the person and household of the Prophet, something that led them to adopt a different attitude to Islam. It is also correct to trace the influence of this marriage, beyond the family of Abu Sufyan, on all the Umayyads, who ruled the Muslims for almost a hundred years. The clan whose members had been the most fanatical in their hatred of Islam produced some of Islam’s most renowned warriors, administrators and governors in the early period. Without doubt it was the marriage to Umm Habibah that began this change: the Prophet’s depth of generosity and magnanimity of soul surely overwhelmed them.
Zainab bint Jahsh, radi Allahu anha, was also a lady of noble birth, descended and a close relative of the Prophet. She was, moreover, a woman of great piety, who fasted much, kept long vigils, and gave generously to the poor. When the Prophet asked for the hand of Zainab for Zaid, Zainab’s family and Zainab herself were at first unwilling. The family had hoped to marry their daughter to the Prophet. Naturally, when they realized that it was the Prophet’s wish that Zainab should marry Zaid, they all consented out of deference to their love for the Prophet and his authority. In this way, the marriage took place.
Zaid had been taken captive as a child in the course of tribal wars and sold as a slave. The noble Khadija whose slave he was, presented him to Muhammad, upon him be peace, on the occasion of her marriage to the future Prophet. The Prophet immediately gave Zaid his freedom and shortly afterwards adopted him as his son. The reason for his insistence on Zaid’s marriage to Zainab was to establish and fortify equality between the Muslims, to make this ideal a reality. His desire was to break down the ancient Arab prejudice against a slave or even freedman marrying a ‘free-born’ woman. The Prophet was therefore starting this hard task with his own relatives.
The marriage did not bring happiness to either Zainab or Zaid. Zainab, the lady of noble birth, was a good Muslim of a most pious and exceptional quality. Zaid, the freedman, was among the first to embrace Islam, and he too was a good Muslim. Both loved and obeyed the Prophet, but their marriage was unsustainable because of their mutual incompatibility. Zaid found it no longer tolerable and on several occasions expressed the wish to divorce. The Prophet, however, insisted that he should persevere with patience and that he should not separate from Zainab. Then, on an occasion while the Prophet was in conversation, the Angel Gabriel came and a divine revelation was given to him (Bukhari, Tawhid, 22). The Prophet’s marriage to Zainab was announced in the revealed verses as a bond already contracted: We have married her to you (al-Ahzab, 33.37). This command was one of the severest trials the Prophet, upon him be peace, had yet had to face. For he was commanded to do a thing contrary to the traditions of his people, indeed it was a taboo. Yet it had to be done for the sake of God, just as God commanded. ‘A’isha later said: Had the Messenger of God been inclined to suppress anything of what was revealed to him, he would surely have suppressed this verse (Bukhari and Muslim).
Divine wisdom decreed the need to join so distinguished and noble a person as Zainab to the Prophet’s household, so as to provide her with true knowledge and prepare her for the task of guiding and enlightening the Muslims. In the event, after the marriage finally took place, Zainab proved herself most worthy to be the Prophet’s wife; she was always aware of the responsibilities as well as the courtesies proper to her role, and fulfilled those responsibilities to universal admiration.
In the jahiliyya, the period of ignorance before Islam, an adopted son was regarded as a natural son, and an adopted son’s wife was therefore regarded as a natural son’s wife would be. According to the Qur’anic verse, those who have been ‘wives of your sons proceeding from your loins’ fall within the prohibited degrees of marriage. But this prohibition does not relate to adopted sons with whom their is no real consanguinity. What now seems obvious was not so then. The pagan taboo against marrying the former wives of adopted sons was deeply rooted. It was to uproot this custom that the Prophet’s marriage to Zainab was commanded by the Revelation.
To have an unassailable authority for future generations of Muslims, the break in the taboo had to be achieved through the authority of the Prophet’s own example. It is but one further instance of the depth of faith of the man that he accepted the divine decree, against the most established customs of his people. As a result the Arabs were rescued from their pagan confusion of a legal fiction, however worthy, with a biological, natural reality.
Juwayriyah b. Harith, radi Allahu anha, was one of a large number of captives taken by Muslims in a military expedition. She was the daughter of Harith, chief of the defeated Banu Mustaliq clan. She was held captive, like other members of her proud family, alongside the ‘common’ people of her clan. When Juwayriyah was taken to the Prophet, upon him be peace, she was in considerable distress, not least because her kinsmen had lost everything and her emotions were a profound hate and enmity toward the Muslims. The Prophet understood the wounded pride and dignity and the suffering of this woman; more than that he understood also, in his sublime wisdom, how to resolve the problem and heal that wounded pride. He agreed to pay her ransom, set her free and offered to take her as his wife. How gladly Juwayriyah accepted this offer can easily be imagined.
About a hundred families, who had not yet been ransomed, were all set free when the Ansar and the Muhajir (the Emigrants) came to realise that the Bani Mustaliq were now among the Prophet’s kin by marriage. A tribe so honoured could not be allowed to remain in slavery (Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6, 277).
In this way the hearts of Juwayriyah and all her people were won. A hundred families who regained their liberty blessed the marriage of Juwayriyah with Muhammad, upon him be peace. Through his compassionate wisdom and generosity he turned a defeat for some into a victory for all; what had been an occasion of enmity and distress became one of friendship and joy.
Safiyyah, radi Allahu anha, was the daughter of Huyayy, one of the chieftains of the Jewish tribe of Khaybar, who had persuaded the Bani Qurayzah to break their treaty with the Prophet. From her earliest years she saw her family and relatives determined in opposition to the Prophet. She had lost her father, brother and husband at the hands of Muslims, and herself became one of their captives. The attitudes and actions of her family and relatives might have nurtured in her a deep indignation against the Muslims and a desire for revenge. But three days before the Prophet, upon him be peace, arrived at Khaybar, and Safiyyah fell captive in the battle, she had seen in a dream a brilliant moon coming out from Madina, moving towards Khaybar, and falling into her lap. She later said: ‘When I was captured I began to hope that my dream would come true.’ When she was brought before him as a captive, the Prophet generously set her free and offered her the choice between remaining a Jew and returning to her people or entering Islam and becoming his wife. ‘I chose God and his Messenger’, she said. Shortly after that, they were married.
Elevated to the Prophet’s household she had the title of ‘mother of the believers’. The Companions of the Prophet honored and respected her as ‘mother’; she witnessed at first hand the refinement and true courtesy of the men and women whose hearts and minds were submitted to God. Her attitude to her past experiences changed altogether, and she came to appreciate the great honor of being the Prophet’s wife. As a result of this marriage, the attitude of many Jews changed as they came to see and know the Prophet closely. It is also worth noting here that it is through such close relation with others that Muslims can come to understand how those others think and feel and live. And it is through understanding that Muslims can learn how to influence and guide, if God wills, those others. Without a degree of trust established by such generous actions as the Prophet’s marriage to Safiyyah, neither mutual respect nor tolerance can become social norms.
Sawdah b. Zam’ah b. Qays, radi Allahu anha, was the widow of one Sakran. Sakran and Sawdah were among the first to embrace Islam and had been forced to flee Abyssinia to escape the persecution of the idolaters. Sakran died in exile and left his wife utterly destitute. As the only means of assisting the poor woman, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, though himself distressed for the means of daily subsistence, married Sawdah. This marriage took place some time after the death of the noble Khadijah.
Hafsah, radi Allahu anha, was the daughter of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the future second Caliph of Islam. This good lady had lost her husband who emigrated to both Abyssinia and Madina and who died of wounds received in battle in the path of God. She remained without a husband for a while. ‘Umar also desired, like Abu Bakr, the honour and blessing of being close to the Prophet in this world and in the Hereafter, so that the Prophet, upon him be peace, took Hafsah as his wife so as to protect and help the daughter of his faithful disciple.
Such were the circumstances and noble motives of the several marriages of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace. We see that these marriages were intended to provide helpless or widowed women with dignified subsistence in the absence of all other means; to console and honour enraged or estranged tribes people, to bring those who had been enemies into some degree of relationship and harmony; to gain for the cause of Islam certain uniquely gifted individuals, in particular some exceptionally talented women; to establish new norms of relationship between different people within the unifying brotherhood of faith in God; and to honor with family bonds the men who were to be the first leaders of the Muslim ummah after him. These marriages had nothing at all to do with self-indulgence or personal desire or lust or any other of the absurd and vile charges laid against the Prophet by Islam’s embittered enemies. With the exception of ‘A’isha, all of the Prophet’s wives were widows, and all his marriages (after that with the noble Khadijah) were contracted when he was already an old man. Far from being acts of self-indulgence then, these marriages were acts of self-discipline.
It was a part of that discipline that the Prophet, upon him be peace, provided for each of his wives with the most meticulously observed justice, dividing equally whatever slender resources he allowed to his household for their subsistence, accommodation and allowance generally. He also divided his time with them equally, and regarded and treated them with equal friendship and respect. That his household (despite the fact that his wives came from different backgrounds and had acquired different tastes and temperaments) got on well with each other, is no small tribute to his genius for creating peace and harmony. With each of them, he was not only a provider but a friend and companion.
A final point to be made is that the number of wives the Prophet had was by a special dispensation within the Law of Islam and unique to his person. Some of the merits and wisdom of this dispensation, as we understand them, have been explained. The number of wives for any other Muslim may not exceed four at any one time. When that Revelation restricting polygamy came, the Prophet’s marriages had already been contracted. Thereafter, the Prophet also was prohibited to marry again. May God bless him and grant him peace, and may He enable us to understand and follow his noble example.
POLYGNY: A WIFE’S PREROGATIVE
By Aisha Mosher
Polygyny is a subject of constant discussion. Some women speak of it rather vehemently, others silently pray to Allah that they not face the trial of sharing their husband, while a few actively seek out wives for their husbands. Brothers the world over continually remark, tongue-in-cheek perhaps, to their wives, their friends, and really anyone who’ll listen that they’d like to take another wife. And of course we all know what the kuffaar feel about the subject.
Many women can actually feel the hair follicles being stimulated by the rush of blood to their heads when remarks or hints are made to them by their husbands on the matter. Except for a very few of us we women are a jealous lot, and we do not relish the thought of our husband sharing the bed of another woman. Such jealousy is natural, perhaps even innate. It is not limited to those of us who grew up under western influence and was even related about the wives of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which provides comfort to us when we feel guilty for holding such emotions. Aishah, radiallaahu anhaa once complained of a headache to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, when he responded by saying he wished that such would occur (an illness leading to her death) only while he remained alive so that he could supplicate for her and ask Allah for her forgiveness she said to him, “It seems you desire my death so that you may spend the last of your days as a groom with some of your wives!”
The Right Of Muslim Men to Marry Four Wives
The taking of up to four wives is a right of every Muslim man who can commit to its obligations. It is not my point here to present the permissibility and beneficial nature of marrying in plural. Anyone who is anti-polygyny in principle, or who denies it or rejects it, should fear Allah and know that it is a part of Allah’s deen, and to hate or reject it amounts to disbelief. Even though the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, reacted strongly and negatively to Ali wanting to marry a second wife while he was married to Fatimah, this is not evidence against the practice of polygyny nor does it negate the inherent good that polygyny holds for Muslims, men and women. To believe such is totally ignoring the Prophetic Sunnah and that of the Khulafaa Ar-Raashideen, the Sahaabah, the Taabi’een, and the Salaf in their entirety.
When a Muslim woman marries a man who has no other wife she does so knowing, or at least should know, that though she may be his only wife now, the day may come that he marries and brings another woman into his life and consequently into her life too. Which brings me to the essence of my topic: Do we, as Muslim women, have an option in such a situation? Do we have the right to choose whether or not to remain married to a man who places us within such a lifestyle? “Polygyny: A Blessing in Disguise” is an article written by Meriem Ezzaoui, which although making some very valid and shaming points regarding our attitudes as women toward polygyny, there is one idea which deserves discussion. Our sister Meriem writes:
When our sisters demand that the marriage contract include an ‘escape clause’ in case of a second wife they are essentially stating that polygyny is haram.”
It is incorrect to say that a polygyny condition which allows a woman the choice of divorce is stating that polygyny is haraam. It is permissible for a woman to refuse to be a part of a plural union lifestyle just as a woman might wish to refuse some other lifestyle her husband could place her in. Stipulating a condition in a marital contract is not the same as making something halaal haraam and something haraam halaal. Not desiring to be in a plural marriage is not the same as saying polygyny is haraam any more than saying that not liking to eat locusts or desert lizards or even lamb’s liver means you are against the sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. For a woman not to desire to be a part of a plural union does not automatically mean that she does not agree with the judgement of Allah ta’aalaa (we seek refuge in Allah from that).
Is Polygyny The Rule?
Practicing polygyny is not a requirement and there is no evidence, says Ash-Shaykh Saalih Al-Fawzan , to say that polygyny is the rule. Those who wish to and are able are permitted. Those who do not wish to or are not able should limit themselves to one wife. Islam permits and limits polygyny and its practice is a sunnah  of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his Companions, and continues to be practiced today. On a daily basis Muslims choose to follow mustahabb (desirable) aspects of the sunnah in many parts of their lives. In other aspects they choose not to do so without committing sin. A wife not wishing to live the sunnah practice of polygyny is no more erroneous than a woman choosing to not marry a brother because he is already married or a man choosing to not take a second wife. Can anyone say they are making haraam what Allaah has made halaal? Such is the subject of a woman’s marital condition. She is merely stipulating her wishes and her right to make a condition that allows her a direct choice.
The Right To Make Conditions In The Marriage Contract And Its Evidences
Some of the conditions found in marital contracts have included things such as having a right to complete her education, to continue her career, to not travel with her husband, and to not be required to move from her country of residence. Without question, Islam provides the husband the absolute right to refuse his wife’s desire to go out of her home, to work, to be educated, and a myriad of other things that entail out-of-home ventures as well as in-home activities. Yet making such a condition that allows her a choice in specific matters that are important to her is valid and permissible and does not indicate her making something halaal haraam or vice versa. It merely ensures her that the husband is willing to comply with her desires for her lifestyle. If he does not agree he need not marry her and logically should not do so if he believes he cannot fulfill or agree to the condition. If, later down the married life road, he decides that he cannot continue to honor the condition then the wife has the choice of releasing him from its requirement and remaining married to him or she can insist on his fulfillment of the condition or ending the marriage contract. 
The evidence of the permissibility of placing such conditions, particularly that of the right to divorce in case of polygyny, can be found in the words of Ibn Qudaamah, rahimahullaah, who relates in Al-Mughnee, “If he married her on the condition that he not make her move from her village or her city or country, then this condition is valid, because it was reported that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: The most deserving of conditions to be fulfilled by you are those through which sexual intercourse becomes permissible for you. If he married her on the condition that he will not marry another wife, then she has the right to leave him if he does take another wife.”
Ibn Qudaamah continues, “Altogether the conditions of the marriage contract are divided into three types, one of which must be adhered to which is that which benefits the wife, such as her being able to stipulate that he cannot make her move from her village or city or country, or travel with him, or take another wife or a concubine. He has to adhere to these conditions, and if he does not, then she has the right to annul the marriage. This has been related by ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab, Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqaas, Mu’aawiyyah, and ‘Amroo bin Al-‘Aas, radiallaahu ‘anhum, and was also stated by Shurayh, ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Azeez, Jaabir bin Zayd, Taawoos, Al-Auzaa’ee and Ishaaq.”
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, rahimahullaah, also upholds a woman’s right to stipulate such a condition as seen in his fatwaa when he was asked this question: “A man married a woman and she stipulated that he should not take another wife or make her move from her house, and that she could stay with her mother, so he married her on this basis. Does he have to adhere to this, and if he goes against these conditions, does his wife have the right to annul the marriage or not?”
He replied by saying, “Yes, these conditions and similar ones are valid according to the madh-hab of Imaam Ahmad and other scholars among the Sahaabah and Taabi’een, such as ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas, Shurayh al-Qaadee, Al-Awzaa’ee and Is-haq. According o the madh-hab of Maalik, the condition states that if he marries another wife, (his first wife) has the choice of what to do. This is a valid condition. The woman has the right to leave him in this case. This is similar to the idea in the madh-hab of Imaam Ahmad. The basis for this is the hadeeth narrated in the two saheeh collection of al-Bukhaari and Muslim from the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), The most deserving of conditions to be fulfilled are those by means of which the sexual intercourse becomes permissible to you. Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: “Rights are subject to conditions.” The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, stated that the conditions which make sexual intercourse permissible deserve to be fulfilled more so than others. This is the ruling on conditions of this nature.”
It should be noted that some of the Salaf invalidated conditions that forbid the permissible, such as forbidding the husband from taking another wife, and this is also discussed by Ibn Qudaamah in Al-Mughnee . Those interested in the finer details of the topic may refer to his writings. However, the evidence given above shows that such a condition can be made and did occur during the time of the Salaf and was ruled to be acceptable and worthy of being honored. The condition does not prohibit the husband from that which Allah has permitted him – the taking of another wife. What it does do is allow the wife to choose whether or not to remain with her husband who has chosen polygyny for himself.
The Realities of Muslims and Polygyny Today
We all wish for a perfect Islamic society where everyone is treated fairly, where all needs are met, where there is no injustice, where we all help one another and wish for our brothers and sisters what we wish for ourselves, where husbands are responsible, and considerate and wives are patient and understanding, where children are righteous and obedient, and where Islam, in all its requirements and its sunnah, is practiced to perfection. We have the guidance to do so yet we lack the intensity of faith to follow through. It is a sad truth that many brothers (and sisters) do not have a good track record when it comes to plural marriages and often look to the short term benefits without taking a good look down the road at the long-term consequences of their decision to engage in polygyny and all that it involves. And perhaps some single sisters are inclined to “take the plunge” due to the shortage of willing and eligible single brothers who fit their ideal of a good husband and potential father. Some sisters see such ideals in already-married brothers and desire that for themselves, and in some cases even seek to replace the first wife. As in any marriage, you get only as much good out of polygyny as you put into it and in many cases the effort may not be a joint one made by all parties involved. Allah ta’aalaa in His perfect wisdom and knowledge of our imperfect and perhaps selfish nature as humans has provided us with ways to deal with such difficulties, some in the hands of men and others in the hands of women. The right to stipulate conditions is only one of those ways allowed women.
Polygyny was legislated in Islam for the very real needs that it fulfills. As a rule it is much more beneficial for everyone involved to approach polygyny as one should everything in life – as a test of how well we will deal with what Allah, ta’aalaa, has placed upon our path. For a woman to accept her husband’s decision to marry another and do everything she can to be a good wife to him and to respect his right and the right of the sister he has married is indeed an action that is befitting of a Muslim woman who fears Allah and who’s goal is her reward from her Lord. With sincere intention in her actions she should pass her test with honor, dignity, and recompense from Allah, subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa. However, this does not mean to say that she must tolerate a situation that she finds she truly cannot bear, or that she must give up her rights or her happiness for the sake of her husband and his wife or wives. Such a situation can push even the best of us to sin. As a rule, if a Muslim woman is truly unhappy in her marriage and efforts to resolve any problems are unsuccessful, she can seek khulu’ from a sharee’ah court (or other responsible party) and be granted a divorce. This is “due process” in Islamic law and requires no contract to make it possible. Many judges, in their fear of granting a divorce to an emotionally-jaded women, do initially refuse to grant a divorce. They advise patience and ask the couple to try to make amends. However, khula’ can be sought and usually gained and the wife would be required to return her mahr in exchange for her husband releasing her. With a condition in her contract, if the husband fails to honor it she will have the direct and usually immediate choice of divorce and she is not required to return her mahr. Conditions cannot prevent marital discord. That is up to us as a couple. But we can consider what is important to us and place appropriate conditions to help us deal with any difficulties that may arise. This is a right granted to us by Allah, subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa and His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and it is beyond anyone to denigrate such a right.
As I have matured as a Muslim and grown in knowledge and faith, I feel I have gained a more reasonable perspective of many things in Islam that I thought to be difficult when I was a new Muslim. I have encouraged some of my sisters to enter into polygyny, have discouraged others based upon their circumstances, and have even at one point sought it for my husband. Nevertheless, I continue to appreciate the wisdom of Allah ta’aalaa that has allowed us to make conditions that may help ease the difficult processes of our lives as Muslim women if and when we must face them. My right to stipulate this condition contract is established and although I would probably never enforce it, I feel comforted by the fact that I have a choice subject to my own judgment.
1. Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree Vol 7 hadeeth 570 of the English Translation
2. Polygyny: A Blessing in Disguise by Meriem Ezzaoui (see the full article under “Marriage” at http://www.islamzine.com)
3. Al-Muntaqaa min Fataawaa Fadheelat Ash-Shaykh Saalih ibn Fawzan – 3/251-252, in Fataawaa Al-Mar-atul Muslimah Vol 2 pg 689-690.
4. “Polygyny is sunnah for those who are able to do so…” Ash-Shaykh Abdulazeez ibn ‘Abdullaah ibn Baaz in Fataawaa Islaameeyah, Vol 3 pg 365
5. This is clarified in the fataawaa numbered 508 and 1028 of Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem Aal Ash-Shaykh issued by Daarul Iftaa in Riyadh, 17/3/1383 and 8/7/1383 respectively. It is also stated by Ash-Shaykh Abdurrahmaan As-Sa’adee Al-Fataawaa As-Sa’adeeyah 499. Both are carried in the two volume Arabic work entitled Fataawaa Al-Mar-atul Muslimah under the chapter Conditions in Marriage, Vol 2 pg 646 (Aal-Ash-Shaykh) and 642 (As-Sa’adee).
6. Al-Mughnee – Kitaab An-Nikaah
7. Al-Fataawaa Al-Kubraa – An-Nikaah (as translated and listed at http://www.islam-qa.com)
8. The hadeeth wherein the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Any condition that is not in the Book of Allah is void even if there were one hundred conditions” is used as a basis in this respect.
9. The noted scholar Ibn ‘Uthaimeen has stated: It is the right of the woman to make stipulations at the writing of the marriage contract as she wishes and if these stipulations do not contradict Islamic law then the husband must fulfill them. For example, that he not marry a second wife and that if he does to dissolve the first marriage. This is not a problem. However, a new prospective wife cannot stipulate that the first wife be divorced before he marries her. I must say however that a first wife should not make such a stipulation that her husband not marry a second wife. I fear that if a woman makes this stipulation that the husband will, if he desires to marry a second woman, simply divorce the first one straight away [i.e. not even give her consideration] and it would no be to her benefit. Therefore I advise the woman not to make such a stipulation because this may be a manner by which the husband is able to follow a good sunnah.
WOMEN IN THE SHADE OF ISLAM: MAIN CONDITIONS FOR POLYGAMY
By By Abdur-Rahman A. Al-Sheeha
Justice and Equality
As Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) permitted polygamy, He stipulated and pre-conditioned justice and fairness in treatment, avoiding injustice and wrong practices against all wives. Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “He who has two wives and does not demonstrate justice, fairness and equality amongst them will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides paralyzed.”
Justice and fairness, in this context, applies in terms of material things such as expenditure, fair division of wealth, gifts, time, etc. As for emotional matters, such as love and inclination towards one wife over the other, it is recognized that man has no authority or control over his heart and emotions. Feelings and emotions are involuntary; therefore one is not to be blamed for them. ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), the mother of believers and the wife of Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was reported as saying: “Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) distributed everything justly amongst his wives; yet after all, he used to say: O Allah! This is the fair way of dividing what I possess amongst my wives. O Allah! Blame me not for what You alone possess while I do not. ,i.e., the heart, feelings and emotions of a man.”
Ability to Afford Another Household
If a man knows for sure that he is financially incapable of affording another wife and another household, he is not entitled to seek another marriage. A husband is not allowed to exceed four wives, as stated earlier in the Hadith of Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
We would like to point out here some of the factors and elements that often urges man to think or seek another marriage. We need to examine whether polygamy in itself is a good or an evil practice in the society. We also would like to know whether such a practice is good for the wife or bad, and whether it is in her interest or against:
1. If a woman is sterile, and the husband is interested in having children, what is best for the wife in such a case: to be divorced for no sin or crime (and become a burden on herself and the society if she cannot earn and there is nobody to support her financially), or to remain in the household of her husband in addition to his other wife?
2. If a wife is chronically ill and she cannot perform her marital duties, what is better in her case: to be divorced, or to become a second wife where she is perfectly honored, cared for and provided for by her husband?
3. Some men are sexually demanding. One wife may not be able to fulfill the lawful sexual desire of her husband. Or, if the menstrual period or after-birth-confinement period is especially longer than normal, or she has no lawful sexual desire to match that of the husband, what is better for both husband and wife, in such a case? Is it lawful for the man to seek unlawful sexual satisfaction somewhere else outside the marriage, or to acquire another lawful wife who keeps him chaste?
4. There is no doubt that repeated international and civil wars in various parts of the world has taken its toll on men. Thus, the number of females in most countries is more than males. The best example of that were the First World War and the Second World War, which claimed huge numbers of men who participated in the fighting. Statistics say that there were more than twenty million men killed during these wars. Therefore, if every man had only one wife, what is the destiny of the women who do not get a fair share of lawful marriage to satisfy their needs? Should such women seek to satisfy their sexual desires in unlawful ways like adultery, fornication, and lesbian activities or else? Truly, also, the abundance of women without husbands, or males to care for them, helped spread corruption and illegitimate sexual activities in the society.
5. As a consequence of war also, there are many widows, divorcees and old maids in societies. What is better for such women in this case: to remain single and suffer all the consequences of life and its demanding needs, or to accept to be a second wife with an honest, protective, honorable and chaste man?
Polygamy does exist in all modern societies. This is a general blanket statement, no doubt, but it is very true and valid one. In all other societies, other than the Muslims society, polygamy exists in the form of mistresses, sweethearts, girl friends, escort services, common law marriage, etc. These types of polygamy are widespread and have no end of forms. The only difference in that is the title, i.e. the title of the woman. In accordance to Islam, a second wife enjoys all the rights and privileges of the first wife. This is not the case in the modern society man-woman relationships, if it is not a marriage. These types of relationships do not oblige the man (who behaves completely as a husband in terms of co-habitation, marital relations, company, companionship, etc.) to do anything special for such a woman, support her financially, continue his relation with her, etc. Such a relationship has no legal backing (although some countries condone it and accept it as a common practice). This type of relationship between a man and a woman is merely a cheap pleasurable one. It has no merits of its own to stand on. It is meant for the fulfillment of the sexual interest of both parties only. It imposes no financial, social, or emotional obligations on either side at all. If the woman becomes pregnant, it is her own problem, and we all know that a child who is born out of the wedlock is labeled as “illegitimate” child, who is nothing but an added burden on the entire society. Man, generally, is not obliged to admit that the child is his, and is not obliged to take financial responsibility of the child.
As for the concept and the practice of polygamy in the Islamic society, it is restricted and limited to four wives only at all times. It must be performed legally and lawfully with a marriage contract, witnesses and the man must bear all financial burdens and responsibilities that arise from this marriage. The husband must pay a dowry for the woman to whom he marries, and must bear all expenses of the wife, her children, and the household. All children of this marriage are legitimate children who must be raised and cared for under the responsibility of both parents.
FINDING THE BEAUTY
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim
As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.
And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphangirls, then marry (other) 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 or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice. (An-Nisa 4:3)
Being in polygyny these past few years has been a learning process, an overall a beneficial experience for me, al hamdulillah. It is one of the many rights that our husbands have in this religion and a Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (salla lahu alaihi wa sallam) that many brothers will choose to practice.
I have come to learn about the beauty of my husband having more than one wife. And from it I have witnessed a strong Muslim man, one who fears Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Someone who is not afraid of practicing what has been made lawful for him instead of falling victim to the haraam as many men can easily do in today’s world. Someone who is not hesitant to face the challenges in dealing with more than one woman as we women can be a test for our men, masha Allah.
Al hamdulillah, I must say that it was not as hard as I thought it would be. Just as anything else, it takes time getting used to being without your husband every single day of the week as it once used to be. Somehow I thought that being first would mean more heartache and loneliness, but I came to realize that this may not be so. I reflected back on our past together and I am grateful to Allah that I had my time with him alone. I got to know my husband all on my own, his likes and his dislikes. I appreciated the time we spent together studying Islam, travelling, playing with our baby, subhan Allah we even worked together! Then I thought about how his new wife would feel. Maybe full of anxiety, being with someone who is almost like a stranger. Someone she has to learn, figure out his food preferences, sleep patterns and so on. Someone who would perhaps feel more vulnerable than me.
In my eyes, I had a very unique situation. My co-wife and I were truly the best of companions. We literally spent a great amount of time in each others presence even living in our own dwellings. We shared our nights, our food, our books, our joys, our sorrows, and of course our husband. Most importantly we shared all of this seeking the pleasure of Allah Azza wa jal. We experienced true sisterhood and our husband was often proud to see that he had two wives who really loved each other and got along all of the time.
In my co-wife, I saw a beautiful sister, someone who reminded me of Allah almost always. I learned a lot from her from watching her, sometimes she didn’t even know that she was teaching me something unless I openly asked her for the naseehah. Even though she was older than me, she respected me just as I respected her. We valued the bond that we shared. We spent the Eids together spending the nights over each other’s houses, praying, studying, cooking, eating, sleeping, helping our children, helping our husband you name it, we could and would work together masha Allah. I cherished our friendship. I really loved her for the sake of Allah. We made each other laugh and cry we held on to the rope of Allah as tight as we could at times and when one was slipping the other would lend out her hand for support so that she could again get that good grasp of that rope.
Kind words and forgiving of faults are better than Sadaqah (charity) followed by injury. And Allâh is Rich (Free of all wants) and He is Most-Forbearing. (Al-Baqarah 2:263)
This ayah reminds me of the genuine kindness that we displayed toward each other solely for Allah. And the saying of how kindness affects all things which is so true. All three of us were companions to one another. This was something to be grateful for as many situations don’t always run so smoothly. I felt that we started out as tiny little seeds of a plant that just kept growing and thriving under the light of Allah. Then our husband became the foundation or the roots of the plant and we women were the stems with leaves who were standing up firmly, healthy & green. Growing bigger every day with just enough water & sunlight. Our relationships only got better by the mercy of Allah as the time passed us by. It was a favor from Allah that I could not deny and to this day I’m glad I didn’t.
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allâh has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient (to Allâh and to their husbands), and guard in the husband’s absence what Allâh orders them to guard (e.g. their chastity, their husband’s property, etc.). As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful), but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance). Surely, Allâh is Ever Most High, Most Great. (An-Nisa 4:34)
Many times you may hear that a brother’s first wife wants a divorce after hearing that he has taken a second wife a’oothu billah this is their right. Let the men be the ones to go out there and do what is permissible for them to do in this deen. Is there really a need for a khula or talaq which has no valid reasoning? Does it have to be the weaker vessels going out there and having multiple sit-downs in search for Mr. Right when we may already have had him right there in front of our faces and Allah knows best? Can’t we just try to trust our Lord a little more and stay in the marriage that was successful up until the utterance of taking another wife was overheard? What happened to loving the man who works hard to keep us comfortable & happy at home? Doesn’t he deserve to be happy, too? Doesn’t she? Don’t we owe it to Allah, our husbands, our co-wives and ourselves to at least try? Isn’t it marriage that completes half of our religion?
I will end with this last note by saying to all of my Salafisisters that polygyny can only make you stronger in deen, closer to Allah in remembering Him often, and more pleasing to Him and your husbands. It can be a very beautiful thing that can & will work insha Allah with lots of patience and supplication not to mention seeking more refuge from the whispers of the Shaytaan. It’s up to you to try to do your part in the experiment/test. Either you truly study it through trial and error until you get it right and pass OR you put minimal effort in it and fail, finding out that trying a little harder may have been the one thing that was going to advance you to the next grade level, Subhan Allah. The road can get rocky at times, no doubt there will be things that will be done straight from our desires, but insha Allah you will go back to the remembrance of Allah and learn from your mistakes. You will call on Him to forgive you for your wrongdoings openly and secretly, intentionally and unintentionally. Insha Allah you will return to focusing on your relationship with the Creator and not the one with the creation. And ultimately, you will be left with the thought of obtaining Jannah by easily accepting what Allah has written for you.