Polygamy was a way of life until the Quran was revealed 1400 years ago. When
the earth was young and under-populated, polygamy was one way of populating it
and bringing in the human beings needed to carry out God's plan. By the time the
Quran was revealed, the world had been sufficiently populated, and the Quran put
down the first limitations against polygamy.
Polygamy is permitted in the Quran, but under strictly observed
circumstances. Any abuse of this divine permission incurs severe retribution.
Thus, although polygamy is permitted by God, it behooves us to examine our
circumstances carefully before saying that a particular polygamous relationship
Our perfect example here is the prophet Muhammad. He was married to one wife,
Khadijah, until she died. He had all his children, except one, from Khadijah.
Thus, she and her children enjoyed the Prophet's full attention for as long as
she was married to him; twenty-five years. For all practical purposes, Muhammad
had one wife - from the age of 25 to 50. During the remaining 13 years of his
life, he married the aged widows of his friends who left many children. The
children needed a complete home, with a fatherly figure, and the Prophet
provided that. Providing a fatherly figure for orphans is the only specific
circumstance in support of polygamy mentioned in the Quran (4:3).
Other than marrying widowed mothers of orphans, there were three political
marriages in the Prophet's life. His close friends Abu Bakr and Omar insisted
that he marry their daughters, Aisha and Hafsah, to establish traditional family
ties among them. The third marriage was to Maria the Egyptian; she was given to
him as a political gesture of friendship from the ruler of Egypt.
This perfect example tells us that a man must give his full attention and
loyalty in marriage to his wife and children in order to raise a happy and
The Quran emphasizes the limitations against polygamy in very strong words:
"If you fear lest you may not be perfectly equitable in treating more than one
wife, then you shall be content with one." (4:3) "You cannot be equitable in a
polygamous relationship, no matter how hard you try." (4:129)
The Quranic limitations against polygamy point out the possibility of abusing
God's law. Therefore, unless we are absolutely sure that God's law will not be
abused, we had better resist our lust and stay away from polygamy. If the
circumstances do not dictate polygamy, we had better give our full attention to
one wife and one set of children. The children's psychological and social
well-being, especially in countries where polygamy is prohibited, almost
invariably dictate monogamy. A few basic criteria must be observed in
1. It must alleviate pain and suffering and not cause any pain or suffering.
2. If you have a young family, it is almost certain that polygamy is an abuse.
3. Polygamy to substitute a younger wife is an abuse of God's law (4:19).