Polygamy in Islam is an old and well-established phenomenon. In Islam, a perfect form of family creation is the monogamous form, limited polygyny. The phenomenon of polygyny can be characterized as both negative and positive for an individual and for the society as a whole. The prevalence of this form of social relations to create a family is determined by a number of factors, which include religious attitudes that are based on the Quran and the Sunnah and socio-psychological factors. However, although polygamy has already acquired the status of a traditional form of family relations in Muslim countries, there are substantiated discussions of the issue in the world community from the perspective of feminism. Polygamy, which today deviates from the Catholic, Orthodox and many other religious systems of the world, is a norm for countries where Islam is the main religion. As a characteristic feature of the vast majority of representatives of the animal world, polygamy exists at the level of instincts and is inherent in human beings.
However, the norms of morality and ethics, which the human society has developed as a result of its evolution, as well as other objective reasons, have led to refusal of most representatives of the civilized world to popularize the ideas of polygamy in the family. However, this is not a universal trend, and while for people of certain mentality polygamy is unacceptable, in the Islamic world, it has been a norm since ancient times. However, in the view of the fact that the practice of polygamy was either rare or atypical among both immigrant and indigenous Muslims of the Islamic states, historians believe that it stems from African-American ethnic groups. Thus, even today, studies of the ancient African tribes show the prevalence of polygamous marriages among them. Nevertheless, the society of Islamic states, which is often based on polygamy, has reached a rather high level of development. Therefore, it expedient to study the nature of polygamy as a social phenomenon and make a comprehensive analysis of the causes of its occurrence.
Religious Origins of Polygamy in Islam
Polygamy, which today takes place in Islamic states, is determined by the highest importance of religion in the life of every Muslim. Religion is a powerful lever of government that establishes the norms of social behavior for people. To perform a qualitative analysis of the religious and cultural origins of the order of creating a family in Islam, it is necessary, first of all, to delineate the essence of the concepts of polygamy and polygyny. Thus, polygamy implies the possibility of any person, either a woman or a man, to be married simultaneously with several representatives of the opposite sex. On the other hand, polygyny assumes the implementation of this practice exclusively by men. The latter practice is allowed and approved by social and moral norms of Islamic states as a principle of building a family. It is permissible for a man to have many wives at the same time. By contrast, polygamy is not allowed in the Muslim world. From the perspective of Western mentality, polygyny's permissibility and, moreover, its popularization in the Islamic society contradicts the basic tenets of Islamic religion applied to women. Additionally, Western cultures consider polygyny an infringement of women's freedoms and rights and thus conduct serious disputes on this subject. It is an undeniable fact that today the Islamic religion is based on the veneration of the feminine principle. Thus, careful treatment and guardianship of women is an obligatory and perhaps the most important criterion for assessing the manifestation of a person's love for the supreme god Allah. In Islam, lack of respect for the rights of women make the worship of Allah is impossible. Namely, negligence to wives, according to the Islamic religion, deserves God's censure. However, contrary to Western views, Muslims do not see any contradictions in the polygyny and teachings of Allah with regard to women. The historical role of the laws of polygyny has changed due to a new interpretation of the laws of Allah after their appearance in the regions of ancient Arabia. As a result, while initially a Muslim could have an unlimited number of wives and treat them as they please without any responsibility, over time the scriptures evolved to emphasize the need to treat the wife as equal. The maximum number of wives was also reduced to four. Thus, the religious worship of the Savior for the liberation of Islamic women from pain and oppression was historically conditioned by the desire to obtain similar benefits for women in the future.
Religious norms have become a kind of salvation for those who adhered to them. Abu Ameenah Bilaal Philips and Jameelah Jones in their scientific work study polygamy in Islam strictly in terms of the provisions of the Quran and the Sunnah. As a result, Western scientists managed to form a detailed description of the entire complex of the most important basic characteristics of marriage in Islam. Thus, in their study, the authors primarily rely on religious sources. Their scientific research was based on the following excerpt: Marry of the women that please you; two, three or four, but if you fear that you cannot be alone. This quote from Quran 4: 3 gave the researchers an opportunity to form an opinion on the polygyny in Islam, according to which Allah has already confirmed the right to do so as clearly stated in Quran. In this position of Quran, there is a shade of social justice. In fact, in the course of a detailed analysis of the lines of Quran, it becomes obvious that there are provisions that create certain guarantees for women in the polygyny of Islam. Abu Ameenah Bilaal Philips and Jameelah Jones referred to a quotation from the sacred book of Quran which says about the need for equal treatment of each of the wives chosen by men. Thus, called to influence the hearts and minds of people and to control human consciousness and actions, the holy book by the mouth of Allah warns a person of recklessness and lack of justice between wives and forms requirements for their content, concepts of care and mutual respect. In addition, the holy book of Muslims states that men should not use their polygamous status and boast to the society about the number of their wives. According to Quran 24:33, those men who are not able to support their spouse should not marry or even create polygyny. According to Islam, a man should objectively assess his opportunities and be lonely until Allah enriches him by his bounty. Quran also affected the aspects of equality in the relationship between a man and a woman in the family. This fact is confirmed by the lines of Quran 7:31, in which it is said that the children of Adam should not eat and drink; they will take everything from every Maside unnecessarily, but they can do it only as necessary. The Quran also calls for order, the formation of a sense of respect for people in the society and suggests the need for everyone to invariably have a sense of proportion in their consumption. Abuse in the Islamic religion is blamed for everything, including relations within the institution of marriage. Thus, Quran affirms the need to achieve harmony and justice in interpersonal family relations and honest, unselfish aspirations from both a husband and a wife.
The Social Aspect of Polygamy in Islam as an Object of World Discourse
The phenomenon of polygyny in Islam also has certain social, psychological and sexual aspects. Sulaiman Akorede and Agbabiaka-Mustapha Muinat devote their scientific work Assessing Efficacy of Polygamy as a Divine Mechanism against Prostitution to these aspects of polygyny. The researchers regard marriage as a form of socialization through which mankind reproduces its sympathies and satisfies its sexual drives. From the perspective of the civilized monogamous Western society, polygyny is considered a means to humiliate a woman and infringe her rights. It is even viewed today as a support of female prostitution. The researchers note that cases when women prefer co-habitation to a traditional form of marriage or decide to exchange their own body for money, medicines, or other material benefits are becoming increasingly frequent in the world. In other words, personal relations with the birth of children without official registration as well as prostitution are common today throughout the world. Based on objective data, this trend negatively affects the institution of the family and the social community as a whole. Analysis of the polygamous foundations of the institution of marriage from a social standpoint reveals that its objective rather than moral and ethical justifications. Thus, according to Akorede and Muinat, ancient religions of the world apart from Islam have examples of polygamy. For instance, polygamy was practiced by Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Solomon and other Bible prophets and kings. Such fact is not an accident because from the time immemorial, there has been such a social factor as the numerical superiority of women over men. Besides, the desire for sexual satisfaction underlying all social relations contributed to emergence of polygamy. The appearance of polygamy and polygyny provided men with an opportunity to fully satisfy their sexual needs. Moreover, in Islam, satisfaction of excessive sexual desire by a man through polygyny since time immemorial is a divine decision, which resulted in prevalence of polygyny in Muslim countries to this day. In addition, as a social justification of polygyny, one can cite the risk of a decrease in the birth rate or ending ones family in cases the only wife is not able to have children or does not give birth to male heirs. Thus, the problem of preserving the nation and its health was historically solved in Islam through religious levers. Indeed, polygamy entered Islamic practice with the Prophet Muhammad after the bloody battle of Uhud in 625, which left many husbands and means of livelihood for many women. From this position, polygyny can play the role of some social "airbag" for women in Islamic states as the husband takes care of the wife. Such reasons as a mental illness, homelessness, trauma, sexual violence, poverty, money pressure, child sexual abuse, etc., which forced Muslim women to agree to polygyny, since ancient times have made girls in other cultures resort to prostitution. Thus, these two concepts are closely interrelated in the social aspect of gender. At the same time, while polygyny of Islam provokes discussions only from the standpoint of protecting women's dignity, rights and freedoms within family, the phenomenon of prostitution is much more destructive for the society because it poses such threats as problems with physical and mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, loss of income, neglect and aggression towards children. Therefore, if polygyny is discussed from this position, the defense of the independence of modern women cannot be evaluated as a means better than polygyny in Islamic states.
Islam Polygamy in Southeast Asia
The analysis of Islam in Southeast Asia in the context of polygamy deserves special attention of researchers. Thus, questions relating to the life of Muslims in the context of the current rigid framework of persistent religious exhortations that have developed over centuries are highlighted in the work by David Kloos. The scholar describes the purist pressure of the knowledge regimes imposed on Muslims by the government forces of Islamic states. The author examines the role of Muslim women of the upper middle class in the Islamic society of Southeast Asia and analyzes their moral and spiritual development. Kloos states that most of them received only basic religious training in their youth. However, at the present stage of their life, they actively and voluntarily sought to realize life permeated with Islam in all aspects, revealing a weak knowledge of Islam as the main obstacle to achieving such a life4. It is advisable to analyze the ratio of the level of income in the Islamic society to the level of education. Today both average income and the level of education are rather low among Islamic women due to polygyny, which has developed and continued for more than a century. In fact, feminist ideas of eastern Islamic states today are based on the orthodoxy of the institution of marriage. At the same time, it should be noted that polygyny represents the construction of the family in Islam. A woman in Islam plays not only a passive role of a wife who blindly follows the male leadership; she is also a manifestation of real personal piety as a wife. Muslim women voluntary attempt to realize themselves in various aspects of life, including participation in the creative process of self-development and perfection, and visit Islamic educational groups and religious assemblies as a way of commitment to their religious ideals. Despite the development of the educational system of Islam, strict adherence to the basic requirements of faith with regard to clothing, prayer, etc. remains a priority for Muslim women. In the orthodox model of Islam such realities as the desire for religious knowledge are created for Islamic women, which is interconnected with all transformations of life attitudes and stages. At the same time, the predominance of religiously directed education and the perception of life for women in Islam do not have any connection with the material situation. According to David Kloos, most middle-class women in Malaysia made a holy pilgrimage to Mecca-hajj at least once in their life, which speaks of their relatively high material wealth. In considering gender-based discrimination issues related to women in a marriage institute based on polygyny, it is advisable to refer to the experience of Malaysia. It is one of the several Muslim countries which defines women's role as the bearers of cultural values and traditions, are important symbols in the politics of Islamic revivalism and Islamic state policy sharing the history of Islamic resurgence. Despite high religiousness of the society, there has been the Muslim feminist movement in the 1980s of the 20th century. It is worth noting that the controversy over polygamy in Malaysia today is used by political forces as a competitive advantage to attract supporters; however, it does not solve the problems of those Islamic women who actively defend respect for the democratic rights of Muslim women. The example of Malaysia demonstrates that a part of the female population in Islamic states ceases to consider the patriarchal interpretation of the religious texts of Quran as a basis for the oppression of women. In addition, there is a suggestion that polygyny is a pre-Islamic practice, which must be limited, prohibited and leveled as unfair in the modern world. However, the predominant majority of strictly religious Malaysian Muslims hold the view that polygamy is a legitimate form of marriage since it is indisputably enshrined in the Quran as authorized. In general, the statistical data of the polls conducted by Alamgir Aurangzaib indicate that in the twenty-first century, about 30% of the population believes that polygyny should be banned. At the same time, the same percentage of people disagree with the fact that religious interpretations of the Quran somehow suppress and oppress women, restricting their rights, and deny the feminist interpretation of the sacred book. Despite the ambiguity of the position of Islamic citizens, the practice of polygyny is followed today in almost all Muslim societies, especially in the Middle East. In the minds of Muslims, the advantages of this model of building a family far outweigh its shortcomings.
Have you got any questions?
One should distinguish the concepts of polygamy and polygyny. The former relates to the equal right of both men and women to have many spouses. The latter recognizes only the right of men to have more than one wife. Nevertheless, it is possible to summarize that even within polygyny, Allah speaks equally about the rights of women and men in order to form equality and justice as well as the desire to achieve a certain balance. Despite the fact that from the moral and ethical point of view polygyny can be considered as a form of gender discrimination with regard to the rights of Muslim women, it is revealed, however, that from the position of social security and guarantees from the spouse, women who are in the so-called "harem" have certain advantages. Recently, controversy over polygamy has been the subject of heated debates in religions and cultures around the world as a result of the empowerment of women and the influence of Western cultures among others factors. The central focus here is the choices that women in European countries make in favor of prostitution as a kind of an analogue of the consent of Islamic women to a family that is based on polygyny. Thus, comparing the consequences of both phenomena, it can be said that the former choice has more destructive consequences for the society. Besides, from the socio-psychological point of view and according to the divine prescriptions of Quran and the Sunnah in Islam, the practice of polygamy is able to solve a whole range of social problems that directly or indirectly affect the health of the nation, birth rate, prostitution and irresponsibility on the part of adulterous men and women.