Allah has permitted keeping more than one wife, at a time, only under special circumstances, as in the case of children rendered orphan after a battle. Even then, it is incumbent on the husband to be just to all his wives. And if the husband is not able to deal justly and equitably with all the wives, Allah has ordained that he should have only one wife! Allah says, "And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, then marry, from among women suitable to you, two, three or four. But if you fear that you shall not be able to be fair and equitable to all, then marry only one... This is nearer to preventing you from doing injustice." [Q: 4.3] Monogamy is thus the natural norm in Islam. This norm is natural because the man-to-woman ratio always hovers around 1:1.
Moreover, in verse [Q: 4.19], Allah says, "O people who believe! It is not lawful for you to inherit, or take possession of, women against their will..." In the original Arabic text, the word used is tarisu, which literally means 'you inherit' or 'you become heir to'. Now, one can be a heir to a woman as her son, brother or father. But these relationships are divinely made and therefore natural. There is no question of anyone choosing such a relationship against the woman's will. Logically therefore turisu, in the context of the above verse 4.19, could only mean to inherit as the women's husbands. The verse therefore clearly forbids a believer to retain any woman as his wife against her will. He has necessarily to divorce her if she insists on separation.
The above-cited Qur'aanic verses make it crystal clear that if a Muslim takes another wife without divorcing the wife/s he already has, he has to take prior consent of the existing wife/s. And if he takes another wife without the consent, he cannot refuse to divorce the wife/s unwilling to remain as his wife/s. And if he does refuse, the marriage stands null and void. The Qazi, who solemnises marriages, should formally annul the marriage in such a case.
These are decrees from Allah, which a Muslim has to obey! And if anyone disobeys, Allah has warned that he will be put into Fire, therein to abide forever [Q 4.14].
To conclude: in Islam,
monogamy is the norm,
polygamy is permitted only under special, compelling circumstances,
an already married man should take his wife's consent before taking another woman as his wife,
if a wife insists on separation, her husband is duty-bound to give her the divorce, and if he refuses to do so, the marriage stands annulled.
Mohammad Shafi J. Aga
Visit the author's webpages:
Al-Fatiha, Al-Baqarah Verses 1 to 5, Al_Baqarah Verses 6 to 20,
Al_Baqarah Verses 21 to 25, Al-Baqarah Verses 26 to 29, Islam And Interest,
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