By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Feb 1, 2017
Islam allows the marriage of a male to multiple wives providing the number does not exceed four at one time. Muslims are often accused of being promiscuous because polygamy is legal in Islam. But there are stringent conditions for considering such a lifestyle. Limited polygyny is a provision approved by Islam for exceptional circumstances only. Having said that, polygamy is not exclusive to Islam.
It existed long before Islam came onto the scene of world events. The Bible says that Lamech, the grandson of Adam, “took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” Many holy prophets in the Bible had many wives at the same time. Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) (peace be upon him) had Sarah and Hajar. He was first blessed with a son through Hajar whom he named Ishmail (peace be upon him), and then he was blessed with another son through Sarah whom he named Isaac (peace be upon him).
The Bible also brings up Jacob (Yakub) (peace be upon him); he had four wives. David, known in Arabic as Prophet Dawood (peace be upon him) had at least eight wives whose names are known. The Second Book of Samuel (in the Bible) talks about “the wives” of Dawood (pbuh) in Hebron and also in Jerusalem.
For a Muslim considering taking on a second wife, the Holy Qur’an is very specific on the conditions to be met. He must be able to provide and maintain the second family, and also deal with both wives and their offspring on the basis of justice and fairness – equal time, equal expenses and equality in everything. Such is the requirement that only a rare number of exceptional individuals can fulfil that quality of justice and fairness.
In Chapter 4 (Surah An-Nisaa), verse 3, after allowing Muslim men to marry two, three or four wives, the Holy Qur’an emphatically states: “but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one.” Understanding the stringent conditions, in the same it says: “And you do not have the ability to do justice between the wives, even though you may wish (to do so)…” (Surah An-Nisaa, 4:129)
Having said that, it is generally understood that the Islamic way for families to move forward is in a monogamous relationship with certain exceptions. And that is the way the world’s Muslims approach the sanctity of marriage.
However, some have taken advantage of the polygamous allowance and ignored the conditions for such a union altogether. These predators, for lack of better word, seek to satisfy their lust by taking on multiple wives, some for a short time before divorcing them and starting the cycle again with a fresh batch of unsuspecting or unwilling women.
A case was brought to my attention of an octogenarian Saudi whose marriage count totaled 31 women. This man married and tormented his Indian wife 50 years his junior. As has been the unfortunate trend, such males descend on poverty stricken areas in Asian countries and through shady middlemen arrange a quick marriage union primarily to satisfy their lust. The girl’s family is given a small sum that may appear to be a fortune and their daughter is then victim to the insatiable appetites of these predators.
Once the man tires off the girl, he disappears from the scene leaving the girl and her family in disarray. No responsibility and no honour exist in such unions and the validity of their brief marriage remains suspicious.
The Indian Deccan Chronicle reported that Shabana Sultan from Hyderabad, India was in her teens when she was married off to a man in his seventies. “Initially, Sultana was reluctant to marry a man as old as Al Abdullah but her sister promised that she would be able to live a rich life and that, after his death, ‘all his property will be hers.’”
In March 1996, Al Abdullah married her without providing any official documents sanctioning the marriage from Saudi authorities. Staying with her for 20 days, he then flew back to the Kingdom. Ms Sultana was left behind with her parents. He visited her in Hyderabad thrice and she gave birth to two daughters Zahoora Ali, Urooj Ali, and a son, Al Sugaihi Abdul Rehman.
Al Abdullah then called her and told her to get the children’s passports and visas done from the Saudi consulate in Mumbai. Along with her children, she landed in Riyadh in May 2015. They were all then taken and confined to a small room. There were times when there was neither food nor water in the room.
“He would come to me once in three days, lock my children in another room and have intercourse with me and leave. If I refused he would assault me and abuse me. I pleaded with him to leave me, but he was adamant,” Sultana said. She would later find out that she was his 31st wife.
When she fell seriously ill a year ago, she was forced to return to India along with two of her children. Her 90-year-old husband did not allow one of her daughters to return with her. Today she begs and pleads with the authorities to let her be united with her daughter.
A heartbreaking story indeed, but one that occurs much too often.
Manipulating the actual text of Islamic law, these lecherous men prey on the poor and the unwilling without fulfilling any of the conditions for a multiple marriage. And their victims are often left broken and destitute.