SIS(Sisters in Islam)is disturbed by the insulting and misogynistic attack on our monogamy campaign made by a man who is clearly ignorant not only regarding our campaign, but also regarding the concept of marriage according to the divine principles of the syariah as provided in the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w.
This man refers to polygamy as “divine rights endowed to Muslim men”. Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society in the Age of Ignorance, a man could only have one wife, and the Qur’an was revealed to “endow” men with the “rights” to have up to four wives? For his information, even the most basic look at history will show that in the pre-Islamic society, men were practising unlimited polygamy — a man could have any number of wives that he pleased — and it was the Qur’anic revelation which introduced reforms by restricting the maximum number of wives to four, as well as by commanding monogamy if there is fear of injustice to the women. Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 3 states to the effect that:
If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry 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 … that will be more suitable to prevent you from doing injustice.
Moreover, this verse in Surah an-Nisa’ was revealed after a battle (the Uhud battle) which had resulted in many men being killed, leaving behind many war widows and war orphans. As the breadwinners were chiefly men, the widows found it difficult to provide for their children. It was in this context that polygamy was tolerated in Islam, to provide for the welfare of widows and their orphaned children. In fact, it is remarkable that even in that post-war situation, the Qur’an discontinued the then-existing practice of unlimited polygamy.
From the historical point of view, polygamy was an institution that existed not only in pre-Islamic Arabia, but also in various civilizations, religions and cultures in many parts of the world. Polygamy was practised among the Jews, Chinese, Indian and Mormon Christians, until it was abolished by the laws. For instance, the United States of America banned polygamy under the Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, and the Mormon Church officially renounced polygamy in 1907 after their efforts to challenge the law in the Supreme Court were unsuccessful. In Malaysia also, polygamy was practised among the Chinese and Indian Hindu communities until it was forbidden under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act which came into force in 1982.
Unfortunately, with the abolition of polygamy among the people of other faiths, confusion has arisen among the ignorant members of the Muslim community who now regard polygamy as “divine rights endowed to Muslim men”. As a result, those who are conscious of the true divine principles of the syariah and object to the abuse of polygamy are subjected to insulting attacks by such ignoramus.
Those who support polygamy often refer to the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and are probably ignorant of the fact that the Prophet (s.a.w.) was monogamous for more than twenty five years, i.e. throughout the lifetime of his first wife Siti Khadija (r.a.) and that his polygamous marriages after her death were to widowed or divorced women for political and tribal reasons. The only virgin he married was his second wife, Aishah (r.a.). There is also an authentic Tradition that the Prophet (s.a.w.) forbade his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib (r.a.) from marrying another woman unless Ali first divorces the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah (r.a.) A great-granddaughter of the Prophet (s.a.w), Sakinah binti Hussein, a granddaughter of Ali and Fatimah, put various conditions in her marriage contract, including the condition that her husband would have no right to take another wife during their marriage
It is therefore clear that giving a wife such an option for obtaining a divorce through the marriage contract or ta’liq is not against Islamic teachings. It is not a new interpretation which has only arisen in these modern times. On the contrary, it is supported by traditional practices from the early days of Islam. It is not an innovation introducing anything that is unlawful, since divorce by ta’liq is also lawfulin Islam.
The ignoramus who assume that polygamy is a divine right endowed to Muslim men apparently assume that unilateral right to divorce is also a divine right endowed to Muslim men. Does he think that in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyah society, men were unable to divorce their wives unilaterally, and the Qur’an was revealed to endow men with the unilateral right to divorce their wives as and when they please? For his information, the Qur’anic verses on divorce were revealed to impose some form of control on the men’s pre-existing unilateral right of divorce. Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 229 states to the effect that:
the parties should either hold together on equitable terms (ma’ruf), or separate with kindness (ihsan)
The Qur’an also recommends arbitration as a means for resolving disputes between an estranged couple, and in this process, equal rights are granted to the husband and wife as Surah an-Nisa’ 4 : 35 provides that:
If you fear a breach between a married couple appoint (two) arbiters, one from among his people, and the other from among her people
The rights of divorced women are also safeguarded in the Qur’anic provisions. In addition to the iddah maintenance for a period of three to four months, there is a clear general injunction for the payment of reasonable compensation or financial provision (mut’ah). There is no specific form or limit for mut’ah, in Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 241 which states that:
For divorced women mut’ah (financial provision) (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale), this is a duty on the righteous.
The misogynist who attacks our monogamy campaign also attacks the whole issue of women’s status in Islam, in his unwarranted, sarcastic and insulting remarks on the possibility of women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four, and on women being granted a unilateral right of divorce. His remarks on women wanting to marry up to a maximum of four is beneath contempt. However, regarding women’s unilateral right of divorce however, for his information, historical research has shown some remarkable individual marriage contracts in the early days of Islam, where the husband had agreed that the wife should be equally entitled to dissolve the marriage unilaterally. This right through the marriage contract, known as ‘isma, is discussed in classical Islamic jurisprudence and accepted by some of the classical jurists.
The pathetic mindset of some ignorant members of the Muslim community today has brought Islam and syariah into disrepute. These ignoramuses apparently think that the concepts of justice and equality between men and women in the family are notions foreign to Islam. They pay lip service about not being “against women”, but their whole attitude reveal the hypocrisy of such lip service, and their deep seated misogyny with their self-contradictory assertions. They accuse women who seek to expose the realities of injustice and suffering resulting from unfair practices by irresponsible men as stupid and absurd. These misogynists claim “divine rights endowed to Muslim men” without being aware of what is actually the letter and spirit of the divine revelations.
Sisters In Islam