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Why Marriage to More Than One Woman is Permitted in Islam

Islam is the last and final word of Allah (SWT), ending the series of His messages to mankind. It therefore came with a general law suitable for all times and places, and for the whole of humanity. It did not legislate for the city dweller only, while neglecting the nomad, nor for the cold regions while ignoring the hot ones, nor for one particular period of time, forgetting later times and the generations to come.

Islam recognizes the needs and interests of all people, of individuals as well as groups. And among human beings one finds that individual who has a strong desire for children but whose wife is barren, chronically ill, or has some other problem. Would it not be more considerate on her part and better for him to marry a second wife who can bear him children, while retaining the first wife with all her rights guaranteed? Then there may also be the case of a man whose desire for sex is strong, while his wife has little desire for it, or who is chronically ill, has long menstrual periods, or the like, while her husband unable to restrain his sexual urge. Should it not be permitted to him to marry a second wife instead of his hunting around for girlfriends? There are also times when women outnumber men, as for example after wars which often decimate the ranks of men.

In such a situation it is in the interests of the society and of women themselves that they become co-wives to a man instead of spending their entire lives without marriage, deprived of the peace, affection, and protection of marital life and the joy of motherhood for which they naturally yearn with all their hearts. Only three possible alternatives exist for such surplus women who are not married as first wives:  

  1. to pass their whole lives in bitter deprivation,

  2. to become sex objects and playthings for lecherous men; or

  3. to become co-wives to men who are able to support more than one wife and who will treat them kindly.

Unquestionably, the last alternative is the correct solution, a healing remedy for this problem, and that is the judgement of Islam:

"And Who is better than Allah in judgement, for a people who have certain faith?" (Surah 5: Verse 50)

For this is the Islamic “polygamy” which people in the West consider so abhorrent and to which they react with such hostility, while their own men are free to have any number of girlfriends, without restriction and without any legal or moral accountability, either in respect to the woman or to the children she may bear as a result of this irreligious and immoral plurality of extra-marital relationships.

Let the two alternatives—plurality of wives or plurality of illicit affairs — be compared, and let people ask themselves which is the proper course of action, and which of the two groups is correctly guided!

Article Contributed by: itsIslam Staff



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