Da’wah is a duty
Most Muslims know that Islam is a universal religion, meant for all mankind. Allah (swt) is the Lord of the entire Universe, and Muslims have been entrusted with the duty of conveying His message to all mankind. Alas, most Muslims today have become callous towards this duty! While accepting Islam as the best way of life for ourselves, most of us are unwilling to share this knowledge with those to whom the message has not yet been conveyed.
The Arabic word Da’wah means a call or an invitation. In Islamic context, it means to strive for the propagation of Islam.
The Glorious Qur’an says:
“Ah! Who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony theyhave from Allah? But Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!” [Al-Qur’an 2:140]
Twenty Most Common Questions
In order to convey the message of Islam, dialogue and debate become
inevitable. The Glorious Qur’an says:
“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord, with wisdom and beautiful
preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious!”
In conveying the message of Islam to a non-Muslim, it is usually not sufficient to highlight only the positive nature of Islam. Most non-Muslims are not convinced about the truth of Islam because there are a few questions about Islam at the back of their minds that remain unanswered.
They may agree with your contentions about the positive nature of Islam. But, in the same breath, they will say – “Ah! But you are the same Muslims who marry more than one woman. You are the same people who subjugate women by keeping them behind the veil. You are fundamentalists, etc.”
I personally prefer asking the non-Muslims upfront, with their limited knowledge, whether right or wrong, from whichever source it may be, what they feel is wrong in Islam. I encourage them to be very frank and open and convince them that I can take criticism about Islam.
In the past few years of my Da’wah experience, I have realized that there are barely twenty most common questions that a common non-Muslim has regarding Islam. Whenever you ask a non-Muslim, “what do you feel is wrong in Islam?”, he poses five or six questions, and these questions invariably fall among the twenty most common questions.
Logical replies can convince the majority
The twenty most common questions about Islam can be answered with reason and logic. A majority of non-Muslims can be convinced with these answers. If a Muslim memorizes or simply remembers these answers, Inshallah he will be successful, if not in convincing non-Muslims about the complete truth of Islam,then at least in removing misconceptions about Islam and neutralizing the negative thinking about Islam and Muslims that the non-Muslims have. A very few non-Muslims may have counter arguments to these replies, for which further information may be required.
Misconceptions due to media
The common misconceptions about Islam arise in the minds of a majority of non-Muslims, because they are constantly being bombarded with misinformation about Islam. International media is mainly controlled by the western world, whether it is international satellite channels, radio stations, news papers, magazines or books. Recently the Internet has become a powerful
medium of information. Though it is not controlled by anybody, one finds a large amount of virulent propaganda about Islam on the Internet. Of course, Muslims too are utilizing this tool to portray the right image of Islam and Muslims, but they are far behind as compared to the propaganda against Islam. I hope the efforts by the Muslims will increase and continue to be pursued.
Misconceptions change with time
The most common questions about Islam are different in different periods and eras. This set of twenty most common questions is based on present times. Decades earlier, the set of questions was different and decades later too, the set of questions may change depending upon how Islam is projected by the media.
Misconceptions are the same throughout the world
I have interacted with people in different parts of the world and have found these twenty most common questions about Islam to be the same everywhere. There may be a couple of additional questions depending upon the locale, the surrounding or culture. For instance in America, the additional common question is – “Why does Islam prohibit taking and giving of interest?” I have included among these twenty most common questions, certain questions more common among the Indian non-Muslims. For instance, “why do Muslims have non-vegetarian food?” The reason for including such questions is that people of Indian origin are spread throughout the world and constitute about 20% i.e. 1/5th of the world population. Thus, their questions become common questions asked by non-Muslims throughout the world.
Misconceptions of non-Muslims who have studied Islam
There are many non-Muslims who have studied Islam. Most of them have only read books on Islam written by biased critics of Islam. These non-Muslims have an additional set of twenty common misconceptions about Islam. For instance, they claim to have found contradictions in the Qur’an, they contend that the Qur’an is unscientific, etc. There is another set of additional replies clearing these twenty misconceptions among non-Muslims who have studied Islam from distorted sources. I have also given the replies to twenty additional less common questions among the non-Muslims in my public talks and book on “Answers to Common Questions about Islam by Non-Muslims who have some knowledge about Islam”.
“Why is a man allowed to have more than one wife in Islam? i.e. why is polygamy allowed in Islam?”
1. Definition of Polygamy
Polygamy means a system of marriage whereby one person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types. One is polygyny where a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygyny is permitted; whereas polyandry is completely prohibited.
Now coming to the original question, why is a man allowed to have more than one wife?
2. The Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that says, “marry only one”.
The Qur’an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase ‘marry only one’. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the other religious scriptures, whether it be the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta, the Talmud or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one.
Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than one wife. Krishna had several wives. In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as many wives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number of wives. It was only a few centuries ago that the Church restricted the number of wives to one.
Polygyny is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudic law, Abraham had three wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practice of polygyny continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah (960 C.E to 1030 C.E) issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslim countries continued the practice till as late as 1950, until an Act of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel extended the ban on marrying more than one wife.
(*Interesting Note:- As per the 1975 census of India Hindus are more
polygynous than Muslims. The report of the ‘Committee of The Status of
Woman in Islam’, published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66 and 67 that
the percentage of polygamous marriages between the years 1951 and 1961
was 5.06% among the Hindus and only 4.31% among the Muslims. According
to Indian law only Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is
illegal for any non-Muslim in India to have more than one wife. Despite it being
illegal, Hindus have more multiple wives as compared to Muslims. Earlier, there
was no restriction even on Hindu men with respect to the number of wives
allowed. It was only in 1954, when the Hindu Marriage Act was passed that it
became illegal for a Hindu to have more than one wife. At present it is the Indian
Law that restricts a Hindu man from having more than one wife and not the
Let us now analyse why Islam allows a man to have more than one wife.
3. Qur’an permits limited polygyny
As I mentioned earlier, Qur’an is the only religious book on the face of the earth that says ‘marry only one’. The context of this phrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Qur’an:
“Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that
ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one.”
Before the Qur’an was revealed, there was no upper limit for polygyny and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islam put an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two, three or four women, only on the condition that he deals justly with them.
In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says:
“Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women….”
Therefore polygyny is not a rule but an exception. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to have more than one wife.
Broadly, Islam has five categories of Do’s and Don’ts:
(i) ‘Fard’ i.e. compulsory or obligatory
(ii) ‘Mustahab’ i.e. recommended or encouraged
(iii) ‘Mubah’ i.e. permissible or allowed
(iv) ‘Makruh’ i.e. not recommended or discouraged
(v) ‘Haraam’ i.e. prohibited or forbidden
Polygyny falls in the middle category of things that are permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or four wives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.
4. Average life span of females is more than that of males
By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio. A female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, during the pediatric age itself there are more deaths among males as compared to the females.
During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.
5. India has more male population than female due to female foeticide and infanticide
India is one of the few countries, along with the other neighbouring countries, in which the female population is less than the male population. The reason lies in the high rate of female infanticide in India, and the fact that more than one million female foetuses are aborted every year in this country, after they are identified as females. If this evil practice is stopped, then India too will have more females as compared to males.
6. World female population is more than male population
In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites. The U.S.A as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women. Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million more females as compared to males. Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.
7. Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical
Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain, 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband.
Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes ‘public property’. There is no other option. All those who are modest will opt for the first.
Most women would not like to share their husband with other women. But in
Islam when the situation deems it really neccessary Muslim women in due faith could bear a small personal loss to prevent a greater loss of letting other Muslim sisters becoming ‘public properties’.
8. Marring a married man preferable to becoming ‘public property’
In Western society, it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life.
Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become ‘public property’. Islam prefers giving women the honourable position by permitting the first option and disallowing the second.
There are several other reasons, why Islam has permitted limited polygyny, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.
to be continued insyaAllah..
this article is part of the Answers to Non-Muslims series by Dr Zakir Naik