By Suha Cassim –
There is a debate about the “nefarious effects” of Polygyny.. but the debate is not within the community rather it is imposed on us. Often, our society weigh in on many social issues..prostitution, gay marriage, capital punishment, unfaithfulness in relationships or some other social issues. My aim is to enlighten the reader on the reasons that it Polygyny is allowed in Islam. Those opposing Polygyny do not represent the majority of the Muslim population in Sri Lanka. Polygyny is the most common and accepted form of Polygamy, entailing the marriage of a man with several women but Islam restricts that to 4 wives and with strict conditions; and in this country Polygyny is practised by a very small percentage of the Muslim population. But it is allowed.
Allah is the All Wise who has has sent down the Quran and chosen His Messenger to guide us – who are we to even think of changing Allah’s laws? (Thashkheer is to put aside our intellect and our logic when it comes to the obedience of ALLAH swt and the sunnah of Rasoolulah sal.) Our duty is to teach and reform faulty human behaviour and not change Divine Law. The basic requirement of a believer is to obey ALLAH and His Messenger; solutions to any eventual issues are to be found in the Quran and Sunnah.
The practice of polygyny gives that man who has not been granted children, a reason not to divorce his first wife. Ageing wives can therefore retain the dignity of the married estate and remain with her husband and the family they love.
A wife who does not feel like intimacy due to pregnancy or childbirth or menopause, will not be under pressure since he will have other perfectly acceptable options within the marriage. Also, if the husband and wife collectively decide that the man should take on a second wife because the first wife is unable to bear children, what objections can any critic lay
on them? What moral authority do they have over any husband and wife who have decided their own collective happiness? No critic should raise questions from any presumed role of a moral high ground.
The importance our laws place on marriages contracted only between two people, tempts us to think that monogamy is the natural human state. The reality could not be further from the truth.
Scientific research has verified while monogamy is the expected societal norm, it is relatively unusual against the back drop of human history. Only 20% of the societies sampled, considered monogamous unions to be normal and desirable.
In Western countries, that ban Polygyny, LGBTQ marriages are legalised, recognized and protected by law. There does not even seem to be an argument then, to limit polygynous marriages..
Why did Gay men and women fight for the right to be married? In the main it was economics. Like Polygynous marriages, it provides partners with certain automatic legal protection that include inheritance, pension rights, hospital visitation rights, custody rights, access to family insurance and many more.
Polygynous marriages extend these protections automatically to all spouses within a marriage, regardless of their position in the family. So long as one can support multiple wives and children from them, then it’s probably the preferable legal position (rather than satisfying desires with illicit relationships that have terrifying life long consequences). Questions of jealousy, desire, and so forth, are important from a subjective perspective, but irrelevant from a legal evaluation of the issue.
Michael Price’s hypothesis that monogamy supports co-operation and, as a result, has spread from the West to other regions was tested by using five measures of societal success against 156 contemporary nation states, of which 84 are monogamous and 72 are polygamous. Among other conclusions, “Price found that 64% of monogamous societies only 25% of polygamous societies had liberal democracies.” But not all monogamy is politically imposed, as evinced by its existence among small-scale band and tribal societies. “Ecologically imposed monogamy” arises when men lack the resources needed to support multiple wives ..
(Sanderson 2001: 333).
The intended change in the law banning Polygyny in Sri Lanka is firstly a total infringement of our fundamental and religious rights. No Government has the right to change our personal Muslim laws and injunctions given in our religious scripture and are already in place. This will bring social changes that will give rise to serial monogamy – i.e. people who marry and divorce multiple times. It will change the social structure and construct that is Divine. For the man who wants a new relationship he will simply divorce his wife and avoid any economic obligation.
Essentially serial monogamists ‘use the law to gain the benefits of a polygynous relationship’ without being subject to the restrictions and duties of marriage, including escaping what should be lifelong commitments to the children they have with their disposable spouses.
On the flip side the Polygynists are criminalised for wanting to take lifelong responsibility for the wives they have loved and the children they have created, while serial monogamists are permitted to celebrate wedding after wedding, discarding their previous relationships on the scrapheap of life. While divorce is now an accepted part of our life and the world over, up to 50% of first marriages end before the death of a spouse and often failure rates are high for subsequent marriages. It is quite right that the stigma that used to surround divorcees and their children has disappeared but it leaves us, with an unpalatable situation where society sees nothing wrong with the serial monogamists!
As a nation that has accepted divorce, or living together without marriage, turning a blind eye to the LGBTQ groups although such relationships are illegal in Sri Lanka, it stands to reason that there is no longer any reason or any excuse to continue to victimize the Muslims and their Divine law.
There are four objectives given in the Quran for marriage: Protection against physical, moral and spiritual ailments, continuation of human life, companionship and peace of mind, Growth of relations of love and compassion.
However, Allah The Most High, has explicitly mentioned in the Quran in Sura Nisa: verse 3: “And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (3)”
Monogamous or polygynous, the objective of marriage in Islam remains the same.
Islam gave women rights which were not dreamt of, by the rest of the world, when humanity was in total darkness. It ensured the protection of the female, be it wife, mother, daughter or sister. While there are behaviours whose value judgements hold no place in decent society and cannot be condoned or supported by the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, this does not give any credence or necessity to abolish and modify, simply an allowance, a tolerance that has been permitted but with strict conditions in the Quran and explained clearly by our beloved Prophet sal.
Finally and the most important fact is that we are forbidden to make any changes to the Quran which is the Divine Word of God.
As a believing Muslim, I am working for my hereafter. And we are not alone in that.. As such we have to ensure that God’s words, His Commands and Prohibitions are not jettisoned for the sake imported customs.