The Letter and the Spirit: Refections on Polygamy

May 14, 2015

GermanPolygamyAli planned to marry during his marriage with Faatimah, upon this Faatimah went to her father, the prophet, peace to him after which he said:

“I gave a daughter of mine in marriage to Abu’l-‘Aas ibn ar-Rabee‘; when he spoke he told me the truth and when he made me a promise he fulfilled his promise. Faatimah is a part of me, and whatever hurts her hurts me.”
So ‘Ali abandoned that proposal.

Some reflections on polygamy in general (not rulings)
-The above shows polygamy is not always the best option and can sometimes be the wrong option.

-The prophet, peace to him, was monogamous during the lifetime of his first wife, after her death he became polygamous immediately marrying Saudah and ‘Aisha close together. Why does this matter? Though they still suffered from jealously no one suffered the deep hurt that women often face after being in a monogamous marriage for long periods of time and their husband suddenly taking another wife.

-All of the prophet’s wives except ‘Aisha were previously married -some if not all were widows of war. Why does this matter? These were not marriages for self benefit alone -if at all, but rather community benefit, marrying women who could use the support of a husband.

-Faatimah went to her father after hearing about ‘Ali’s plans and the prophet, peace to him, did not scold her, did not tell hell to be patient, did not say it was ‘Ali right, he acknowledge her pain, felt deep empathy for her and made that empathy public.

-The prophet, peace to him, also says concerning this occurrence: “I fear lest she be put to trial with regard to her religious commitment.” (Bukhari, 3110) again this shows that though limited polygamy is obviously lawful the prophet, peace to him, held a concern for his daughter and indirectly discouraged ‘Ali from pursuing this second union.

-The prophet, peace to him never married an Ansari woman knowing their aversion to polygamy. So it seems unfair that a consideration of culture or cultural aversion, can be said to be “unIslamic” or a reflection of poor faith.

We all know polygamy is allowed. We also known it is a serous trial for many women but it is also a trial for men. If the prophet, peace to him, considered the possible the emotional and religious state polygamy could put his daughter in than surely women should not be silenced when they bring up similar concerns. The prophet, peace to him, involving himself in polygamy with women who he could benefit and not merely out of self interest needs to be considered. The prophet not marrying during his time with Khadeejah is worth reflection. The prophet, peace to him, not marrying an Ansari is worth reflection.

If the prophet, peace to him, considered culture, context, personal anguish, etc. then is it really following the sunnah for a man to say he’s simply “taking his right” and ignoring everything the prophet himself considered?

My belief is that Islam has been used in our modern times as a tool to abuse and control women because we don’t care about reflection, we don’t care about excellence or truly following the prophetic way, we’re only concerned with rights but our religion is not just about rights.

We need both the letter and the spirit to practice the balanced beauty that is Islam.
Lastly as our beloved himself said: “I am not making any permissible thing forbidden, or any forbidden thing permitted.” (Bukhari, 3110)
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Edit: I’ve been told the hadith I quoted has been criticized for having poor isnad so in sha Allah if that makes you uncomfortable, which is reasonable, please disregard it and focus on the reflections not made about that hadith. With that being said I will also mention my sheikh has said a weak hadith can be used in providing lessons/adab/inspiration (can’t remember his exact wording but basically for anything other than for a fiqh ruling). Ghazali for example uses several weak hadith in his Ihya, weak hadith cannot however be used to make a ruling. So I believe my reflection on this hadith despite the hadith being weak (according to some) is still acceptable. Also I read this hadith on islamqa and I don’t believe they mentioned it as defective so maybe there are different views on it’s reliability, Allah knows best.

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