Do Muslim women like polygamy?


                                                                             Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D.

Kate McCord’s book, In the Land of the Blue Burqas, records her experiences in Afghanistan and a conversion with a group of women on how many wives a husband can have in America.

“That day, I didn't have time to engage in a lengthy conversation, so I answered briefly, "No. A man in America cannot take more than one wife at the same time. It's against the law."
They all laughed and agreed that this was much better than the Afghan way. As we walked toward the street, I asked why.

“One woman responded, "Our husbands take second, third, and fourth wives. We hate it." There was finality in her statement. It was more a declaration than explanation: "We hate it."

"You are followers of the Prophet Mohammed, aren't you?" "Yes, yes. Of course, of course. We are Muslims." I smiled and said, "Your Prophet had multiple wives. You must live like your Prophet. Therefore, your men take multiple wives. It's Sunnah. " Sunnah is the example of the Prophet of Islam. In Afghanistan, everyone tells me that they must follow the examples of their Prophet.

“I've listened to stories by numerous Afghan men of their experiences during the Taliban occupation. In some towns, they were required to grow long beards because the Prophet had a long beard. The Taliban considered facial hair Sunnah and enforced the rule. Many aspects of Sunnah are recorded in the Hadith and are expected to be followed.

“Likewise, a great many men in Afghanistan believe that because the Prophet had multiple wives simultaneously and said that Muslim men can have up to four wives at the same time, they are not only free but encouraged to take additional wives.

“I've never met an Afghan woman who liked the idea of her husband taking a second, third, or fourth wife. They consider it a great loss. The husband is only supposed to take additional wives if he can provide for them all equally, but in practice that's rarely the case. Often a woman and her children, if she has them, lose when her husband takes a second or subsequent wife. In the area of Afghanistan where I lived, having multiple wives was the norm.

“The women walking around me nodded and laughed. "Yes, yes it's Sunnah. We must do it."
Just before we reached the gate I said, "America was established primarily by men who believed in the goodness of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not have multiple wives, nor did He command or recommend His followers to do so, therefore we don't do that."

“The women sighed, quickly agreed that having only one wife was better, but that since they were Muslims and followers of the Prophet, they couldn't live that way.

“In a later conversation a group of women told us that a Muslim girl’s responsibility is to marry, procreate and maintain the household. That’s her purpose in life. When she's physically ready, she must do it. We asked the younger girl if she wanted to marry. Again, everyone in the room laughed. The girl shrugged as if to say, "What difference does it make?"

“One of the other women in the room explained that no girl wants to get married, but she must. It's the law.

“Later I took up the same topic with another young man, Raimulla, who was old enough at least to begin to understand. One day Raimulla announced, with absolute pride, his engagement
to a girl from his home village. His father had won the negotiations for the girl he had wanted. His dream was coming true.

"I learned quickly that it would take two to three years for Raimulla to earn enough money to pay for the wedding and the bride price. During that time, he wouldn't be able to see his fiancée at all. He did buy her a phone, though, and called her regularly. That was how they developed their relationship.

“On a whim, I decided to convince him of the merits of having only one wife. I didn't get far. Like my friend's son, he was absolutely convinced that four wives is best, two is good, and one isn't the example of the Prophet. Whose example we follow matters.

“I teased him. "If you take a second wife, you will have the service of both and the heart of neither." He made a joke about his desirability and his manhood being enough for two women, then pointed out what seemed completely obvious to him. "Islam says we should take more than one wife. Women know this, and men know this. It's the right thing."
I warned him, "If you do it, you will lose this first wife's heart." "No, no. You don't understand. Afghan women want their men to take second wives. It's Sunnah, the example of the Prophet. They are very happy with it."

“At the time I was shocked at his absolute ignorance of the way Afghan women really felt about sharing husbands with other wives. How could he think that? Then I remembered, as a foreign woman, even with only a few years in Afghanistan, I'd spoken to far more Afghan women than he had in his entire life. After all, men and women live very segregated lives. In the end, we finished our conversation in laughter and complete disagreement.

“Some six months later Raimulla came back to me. He had just gotten off the phone with his fiancee and appeared troubled. I asked if everything was all right.
"Yes, yes, it's just that ... " He paused.
"What's wrong?"
“He shrugged, smiled almost apologetically, and explained, "She asked me to promise her I would not take a second wife." I almost howled but swallowed my delight. I couldn't hide my
smile. "So what did you say?"

“Raimulla shrugged again, shuffled. "I promised."
I told him he'd made the right decision, and I was proud of him. Then I asked what happened.
He looked down at the floor. "She told me she would stop loving me if I took a second wife. She asked me to promise her I wouldn't. I tried to talk her out of it, but she refused. She said I had to promise, so I did." I smiled and told him, "The love of one woman is worth more than the service of two." Raimulla nodded. He wanted his fiancée to become his wife in fullness, heart and body.

“I wondered if our conversation had prepared him to listen to his fiancée’s voice. I knew she couldn't force him. They were already engaged, and that's a legal contract she would not be able to void. I was glad he did listen to her, glad he had chosen love over the example
of his Prophet. Marriage should be a precious gift enjoyed for a lifetime by a husband and his beloved wife. It really is the first relationship.

“On a different occasion I was visiting with a young male co-worker,Naseer, and his family. He was delighted with his mother's choice of a wife for him and was looking forward to more than sex in his relationship with her. Real companionship clearly sounded inviting.

“I went on. "The Honorable Jesus walked with His students. He lived with them and ate with them. He talked to them, and He taught them. He taught them about God and how to live well.

“I wasn't finished, though. "Then, the Honorable Jesus died for His students and for all who would later believe in Him. The Honorable Jesus showed us what real love is. And He tells men they should love their wives the way He loved His students." Naseer didn't know how to react to that idea, so he just tucked it away. We continued working together for several more months. Often, over that time, he talked to me about his upcoming marriage and asked questions about my faith and the teachings of the Bible. On several occasions, he read whole passages from the New Testament and wondered out loud how such stories and teachings could possibly be true. He was constantly amazed at the love Jesus had for His students while He was on earth and the love the God of the Bible has for humankind .

“Naseer told me that Allah is merciful only to those who obey him and specifically only to those who obey him according to the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Everyone else, Allah hates. He told me that the Prophet Mohammed was also merciful to those who obeyed and became Muslims. Those who disobeyed, who rejected the Prophet's teachings, were killed.

“Naseer had shown me something important. If a husband is like his Prophet, then he should be kind and merciful to his wife when she obeys him. When she does not obey, he should demand submission. That gave me a context to understand the widow who had said that
her husband had been a good man because he only beat her when she was young. Eventually, she had learned what he wanted and gave it to him.”
(Conversations draw from pp.50-60 In the Land of the Blue Burqas, Chicago:Moody Press, 2012.)

There is so much for serious meditation in these stories. One very big problem is the tradition of doing what Mohammad did. In Islam one cannot raise the question of the rightness or wrongness of Mohammad’s actions. From the conversation of the women they hated the idea of several wives. It was not good for the whole family structure, but they were not able to argue against or disagree with it. When one concludes that whatever Mohammad did was good there must be a suspension of rational discourse. When reason is ignored, one seldom comes to the truth of issues.

Because Mohammad became a warrior conquering people and killing the men so that the wives could be captured and forced into marriage, people in modern times have purposed doing the same thing. One imam in Egypt proposed jihad to plunder the wealth of other nations, capture the women and set up a slave market where one could buy a wife. Source

If you are a rational being with a conscience you must say that it is wrong. If you are a Muslim and a group of thugs invaded your city plundering your wealth, your home, your wife and children you would undoubtedly claim that it is evil. But if Mohammad did it, then it is good. This is irrational. Evil becomes the good thing to do.

Second, there is the issue of multiple wives. Polygamy has been practiced in many cultures, but none of it good for the women. Women are abused, mis-used, demeaned, and regarded as property rather than persons. Women want a relationship with a husband who cares about them, not just their bodies. Women are not dumb. They know that their bodies are viewed as sex objects in the mind of the men. What kind of psychological disappointment comes about in the mind of a woman in Egypt when she signs the marriage license with her name on the first line, but views the three lines under her name for other future wives. When she is a little older and her husband demands to have a younger wife there is nothing she can do.

Polygamy is also a great threat to women leading to divorce in Saudi Arabia. In a recent study it was found that “Another common reason for divorce in the past has been the appearance of a second wife in the household. But polygamy’s acceptability among young Saudis is declining, especially among women. “I haven’t heard anyone in past five years say I’m gonna go get two to three wives, because then you have to have two houses that are very distant, out of gunshot range,” joked a 23-year-old male medical student in Jeddah.


“Only one woman I interviewed said she would not mind if her husband had another wife. The 27-year-old student of Islamic commercial law said polygamy is fine “as long as he is just to all wives.… There is no problem when there is justice between me and the other wife.”
“But she is in the minority. Two other women studying at Imam Muhammad bin Saud University said they don’t like polygamy even though they recognize that Muslim men are entitled to have up to four wives simultaneously. “Nobody wants it. No woman would really want that to happen... but of course it’s allowed and to think about it in logical terms…”

( (P.106-107) A Kingdom’s Future: Saudi Arabia Through the Eyes of its Twentysomethings

Third, who is the model example for living? How is it possible that Muslims look upon Mohammad as a model man? What we know about Mohammad is drawn from Muslim sources. These are not anti-Muslim sources. They simply wrote what they knew and were not ashamed of it. Consider some of the following contrasts:

Mohammad planned attacks on Meccan caravans. They were acts of revenge because the Meccans rejected him as a prophet. Mohammad attacked innocent villages, killed the men and took the women as wives, raping them in front of their husbands before they were killed.
Mohammad claimed Allah allowed him to have any wife he wanted and more than anyone else. He married Aishe when she was 6 and had sex with her when she was 9. Non-Muslims regard this as pedophilia, but Muslims regard this as an act to be repeated as good, not evil.
Mohammad hated the Jews for rejecting him as a prophet and had a tribe of them beheaded in one day. The number of men killed was somewhere between 700 and 900. The women were taken captive as sex slaves. Mohammad did not know what Allah would do with him when he died.

Jesus killed no one. He walked from village to village declaring the coming Kingdom of God. He had no wives, but women walked with him freely and supported his disciples. Women were healed, the blind were given their sight back, the lame were made to be able to walk, the lepers were cleansed, the dead were raised to life again. He spoke with women outside his family and elevated their positions in society. He welcomed small children in his arms and declared that people should be trusting as little children to enter the Kingdom of God. When he was crucified he prayed for the people responsible, “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” After his resurrection he commissioned his followers to preach the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness to the world. Jesus came to give us everlasting life. He ascended into heaven and is coming again.
If you are a rational being, which is the better example? There is more involved than the issue of who is the better example. Mohammed has done nothing for you. He does not give you anything. Jesus, on the other hand, died for your sins, and offers you everlasting life in His presence. Choose life.