Thursday, July 15, 2010

Polygamy : My 2-cents in response to a comment.

In my previous posting Wanna b a bride, I talked about the problem facing Muslim women in many Muslim societies not finding Muslim husbands.  One of the comments mentioned polygamy in Islam asked about its impact of the problem discussed in the posting.

I responded with enough material that may deserved its own 'mini' posting.  Also, re-posting my comment may lead to stimulating a discussion on polygamy.  So, here is the question and my comment.

MW said in a comment: "If some men have more than one wife, does that mean that there is also a proportional amount of men with no wives?"
My response was:

This is not a problem in most cases because the proportion of polygamous men is tiny. I lived in Egypt for 30 years and have not known of a single person in my family, friends, family friends, coworkers and other immediate contacts that married more than one woman. It does happen (more commonly in rural areas, especially if first marriage did not produce children), but the proportion is very small.

That could theoretically still lead to disturbance of the balance between men and women available for marriage, but only if one does not know enough about the man-female sex ratio in population at different ages and under different conditions of society dynamics.

Natural discrepancy in sex survival rates, tendency in ALL societies to maintain few years difference on average between husbands and wives, emigration sex biases, wars, etc, all result in about 5% bias in favor of women. You can research this if you will. I already have.

Of course if polygyny becomes a goal in itself (usually in rich spoilt societies of the gulf), it looses the actual legitimacy that comes from the very tight regulation on polygamy in Islam. The only verse that allows polygamy (i.e., polygyny) in Islam has pretty tight conditions for that practice and, still, it was in the context of extending supportive family structure to a large number of orphans after some of the early battles that was associated with significant losses amongst Muslims men in the battle, leaving behind unsupported women and children in a society where support comes traditionally in the form of nuclear family structure.

Many Arab and Muslim societies have legally restricted the right to have more than one wife to varying degrees, and in most Muslim society polygamy IS looked down upon unless its legitimacy could be gleaned from the circumstance. Men who marry a new 18 year old girl every few years are not considered appropriately behaving. Polygamy in early days of Islam meant to marry an older woman, usually with children, as a second wife, not a 'trophy' young girl to prove that you are 'the Man'.

While I do not intend, or need, to justify polygyny under the strict limitations in Islam by mentioning extramarital affairs, I think it is most telling that rates of polygamy among Muslims is a small fraction of adultery among married men AND women in Western societies.  I am not picking on Western societies, but that is where more statistics are available).   And by marriage, I mean ongoing marriages - not past marriages or among separated couple.



  1. Looking back, I also don't remember seeing or hearing about any case of polygamy, except for one of my grand parents -that aboout 80 years ago or so, and some distant relative who married to a Saudi man. Both sounded like with a good reason. That is still an anecdote, but as you mentioned that has a lot of restriction acording to Islam.
    This subject is very stimulating, and should -I suspect- a lot of comments and opinions, especially from the Muslim community, because it is a real issue. It is more relevant to many of us than discussing for example the ban of Burqa/Niqab in France, although I think the latter should be fought by those who are defending individual freedom of chooice. And that is a subject for another discussion.

  2. I completely understand the stand of islam in getting the women and kids orphaned in wars the well needed protection of a family and respectable sustainance. I wish modern world would allow for such a provision so men could be compelled to at least give foster care to families. This will stop the poverty and need (physical or spiritual) from justifying humiliation and obscenity in our society. There are so many needy women and kids emerging out of "war mentality" where we are seeing rape as a "strategic weapon" and deagradation of human dignity, especially women, as "something glorious" and totally justified. In this God's world, who has the grace of getting married for the right reason. How many people would think of even getting a first bride who comes from a torn home or country for that matter how beautiful or young..easier said than done... would I rather be a wife or a mistress? you think... you decide... if it was your sister or mother or daughter!!

  3. Thanks for the response. It was very informative.