It is an accepted historical fact that polygamy was considered permissible in all religions of the world long before the advent of Islam. The custom of polygamy prevailed in Arabia, India, Iran, Egypt, Babylon and also amongst the other nations. Even presently, no one can deny its logical validity.
“Polygamy is not just something which is favourable, but is a source of blessings from God.”
Others such as Father Nixon, John Milton and Isaac Taylor have strongly supported this view. Similarly, Vedic teachings permit an unlimited number of wives even ten, thirteen or twenty seven ... all at one time. Shri Krishna, a highly respected deity amongst the Hindus, had hundreds of wives.
The truth of the matter is that any religion or law which wishes to establish an infrastructure of chastity and modesty and considers the eradication of adultery as necessary, has no alternative but to permit polygamy. Apart from being a preventative measure against adultery and illicit relationships, there are other logical reasons for allowing it:
Firstly, a woman is not able to engage in intercourse with her husband all the time due to experiencing menses. During this time it is necessary for the husband to abstain from her.
Secondly, when she is pregnant, the husband has to exercise caution or else intercourse during this delicate period could prove detrimental to the child.
Thirdly, when a woman falls ill, is pregnant or during childbirth etc. she experiences acute pain and difficulty, therefore the husband is unable to take enjoyment from her.
Fourthly, at times a woman is barren and cannot bear children and a man has a natural desire to see his lineage continuing.
The solution to all these problems is to allow a man to marry more than one woman.
We also find that throughout the world, especially in Western countries the female population is much larger than the male population. Shaikh Ashraf Ali Thanwi (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) writes in Masaalihul A’qliyyah (Vol. 1, p. 173):
“Statistics of pre-World War 1 Britain, shows that there were 1 269 350 women who could not get husbands because of polygamy being illegal. According to the census of 1900, in France, there were 432 709 more women than men. According to the census of 1900, in Germany, there were 1 032 women for every 1 000 men.
In other words, from the entire population there were 887 648 women who had no men to marry them. According to the census of 1901, in Sweden, there were 122 870 more women than men. According to the census of 1890, in Spain, there were 457 262 more women than men. According to the census of 1890, in Austria, there were 644 796 more women than men.”
These were statistics of over a century ago. Many wars have been fought since then resulting in more men dying and leaving many more women widowed. The only solution to this problem is the simple logic of accepting polygamy. If this is not legalised, there will be excessive illicit relationships, prostitutions, rapes, molestations, incests and a detestable surge in gerontophilia [sexual abuse of the elderly], and paedophilia [a wholesale abuse of the innocent under-aged]. All those four million women mentioned above (the figures will be much higher now) are being told that they should live against their natural disposition and that they should never have any desire. That is something impossible. That is why in nations where polygamy has been prohibited there is rampant adultery. Even in current times if one looks at the state of nations in Europe and America, one will see that they frown upon polygamy and ban it but they permit a man to practice adultery with as many women as he likes. Saying no to marriage and yes to adultery is certainly very strange, loathsome and obnoxious.
In short, it can now be concluded with definite surety that the custom of polygamy was prevalent long before the advent of Islam. The history of nations and beliefs shows that no religion or law had put any restriction in this matter, neither the Jews and Christians, nor the Hindus. With Islam came a codification and a systematisation of polygamy. It is also the one tested and solid solution to prostitution, extra-marital affairs, caring for the larger female population and the establishment of sound, healthy and ordered family units.
Why did the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) have many wives?
The enemies of Islam have always made the issue of polygamy, especially the number of wives of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) a target of criticism. However, if the blessed life of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is studied holistically then even Shaytaan cannot find an opportunity to cast doubts against the conduct of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam). It is an established fact that the first marriage of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) was at the age of 25 to Hadhrat Khadija (Radiyallahu Anha) who was an elderly woman who had been widowed twice before and had children. She was approximately 40 years old. Till the age of 50 which was the prime of his life, Prophet Muhmmad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) only had Hadhrat Khadija (Radiyallahu Anha) as the one “elderly” wife. These 50 years of the blessed life were spent right before the eyes of the Makkans who began opposing Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) after the age of forty when Nubuwwat [prophethood] was bestowed upon the Master (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). They left no stone unturned in harassing and finding fault with him. They called him a sorcerer, a poet and even insane, yet no enemy could find a single chance to cast doubts on his piety, modesty and purity.
At the age of 50, after the passing away of Hadhrat Khadija (Radiyallahu Anha), Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), married Hadhrat Saudah bint Zama’h (Radiyallahu Anha) who was also a widow.
Seven or eight months after Hijrat to Madinah Munawwarah, at the age of 54, Hadhrat Aaisha (Radiyallahu Anha) came into the blessed household of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam). This was the only wife of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) who was not previously unmarried. Two years later in 3 A.H. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) married Hadhrat Hafsah (Radiyallahu Anha) who was also a widow. A few days after that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) married Hadhrat Zainub bint Khuzaima (Radiyallahu Anha) who was also a widow and passed away a few months later. A year later in 4 A.H. Rasulullah (Salallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) married Hadhrat Umm Salamah (Radiyallahu Anha) who was also a widow and had children. In the year 5 A.H. when Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) was 58 years old, he (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) married Hadhrat Zainub bint Jahash (Radiyallahu Anha) in obedience to the command of Allah Ta’ala. The remaining blessed wives entered the blessed household in the last five years of the blessed life of the most blessed Master (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam).
The rules pertaining to the private life of a Nabi and his domestic affairs constitute a major portion of a religion. The contribution of these 9 blessed wives (Radiyallahu Anhunna) to the propagation of Islam can be gauged from the fact that Hadhrat Aaisha (Radiyallahu Anha) alone narrated 2 210 Ahadith and Hadhrat Umm Salam (Radiyallahu Anha) narrated 368 Ahadith. Hafiz ibnul Qayyim (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) has stated in I’laamul Muwaqqin that the fataawa issued by Hadhrat Umm Salamah (Radiyallahu Anha) can be compiled in a separate book. More than 200 Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum) learnt Hadith, Fiqh and Fataawa from Hadhrat Aaisha (Radiyallahu Anha).
Another wisdom of marrying a number of wives was to propagate and advertise Islam to the clans of the honourable Mothers of the Believers.
Another wisdom of marrying a number of wives was to propagate and advertise Islam to the clans of the honourable Mothers of the Believers. The success of this strategy is amply borne out in the cases of Hadhrat Umm Habeebah (Radiyallahu Anha), Hadhrat Maimoonah (Radiyallahu Anha) and Hadhrat Juwairiyyah (Radiyallahu Anha).
Yet another wisdom was to put an end to un-Islamic customs and practices like in the case of Hadhrat Zainub bint Jahash (Radiyallahu Anha). Hitherto, it was considered impermissible to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son because he was regarded as a biological son. According this belief, it was perceived that a man would be marrying his daughter-in-law ... whereas this is not the case. Zainub bint Jahash (Radiyallahu Anha) was previously married to the adopted son of Nabi (Salallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), Hadhrat Zayd bin Harithah (Radiyallahu Anhu).
Another wisdom was to show the high status of women in Islam that Hadhrat Juwairiyyah and Hadhrat Safiyyah (Radiyallahu Anhuma) were slaves and became Mothers of the Believers. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) freed both of them and married them.
Taking full cognisance of the above factual accounts, and after considering the most wholesome and the most beautiful pattern of the Mubarak and Pure lifestyle of the most beloved of Allah [Azza wa Jalla], Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), can one find any scope and possibility for even thinking that the many marriages of the Leader of all Mankind (Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam), was, Aliyaazubillah, to fulfil selfish, base and sordid sexual desires?
If this was indeed the case, why then was only the last stage of the most blessed life of the most noble Creation of our Maker (Salallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) selected for this purpose ... after spending the prime of his (Salallahu Alayhi wa Sallam) most blessed life single or ed to the Honourable Mother of the Believers, Hadhrat Khadijah (Radiyallahu Anha), an elderly widow?