Why are men are allowed to marry fo...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Why are men are allowed to marry four women in Islam?


Why are men are allowed to marry four women in Islam?


The issue of polygamy is a necessity dictated by the conditions of life. Polygamy is not something new that Islam has legislated; rather, it was practiced before the advent of Islam in an inhumane manner and without any regulations. Islam regulated and refined polygamy and made it a remedy for certain grave problems from which a community suffers. Before Islam, men were allowed to take more than ten wives. What Islam did was to restrict the number of permissible wives a man may take to four provided he treats and provides for them equally. If this is not possible, it is obligatory for him to marry only one wife for God the Almighty says: "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" [4: 3].

Polygamy in Islam was also legislated to resolve existing social problems relating to men, women and the entire society. For instance, it helps a man whose wife is infertile or suffers from a disease which prevents them from having sexual relations. In such a case, instead of divorcing his first wife, a husband is allowed to take a second wife to fulfill his physical needs and at the same time, his first wife will continue to live in dignity and protection in her marital home. This is a kind of ihsan [excellence] and respect towards her.

Polygamy likewise resolves the problem of a divorced woman or a widow who seeks chastity and safety under the protection of a husband who will see to her needs, even if she is a co-wife.

Polygamy can help in resolving a problem related to an entire society. When the ratio of women in a society exceeds that of men, especially after wars, it is better for a woman to maintain her chastity by being a co-wife rather than remain unmarried, a state that may lead to corruption and immorality. Despite the permissibility of polygamy at present, the number of single women, widows and divorcees is increasing.

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