Polygamy in Islam (Reference)


Sura An-Nisa’ (The Women)

Quran (4:3) – “Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.” This verse plainly allows a man to have up to four wives (Allah conveniently granted Muhammad an exception… on the authority of Muhammad, of course). According to the Hadith, the “justice” spoken of merely refers to the dowry provided the bride, not the treatment accorded following the wedding.

Sura An-Nisa’ (The Women)

Quran (4:129) – “Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire” Underscores that a man is not able to treat multiple wives fairly. He would therefore be unable to acquire more than one wife if this were a requirement – which it is not. In fact, Muhammad was not able to treat his own wives fairly (see Additional Notes).


Sura At-Tahrim (The Prohibition)

Quran (66:5) – “Maybe, his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins” A disobedient wife can be replaced. A man can only have up to four wives, but he can rotate as many women as he pleases in and out of the lineup.

Hadith and Sira


Volume 7, Book 62, Number 2:

Narrated ‘Ursa: Sahih Bukhari (62:2) – Provides the context for verse 4:3 of the Quran. “Dealing justly” is defined within a financial context. It refers to providing a fair dowry to secure marriage – not to the equal or fair treatment of wives (which is impossible according to verse 4:129).

Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268:

Narrated Qatada: Sahih Bukhari (5:268) – “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty men.” Muhammad had a “special rule” that allowed him to have at least eleven wives. (His successors had more than four wives at a time as well.)

Sahih Bukhari (62:6)
Narrated Anas:“The Prophet used to go round (have sexual relations with) all his wives in one night, and he had nine wives.”

Sahih Bukhari (77:598)
 Narrated Abu Huraira: – “Allah’s Apostle said, “No woman should ask for the divorce of her sister (Muslim) so as to take her place, but she should marry the man (without compelling him to divorce his other wife)” Polygamy is firmly established in the Islamic tradition.

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