The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets – Chapter VI – Part IIINo Comments | January 2013
Rukhsatanah [marriage] of Hazrat ‘A’ishahra and an Exposition of Her Age at the Time, the Issue of Polygamy and Two Fabricated Incidents [Cont.]
This is the first ever serialisation of the newly translated Volume II of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra’s outstanding biography, Seerat Khatamun Nabiyyin, on the life and character of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa.
translated from the urdu by Ayyaz Mahmood Khan
Now we allude to the purposes which have been taken into consideration by Islam in granting permission for polygamy. A study into the Islamic Shari‘at demonstrates that these purposes are twofold. Firstly, the very same general purposes which have been stipulated for marriage, and which have already been mentioned above; secondly, those specific purposes which particularly relate to polygamy. The purposes mentioned first have been maintained in the case of polygamy, because at times, the purpose of marriage is not fully attained through one wife alone and it is due to this very reason that the need for another wife arises. For example, one purpose of marriage is Ihsan, i.e., that by this means a person may be safeguarded from various ailments, evils and illicit deeds. However, it is possible that a person is confronted with circumstances whereby he is unable to uphold his righteousness and purity, whilst maintaining relations with a sole lady, who happens to undergo periods of menstruation, pregnancy, delivery, suckling, and other forms of ailments, etc. Then, even if by an extraordinary effort he is able to safeguard himself from practical indecency, in the least, one aspect of impurity continues to dominate his thoughts, or perhaps there is a risk of him becoming afflicted by some physical ailment. Hence, the correct remedy for such a person is none other than polygamy. In other words, for such a person, the very same purpose which was the motivating factor for one marriage, shall become the catalyst for another marriage in this case. Similarly, one purpose of marriage is the continuation of human life. However, if a certain individual is unable to have children from one wife, or is unable to attain male offspring, this very purpose shall become a lawful basis for another marriage.
In the same manner, another purpose of marriage is life-long companionship and peace of heart. However, if a person’s wife is terminally ill, and her ailment has reached such a state that she remains completely bedridden, or she becomes mentally ill, then in this case, such a person may require another wife in order to fulfill the purpose of life-long companionship and peace of heart. Similarly, one purpose of marriage is the joining of various families and to create opportunities of expressing love and compassion to one another. However, it is possible that initially, a person married in to such a family where it was necessary to develop this relationship of love; but afterwards he is presented with situations of even greater importance and significance, where the establishment of this relationship is extremely important and preferable with respect to the welfare of family, country, nation, government or religion. In this case, it would be necessary for such a person to act upon the teaching of polygamy. Hence, all of the purposes which have been mentioned by Islam with respect to marriage may become a basis for polygamy in special circumstances as well. The cases mentioned above are only by way of example, otherwise, there can be other instances as well where the purpose of marriage is not fully attained or acquired in the best possible manner by one wife alone, and the legitimate need for another wife arises. In addition to these purposes, Islam has also alluded to various exceptional grounds for polygamy, and they are three: firstly, the protection of orphans; secondly, the welfare of widows; thirdly, the increase of progeny. Hence, Allah the Exalted states:
“O Ye Muslims! (In these wars which you are confronted with, there shall inevitably be an increase of orphans, and you shall be required to practice polygamy in order to safeguard these orphans). Hence, if you fear (that whilst remaining limited to one wife) you shall be unable to protect orphans and sufficiently fulfill the rights due to them, then marry of women as may be agreeable to you, two, or three, or four, (but not more than this, because in the sight of God this limit is sufficient to fulfill your exceptional requirements; however, if you fear that due to your financial, physical or administrative weakness, or due to the weakness of your disposition) you shall not be able to deal justly between more than one wife, then you must only marry one wife.”1
In this verse of the Holy Qur’an by attaching the injunction of polygamy to the mention of orphans, it has been indicated that in actuality, an abundance of orphans is also a major reason from among the reasons for polygamy. On the one hand, since an abundance of orphans naturally equates to an abundance of widows, and results in the risk of a scarcity of progeny on the other, and all these three cases are the natural result of war; for this reason, in this single verse, Allah the Exalted has gathered all of the additional purposes for polygamy in a very subtle manner, as it were. These additional purposes are the protection of orphans, the welfare of widows and a remedy for the scarcity of offspring. Then, for further elaboration and clarification, He has alluded to each one of these purposes separately as well. Hence, Allah the Exalted states:
“O Ye Muslims! (Now that we have proposed the remedy of polygamy for you in exceptional circumstances) you should make arrangements whereby no woman should remain without marriage inasmuch as possible, whether she be unmarried or a widow.”2
In this verse, attention has been drawn to the marriage of unmarried women, with specific mention to the marriage of widows. Then, it is related in a Hadith:
“Ma‘qal bin YasArra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa would say to his Companions, “You should marry loving women who are fertile, so that your number may increase, and I can take pride in the number of my Ummah on the day of resurrection.”3
In this Hadith, the purpose of an increase in progeny has been mentioned. In this manner, there are a total of seven purposes, which have been mentioned by Islam with respect to polygamy. In other words, protection from physical and spiritual ailments, continuation of human life, life-long companionship and peace of heart, growth of relations of love and compassion, welfare of orphans, welfare of widows and increase of progeny. However, the question which arises now is how these purposes may be attained. In other words, upon what basis should a wife be selected so that these purposes may be attained in the best possible manner? In this regard, the Holy Prophetsa states:
“In marriage, the selection of a wife is based on four considerations. Some people select their wives on the basis of her financial status, others give consideration to her family status, some take an interest in beauty and charm, while other people take a woman’s moral and religious state into consideration. But O Ye Muslims! You should always give precedence to the religious aspect. This is the pathway to your success, and this is the manner by which you may save yourself from worldly and religious destruction.”4
In this Hadith, the principle for selecting a wife so that the purposes of marriage may be attained has been mentioned. The principle stipulates that the religious aspect should be given precedence. The word ‘Din’ does not only infer the individual religious or moral state of a woman, nor is the word ‘Din’ used in the Arabic language merely in terms of religion or belief. Rather, as it has been expounded in a renowned Arabic lexicon known as Aqrabul-MawArid, the word ‘Din’ is used in the Arabic language to express the following meanings: firstly, morals and customs; secondly, spiritual purity and cleanliness; thirdly, religion; fourthly, nation and community; fifthly, government and rule. Hence, the statement of the Holy Prophetsa that in selecting a wife the aspect of ‘Din’ should be given precedence implies that a wife should be such that she is excellent in her individual morals and customs, righteousness and purity as well as in religion and belief, so that healthy relations between husband and wife are maintained and so that a positive influence is etched upon their children as well. On the other hand, however, this also implies that in selecting a wife, the aspect of ‘Din’ in general, which relates to the needs of religion, the welfare of nation and community, and the interest of government and rule, should also be taken into consideration at its appropriate occasion. At this instance, if someone is skeptical that although these meanings may all be correct linguistically, how can it be accepted that all these meanings are implied by one word simultaneously? The answer to this is that since the Holy Prophetsa was a law-giving Prophet, his words were of a legal nature, which are always comprehensive in meaning and vast in implication, and numerous aspects are inferred by each and every word. It is in this light, therefore, that we should understand the words of the Holy Prophetsa. In any case, when these meanings are linguistically correct, then no one has the right to raise an objection.
In summary, Islam has alluded to four purposes of marriage and seven purposes for polygamy. In order to attain these objectives in the best possible manner, Islam has taught that whilst selecting a wife, in addition to the individual merit of the lady herself, the needs of religion, the welfare of nation and community, and the interest of government and rule should also be given importance. This does not imply that in the matter of marriage, other merits should not be taken into account, because it is proven from other Ahadith of the Holy Prophetsa that he has permitted Muslims to take the other qualities of a lady into consideration as well. As a matter of fact, at times, he has himself encouraged that a person should take these other characteristics into consideration as well. Hence, despite the injunction of Pardah, the Holy Prophetsa would encourage that before marriage, a person should see his wife,5 so that afterwards his disposition would not be disturbed in any way due to a displeasure in her physical appearance. Similarly, to an appropriate degree, it has been encouraged that financial status should be taken into account as well.6 In the same manner, to a degree, it has also been advised that suitability of age and disposition should also be given regard.7 This principle is applicable in the case of polygamy as well. However, the guidance given by Islam is that these things should not be given precedence over the religious aspect. The reason being that if qualities of a religious nature are not present, then these merits alone cannot become the foundation of true and everlasting happiness; rather, in certain cases, they prove to be injurious and harmful.
Now, if the purposes of polygamy are kept in mind, along with the principle which has been proposed by Islam for the selection of a wife, every sensible individual can appreciate that this is a very blessed System, which has been instituted by God the Exalted, through the person of the Holy Prophetsa. Moreover, in this system, the greater good for the largest segment of society has been taken into account. In actuality, those people who have voiced their opinions against the concept of polygamy, have done so with a very narrow frame of mind, and they have not given regard to anything except for the emotional relationship of husband and wife. Nor have such people ever contemplated the purposes of marriage and the needs of humanity with an objective mind. Otherwise, this issue was not such that a person of understanding could find room to reject its merits. Furthermore, another aspect which has not been taken into account is that the system of polygamy in Islam is not a rule; rather, it is an exception, which has been instituted whilst taking into account very specific circumstances, in order to attain the lawful purposes of marriage and cater for the legitimate needs of humanity. Hence, prior to voicing an opinion against this practice, one should contemplate that in the entire world, can an individual never be faced with such circumstances where polygamy proves to be a necessary remedy; and the benefit of a person’s own being, or his family, or his nation, or his country demands that he marry a second wife? I cannot forget the instance from the life of Emperor Napoleon, when he felt the need for a second wife in order to attain an heir for the benefit of his country; how was this requirement fulfilled? Even the thought of it causes me to tremble. The divorce of Empress Josephine is among the darkest tales in history and at its depth lies the very same false emotional notion that a person should not marry a second wife under any circumstances. Alas! This false emotional notion robbed the virtue of many a weak people, as it were; it left many families without progeny and expunged them from the earth. It destroyed the happiness of many homes. It ruined hopes of unity for many households, many nations and many countries. It turned many orphans into vagabonds and many widows were left in a state of helplessness. It led the progenies of many nations to downfall and sowed the seed of their destruction.
1. An-Nisa’ (Ch.4:V.4)
2. An-Nur (Ch.24:V.33)
3. Mishkatul-Masabih, Vol. 1, Part 1, p. 570, Kitabun-Nikah, Al-Fasluth-Thani, Hadith No. 3091, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, First Edition (2003)
4. Sahihul-Bukhari, Kitabun-Nikah, Babul-Ikfa’i Fid-Din, Hadith No. 5090
5. Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Kitabun-Nikah, Babu Ma Ja’a Fin-Nazari Ilal-Makhtubah, Hadith No. 1087
6. Sahihul-Muslim, Kitabut-Talaq, Babul-Mutallaqati Thalathan La Nafaqatan Laha, Hadith No. 3697
7. * Sahihul-Muslim, Kitabur-Rada‘a, Babu Istihbabi Nikahil-Bikr, Hadith No. 3638
* Sahihul-Bukhari, Kitabun-Nikah, Babu Tazwijith-Thaiyyibat, Hadith No. 5079