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Nadeem Qureshi (Advocate/     22 October 2011

Divorce according to quran





Woman and her Rights




In no age other than ours has so much attention been paid to the danger of the disintegration of the family and its harmful consequences, and again, in no age other than ours has man been faced with the real danger of such a disintegration. 


In the past much attention was not paid to the problem of divorce, its causes and its harmful effects, nor were any measures devised to prevent its incidence, yet the cases of divorce were few and far between. There is no doubt that the difference between the past and the present is due to the fact that now the causes, which lead to divorce, have increased. The social life has taken such a turn that now there are more chances of the disruption of the family bond, and that is why the efforts of the intellectuals and the public-spirited people have, so far, borne no fruit. Regrettably, the future bodes more danger. 

The American magazine, 'Newsweek' in an interesting article under the heading, 'Divorce in America', writes that it is easier in America, to get a divorce than to get a taxi. 

'Newsweek' further writes that two proverbs about divorce are better known among the American people than any other. One is that "the hardest conciliation between husband and wife is better than divorce". It is 400 years old. The other which represents a diametrically opposite view has gained currency during the second-half of the 20th century. It says that "the second love is more pleasant than the first". 

The article shows that the second proverb is more operative in America. The illusion of divorce attracts to itself, not only the newly-wed, but even their mothers, and the couple who were married a long time ago. Since the Second World War onward, on an average, the number of cases of divorce has not been less than 400,000 per annum. Out of the dissolved marriages, 40% had remained intact for 10 years or more and 13% for more than 20 years. The average age of two million women divorces was 45 years. Some 62% of them had children under 18 at the time of the dissolution of their marriages. These women, in fact form a special generation. 

Though the American woman feels quite free after divorce, yet the divorced, whether young or the middle- aged, are not happy. Their unhappiness can be gauged from the ever-increasing number of women who call on the psychiatrists or have recourse to alcoholism. Out of every four women divorcees, one is an alcoholic. The average cases of suicide among these women are three times more than among women having husbands. In short as soon as a woman comes victorious out of a divorce court she realises that life after divorce is not a bed of roses. The world can hardly have a good opinion of a woman who dissolves her marriage, the strongest form of human relationship. Society may respect such a woman and even envy her, but cannot look upon her as a person who entered the life of another and brought about happiness. 

In the course of this article in Newsweek the question has been raised whether the ever-growing cases of divorce are mostly due to temperamental incompatibility between husband and wife, or some other causes. The writer of the article says that even if incompatibility is accepted to be the cause of separation among the newly-wed couples, how can one explain the cases of those who had been leading a married life for a long time. Taking into consideration the facilities which the American law provides in connection with divorce it may be said that incompatibility is not the reason of separation in the case of a marriage which has lasted out for 10 or 20 years. In the age of contraceptive pills, s*xual revolution and improvement in their legal status, many women have come to believe that delight and pleasure are preferable to the stability of married life. You often see that a husband and a wife live together for years, have children, share each others' joy and grief and then suddenly the wife seeks a divorce, without any palpable change having taken place in the material or conventional position of the husband. The reason is that, till yesterday, the woman was willing to bear the boredom of life, but today she is not inclined to do so. 

The increase in the cases of divorce is not confined to America. Wherever the modern Western ways have permeated to a considerable degree, the figures of divorce have gone up. Even in the East, divorce is far more common in the modernised big cities than in the small towns and the countryside. 


We have already quoted Newsweek as saying that the American woman gives preference to merry-making over the stability of domestic life. Now let us take a step forward and see why she has adopted such an attitude. It is certain that this attitude is not natural and inherent. It has certain social reasons behind it. It is the American atmosphere which has given this mentality to the American woman. Some Westerners are working hard to push the woman of the East to the way the American women have gone. If they succeed, the fate of the Eastern woman and the Eastern family will not be different from that of the American woman and the American family. 

A prominent French daily writes that in more than 200 restaurants and cabaret houses in California waitresses work in topless outfits. The topless swimming costume has been recognised as the working-dress in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the city of New York there are many cinema halls which show only s*xy films and the nude pictures of women can be seen displayed in front of their entrances. The names of s*xy films are of this kind: "The men who swap their wives", "The girls who are immoral", 'The dress which does not hide anything". ~ the libraries there are very few fiction books which do not bear a nude photo of a woman on their covers. Even the classical books are no exception. Such titles as "Sexual Behaviour of American Husbands", "Sexual Behaviour of a Man of the West", ' Sexual Behaviour of Young Men Below 20", "New Sexual Methods Based on the Latest Information", are very common. The writer of the article in the French daily asks with surprise and apprehension: "Whither America?" 

In such an atmosphere, if the American woman has lost her balance and gives preference to pleasure-seeking over faithfulness to her husband and family she is not to blame. It is the social atmosphere which has struck at the very root of the sacred family system. 

It is surprising that the leaders of our age give, on the one hand, an impetus to the causes of divorce and the disintegration of family life and, on the other, raise a hue and cry that the rate of divorce has gone up so high. This is just like putting a man to sweep a chimney and then asking him not to stain his clothes. 


Now let us see whether, in principle, divorce is good or bad. 

The question is whether it is good to keep the door to divorce wide open, even at the risk of the disintegration of family life? If it is good, there is no harm if the rate of divorce goes up. In case, however it is not advisable, should a total ban be imposed on divorce, and conjugal union be made eternal? The third alternative is that divorce should not be banned legally, for in certain circumstances it is unavoidable, but at the same time society should take every possible action to do away with the causes of friction and separation between the husbands and the wives, and save the children from becoming homeless. Obviously, the law can do nothing if society itself encourages the causes which lead to divorce. 

If divorce is not to be totally banned, in what form should it be allowed? Who should exercise the right of divorce, should only man or only woman, or both? In the last alternative, should man and woman have the same procedure for severing the bond of marriage, or should each s*x have a separate procedure? 

In all, these are the five theories in respect of divorce: 

(1) Free divorce without any legal or moral restriction. There are those who look at marriage only from a viewpoint of pleasure-seeking; who attach no sanctity to it; and who do not take into consideration the social value of home and family. They think that the sooner the bonds of marriage are removed and replaced, the more pleasure will be afforded to man and woman. He who says that the second love is more pleasant supports this theory. In this theory not only has the social value of the family been forgotten, but also the delight and satisfaction, which the stability of a conjugal union affords, has been ignored. So, this theory is the most puerile and immature. 

(2) Marriage is a sacred undertaking. It is a union of hearts and souls which must be kept safe and intact. The word divorce should be expunged from the dictionary of human society. The woman and the man who marry each other should know that, except for death, nothing can separate them. 

This is the same theory, which for centuries has been advocated by the Catholic Church, and is still being advocated. 

The supporters of this theory are on the decrease in the world. Now only Italy and the Catholic Spain adhere to it. We often hear that, even in Italy, men and women are raising their voices against this law and efforts are being made that the law of divorce should be officially recognised. Many people are no longer willing to continue to suffer the boredom of their unsuccessful marriages. 

Some years ago, the Daily Express published an article under the heading, "Marriage in Italy Means Bondage for Woman". This article said that, at present, owing to the non-existence of divorce, many people in Italy have to resort to unlawful s*xual relations. More than five million Italians believed that their lives were nothing but sin. 

An Italian daily wrote that the prohibition of divorce had created a big problem for the Italian people. Many of them had renounced their Italian nationality for that very reason. When an Italian agency organised an opinion-poll, 97% of the women replied in the negative to the question whether divorce was repugnant to the religious principles. 

Still the Church sticks to its view and continues to adduce arguments in support of it. 

There is no doubt that marriage is a sacred bond and it should be lasting and durable. But it can last only as long as both the spouses co-operate with each other. There are situations when a mutual understanding between a wife and her husband is not possible. In such circumstances the forces of law cannot be used to keep them attached to each other in the name of a conjugal bond. The theory of the Church has been a complete failure. It is not unlikely that the Church itself may be compelled soon to revise its views. Hence, we need not discuss this theory any further. 

(3) Marriage is dissoluble by man and not by woman. In the ancient world many people held such a view, but now we do not think it has any supporters. So we need not discuss it also. 

(4) Marriage is a sacred institution and the domestic system is respectable, but the way to divorce, with certain conditions, should be open to both the spouses and the procedure of dissolving a marriage should be the same for both of them. 

The upholders of similarity of family rights, wrongly called equality of rights between man and woman, support this theory. According to these people the same conditions, the same limits and the same restrictions as exist in the case of woman, should also exist in the case of man and the same ways, to get out of the deadlock, as are open to man should be open to woman also. They reject any other solution, which is unjust and discriminating. 

(5) No doubt the marriage institution is sacred, the domestic system is respectable, divorce is abominable and it is an essential duty of society to remove the causes which lead to divorce, yet divorce cannot be totally banned and the way out of a deadlock must be kept open to both man and woman. Anyhow, the procedure to be adopted for the dissolution of marriage should be different in their respective cases. Divorce is one of the instances of dissimilar rights of man and woman. 

This is the theory which represents the Islamic point of view, and the Muslim countries are partially following it. 


In our age divorce has become a world problem as all grumble and complain about it. Those whose laws prohibit divorce totally complain of the non-existence of a way to escape from unsuccessful and unsuitable marriages. On the other hand, those who have opened the door of divorce, equally for both man and woman, complain about the growing rate of divorce and the instability of domestic life, and its harmful effects. Those who have given the right of divorce to men only express their dissatisfaction on two accounts: 

Firstly, some mean people, after years of married life, unexpectedly divorce their old wives who had spent the best part of their youth with them, simply because they suddenly feel eager to have a new wife. 

Secondly, some unchivalrous people refuse to divorce a wife, with whom there is absolutely no possibility of a mutual understanding and a continued joint life. 

It often happens that, for some reasons, the differences between a husband and a wife reach such a stage that no possibility of reconciliation is left, and they practically separate from each other. In such circumstances, the only sensible way is to sever, legally, the relations which have already been practically severed, and to allow both of them to choose new partners-in-life. But some men, to harass their wives and to deprive them of enjoying a conjugal life, decline to divorce them. They leave the woman, in the words of the Qur'an, "in a state of hanging". 

Such people are far away from the teachings of Islam, though they use the authority of the Islamic law for their improper behaviour. Their conduct gives an impression to those who are not acquainted with the depth and the spirit of the teachings of Islam, that this is the way Islam wants divorce to be. 

The critics ask sarcastically whether Islam has really allowed men to harass their wives as much as they like, sometimes by divorcing them and sometimes withholding divorce, and at the same time to have the mental satisfaction that they have only used their lawful and legal right. 

The critics say that such an action constitutes a glaring example of injustice and cruelty. They ask "If it is true, as the Muslims claim, that the Islamic laws have been organised on the basis of justice and righteousness, what measures have Islam taken to prevent this kind of injustice?" 

About the cruelty and injustice of such acts there can be no doubt. Islam, as we shall show, has taken cognisance of this situation and has thought of measures to counteract it. The important question is: What is the proper way of preventing this injustice and cruelty? Are the acts of injustice due to any inherent defect in the law of divorce, or should their real cause be looked for somewhere else? Can they be stopped by modifying the law or are some other measures required? 

Islam has its own view as to the solution of the social problems. Some people think that they can be solved either by framing a new law or by changing the existing one. But Islam realises that a law has its own limits. It can be effective only within the range of the dry contractual relations. As for the sentimental relations, it alone cannot do much, and we should have recourse to other measures also. 

As we shall show latter, Islam has fully utilised the force of law as far as it can be effective. It has not failed in this respect. 


First, we take up the present day problem of ignoble divorces. 

As a matter of principle, Islam is strongly opposed to divorce. It wants that it should not take place as far as practicable. It allows it only as a last resort in the cases where separation is unavoidable. Those who frequently take a new wife and divorce the old one are denounced by Islam as the enemies of Allah. 

The well-known book of traditions, al-Kafi, narrates the following story: 

The Holy Prophet asked a man: "What have you done with your wife?" 

"I have divorced her", he said. 

'Did you find her doing anything wrong?" 

"No, I didn't" 

The man married again. The Holy Prophet asked him: 

"Have you taken another wife in marriage? 


Some time later, the Holy Prophet asked him again: 

"What have you done with the new wife?" 

"I have divorced her". 

"Had she done anything wrong?" 

"No. She hadn't". 

The man married a third time. The Prophet asked him again if he had taken in marriage a new wife. He replied in the affirmative. 

After some time the Prophet asked him again: 

"What have you done with this wife?" 

"I have divorced her also". 

"Did you find anything wrong with her?" 

No, I didn't" 

The Holy Prophet said that Allah dislikes and hates the man who regularly changes his wives, and the woman who regularly changes her husbands. Such people are the enemies of Allah. 

It was reported to the Holy Prophet that Abu Ayyub Ansari had decided to divorce his wife. The Prophet knew the woman personally. He also knew that Abu Ayyub's decision was not justified. He said: "Divorcing Umme Ayyub (Abu Ayyub's wife) is a deadly sin". 

The Holy Prophet said that Gabriel had exhorted and counselled him so much in respect of women that he felt that it was not permissible to divorce a woman, except when she was guilty of adultery. 

Imam Sadiq (P) has reported that the Holy Prophet said: 

"There is nothing more pleasing to Allah than the house where a marriage takes place, and nothing is more displeasing to Him than the house where it is severed by divorce" 

Imam Sadiq (P) has also said that the word 'divorce' has been mentioned in the Qur'an time and again and its details have been given because Allah hates separation of couples. 

AI-Tabarsi in the Makarim al-Aklaq has quoted the Prophet as saying: "Do marry but do not divorce, for divorce shakes the throne of Allah". 

Imam Sadiq (P) has said: "No permissible act is more displeasing to Allah than divorce. Allah dislikes those who resort to divorce again and again". 

Similar traditions are found in the Sunni books also. Abu Daud in his book, 'Sunan' has reported the Prophet as having said: "Allah has not permitted anything more hateful than divorce' . In other words, though Allah has permitted divorce, He dislikes it the most. 

The great religious leaders (Imams) have abstained from divorcing, as far as possible. In their lives the cases of divorce were extremely rare. They resorted to such an action only when they had very solid grounds for it. For instance, Imam Baqir (P) married a woman. She became his favourite, but on one occasion he noticed that the woman was inimical to Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib and cherished malice against him in her heart. He had to divorce her. 

In reply to the question as to why he had divorced her when he liked her so much, the Imam said that he did not want to have a piece of the fire of Hell by his side. 


It is worthwhile to refer here to a baseless rumour fabricated by the unscrupulous Abbasid caliphs. It gained so much currency that it was recorded by a number of prominent writers in their books. According to this rumour, Imam Hasan Mujtaba (P), son of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (P) was one of those who took many wives and divorced them. The rumour was spread nearly a century after the demise of the Imam. It was given currency so vehemently that even many of his devotees believed it, without paying attention to the fact that such an obnoxious act was not worthy of the great Imam and could not be expected of a person who used to go on pilgrimage on foot, and who, more than twenty times, distributed 50% of his entire wealth and property among the poor. 

As we know, unlike the descendants of Imam Husayn (P) who were headed at that time by Imam Sadiq (P), the descendants of Imam Hasan (P) co-operated with the Abbasids, during their insurrection against the Umayyads. In the beginning the Abbasids acknowledged their fidelity and devotion to the descendants of Imam Hasan (P), but on becoming successful in seizing power, they betrayed them and put most of them out of their way, either by killing them or by imprisoning them. In pursuance of their policy, the Abbasids started a propaganda campaign against the descendants of Imam Hasan (P), in the course of which they invented many calumnies, one of them being the charge that Imam Hasan's grandfather and the Holy Prophet's uncle, Abu Talib (P), did not embrace Islam and died as an infidel. They wanted to bring out that they themselves, being the descendants of the Prophet's other uncle, who had embraced Islam, were more deserving of being the caliphs. To achieve their purpose they spent huge amounts of money and fabricated a number of stories. A section of the Sunnis, influenced by this propaganda, still believes that Abu Talib was a disbeliever. Though the latest research by some Sunni scholars have clarified the position to a great extent, yet some doubts still linger among a section of them. 

Another calumny, fabricated by the Abbasids, was that Imam Hasan (P) succeeded to the caliphate after his father, but, being a licentious person, he could not acquit himself well and had to surrender the caliphate to his keenest rival, Mu'awiyah, from whom he took money, and made himself busy with marrying and divorcing. 

Luckily, the research scholars of our age have exposed the source of this fabrication. The first known person who uttered this lie was a Qazi appointed by Caliph Mansur, and detailed by him to concoct and spread rumours against the Imam. A historian, commenting on this lie, observes that if it is true that Imam Hasan (P) took so many women in marriage, then where are his children? Why is their number so small? After all, the Imam was not sterile and contraception and abortion also was not customary at that time. 

We wonder at the simplicity of some of the compilers of the Shi'ah traditions. How could they write that Imam Hasan (P) was in the habit of divorcing women, when they themselves report that the Holy Prophet and the Imams have said that Allah dislikes and denounces a man who habitually divorces their wives. It never occurred to these gentlemen that they had to choose one out of the following three alternatives: (i) Divorce is not a bad thing; (ii) Imam Hasan (P) was not a habitual divorcer or (ii) Imam Hasan (P) did not adhere to the teachings of Islam. But they, strangely, not only believe in the authenticity of the traditions, saying that divorce is detestable to Allah, but also, at the same time, despite being devotees of the Imam, quote the reports that he was a habitual divorcer. They skip over such reports without making any comments on them. 

Some of the traditionalists have gone to such an extent that they have reported that Imam Ali (P) was not happy with the way his son behaved. In a public speech he asked the people not to give their daughters in marriage to him, for he was in the habit of divorcing them. But, it is said, the people replied that it was a matter of pride for them that their daughters could become the marriage-partners of a descendant of the Prophet even for a short time. 

It appears that some people are of the opinion that divorce is not bad, if the woman concerned and her family consent to it. They think that divorce is loathsome only if the other party does not agree to it, but there can be no objection to it if the woman is content to pass only a few days with the man in whom she takes pride. 

Anyhow, that is not the real position. The consent of the woman or her parents does not mitigate the detestableness of divorce. It is detestable because Islam wants marriage to be lasting and the family life to be stable. The consent of the couple concerned does not make the position any different. Islam does not consider divorce to be loathsome only for the sake of any particular class of women. It is a matter of principle. 

We have dealt with the question of Imam Hasan (P), not only with a view to repeating a false historical charge against a historical personality, but so to warn those unconscientious people who may indulge in such acts and then to justify their behaviour, may try to cite Imam Hasan (P) as an authority. 

There is no denying the fact that divorce as such is loathsome and detestable in Islam. 


Here a few other questions arise. If divorce is so loathsome and so disliked by Allah, why has it not been totally prohibited by Islam? Islam could at least lay down certain conditions for its validity. In that case anybody who wanted to divorce his wife, would have been judicially bound to justify his intended action before a court of law. 

The second question is: What does the sentence, "Out of all permissible things, divorce is most detestable to Allah" mean? If it is permissible, it cannot be detestable and, if it is detestable, it cannot be permissible. These are two contradictory terms. 

Lastly, has the judiciary, which represents the society, the right to intervene in the matter of divorce to the extent of withholding its implementation till either the husband takes back his decision or it becomes clear that no reconciliation is possible, and hence there is no alternative but to sever the conjugal bond? 


We have said that, from the Islamic point of view, divorce is absolutely detestable. Islam wants the marriage-union to be strong and lasting. At that stage we raised the question that if divorce is so detestable, why has Islam not banned it? Has not Islam prohibited every detestable act like taking wine, gambling, cruelty etc? If the reply is in the affirmative then why has it not totally prohibited divorce by law? It is basically illogical to say that divorce is permissible, but at the same time detestable. If it is permissible, how can it be detestable? If it is detestable, why should it be permissible? Islam, on the one hand, frowns at the man who divorces his wife and, on the other puts no legal obstacle in his way; why? 

It is a very pertinent question, and is the key to all the secrets of the problem of divorce. In fact, marriage is a natural and not a contractual relationship. Nature has laid down special rules for it. Other social contracts like sale, hire, mortgage, peace, attorneyship etc. are mere social agreements. Nature and instinct have nothing to do with them. There exists no natural law in respect of them. In contrast, a marriage contract has a special mechanism. It is to be organised on the natural desire of the two parties. 

Hence, it is not surprising that a marriage contract has special rules which are different from those of all other contracts. 


In a civil society the only natural law is the law of liberty and equality, on the basis of which all social rules should be framed. But in respect of a conjugal contract, besides the general principles of liberty and equality, nature has prescribed certain other laws also, which must be adhered to in the case of marriage, dower, maintenance and the last stage of the process, that is divorce. It is of no use to bypass nature. As Alexis Carrel has pointed out, the biological and other laws of life are as hard, ruthless and irresistible as the astronomical laws. 

Marriage means attachment and union, and divorce means separation. 

Nature has designed the law of marriage in such a way that man acts with a view to appropriate woman, and woman withdraws with a view to fascinate and mislead man. Man wants to take possession of the body of woman and woman wants to captivate the heart of man. The foundation of marriage is laid on love, union and fellow-feeling, and not on mere co-operation and companionship. In the family structure, the fair s*x occupies the central position, and her opposite s*x the peripheral one. From all this it automatically follows that nature must have had special rules for the dissolution of family life also. 

We have quoted earlier an intellectual as saying that mateseeking means an attack on the part of man for the purpose of appropriation and a withdrawal on the part of woman for the purpose of enchantment and deception. Man being instinctively a hunting animal, his action is offensive and for him woman is a trophy which he must win. Mate-seeking is a battle and a struggle and marriage is appropriation and domination. 

A contract which is based on love and the feeling of oneness is not enforceable by compulsion. The law can compel two people to respect their contract on the basis of equality, and to co-operate with each other, but it cannot force them to love each other, to be sincere to each other, to make sacrifices for the sake of each other and to share each other's happiness. 

If we want to maintain such a relationship between two people we have to adopt some measures other than legal. 

According to the natural mechanism of marriage, on which Islamic laws are based, a wife occupies the position of a person deserving love and respect in the family order. If, for some reason, she loses that position and is deprived of the love and attention of her husband, the base of the family structure falls off and the natural order is deranged. Islam looks at such a situation with regret, but it cannot assume marriage to be alive and constant even after the disintegration of its natural basis. 

Islam has taken special steps to ensure that the family life retains its natural form, which means that the wife should be loved and sought after, and the husband should feel attached to her and be ready to serve her. 

Islam has urged woman to beautify herself to please her husband, to give a display of her accomplishments for his sake, to satiate his natural desires and not to annoy him by disobedience. It has also exhorted man to love his wife, to show kindness and attachment to her, and not to conceal from her his love for her. These steps have been taken to make the s*xual enjoyment limited to the domestic atmosphere, and to keep the wider society a field of work and activities other than s*xual. Islam wants that extra-marital contacts between man and woman should be pure and unpolluted. All these steps have been taken with a view to keeping the family organisation free from the danger of dissolution and disintegration. 


From the Islamic point of view, it is extremely insulting to a woman that the law should force her to live with a husband who does not like her. The law can force a woman to live with a particular man, but it cannot secure for her the position of a beloved and central figure in the household, which she should have. The law can force a man to support his wife, but it cannot force him to be a devoted husband. 

Hence, when man's love and attachment cools down the marriage becomes ineffective from the natural point of view. 

Here another question arises. If the wife's love cools down, will the domestic life be affected? Will it continue as it is or will it come to an end? If it will remain intact, then how is it that the lack of love, on the part of the husband, terminates the domestic life and on the part of the wife it does not? 

Is there any difference between man and woman? If the lack of love on the part of the wife also terminates the domestic life, then naturally women should also have the right of divorce like men. 

In fact, the success of the domestic life depends on the mutual attachment of both the husband and the wife. But as we mentioned earlier, there is a difference between the mentality of man and that of woman. We have already quoted the views of the scientists on this point. Nature has so arranged that woman's true and lasting love comes up only as a reaction of man's attachment to her. Hence, woman's attachment to man is the result of man's attachment to her. Nature has placed the key of their mutual love within the control of man. If man loves woman and is faithful to her, woman also loves him and remains faithful to him. Woman's faithlessness is definitely a reaction of man's faithlessness. 

Nature has put the dissolution of marriage in the hands of man. It is man's apathy and faithlessness that cools down woman's love. On the other hand, woman's indifference and apathy does not affect man. Hence man's indifference to woman unlike the latter's indifference to him leads to woman's in-difference. Man's frigidity is the end of conjugal life, but woman's is not so. If man is sensible and faithful, he can always regain his wife's love by showing affection and kindness to her. It is not insulting to him to compel his annoyed sweetheart by force of law, to continue to live with him, and to pacify her gradually. But it is unbearable for a wife to resort to the force of law to retain her protector and the object of her love. 

Of course, this is the case when woman's indifference is not due to the immorality or cruelty of man. If man shows cruelty, the case is different. He cannot be allowed to misuse his position and to harass or ill-treat his wife. We shall discuss this point separately. 

Anyway man is in need of the body of woman and woman is in need of the heart of man. That is the difference between the two. Marriage is unbearable for woman if she does not enjoy her husband's genuine protection and sincere love. 


Recently an article has been published by a French lady psychologist, Beatrice Maryo, who holds a doctorate in psycho-logy and works as a psychiatrist in a hospital of Paris. She herself is a mother of three children. 

In this article she has explained very well how a pregnant or a nursing woman needs the kindness and affection of her husband. 

She says: "From the time a woman feels that she is going to be a mother soon, she begins to search her body. She repeatedly looks at it and smells it, especially if she is expecting her first child. She feels so inquisitive as if she were a stranger to herself and wants to discover herself for the first time. When she feels the first movements of her tiny little child in her womb, she begins to listen attentively to every sound of her body. The presence of another being in her body makes her so happy that she feels inclined to seclusion and retirement. She wants to be alone with her tiny little child, who has not yet come into this world 

"Men, during the period of the pregnancy of their wives, have important duties to perform, but very regretfully they often shirk their responsibility. The future mother is in need of the feeling that her husband understands her, likes her, and protects her. Otherwise, when she finds that her belly has swollen up; her attractiveness has gone, the morning sickness has commenced, and she is afraid of childbirth pains, she would blame her husband, who had impregnated her, for all her troubles and discomforts. It is the duty of the husband to keep himself, more than ever, at the side of his wife during the months of her pregnancy. The whole family requires a kind and considerate father to whom the wife and the children may talk of their problems, their griefs and their joys. Even if their talk be meaningless or boring, it is still important." 

"A pregnant woman very much wants others to talk to her of her child. A woman takes all the pride in becoming a mother. But when she finds that her husband is indifferent to the child, her sense of pride turns into a sense of contempt. She becomes sick of motherhood and pregnancy, and it becomes a sort of mortification to her. It is known that such women suffer a great deal on account of child-birth pangs The relation between mother and child is not a bilateral one. It is a trilateral relation: mother, child, and father. Even if the father is not present (as in the case of divorce), he has an important role in the internal life of the mother, that is in her thoughts and imagination, as well as in her sense of motherhood . 

This is what a lady intellectual, who is both a psychologist and a mother, has said. 


A woman depends so much on the sincerity, kindness and protection of her husband that without his earnest co-operation even a child has little sense for her. She can endure the hardships of life only with his help. In such circumstances, how can it be possible to compel her, by the force of law, to remain attached to a man who is not willing to accept her? 

Is it not ironical that, on the one hand, we create an atmosphere in which men pay little attention to their wives and sow their wild oats elsewhere and, on the other, we try to thrust their wives on them by the force of law? As a matter of policy, Islam wants that man himself should seek a woman and should like her. It does not want to thrust a woman on him. 

As a general rule, where there is a question of love, devotion and sincerity, there can be no question of legal compulsion. If a husband dislikes his wife, it may be a matter of regret, but no force can be used to make him like her. 

Let us give an example. As we know, in the congregational prayers there is a condition that the leader of the prayers can be only that person who is pious and in whose piety the followers have faith. In this case, the relationship between the leader and the followers is based on the piety of the former, and the faith and devotion of the latter. If the body of the followers loses faith in a particular leader, whether rightly or wrongly, this relationship is severed. The law cannot guarantee its continuity. As it is a matter of feelings and sentiments, nobody can be compelled legally to have faith in a particular person. Even if a leader of the prayers possesses the highest degree of piety and virtue, he cannot compel others to offer prayers behind him. It will be highly ridiculous to file a suit in a court of law in this respect. It is even derogatory to the position of the leader of the congregational prayers to try to force people to offer prayers behind him. 

The same is the case with the relationship between the voters and the candidate for election. The people will vote for a candidate in whom they have confidence. If they do not elect a particular candidate, howsoever fit and suitable he may be, he cannot sue them. 

The only thing which should be done in such cases is to train the people on the correct lines and to raise their intellectual level, so that when they perform their religious duty, they may find out the really righteous people to follow and, when they perform their social duty, they may select the really deserving people to vote for. If, by chance, the people change their opinion subsequently without any rhyme or reason, that can only be a matter of regret, but there can he no question of compulsion or legal action in the matter. 

The domestic duty is exactly like the above-mentioned religious and social duties. Islam regards the family as a natural society, for the smooth running of which it has prescribed a particular procedure to be followed strictly. 

It is the greatest achievement of Islam that it has prescribed this procedure, for the West has not so far been able to solve its family problems. Not only that, but problems are multiplying and new problems are being added daily to the old ones. Fortunately, as the result of scientific investigations, the position is gradually becoming clear. We are fully convinced that the Western world will gradually accept the Islamic principles and precepts regarding the family laws. Anyhow, we do not believe that the real Islamic teachings are identical with what is being practised today as such. 


The present day Western world is enamoured of 'equality', not knowing that the question of relationship between man and woman was solved by Islam 14 centuries ago. As far as the family system is concerned, there exists something higher than equality. For civil society nature has laid down only the law of equality, but for the domestic society it has laid down other laws also. Family relations cannot be organised on the basis of equality alone. All other laws of nature, which govern these relations, should be recognised and adhered to. 


Unfortunately the word 'equality' has been used so much and so often that its true sense has been blurred. It seldom occurs to anyone that equality means equality in rights. The principle of equality cannot be applied everywhere indiscriminately. It will be most ridiculous to say that everything has become all right, because in the past only men told lies to their wives and now women also tell lies to their husbands. Can we rejoice and proclaim that equality has been established, because in the past only 10% of the marriages ended in divorce and separation, and now, in certain parts of the world, 40% of the marriages end in divorce, and in 50% of the cases, it is the women who initiate the divorce action? In the past it was men who betrayed their wives and indulged in adultery, and women were mostly faithful to their husbands, but today women also betray their husbands and no longer observe chastity. Is this any improvement? Can this be called equality? In the past men often showed cruelty and callousness to their wives. They abandoned their wives and children and ran after mistresses. Now even mothers of several children, after having been married a long time ago, leave their homes to satisfy their lust, following a brief introduction to a stranger at a dance party. Does this mean the establishment of equality? 

That is how, instead of seeking the cure of the social ills and consolidating the family life, we are weakening the domestic system and shaking its foundations. Into the bargain, we are happy that we are advancing on the path of equality. If this situation continues, woman will soon surpass man in corruption, perversion and callousness. 

Now it is clear why Islam, though it considers divorce most detestable, has placed no legal bar on it. It is also clear how a thing which is permissible can, at the same time, be detestable and loathsome. 


It is evident from the discussion so far made that Islam is opposed to divorce and the dissolution of family life. It has taken every moral and social step to save it from the danger of dissolution, but it has not resorted to compulsion and has not used the force of law. It is opposed to the use of legal force for preventing man from divorcing his wife and to constrain woman to continue to live with her husband. Islam considers such steps to be unsuited to the position of woman in the family, for sentiments and emotions are the cornerstone of family life. 

It is woman who receives the warmth of the tender feelings of her husband and passes them on to her children. If the husband loses interest in his wife, the domestic atmosphere becomes cold and dingy. Even woman's motherly feelings towards her children largely depend upon her husband's attitude to her. According to an eminent psychologist, motherly affection is not an instinct in the sense that it is not subject to increase or decrease. The love and consideration which a man shows to his wife has a considerable impact on her motherly feelings. 

In short, woman is to be inspired by man's sentiments and tender feelings to be able to extend her feelings to her children. 

Man can be compared to a mountain, woman to a spring and children to plants. The spring must receive rain from the mountain and absorb it to be able to put it out in the form of pure life-giving water for the irrigation of flowers and plants. If rain does not fall on the mountain or it is not absorbed by the earth the spring will become dry and the plants will wither. 

Just as rain is vital for the fertility of the soil, and for the thriving of vegetable life, the sentiments and feelings of man towards his wife are vital to the prosperity and happy life of the children as well as for their mother. 

When the feelings and sentiments of the husband are so important for the success of family life, how can the force of law be used as a weapon against him? 

Islam is strongly opposed to the ignoble action of those who divorce their old wives to have new ones. But, in the opinion of Islam, it is no remedy to force an unchivalrous man to keep his wife against his will. Such an action is not in keeping with the natural law of family life. 

If the woman tries to return to the house of her husband by force of law and with the help of the executive authority, her occupation of the house will be tantamount to a military occupation. In such a case she cannot become the lady of the household, nor can she become the sentimental link between her husband and her children. She also cannot satisfy her own emotional need for love and attention. 

Islam has taken steps to eliminate cases of divorce, but, as a law-giver, it does not like to force the woman, who is the centre of the family system, to live with an unchivalrous man who does not want her. 

The action taken by Islam is just the opposite of what the West has done and is doing. Islam fights against the factors which lead to faithlessness and licentiousness, but it is not willing to force woman to live with a faithless husband. In contrast, the West encourages the factors leading to faithlessness and, at the same time, wants to force the woman to continue to live with a faithless and licentious husband. 

Islam has utilised all its efforts to keep alive the spirit of humanity and chivalry, and though it does not force an unchivalrous man to keep his wife, it has succeeded practically in reducing the cases of unchivalrous divorce to a considerable extent. Others do not pay attention to these points and seek happiness by force and at the point of a bayonet and they have seldom succeeded. 

Apart from the cases of divorce, which take place in the West on the demand of women because of incompatibility and, as described by Newsweek, love of pleasure, the number of cases, which have occurred there and are occurring there and are occurring because of the licentiousness of men, is far higher than the number of similar cases in the East. 


There is no doubt that there should be peace and harmony between the husband and wife, but the peace and harmony which should prevail in conjugal life is very different from the peace which should exist between two colleagues, two partners, two neighbours and two neighbouring countries. Peace and harmony in conjugal life is similar to the peace and harmony which should exist between the parents and the children. It is equivalent to tolerance, sacrifice, interest in the destiny of one another, breaking the barrier of duality and sharing the happiness and grief of each other. In contrast, peace and harmony between two colleagues, two partners, two neighbours or two neighbouring countries simply mean non-encroachment on the rights of each other. Between the two disputing countries even armed peace is enough. Should a third power intervene and set up a buffer zone between two countries to prevent a direct clash between their armed forces, peace is secured, for political peace means only non-aggression and no clash. 

But domestic peace is different from political peace. In this case non-encroachment on the rights of each other is not enough. Armed peace is of no use. What is required is the union of souls, which is something higher and more basic. The same is the case with the peace and harmony between the parents and the children. In that case also something higher than non -aggression is necessary. Unfortunately, for historical and sometimes even regional reasons, the West does not realise the importance of the sentiments. For it, there is no difference between domestic peace and political or social peace. The people of the West think that as peace between two countries can be ensured by the concentration of the forces of a third power on their common border, similarly peace between a husband and a wife can be established by concentrating judicial force on the border of their life. They forget that the success of the domestic life depends on the complete disappearance of all borders. 

The Westernised people of the East, instead of taking pride in their own system and pointing out to the people of the West the defects and shortcomings of their (the Westerners') family system, are so absorbed in imitation that they are unable to distinguish between right and wrong. But it will not be too long before the East gets rid of the yoke of the West completely, rediscovers its own personality and learns self-reliance. Here it is necessary to mention two points. 


From what we have written some people may wrongly conclude that we are in favour of allowing men to divorce their wives at their will and pleasure. Of course, that is not the idea. What we mean is that Islam does not want to use legal force against the husband. Otherwise, Islam welcomes every action which may dissuade him from divorce. Islam has intentionally prescribed such a procedure and has laid down such conditions for the validity of divorce that they automatically delay the dissolution of marriage and, in many cases, persuade the husband to give up the whole idea of separation. 

Islam has advised those who pronounce the divorce formula, and the witnesses and others, to do their best to dissuade the husband from the idea of divorce. Furthermore, a divorce is not valid unless it is pronounced in the presence of two qualified 'Adil" (Just) witnesses, who are expected to make their utmost efforts to reconcile the couple. 

The present day custom that the divorce formula is often pronounced in the presence of two just persons, who may not even know the couple concerned except their names, is totally un-Islamic. 

Anyhow, the necessity of the presence of two qualified witnesses is one of those factors which may dissuade the husband from divorce, provided this condition is observed strictly in its true sense. Islam does not regard the presence of two qualified witnesses as an essential condition for the validity of marriage, which is the beginning of the marital contract, because it does not want to delay a good deed. But it regards the presence of two qualified just witnesses necessary for divorce, which is the end of the contract. 

Similarly, according to Islam, divorce is not effective during the woman's menstrual period, though there is no objection to the solemnisation of marriage during that period. Apparently menstruation, being a hindrance in s*xual intercourse, should affect marriage and not divorce. But as Islam encourages union and discourages separation, it has allowed marriage during the monthly period and has disallowed divorce during that period. In certain circumstances, it is necessary to wait for three months before a divorce is allowed. 

All these hindrances and obstacles are meant to allow enough time for the tension, which had led to the decision of divorce, to subside, and to enable the husband and the wife to resume their normal life. 

Furthermore, in the case of revocable divorce, the husband is permitted to resume conjugal relations during the period of probation iddah (waiting period). 

Islam has placed another obstacle in the way of the husband, by imposing on him the expenses of marriage as well as those of the period of post-divorce probation for wife and of the care of children. If a man wants to divorce his wife and marry another woman, he has first to pay the maintenance of the first wife, to undertake the responsibility to bear the expenses of the children, and to fix the dower of the new wife. Furthermore, he has to shoulder the responsibility of supporting the second wife and the children which may subsequently be born. 

Apart from the responsibility of looking after the children, their woeful plight offers the husband a fearful prospect and prevents him from taking a decision to resort to divorce. 

In addition to all this, Islam regards it necessary that in the case of the apprehension of breach and dissolution of family life, a family court consisting of two arbiters, one representing the husband and the other representing the wife, is constituted to arbitrate between them. 

The arbiters should do their utmost to settle the dispute between the husband and the wife and, if necessary, they should consult them for this purpose. They can dissolve the marriage only if they find that reconciliation is impossible. As far as practicable, the arbiters should be selected from among the relatives of the couple, provided suitable people are available among them. 

The Holy Qur'an says: "If you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his relatives and another from hers. If they both desire compromise, Allah will afford harmony between them. Surely Allah is Ever-Knowing, Aware', (Surah an-Nisa, 4 : 35). 

The author of the Kashshaf, explaining the word, 'arbiter' says that the person selected to arbitrate should be trustworthy, eloquent and capable of bringing about a reconciliation and doing justice to both the parties. He further says that it is preferable to select the arbiters from among the relatives of the couple because they are expected to know the causes of the dispute better and both the parties can talk to them freely and repose confidence in them. 

The jurists differ on the question whether arbitration is obligatory or only desirable. The most eminent among them are of the view that it is the job of the government to appoint the arbiters. Shaheed Thani in his book, 'Masalik' has formally expressed the legal opinion that arbitration is obligatory and it is to be arranged by the government. 

Sayyid Muhammad Rashid Riza, the author of the Qur'anic Commentary, 'Al-Manar', after giving the opinion that arbitration is obligatory, refers to the difference of opinion among the jurists on this question and says that, practically, the Muslims do not follow this wise rule and thus are deprived of its unlimited benefits. The scholars unnecessarily waste their energy on arguing whether arbitration is obligatory or only desirable, while nobody takes steps to implement it. If a rule is not to be implemented, then what difference does it make whether it is obligatory or desirable? 

Regarding the conditions which the arbiters can impose on the husband to secure a reconciliation, Shaheed Thani says that they can for example bind him to keep his wife in a particular town or a particular house; not to accommodate his mother or his other wife in the same house not even in a separate room; to make prompt cash payment of the dower fixed at the time of marriage; or to make immediate payment of any loan he might have taken from his wife. 

In short, any suitable action to dissuade the husband from repudiating the marriage bond is valid and desirable. 

This is the answer to the question we raised earlier i.e. whether or not, the judiciary which represents society has the right to intervene and prevent the dissolution of marriage. 

The judiciary can intervene because the husband's decision to divorce his wife is not, in all cases, a sign of the final collapse of the conjugal bond. Such a decision may be taken in a fit of rage or may be the result of some misunderstanding. Any action taken by the society to prevent the implementation of such a decision is welcomed by Islam. 

A court of arbitration, being the representative of the society, can direct the divorce offices not to finalise the action on a divorce case, till the court intimates them of its failure in bringing about peace and harmony between the husband and the wife. 


The unchivalrous divorce, besides dissolving the sacred family life, creates such other positive problems for the wife that they cannot be ignored. Suppose a woman lives in the house of her husband for years, takes his house to be her own and most sincerely works hard to build it up and give it a shape. She, as is the case with most of the women with the exception of those belonging to the modern urban society, cuts down the expenses on food and clothing, sometimes even to the annoyance of her husband, and hesitates to engage a servant to help her in the household work. She sacrifices her youth, energy and health for the sake of her husband and her household. Now, if the husband of such a woman, after years of a joint life, wants to divorce her to marry another woman, he not only wants to bring to nought all the efforts and aspirations of his wife, but also wants to indulge in s*xual pleasure at her expense. 

This is not simply a case of the dissolution of mental life, and hence, it cannot be said that it is below the natural position and dignity of woman to thrust herself on a man who does not want her. 

Here other questions are also involved the question of becoming homeless for the wife, the question of handing over one's house to a rival and the question of the wastage of all her efforts and services in the past. 

Every human being wants a home of his or her own and feels attached to the home built by his or her own hands. If you try to turn a bird out of the nest it has built, it will certainly resist and defend itself. 

In our opinion, the problem is fully worth considering. In such cases, divorce not only means the dissolution of marriage, but also brings women to complete ruin. 

Anyhow, the question of home is distinct from that of divorce, and the two questions should be considered separately. From the Islamic point of view, normally this problem should not arise. It arises owing to the ignorance of Islamic rules and regulations and the exploitation of women's goodwill and faithfulness, by men. 

Most of the people suppose that all the fruits of woman's labour belong to her husband. They even think that the husband can force his wife to work for him and she has to obey all his orders like a slave. This wrong notion is the root-cause of all the trouble. As we have repeatedly pointed out, woman has full freedom as regards her work and activity. Whatever she earns belongs exclusively to her. Islam has given her economic independence. In addition, it has made the husband responsible to bear the expenses of his wife and children. Thus, Islam has provided woman enough opportunities, from the financial point of view, to lead a respectable life independent of man. Divorce and separation should not cause her any anxiety in this respect. All the things which she might have collected to build up her home belong to her and her husband has no right to seize them. Such apprehensions are justified only in the systems, which force woman to work in the house of her husband and regard the fruits of her labour as belonging to him. The misgivings which exist among our people are probably due to their own ignorance of the law. 

Another cause of the trouble is the exploitation of the faithfulness of woman by man. Some women make sacrifices, not because they are unaware of the law of Islam, but because they are over confident of the sincerity of their husbands. They want that there should be no question of 'my money and your money'. They do not care to take advantage of the opportunity given to them by. Islam. They are suddenly disillusioned and find that they have wasted their lives in making sacrifices for an unfaithful man and have lost the opportunity given to them by their religion. 

If a wife is expected to give up her legal right of keeping a separate account of her money and her earnings, the husband is also expected that, in consideration of her sacrifice and the service rendered by her, he should make presents to her and offer her gifts. The Qur'an says: "When you are greeted with a greeting, greet with one better than it or at least as kind" 

(Surah an Nisa, 4:86). It has always been customary among the good people to present the wife with valuable articles, like a house or other property, as a gift. 

Anyhow, what we mean is that the problem of becoming homeless is not related to divorce and that it cannot be rectified by changing the concerned law. This problem is related to the question of economic independence of woman and that question has already been solved by Islam. This problem has arisen because of the ignorance of some women, and the simplicity of others, and will automatically be solved if women know the teachings of Islam on this point and do not show too much simplicity while dealing with their husbands. 


We have said earlier that there are two aspects of divorce which cause all the hardships. One of them is that there are cases of divorce, which are due to the unfaithfulness, and unchivalrous attitude of some husbands. The other aspect is that, even when there is no chance of harmony between a husband and a wife, some husbands withhold divorce, not with a view to living with the wife but with a view to harassing her. 

We have mentioned before that Islam welcomes every means of preventing unchivalrous divorce and has taken its own measures to eliminate it as far as possible. Anyhow, Islam is opposed to the application of force for the purpose of maintaining conjugal relations. 

Islam regards the family as a living unit, and endeavours to keep it alive. But if it dies, Islam's verdict is that it should be buried. Islam does not like it to be mummified and kept active artificially. 

We have learnt that the reason why man has the right of divorce is that the conjugal bond is based on a natural relationship which has its own natural rules. Nature has put the key of its consolidation or destruction into the hands of man. The husband and the wife, each has, by nature, a specific position, which cannot be changed, nor can their positions be unified. This specific position gives rise to certain rights and obligations, the right of divorce being one of them. In other words this right is due to the special and specific role which man and woman, each plays in seeking a partner in life. 


Now you can easily assess the value of the propaganda which is carried out by anti-Islamic elements. They allege that Islam has given the right of divorce to man, because it does not recognise woman to have free will, or to possess any desires or aspirations. They say that Islam includes woman in the category of non-living objects, and not in that of living people. That is why it has given man proprietorial rights over woman. Naturally such rights include the right of emancipation. 

We have shown that the Islamic family law is not based on the masterhood of man and the serfdom of woman. Islam's philosophy is more subtle and far higher than the intellectual level of these writers. Through divine inspiration Islam has grasped the very essence of the basis and structure of the family system. Science is now unravelling some of the mysteries solved by Islam 14 centuries ago. 


The anti-Islamic elements say that divorce should definitely have a judicial form and not that of a release or relief. The fact is that divorce has an aspect of release, because marriage has an aspect of appropriation. It is not possible to change the law of mate-seeking, according to which male and female have separate roles, and the natural state of marriage apparently resembles appropriation. As far as s*xual relations are concerned, nature has prescribed distinct roles to a male and a female, both in the case of human beings and animals. Divorce could have been deprived of its aspect of release only if it had been possible to change the law of nature. 

A critic says that generally the Shiah jurists describe the marriage contract as a binding contract, but it appears that according to Islamic law it is binding only in the case of the wife, for the husband can annul it at his will and pleasure. He adds that it is disgraceful to give the husband the right of divorce during this age of the atom, artificial moons and democracy. 

It appears that this gentleman and others, who think on similar lines, do not differentiate between annulment of a marriage and divorce. When it is said that the contract of marriage is a binding contract, it means that neither the husband nor the wife has the right to annul it. If a marriage is annulled (as it happens in certain exceptional cases) it is treated as if it was never contracted and no legal effects flow from it. The woman cannot claim her dower. The man has no responsibility to support her during the period of probation. On the other hand, in the case of divorce, the marriage bond is dissolved, but its legal effects are not totally nullified. For instance, if a man divorces his wife after even one day's conjugal life, he has to pay the full dower and has to maintain her during the period of probation. In case he divorces after contracting the marriage, but before its consummation, he will have to pay half the dower. As in this case woman has no period of probation and the question of maintenance does not, therefore, arise. Thus, it is clear that divorce does not nullify all the legal effects of a marriage contract. It is also clear that divorce is different from the annulment of a marriage and that the right of divorce is not contradictory to the fact that a marriage contract is binding. There are two aspects specified in Islam annulment of marriage and divorce. A marriage may be annulled owing to a serious physical defect being discovered in either husband or wife. In this regard, both of them have equal rights. Only the right of divorce belongs exclusively to man. 

The fact that there are separate rules for divorce and the annulment of marriage shows that Islam has not accorded the right of divorce to man because it wanted to give him any preferential treatment. 


With a view to preventing divorce, certain legal systems prescribed a penalty. We do not know whether any such law still exists anywhere in the world. Anyhow, the historians say that the Christian Emperors of Rome imposed a fine on those who divorced their wives without any valid reason. 

Obviously it is another form of the use of force for the maintenance of family life, and hence cannot be of much avail. 


We have so far dealt with the natural right of divorce which belongs exclusively to the husband. But he can confer the power of divorce on the wife. This delegation of power can either be general or limited to certain specified circumstances. To make it irrevocable it is included in the marriage contract as a binding clause, according to which the wife is empowered to dissolve the marriage in the specified circumstances already agreed upon. 

It has been customary since the olden days that the women, who feel, in any way, apprehensive of the conduct of their husbands, insist on the inclusion of such a clause in the marriage contract and exercise the power delegated to them, if necessary. 

Thus, according to the Islamic law, though woman does not have the natural right of divorce, she can have the contractual right of the dissolution of marriage. 

Hence, it is not correct to say that the right of divorce is unilateral and Islam has given it only to man. 


Judicial divorce means the dissolution of marriage by a judge and not by the husband. In a large number of countries only a court is competent to effect divorce and to dissolve marriage. According to this system, every divorce is a judicial divorce. We have already made it clear that, in view of the spirit of marriage, the aim of the formation of a family and the position held by woman in the family, a divorce, which runs its normal course, cannot depend upon the decision of a judge. 

Now we would like to see whether, from the Islamic point of view, a judge has no power to effect a divorce or there are any circumstances, howsoever exceptional, in which he can do so. 

Divorce is the natural right of the husband, provided his relation with his wife run their normal course. Normally, if he wants to live with her, he should look after her, discharge all the rights belonging to her and treat her kindly. If he finds it impossible to live with her smoothly, he should pay up all her dues and part with her. Besides her dues, he is also required to pay her an additional sum as a token of goodwill and gratitude. The Holy Qur'an says: "Provide for them, the rich according to his means, and the strained according to his means, a fair provision', (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 : 236) 

But there may be cases when the conjugal life does not run its normal course. There may be a man who neither wants to live happily with his wife nor would he agree to divorce her. 

Natural divorce may be compared to a natural child-birth, which automatically takes its normal course. But the divorce by a man, who is not willing to discharge his duty and does not agree to divorce, of his own accord, is comparable to an abnormal delivery which requires a caesarean operation by a surgeon. 


In such cases divorce does not depend on the will and pleasure of the husband. If such a man is not willing to divorce, the woman cannot be allowed to endure the agony without having a remedy. Islam does not play the role of a silent spectator in such cases. 

Many people are under the false impression that from the Islamic point of view, such a situation is incurable. They think that it is a sort of cancer which afflicts some unfortunate people, but cannot be cured and so the woman has no alternative but to continue to suffer patiently till she dies. 

In our view this mode of thinking is repugnant to the principles of Islam. Islam is a religion which always upholds justice. The establishment of a just society has been the basic aim of all the Prophets. The Holy Qur'an says: Certainly we sent Our Messengers with clear proofs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that humankind may conduct itself with equity. (Surah al-Hadid, 57:25) Islam cannot tolerate such a flagrant injustice, nor can it be imagined that it would formulate a law which may cause a malady comparable to cancer. 

It is regrettable that some people, who admit that Islam is a religion of justice, still hold such a view. If one 'black law' can be attributed to Islam and accepted as a cancer, there can be no valid objection to regarding some other 'cruel' laws as tetanus, tuberculosis, paralysis etc. 

Such an allegation is against the principle of justice, which is a cardinal principle of Islamic law. 

Further, if it is possible to remove the cancer by a simple operation, will it not be wise to take prompt action and relieve the patient of his disease? 

Take the case of a woman who joins a man in all earnestness as his partner in life, but subsequently the man ceases to take interest in her. If the man misuses his powers, does not divorce her and keeps her, in the words of the Qur'an, 'hanging', not because he wants her to live with him as his wife, but just to prevent her from seeking another suitable husband, such a woman is really afflicted with a cancer. But this cancer is easily operable, and after one operation the patient is expected to recover fully. This operation can be performed by a qualified judge only. 

As stated earlier, it is a big problem of our society that some callous husbands refuse to divorce, and thus perpetrate a grave injustice. They use religion as a pretext to justify their highly objectionable conduct. When they say that woman should bear patiently their high-handedness as an incurable cancer, they certainly bring a bad name to Islam. 

Though the subject is rather technical, yet we propose to discuss it briefly, to remove the doubts of the evil-minded persons and to elucidate the teachings of Islam in this respect. 


Some deadlocks are not peculiar to the questions of marriage and divorce. They appear in other spheres also, such as those related to the financial problems. Let us first see how Islam has dealt with the deadlocks in these areas. Has it removed them or accepted them as an irremediable phenomenon? 

Suppose two people, through inheritance or some other way, come to own an indivisible article such as a diamond, a ring, a vehicle or a painting and they are not willing to use it jointly or by turns. Neither of them is also ready to sell his share to the other partner. They also do not agree on any other formula for its use. The article is being wasted, because obviously neither of them can use it without the consent of the other. What is to be done in such a case? Should the problem be left unsolved and the article be allowed to remain un-utilised? Has Islam found a way out of such an impasse? 

The fact is that Islamic law does not regard such questions as insoluble. It does not admit that the right of ownership can lead to the non-utilisation of any property. It allows the courts of law to intervene in such cases and put things right. Even if the parties concerned do not want to submit the matter for adjudication, the court can still order the article in question to be let out or sold. The hire charges or the sale price will, of course, be divided between the owners, but the court can take action with or without their consent. 

In such cases the right of ownership is not taken into consideration because of the involvement of another principle, namely, the. prevention of wastage. The right of ownership is to be waived in such cases, because it is to be respected only so far as it does not lead to the total loss and sheer wastage of the property. 

Suppose two persons own a diamond, a sword, or something else of that sort. Neither of them is willing to sell his share to the other, but both of them agree to divide it into two pieces so that each of them may take one-half of it. Obviously a diamond, a sword or a car, when divided into pieces, becomes useless and loses its value. Islam does not allow such wastage. 

A great jurist, Allamah Hilli, says that the legal authorities should not allow anyone to resort to such an action. The fact that an agreement exists between the owners of the article concerned will not do in such cases. 


Now let us see what is to be done about the question of divorce. If a husband is uncompromising and does not discharge all or some of his financial (maintenance), moral (good-fellowship) and s*xual (right of co-habitation and intercourse) duties and obligations, enjoined upon him by Islam, and at the same time, is not willing to divorce his wife, what action is to be taken? Does there exist sufficient cause to allow the judicial authority to intervene? 


A great jurist of recent times, Ayatullah (Shaykh Husayn) Hilli of Najaf (Iraq) has dealt with this point in his treatise, 'Conjugal Rights'. Here is the summary of his views: 

Marriage is a sacred contract and at the same time a sort of partnership between two persons who make certain commitments to each other, the execution of which ensures their happiness. That is not all. In fact, the felicity of the whole society depends upon the success of their relations. 

The main rights of the wife consist of maintenance, cohabitation and good fellowship. 

If the husband avoids carrying out his commitments and also abstains from divorcing his wife what should a woman do and how should she behave towards her husband? There are two possible alternatives. Either a Muslim judicial authority should intervene and pronounce the divorce ex parte, or the wife should also refuse to carry out her commitments. 

The first alternative is supported by the following verses of the Holy Qur'an: Divorce may be pronounced twice: then either a woman must be retained in good fellowship or released in kindness. (Surah al-Baqarah, 2 : 229). In other words, the right of divorce and its revocation can be exercised twice only. Thereafter, there are only two alternatives, either magnanimous retention or release in kindness. 

Again in the Surah al-Baqarah, (2 : 232) the Qur'an says: 

When you have divorced your wives, and they have reached their prescribed term, either retain them with honour or release them in kindness; Do not retain them by force to harm them. Whoever does that wrongs himself 

From these verses, a general rule can be deduced. A husband has either to retain his wife and carry out all his duties and obligations magnanimously, or to release her and sever the conjugal bond. From the Islamic point of view there is no third alternative. The words, "do not retain them by force to harm them" deny the third alternative of neither divorcing the woman nor retaining her justly or magnanimously. These words, in a more general sense, include the cases of both doing harm to the woman intentionally and simply ignoring her rights and interests by not divorcing her. 

These verses expressly refer to the question of the revocation of divorce and lay down that the revocation should be on a solid basis, with a view to keeping the woman as a partner in life and not with a view to doing harm to her. But, in their scope, the verses are not limited to this question only. They lay down a general rule applicable to the rights of wife at all times and in all circumstances. As a general rule, the husband has to choose one of the above two alternatives throughout his married life. There exists no third alternative for him. 

Some jurists have wrongly limited the scope of these verses. They are of the view that they are applicable only to those husbands who want to revoke their divorce during the period of probation (iddah). In fact, this view is not correct. Apart from the context of these verses, the Holy Imams, as authority, have quoted them in other cases also. For instance, Imam Baqir (P) has said that a husband who swears that he has nothing to do with his wife and in pursuance of such an oath (ila') abstains from her society, has only two alternatives at the expiry of a period of four months. Either he should break his oath and make atonement (kaffarah) for his improper behaviour, or he must immediately divorce his wife, for Allah says: Either retain her (the woman) in good fellowship or release her in kindness. (Surah al-Baqarah 2 : 229) 

On another occasion, when a man had appointed an agent to contract a marriage and fix the dower on his behalf, and later the principle denied the delegation of such powers, Imam Sadiq (P) said that the woman could choose another husband for herself. When the man knew in his heart that he had appointed an agent and delegated him the power to contract a marriage, but later denied it, then he must pronounce divorce, so that his conscience might be cleared, for Allah has said: "Either retain a woman in good fellowship or release her in kindness". These instances show that the Imams believed the verse to constitute a general principle. 

In case a husband neither carries out his conjugal obligations nor does he divorce his wife the religious court should summon him and call upon him to pronounce divorce. If he declines, the court itself can declare the marriage to be dissolved. According to a tradition, Abu Basir has reported that Imam Sadiq (P) said: "If a husband does not maintain his wife, it is the duty of the court to dissolve their marriage, by enforcing a divorce." This in a nutshell is the view of a jurist of the first rank of the present age. He who wants to know its details should consult the book Huquq-uz-Zawjiyyah" which consists of the lessons of the grand author. 

As you must have observed, the verse, 'Either retain in good fellowship or release in kindness' constitutes a principle, within the framework of which Islam has prescribed the rights of the wife. According to this principle and the strict order contained in the sentence: 'Retain them not for injury, 'Islam does not allow any wicked man to misuse his powers and to keep any woman in straits to prevent her from marrying any other person. 

Besides the above arguments quoted from the treatise, 'Conjugal Rights', there exist other arguments also, which support the view that the verse, 'Either retain in good fellowship or release in kindness' is from the Islamic point of view, a general rule which covers all the rights of the wife. The more one looks at the various aspects of this rule, the more he realises the soundness of the teachings of Islam. 

In al-Kafi, Vol. V, Imam Sadiq (P), is reported to have said that when a man wants to marry a woman, he should say: 

"I acknowledge the pledge taken by Allah 'Either retain in good fellowship or release in kindness'." 

The Holy Qur'an says: How can you take it (the dower) back, when you have intimated with each other, and they (wives) have taken from you a strong pledge (of making a full payment of dower to them). (Surah an-Nisa, 4:21) The commentators of the Holy Qur'an, both the Shiah and the Sunni, admit that here a 'strong pledge' denotes the verse, 'Either retain in good fellowship or release in kindness.' This is the pledge to which Imam Sadiq (P) referred, when he called on the people to acknowledge the pledge of Allah at the time of marriage. 

Both the Shiah and the Sunni sources report that on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage (his last pilgrimage) the Holy Prophet said: "Fear Allah in respect of women, for you hold them in trust for Allah, and you have been allowed to enjoy them by His word." 

The well- known historian - theologian, Ibn al-Athir, writes that the 'word of Allah' in this saying of the Prophet refers to the Qur'anic verse - "Either retain them in good fellowship or release them in kindness." 


Shaykh Tusi, expressing his views regarding the cases of impotence, says that after it is proved that the husband is s*xually impotent, the wife has the option of dissolving the marriage. He says that all the jurists are unanimous on this point and in support of their view they cite the verse: Retain in good fellowship or release in kindness. An impotent man, being unable to perform his conjugal duties, cannot keep his wife in good fellowship and should, therefore, release her. 

The views quoted above, on the whole, prove that Islam does not allow any man to misuse his right of divorce and keep his wife as a prisoner. Anyhow, it should be noted that every judge is not competent to intervene in such matters. Islam has laid down very hard and fast qualifications for a judge (Qazi). 

It is worth noting that the cases of judicial divorce should be exceptionally rare, because Islam is anxious to preserve the family life as far as practicable. Islam cannot allow the divorce to take the form that it has taken in Europe and America, the instances of which we daily read in the newspapers. For example, a woman demanded a divorce because her husband did not like the film she liked. Another woman wanted a divorce on the plea that her husband did not kiss her beloved dog. Many other similarly ridiculous and flimsy pleas are advanced daily. They only reflect the decline of humanity. 

In a preceding chapter we mentioned, in the following order, five theories regarding divorce: 

(1) There should be no moral or social restrictions on divorce; 

(2) Marriage constitutes an eternal bond. Divorce should be totally banned; (View of the Catholic Church) 

(3) Marriage is dissolvable by man and not by woman; 

(4) Marriage is dissolvable both by man and woman but with certain conditions. The procedure of its dissolution is the same for both of them; (View of the supporters of equality of rights). 

(5) The way to divorce is open for both man and woman, but their way out is separate. 

As we said in the above mentioned chapter, Islam supports the last theory. From what we have said about the possibility of the delegation of the power of divorce to the wife, as an integral condition of the marriage contract and the possibility of judicial divorce, it is evident that though Islam does not recognise that woman has any natural right of divorce, yet it has not completely slammed the door of exit to her. 

The question of judicial divorce can be discussed further, especially with reference to the views of the jurists of various schools of law, but we think that for our present purpose we need not go into further details. 









Woman and her Rights


Fixed-Time Marriage


One of the glorious laws of Islam, from the point of view of the Ja'fari (Shi'ite) law, is that there are two kinds of marriage, a permanent and a fixed-time marriage. 

Some of the effects, which flow from these two kinds of marriage, are the same and some others are different. There are two distinctive features between them. One is that in a fixed -time marriage, a man and a woman enter into a contract to marry each other for a fixed period, on the expiry of which, if they wish, they can extend it, otherwise they separate. 

The other distinguishing feature is that there is a greater freedom of choice in fixed-time marriage. The contracting parties may stipulate any conditions they like. For example, in a permanent marriage the husband is bound to maintain his wife and meet her daily expenses. Besides, he has to provide for her clothing, housing and other necessities of life like medicines and medical treatment etc. But in a fixed-time marriage everything depends on the terms of the contract. It is possible that the husband may not be able or may not be willing to bear the expenses of his wife, or the wife may not like to utilise her husband's money. 

In the permanent marriage the wife has to accept her husband as the head of the family and obey him within the limits of family interest, but in a fixed-time marriage this also depends on the terms of the contract. In the case of a permanent marriage wife and husband inherit from each other, but this is not so in a fixed-time marriage. 

However, in the fixed-time marriage after the formula has been pronounced the couple is recognised as lawful wife and husband and they can then have intimacy but before that they are strangers and it is prohibited for them to have any kind of s*xual relation. 

The main difference between a fixed-time and a permanent marriage is that a fixed-time marriage places less restrictions upon the spouses. Its terms depend upon their will and choice and the agreement concluded between them. Its very nature gives a sort of freedom to both the parties, for it puts the fixation of its duration into their own hands. 

In a permanent marriage neither the husband nor the wife can use any contraceptive methods without the consent of the other, but in the fixed-time marriage such a consent is not necessary. This is, in fact, another kind of freedom given to both the husband and the wife. 

The child born from a fixed-time wedlock is in no way legally different from the child born as a result of a permanent marriage. 

Dower (mahr): The marriage portion given by the husband to his wife. The dower must be specified and fixed at the time of marriage, but its actual payment may be deferred with the mutual consent of the parties concerned. 

'Dower' is necessary, both in the case of a permanent and a fixed-time marriage, with the only difference that the non-specification of dower at the time of marriage makes the fixed-time marriage void (batil), but does not affect the validity of permanent marriage. If no dower is specified at the time of permanent marriage, then the wife is entitled to the dower, customarily fixed for the females. 

In a permanent marriage, the husband is debarred from ever marrying the mother or daughter of the wife and the wife is permanently debarred from marrying the father or son of the husband. Similar is the case with regard to fixed time marriage As it is forbidden to propose to a permanently married woman, similarly, it is not allowed to give an offer of marriage to a woman who is married under fixed-time marriage rules. As adultery with the permanent wife of someone else permanently debars a person from marrying her, the same restriction is imposed in the case of adultery with the fixed-time wife of someone else. 

After getting a divorce, just as the permanent wife has to pass through a period of probation (iddah), during which she cannot marry again, the fixed-time wife also, after the expiry of the marriage term or the termination of marriage earlier with mutual agreement, has to pass a period of probation. The only difference is that in the case of a permanent wife the iddah is three monthly periods, whereas in the case of a fixed-time wife it is two periods or 45 days. To have two sisters as wives at the same time is prohibited both in the case of a permanent as well a fixed-time marriage. This is what is meant by a fixed-time marriage, according to the Shi'ite law. 

Obviously we support this law with the prescribed conditions and specifications. If some people misused it in the past or are still misusing it, that has nothing to do with the legal system as such. The abolition of this law, as suggested by some modernists, can serve no useful purpose, as, with its abolition, malpractices will not stop, but will only take a different shape. Moreover, the abolition of this law will give rise to many other evils. What is required is that, instead of finding fault with the law, people should be reformed and correctly educated. 

Now let us see why it is necessary to have the institution of a fixed-time marriage side by side with that of a permanent marriage. If a fixed-time marriage is necessary, is it compatible with the present day conditions and modern-ideas of human values? We propose to discuss this question under two headings: 

(a) Present day life and a fixed-time marriage 

(b) Faults and evils of a fixed-time marriage 


As we learnt previously, a permanent marriage imposes heavy responsibilities and obligations both on husband and wife. 

However, no boy or girl at the time of puberty, when he or she comes under the heavy pressure of the instinctive urge, is prepared for a permanent marriage. The requirements of the modern age have lengthened the interval between natural puberty and social maturity, when one is capable of building a family. In ancient times, when life was simple, a boy could, from his age of early puberty, undertake a job which he continued to practise till the last days of his life. But nowadays that is no longer possible. A boy completes various stages of his education at the age of 25, provided he does not fail at any stage. Only then he can expect to have some independent income. He takes another three or four years before he can gather the wherewithal to settle in life and get married. The same is the case with a girl who is desirous of receiving a better education in life. 


Nowadays, if you ask a 17-year-old boy, whose s*xual urge is at its height, to marry, the people will laugh at you. The same is true of a 16 years old girl student. At this age, both the boys and the girls are unable to shoulder the burden of a permanent marriage and to accept the heavy responsibilities which ensue from it, not only in the capacity of husband and wife but also in respect of the future children. 


We know what nature is, but the conditions of life in the present world do not allow us to marry at the age of 16 or 17. Nature is not prepared to delay puberty or the s*xual urge till we complete our education. Are our young men prepared to pass a period of temporary monasticism and live a life of renunciation and extreme austerity, till they become eligible for a permanent marriage? Even if a young man is willing to accept the life of temporary hermitage, is nature prepared to excuse him from the tensions and nervous disorders which usually result from abstaining from normal s*xual activity, as has been disclosed by modern psycho-analysis? 

Now only two alternatives are left. The first is to let a young boy enjoy hundreds of girls, and a young girl to have illicit relations with many boys, and then undergo several abortions. That means that we practically accept s*xual communism. Certainly, if we show permissiveness to boys and girls on an equal footing, we do satisfy the Declaration of Human Rights, because in the opinion of many short-sighted people, the spirit of the Declaration requires that, if men and women have to go to Hell, they should go together, arm in arm. 

But the question is whether it will ever be possible for these boys and girls, who have had unlimited affairs during the period of their studies, to lead a normal domestic life. 

The second alternative is a free fixed-time marriage. In the first instance a fixed-time marriage restricts woman to have only one husband at one time. It is obvious that a limitation of woman means a limitation of man also, whether he likes it or not. If every woman is limited to a single man, naturally every man will be limited to a single woman, except, in case the number of either s*x is far greater than the other. Thus boys and girls can pass through their period of studies without facing the ill effects of temporary hermitage, or of falling into the abyss of s*xual communism. 


In principle it is possible for man and woman, who intend to marry on permanent basis but could not achieve full confidence in each other, to get married on trial for a temporary period. If they have developed sufficient trust they continue their marital position, otherwise they separate from each other. (Hence the difference between the Western style of relationship with the fair s*x and Islam is that with the Westerners there is no conception of marriage code between the couples while in Islam in fixed-time marriage the couple is considered to be husband and wife even for a temporary period). 


In his book, Matrimony and Morals, the well-known English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, says that prostitutes protect the chastity of our wives and daughters. When this view was expressed by Luckey in the middle of the Victorian age, the moralists were greatly offended, though they themselves did not know why. Anyhow, they were unable to refute Luckey's arguments. The logic of the moralists was that, if the people had followed their teachings, the prostitutes would no longer have existed. But they knew well that nobody paid attention to what they said. 

This is the European formula to deal with the danger posed by men and women who are unable to contract a permanent marriage and the one mentioned above was the formula put forward by Islam. If the European formula is adhered to and this social duty is allocated to a section of unfortunate women, will that be in conformity with the human dignity and self- respect of women and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? 

Bertrand Russell, in his book, has included a chapter on trial marriage also. He says that Lindsay, who was for many years a judge in Denver, and in this capacity had an ample opportunity to observe the facts of life, proposed that there should be arrangements, for a "companionship marriage." Unfortunately this judge had to lose his post, because he was interested in the welfare of the youth rather than in creating a sense of sin in them. To secure his dismissal, no stone was left unturned by the Catholics and the anti-Negro, Ku Klux Klan. 

A companionship marriage had been proposed by a conservative intellectual, with a view to introducing a factor of stability in s*xual relations. Lindsay noticed that the main problem of marriage was lack of money. Money is not only required for possible future children, but it is also required because it does not behove a woman to be responsible for the maintenance of the family. He reaches the conclusion that the young men should embark on a companionship marriage, which is different from an ordinary marriage in three ways. Firstly, the aim of this marriage is not to beget children. Secondly, as long as the young woman has not given birth to a child, divorce with the mutual consent of the parties concerned is a simple matter. Thirdly, in the case of divorce, the woman will be entitled to alimony. There is no doubt that Lindsay's proposals are practical and effective and, if they had been accepted by law, they could be expected to have a good impact on morals. 

What Lindsay and Russell call a companionship marriage is a little different from the Islamic fixed-time marriage, but this suggestion indicates that thinkers of their calibre have realised that a normal permanent marriage does not meet all the needs of the society. 


We have already described the characteristics of a fixed -time marriage, the necessity of its existence and the inadequacy of a permanent marriage to meet all human requirements. Now we propose to study the so-called other side of the picture and see what the disadvantages and drawbacks of a fixed-time marriage are. Before discussing that let us point out one thing. 


Out of all the subjects on which views have been expressed, none is so complex and ambiguous as the history of human ideas, beliefs, customs and usages. That is why, though the subject has been most popular, most of the views expressed in connection with it have been absurd. Anybody who has some knowledge of such subjects as philosophy, gnostics, mysticism and Islamic scholasticism and reads some of the present day writings in our country on the questions connected with these subjects which are borrowed from the foreigners or are exact reproduction of their words, can very well understand what I mean. Our present day writers mostly reproduce or, at least, take their cue from the orientalists, while it appears that the latter and their henchmen do anything but go deep into such questions. 

For example, the question known in Islamic mysticism as 'wahadat al- Wujud'(Unity of Being) has been discussed from every conceivable angle, still little attention has been paid to explain what it really is and what conception of it the great exponents of Islamic mysticism, such as Muhyuddin ibn Arabi and Sadrul Muta'llihin Shirazi have had. Recently, certain comments on fixed-time marriage in the Iranian magazine 'Zan-e-Imruz' or "Woman of Today", have reminded me of the question of "Wahdat al-Wujud' 

In the course of these comments everything has been said about a fixed-time marriage, but what really constitutes the spirit of this law and was intended by the lawgiver has been left out. 

Indifference is shown to this law, because it is a part of the Eastern heritage. Had it been a Western gift the position would have been quite different. 

Had this law come from the West, certainly many conferences and seminars would have been held today to advocate that the confinement of marriage to a permanent one does not conform to the conditions of the second half of the 20th century and the present generation is not willing to shoulder all the responsibilities of a permanent marriage. The present generation wants to be free. It wants to lead a free life. It wants a free marriage whose conditions may be chosen personally by the parties concerned. 

Now that voices have been raised in Europe in favour of a temporary marriage and such prominent people as Bertrand Russell are preaching it under the name of a 'companionship marriage,' it is visualised that before long a fixed-time marriage will become so popular that in future we shall be forced to launch a campaign to defend a permanent marriage. 


The following are said to be the defects and drawbacks of a fixed-time marriage: 

(1) The basis of marriage must be permanent. From the beginning of conjugal relations, husband and wife should know that they permanently belong to each other. The idea of a separation must not enter into their minds. The fixed-time marriage does not constitute a permanent contract between husband and wife. 

It is true that the basis of marriage should be permanent. However, this objection can be valid only if we oppose a permanent marriage and wish to replace it by a fixed-time marriage. 

If the two parties can afford a permanent marriage, have full confidence in each other and decide permanently to belong to each other, no doubt they should contract a permanent marriage. 

The law of fixed-time marriage has been laid down only because a permanent marriage alone cannot meet all the human requirements in all circumstances. The restriction of marriage to a permanent type only has led either to temporary monkery or to s*xual communism: Obviously, no boy or girl, to whom facilities for a permanent marriage are available, would like to indulge in a temporary affair. 

(2) Iranian women and girls, in spite of being Shiah, have not welcomed the idea of fixed-time marriage. They regard it as a sort of insult to them. Hence, the general opinion among the Shiah has also rejected it. 

It may be said in reply that the general aversion to the her womanly expressions and her skilful s*xy postures are put on sale. The tickets to the cinema and theatre, which you buy, are in the final analysis, wages of the hired women. Do you realise to what an extent a woman has to stoop to earn money? She has to learn for many years the art of provoking s*x under the supervision of experienced specialists. She has to place her body, her soul and her personality at the disposal of moneymaking organisations to attract more and more customers. If you visit cabarets and hotels, you can see what respect woman has gained, how she has to sell her honour and self-respect for paltry sums of money in order to fill the coffers of some capitalists and how she has to put herself at the disposal of the guests. 

Hired women are those sales girls of big stores who sacrifice their honour and self-respect to satisfy the greed of their employers. 

Hired women are those model girls who appear on T.V. to publicise commercial goods and employ all means to attract the customers to them. 

Who does not know that in the West today, woman's beauty, her s*xual attraction, her voice, her art, her body, her soul, and above all her personality are used as a humble means to serve the interests of the European and American capitalism? 

I wonder why a woman who, of her own accord, marries a man for a fixed period, is regarded as a hired woman, while a woman who, at a wedding or an evening party, in front of thousands of greedy eyes of men, sings till her throat pains and stages a thousand and one antics, is not regarded as a hired woman. 

By allowing a fixed-time marriage, Islam has protected woman from being exploited by man. It has also forbidden her to employ base means to earn her livelihood. Is it Islam which has degraded woman, or the Europe of the second half of the 20th century? 

If one day woman becomes fully conscious of the hidden fixed-time marriage among the Shiah women and girls is due to its misuse by the licentious men. It is the duty of the government to prevent its misuse. Secondly, it is unreasonable to expect a fixed-time marriage to be as popular as a permanent marriage, because the former is meant only to satisfy the needs of the parties concerned, if both are or at least one of them is unable or unwilling to contract a permanent marriage. 

(3) A fixed-time marriage is below the human dignity of woman. It amounts to the hiring of a human body, and even to the legalised sale of human beings. It is against the self-respect of a woman to put herself at the disposal of any man in exchange for money. 

This is the most surprising objection. Firstly a fixed-time marriage, as described above by us, has not the remotest connection with sale or hire. Can it become sale or hire simply because the duration of wedlock is limited? Does it become hire because a dower has to be fixed? We propose to take up the question of dower separately. 

Jurists are unanimous that, with regard to the nature of a contract, there is no difference between a permanent and a fixed-time marriage. They are two forms of marriage and their contracts can be constituted only by using a specific formula (Sighah relating to marriage). If a contract of a fixed-time marriage is expressed in the form of sale or hire, it is invalid. 

Secondly, since when has the practice of hiring human beings been abolished? All the tailors, barbers, cooks, even specialists, all government employees from the Prime Minister to the lowest official and all the factory workers are hired men. 

A woman, who, by her own free will, contracts a fixed-time marriage with a particular man is not a hired woman and does not do anything derogatory to her self-respect or human dignity. If you want to see hired and enslaved women and want to know what a hired woman really means, you should go to Europe and America and visit the film companies there. There you will see how the movements of woman's limbs, her gestures, traps which the 20th century men have laid in her way, she will certainly rise in revolt against all this deception and fraud. She will, then, realise that her only sincere protector and real refuge is the Qur'an. Of course, that day is not far off! 

(4) After all, a fixed-time marriage legalises polygamy, which is an abominable practice. Hence a fixed-time marriage is condemnable. 

At the end of this very chapter we shall explain for whom the law of temporary marriage has been enacted. As far as polygamy is concerned, we shall discuss it in a subsequent chapter. 

(5) As a fixed-time marriage has no permanency, it leaves the future children shelterless. They become nobody's responsibility. They are deprived of a father's protection and a mother's affection. 

This is an objection which is much stressed, but, with the explanation we have given, it totally loses its force. We have previously said that one of the differences between a temporary and a permanent marriage is related to procreation. 

In a permanent marriage neither of the spouses can evade the responsibility of begetting children, but, in a fixed-time marriage, both the parties are free. The wife, of course, is not allowed to obstruct her husband from enjoying s*x, but she can take measures to prevent her own pregnancy. This problem has been fully solved with the development of the modern contraceptives. 

Thus, in the case of a fixed-time marriage, if both the husband and wife are inclined, they can beget children, provided they accept the responsibility of rearing them. It is obvious that, from the standpoint of natural affection, there is no difference between the child of a permanent wife and that of a fixed-time one. Should a father or a mother abstain from performing his or her duty, it is the responsibility of the law to compel them in the same way as it intervenes in the case of divorce. If a husband and wife are not inclined to beget children and their aim is only to get s*xual satisfaction, they should abstain from producing children. 

As we know, the Church regards contraception as unlawful. But, from the Islamic point of view, a husband and wife are at liberty to adopt contraceptive measures. Anyhow, once an embryo is formed, it is not allowed to be removed or destroyed. 

This is what the Shi'ah jurists mean when they say that the aim of a permanent marriage is child-bearing and that of a fixed-time marriage is enjoyment and the gratification of a natural urge. 


One of the subjects, which the West uses as a weapon to vilify the East and about which West has also prepared films and dramas, is the question of the formation of harems. Unfortunately, many instances of it are to be found in history. 

The life of certain caliphs and sultans provides a complete model of 'harem' formation, which is described as an outstanding symbol of the licentiousness of the man of the East. 

It is alleged that the legality of a fixed - time marriage is equivalent to the legality of a 'harem' formation, which is a weak point of the East and has brought disgrace to it. Not only that, it is equivalent to the legalisation of licentiousness, every form of which is contrary to morality and causes decline and ruin. 

The same thing has been said about polygamy and the legality of polygamy has been interpreted as the legality of a 'harem' formation. We will discuss the question of polygamy separately. At present, we confine our attention to a fixed-time marriage. 

This question should be studied from two angles: 

(1) What were the social factors which led to a 'harem' formation in the past and whether the law of fixed-time marriage influenced this phenomenon? 

(2) Does the law of a fixed-time marriage aim at providing an opportunity of 'harem' formation to the licentious men? 


There were two factors which brought 'harems' into existence. The first was the piety and chastity of woman. A 'harem' can be formed only in an atmosphere where social and moral conditions are such that a woman is not allowed to have s*xual relations with more than one man. In such circumstances a licentious man has no alternative but to gather together a number of women and form a 'harem'. 

Obviously, in an atmosphere where importance is not attached to chastity and women are available easily and freely, nobody will take the trouble of forming a big 'harem' at a huge cost and with a large paraphernalia. 

The second factor was the non-existence of social justice. The atmosphere conducive to 'harem' formation is that in which a few are steeped in all sorts of luxuries and affluence, whereas others are unable to make both ends meet, and in which there are many who are unable to have a wife and form a family. In such an atmosphere the number of unmarried women grows and a suitable ground for a 'harem' formation is furnished. 

On the other hand, if social justice is established and the means of forming a family and choosing a spouse are available to all, automatically every eligible woman becomes attached to one particular man and no opportunity is left for debauchery, licentiousness and 'harem' formation. 

If every adult is in a position to have a spouse, naturally not enough women are left for rich men to form harems, for the number of women is usually more or less equal to the number of men. 

It is customary that history narrates the stories of the 'harems' of the caliphs and the sultans and describes the pomp and show of their courts, but ignores to explain the privation, misery and sufferings of those who died at the foot of their palaces and of those whom the social conditions did not allow to have spouses. Hundreds of women, who passed their lives in the 'harems', were the natural right of a number of deprived men, who were forced to remain unmarried till the end of their lives. 

Undoubtedly, in a society where chastity prevails and s*xual success is impossible except within the frame-work of marriage, including both, permanent and fixed-time, 'harem' formation is impossible, provided social and economic inequalities are removed and the natural right of matrimony is made available to every adult. 

A cursory glance over history shows that the law of fixed-time marriage has not exercised even the slightest influence over 'harem' formation. 

None of the Abbasid Caliphs and the Ottoman Sultans, who were famous for keeping large 'harems', was a follower of the Shi'ah theology, and so none of them could be expected to have taken advantage of the law of fixed-time marriage. 

The Shi'ah Sultans, though they could use this law as an excuse, never vied in this respect with the Abbasid Caliphs or the Ottoman Sultans. This clearly shows that the harems were the outcome of some other special social factors. 


There are no two opinions about the fact that heavenly religions, on the whole, censure licentiousness and immorality, so much so that the followers of most of them have preferred a life of renunciation and asceticism. 

One of the clear and accepted principles of Islam is to combat lewdness, which has been compared to idolatry by the Qur'an. Islam has described a 'taster', i.e. a man who wants to enjoy various types of women, as condemned and hated by Allah. While discussing the question of divorce, we shall quote authoritative Islamic references in this respect. 

One of the distinctive features of Islam is that it rejects monkery and renunciation, but does not allow lewdness. According to Islam, all natural desires, including s*xual desire, should be satisfied within natural limits and only to the extent of natural requirements. Islam does not permit fanning the fire of desires and converting them into unquenchable thirst. Islam is against everything that takes the form of licentiousness and injustice. 

There is no denying the fact that it has never been the intention of the legislator of the fixed-time marriage law to provide a means of gratification of their excessive carnal desires to sensual people and to bring disaster to a woman and her innocent children. The great encouragement given to the idea of fixed-time marriage by the Holy Imams has a special philosophy, which we shall explain shortly. 


Now let us see how the modern world has dealt with the question of 'harems'. The modern world looks at 'harems' with disgust and consequently this custom has been discarded. One of the two factors which brought it into existence has been removed. But which factor? Not that of the social inequality, but it is that of the piety and chastity of woman which has been removed. The lewd man of this century is no longer in need of taking the trouble of forming a 'harem' and of bearing the huge expenses of maintaining it. Thanks to the western culture, that for the man of this century a 'harem' is available everywhere. In order to enjoy women of different races and colours, the modern man finds no necessity of having as much power and money as Harun al-Rashid or Fazl ibn Yahya Barmaki had. For him it is enough to have a car and a monthly income of a few thousands to be able to indulge in so much s*x pleasure that Harun al-Rashid could never have dreamt of. The modern hotels, restaurants and cafes are always ready to serve as 'harems' for men. Some time ago a young Iranian, Adil Kutwali, frankly admitted that he had 22 mistresses of various shapes and 

features at one and the same time. Thanks to Western culture, that the modern man enjoys all the pleasures of a 'harem' without undergoing the worries and huge expenses of maintaining it. 

Should the hero of 'a thousand and one nights' raise his head from the dust and see the vast possibilities of indulgence in s*x and the cheapness and abundance of women, he would never think again of forming a 'harem', with all the trouble and expenditure which it involves. He would thank the people of the West for saving him all the trouble of forming a 'harem' and would immediately announce the abolition of polygamy and a fixed-time marriage, because they create obligations for men with regard to women. 

If you ask who the loser is in this game, the winner being already known, we would say that unfortunately woman has always been the loser. Being credulous and simple, she was the loser yesterday and she is the loser today. 


Fixed-time marriage is an exclusive feature of the Ja'fari law. Other Muslim schools of theology do not allow it. I do not intend to enter into any Shiah-Sunni controversy here. I wish only to refer briefly to the historical background of the question. 

All the Muslims are unanimous that during the early period of Islam fixed-time marriage was permissible and the Holy Prophet, during some of the journeys when the Muslims were away from their spouses and were feeling hardships, allowed them to contract fixed-time marriage. It is also agreed by all the Muslims that the second caliph, during the period of his caliphate, banned fixed-time marriage. According to the well-known reports he said: "Today I ban two things, which were allowed during the period of the Prophet. They are fixed-time marriage and performance of 'Hajj' and 'Urn rah' with separate 'ihrams', 

Some Sunnis believe that the Holy Prophet himself had banned fixed-time marriage during the last days of his life and the second caliph simply repeated this ban already placed by the Holy Prophet. But the words of the caliph which have come down to us indicate something contrary to this. The correct explanation of this point is that which has been given by Allamah Kashif al-Ghita. The caliph banned temporary marriage, because he thought that the matter was within his constitutional power as Head of the State, who could use his special powers according to the needs of the time. In other words, the caliph's order was political and not legal. The caliph never concealed his deep concern over the dispersal of the companions of the Prophet in the newly acquired territories and their mixing with the newly converted Muslims. As long as he lived, he vehemently opposed their migration from Medina. 

Especially, he did not like their blood to be mixed with that of the newly converted Muslims, whose Islamic training was not deep-rooted yet. Obviously, this was a temporary consideration. The Muslims of those days accepted the caliph's order without showing resentment, only because they knew that it was a political necessity and not a permanent law. Otherwise, it is inconceivable that the people would not have been resentful, when the caliph said that the Prophet had ordered one way and he was ordering the other way. But later, when, as the result of certain developments, the life of the early caliphs, especially the lives of the first two caliphs, came to be regarded as a model, their orders assumed the form of a permanent law. In this case our Sunni brethren are to be blamed more than the caliph who imposed temporary ban on fixed-time marriage for political considerations (just like the prohibition of tobacco in Iran at the beginning of this century). Others should not have given a permanent form to this ban. 

It is evident that Allamah Kashif al-Ghita did not express any opinion as to whether the caliph's action was justified or not. He had simply described the nature of the plea on which action was taken in the first instance and the reason why it did not face any adverse reactions of the Muslims. 

Anyhow, it was because of the influence and personality of the caliph and the people's bias towards following his actions and policies that the law of fixed-time marriage fell into oblivion, and an Islamic tradition, which was complementary to permanent marriage, and whose suspension was likely to cause much inconvenience, became obsolete. 

It was in these circumstances that, with a view to ensuring that this Islamic tradition might not be completely forgotten, the Imams, who are the defenders of the faith, encouraged it and vehemently pleaded for it. Imam Ja'far Sadiq (P) used to say that fixed-time marriage was a point in respect of which he would never dissimulate. 

Besides the intrinsic advantages of fixed-time marriage, an effort to revive a dead tradition was another reason why the Imams preached it. In our opinion, when the Imams forbade men having a wife to contract a fixed-time marriage, they wanted to make it clear that it was not meant for those who were not in need of it. 

Imam Kazim (P) said to Ali ibn Yaqtin: "What have you to do with a fixed-time marriage? Allah has spared you the trouble of being in need of it". He said to another man "A fixed-time marriage is allowed to those who do not have a wife. As for those who have a wife, it is allowed only when they do not have access to her." 

Guidance and encouragement for general public to take somebody in fixed-time marriage is an important step towards "revival of abandoned custom" or tradition, but encouragement alone to those who stood in need was not adequate enough to enliven this forsaken Prophetic instruction, as is clearly indicated in some Shi'ah scripttures and narrative sources. 

Anyway it is a definite fact that the meaning and intention of the first legislator on promotion and explanation of this law and the purpose of the infallible Imams to encourage it on those lines was never to have such provision exist as a means towards s*xual adventures, evil desires and build-up of harems for beastly human beings nor to victimise helpless and oppressed women and orphaned children at any time. 

The Egyptian writer, Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, in his book, 'Al-Ahwa/ aI-Shakhsiyya' has quoted the Commander of the Faithful Ali (P) as having said: "If it comes to my notice that somebody having a wife has contracted a fixed-time marriage, I will stone him to death". 

This tradition has no known chain of authority. Anyhow, if its authenticity is accepted, it supports the view that a fixed-time marriage is permissible only in the case of a man who either has no wife or his wife is away and is not staying with him. 

In short why should we stick to that single tradition reported by one of the Sunni ulema (scholars) (while its source remains unknown) and leave aside the numerous traditions of the Commander of the Faithful Ali (P) reported in all Sunni and Shi'ah books in chapters on Mut'ah. 

In many of his precious statements Imam Ali (P) the Commander of Faithful says: "If Umar had not taken the initiative to declare fixed-time marriage unlawful no one among the people, excepting a few s*x maniacs, would have indulged in adultery". That is, if fixed-time marriage had not been made unlawful, none would have developed freedom to commit adultery. Only those people, who are always inclined to commit unlawful acts, would have indulged in it. 









Woman and her Rights



Monogamy (Practice of being married to only one woman at a time) is the most natural form of matrimony. The spirit of exclusive relationship or individual and private ownership prevails in it, though this ownership is different from that of wealth or property. In this system the husband and wife each regard the feelings, sentiments and the s*xual benefits of the other, as exclusively belonging to him or to her. 

The opposites of monogamy are polygamy (Custom of having more than one wife at the same time) and s*xual communism. The latter, in a sense, may also be regarded as a form of polygamy. 


Sexual communism means no exclusiveness. According to this theory, no man should exclusively belong to any particular woman, nor should any woman belong to any particular man. It amounts to complete negation of family life. History and the theories related to pre-historical times do not point to any period when man totally lacked family life and when s*xual communism prevailed. What is claimed to have existed among certain barbarian tribes was a midway state between exclusive family life and s*xual communism. It is said that among certain tribes it was the usual practice that several brothers jointly married several sisters, or several male members of a clan jointly married several women of another clan. 

Will Durant in his book, 'History of Culture', Vol 1, writes that at certain places collective marriage was popular in the sense that several male members of a clan jointly married several female members of another clan. For example, it has been customary in Tibet that several brothers have an equal number of sisters as their wives. Nobody knows which sister is the wife of which brother. Every brother cohabits with any of the sisters he likes. A sort of s*xual communism exists there. A similar custom existed in ancient England. The custom, which was prevalent among the Jews and some other people of the past and, according to which, after the death of a brother, another brother married his widow, was a remnant of this ancient custom. 


It appears that, while enunciating his theory of 'philosopher-rulers', Plato has suggested in his book, "The Republic", a sort of family socialism for this class. Several leaders of communism in the 19th century also made a similar suggestion, but, as reported by the author of the book, 'Freud and the Prohibition of Consanguineous Marriage', after some bitter experiences, several of the powerful communist countries officially recognised the law of monogamy in 1938. 


Another form of polygamy is polyandry, viz. a woman having more than one husband at the same time. According to Will Durant this custom is found among certain tribes of Tibet etc. 

Al-Bukhari, in his famous corpus of traditions, as-Sahih, reports Ayesha as having said that among the pre-Islamic Arabs there existed four kinds of conjugal relations. One of them was the proper marriage that is still being practised. In this form a man proposes to a girl through her father and, after the fixation of dower, carries her. There can be no controversy about the father of the children born in such a wedlock. There was another kind of marriage, which was called 'istibza To procure a better progeny for himself, the husband selected a man and asked his wife to allow him to have access to her for a fixed period. He himself kept aloof till the pregnancy of the woman. It was a marriage within a marriage and was indulged in with a view to improving the breed. According to another custom, a group of men consisting of less than ten people, established a liaison with a particular woman. On becoming pregnant, she called all of them, and, as the custom of the day was, they had to respond to her call. At this time she selected one man as the father of her child out of those who were willing to take that responsibility. The man, after being so chosen, could not decline to accept the fatherhood of the child. 

The fourth kind of conjugal relations was known as prostitution. The prostitutes had a flag on the top of their houses. It served as their distinguishing mark. Anybody could have access to these women. If such a woman gave birth to a child, she called all those who had intimacy with her, and with the help of a physiognomist, determined who was the father of the child. The man concerned had to accept the decision of the physiognomist and to own the child. 

These were the forms of the conjugal relations which prevailed in pre-Islamic Arabia. The Prophet abolished all of them, except the one which is practised today. 

This shows that the custom of polyandry existed among the pre-Islamic Arabs also. 

Montesquieu reports that the Arab globe-trotter, Abu Zahir al-Hasan, found this custom in India and China during his visit to these countries in the 9th century and regarded it as a form of debauchery. He also writes: "On the coast of Malabar there lives a tribe called Nair. The male members of this tribe cannot have more than one wife, but the women are allowed to choose several husbands. Probably the reason is that the Nairs belong to a martial race and their profession is fighting and hunting. Just as we discourage the marriage of the soldiers in Europe so that it may not interfere with their profession of fighting, the Malabar tribes have also decided that, as far as possible, the male members of the Nair tribe should be excused from shouldering family responsibilities. As, owing to the tropical climate of the area, it is not possible to ban marriage totally, it has been decided that several men should have only one wife, so that they may not be heavily burdened with family responsibilities and their professional efficiency may not be affected". 


The main and the basic defect of the system of polyandry is that the paternity of the children practically remains uncertain. In this system, the relations between the child and the father are undetermined and that is the reason why it has not been successful. As s*xual communism 1L1~ not been able to take roots anywhere, this system also has not been accepted by any society worthy of the name. As we have said earlier, the family life, the building of a home for the future generation and the definite connection between the past and the future generations are some of the demands of the human instinct. The exceptional cases of the existence of plurality of husbands among certain sections does not prove that the desire of the formation of one's own family is not an instinct of man. Similarly, perpetual celibacy or complete abstinence from conjugal life, as practised by a number of men and women, is also a sort of deviation. Polyandry is not only inconsistent with man's monopolistic nature and his paternal love, but it is opposed to the nature of woman also. Psychological investigations have proved that woman wants monogamy more than man. 


Another form of polygamy is plurality of wives. It has been more commonly and successfully practised than polyandry and s*xual communism. It has not only existed among the barbarian tribes, but has also been practised by many civilised people. Apart from the Arabs, it has been practised by the Jews, the Iranians of the Sasanian period and several other people. Montesquieu says that in Malaya it was permissible to have three wives. He also says that the Roman Emperor, Valentinian II, had, by an edict, allowed the subjects of the Empire to marry several wives, but as this law was not suited to the climate of Europe, it was repealed by other emperors like Theodore etc. 


In contrast to polyandry, Islam has not totally abolished polygamy, but has restricted it. On the one hand, it has fixed the maximum number of wives, which one can have, at four, and, on the other, it has stipulated certain conditions and has not allowed everyone to indulge in having several wives. We shall discuss the conditions stipulated by Islam later and will explain why Islam has not banned polygamy. 

It is surprising that during the Middle Ages, when anti Islamic propaganda was at its highest, the opponents of Islam used to say that it was the Prophet of Islam who, for the first time, invented the custom of polygamy. They claimed that this custom was the basis of Islam and the rapid spread of Islam among the various people of the world was due to it. At the same time, they claimed that polygamy was the cause of the decline of the people of the East. 

Will Durant in his 'History of Culture'. Vol.1, says that the ecclesiastics of the Middle Ages believed that polygamy was an invention of the Prophet of Islam, whereas this is not a fact. As we know, the matrimonial life in most of the primitive societies proceeded according to this system. There are many causes of its emergence. In the primitive societies men were mostly busy in hunting and fighting and the rate of mortality among them was naturally high. As the number of women exceeded the number of men. it became essential to adopt this system. It was not possible to allow some women to remain unmarried, for the rate of mortality being high in the primitive societies, every woman was required to procreate children. There is no doubt that this system suited those societies, not only because of the excess of women over men, but also because it strengthened them numerically. In modern times the most strong and healthy men usually marry late in life and beget only a few children. But in the olden days the strong men could have the best wives and could procreate a large number of children. That is why this practice continued to exist for a very long time, not only among the primitive people but even among the civilised ones. It is only recently that it has gradually begun disappearing from the countries of the East. Agriculture has stabilised the life of men and reduced the hardships and perils of the ancient times, with the result that the number of men and women has almost equalised. Now polygamy, even in primitive societies, has become a privilege of a small wealthy minority and the masses have to be content with only one wife and, as an additional enjoyment, they can only indulge in adultery, whenever possible. 

Gustav Leabeon in his book, 'History of Culture', says that no Eastern custom is so infamous in Europe as polygamy, nor has Europe misjudged any other custom to the extent that it has misjudged this. The European writers have believed polygamy to be the basis of Islam and the main cause of its spread. They also hold this custom to be mainly responsible for the decline of the Eastern people. Other objections apart from these, showing sympathy with the women of the East, are raised alleging that these ill-fated women are detained within the four walls of their houses, under the hard-hearted eunuchs. They further say that the slightest action on their part, which may displease the head of the household, renders them liable to be put to death. Such notions have no basis at all. '[he unbiased Europeans should know that it is the custom of polygamy that has strengthened the family relations and uplifted the moral spirit of those people among whom it is prevalent. It is due to this custom that woman in the East enjoys more respect than she does in Europe. Before proving this point, we must make it clear that this custom is in no way related to Islam. Even prior to Islam, it was practised by all the people of the East, including the Jews, the Iranians, the Arabs etc. The people who embraced Islam in the East did not derive any benefit in this respect. So far, no such mighty religion has appeared in this world as could invent or abolish such a custom as polygamy. It has not been first introduced by any religion. It is the creation of the climatic and the racial characteristics and other causes related to the way of life in the East. Even in the West, where the climate is not congenial to the existence of such a custom, monogamy is a thing which is found in law books only. In actual life there is no trace of it. It is not known how and in what way the lawful polygamy found in the East is inferior to the clandestine polygamy of the people of the West. Apparently, the former is better and more dignified than the latter. The people of the East, when they visit a European country and are confronted with the European criticism of their custom, are naturally bewildered and feel offended. 

It is a fact that Islam has not invented polygamy. It has only restricted it. It has prescribed a maximum limit for it. It has laid down strict conditions for it. This custom already existed among most of the people who accepted Islam. They were only compelled to comply with the conditions laid down by Islam. 

In his book, 'Iran During the Sassanian Period', Christenson writes: "Polygamy was considered to be the basis of the family. Practically, the number of wives, which a man could have, depended on his means. The poor people apparently could not afford to have more than one wife as a general rule. The head of the family had special rights as such. One of the wives was regarded as the favourite wife and enjoyed full rights. Some other wives were treated as servants only. Legal rights of these two categories widely differed. The slave girls were included among the servant wives. It is not known how many favourite wives a single man could have. But there has been a mention of two favourite wives in the course of several legal discourses. Each of them was called the lady of the house. Apparently they lived in separate houses. The husband was bound to maintain the favourite wife so long as she lived. Every son till he reached the age of puberty, and every daughter till she was married, had the same rights. But only the male children of the servant-wives were admitted to the paternal family". 

In the 'Social History of Iran from the fall of the Sassanians to the fall of the Omayyads' the late Sa'id Nafisi writes: "The number of women whom a man could marry was unlimited and at times it is observed in the Greek documents that one man had hundreds of women in his house." 

Montesquieu, quoting a Roman historian, says that several Roman philosophers, who were being tortured by the Christians because they refused to embrace Christianity, fled from Rome and took refuge in the court of the Iranian King, Khusro Parviz. They were astonished to see that not only polygamy was legal there, but the Persian men had intimacy with the wives of others also. 

It may be pointed out here that the Roman philosophers took refuge in the court of the Persian king, Anushirwan, and not in the court of Khusro Parviz. Montesquieu has mentioned the name of the latter owing to some misunderstanding. 

During the pre-Islamic period, the Arabs could have an unlimited number of wives. It was Islam that prescribed a maximum limit. This naturally created a problem for those who had more than four wives. In exceptional circumstances, some had even ten. They had to part with six of them. 

From the above it is evident that polygamy is not an invention of Islam. Islam only restricted it. Anyhow, it did not abolish it totally. In the following chapters we shall discuss the causes which gave rise to this custom and shall explain why Islam did not do away with it. We shall also discuss the reasons which in modern times have impelled both men and women to rise against this custom. 


What are the historical and social causes of polygamy? Why have many nations of the world, especially the Eastern nations, accepted this custom, and why have other nations, such as the Western nations, never practised it? How is it that out of the three forms of polygamy only plurality of wives could gain considerable popularity? Polyandry and s*xual communism either have never been practised or have been practised rarely, and only in exceptional cases. 

Unless we look into these questions, we cannot discuss the question of polygamy from the point of view of Islam, nor can we study it from the viewpoint of modern human requirements. 

If we do not take into consideration the ample social and psychological studies made in this respect, we, too, may, like many superficial writers, harp on the old tune and say that the causes of polygamy are obvious. That is, this custom has come into existence as a result of the high-handedness and the domination of man and the subjugation of woman. It is an outcome of the patriarchal system. As man has dominated woman and has ruled over her, he has given the laws and the customs a turn to his own benefit. That is how he enforced this custom which is beneficial to him and harmful to woman, and has been practising it for centuries. As woman was suppressed, she could not put polyandry into practice. As now the age of the high-handedness of man is over, the privilege of polygamy should, like many other false privileges, make room for equal and reciprocal rights of man and woman. 

This way of thinking is very superficial and puerile. Neither the cause of polygamy is the oppression of man nor that of the failure of the polyandry the suppression of woman. If the custom of polyandry has practically come to an end, that is not because the age of man's high-handedness is over. Man has lost no privilege; he has actually gained an advantage over woman. 

We do not deny the factor of oppression as one of the factors which give a particular turn to history. We also do not deny that man has, throughout history, misused his domination over woman. But we believe that it is sheer short-sightedness to explain family relations on the basis of the oppression factor only. 

If we admit this view, we must also admit that during the period when polyandry was popular among the pre-Islamic Arabs or, as reported by Montesquieu, among the Nairs on the Malabar coast, woman had got an opportunity to dominate over man and impose polyandry over him. It also must be admitted that that period was the golden period of woman. But we know for definite that the pre-Islamic period of Arabia was one of the darkest periods in the life of woman. Earlier we have quoted Montesquieu as saying that the custom of polyandry among the Nairs was not due to the domination or respect of woman, but was the result of the decision of society to keep the soldiers free from the burden of family responsibilities. 

Further, if patriarchy is responsible for polygamy, how is it that this system did not gain popularity in the West? After all, the patriarchal system is not confined to the East. Have the people of the West been, from the beginning, pious Christians believing in the quality and reciprocity between man and woman? Has the factor of domination worked to the benefit of man in the East and for the promotion of justice in the West? 

Till half a century ago, the Western woman was among the most unlucky of the world. Even her own property was controlled by her husband. The Europeans themselves admit that during the Middle Ages the position of the Eastern woman was far better than that of her counterpart in the West. Gustav Leabeon says that Islam, in its early days, gave the woman exactly that position, which the European woman could get after a very long time; that is, after the chivalry of the Arabs of Andolusia was transmitted to Europe. Courteous behaviour towards woman is the main part of the chivalry which the Europeans learnt from the Muslims. It was Islam, and not the religion of Christ, as is believed by the common people, that enhanced the position of woman. During the Middle Ages the chiefs and barons, though Christians, never held woman in respect. A study of ancient history leaves no doubt that the behaviour of the dukes and barons of Europe towards woman was most barbaric. 

Other European authors have also given a more or less similar descripttion of the position of women during the Middle Ages. Though patriarchy prevailed in Europe during that period, polygamy could not become customary. 

The fact is that neither polyandry (wherever it was practised) was ever due to the power and domination of woman, nor was its ultimate failure due to her weakness and suppression. Similarly, polygamy in the East is neither due to the oppression and high-handedness of man, nor is it unpopular in the West owing to the existence of equality between man and woman. 


The main cause of the failure of polyandry is that it neither suits man's nature nor woman's. It does not suit man's nature, because firstly, it does not conform to his monopolistic spirit and, secondly, because it is not in agreement with the principle that a father should be confident of his paternity. It is human nature to have an attachment with one's children. Every human being is, by nature, keen to beget children and wants that his relationship with his past and future generations should be definite and satisfactory. He wants to know whose son and whose father he is. Polyandry does not agree with this instinct of man. On the other hand polygamy creates no such problem, neither in the case of man nor in that of woman. It is reported that once, about forty women came to Imam Ali (P) and asked him why Islam had allowed men to have several wives, but had not allowed women to have several husbands. They asked whether it was not a case of undue discrimination. 

Imam Ali (P) ordered some cups of water to be brought in and gave one cup to each women. Then he ordered them to pour all the water into a big utensil, which was placed in the middle of the room. When the order had been carried out, he asked them to fill their cups again, but only with the water which they originally contained. The women said that it was not possible as the whole water had mixed. Imam Ali (P) said that if a woman had several husbands, they would naturally have s*xual connections with her. If she became pregnant and gave birth to a child, it would not be possible to determine as to who was the father of that child. 

As far as woman is concerned, polyandry is neither in her interest nor does it conform to her nature. Woman does not want a husband to satisfy her s*xual instinct only. Had it been so, it could be said: 'the more, the better'. Woman wants a man whose heart she may control, who may be her protector and defender, who may make sacrifices for her and who may work hard and bring money for her. The money which a woman earns through her own work and labour neither meets her requirements, nor has the same value as that which is given to her by the man who loves her. A husband meets the financial needs of his wife with the spirit of sacrifice. The wife and the children are the best and the strongest incentive for man to work. 

In the case of polyandry woman cannot claim the love, devotion and sacrifice of any man. That is why, like prostitution, it has always been abominable to woman. Hence, polyandry neither conforms to the wants and the leanings of man, nor to those of woman. 


In the case of s*xual communism, neither a man can align himself with any particular woman, nor can a woman with any particular man, and that is the reason why it could never become popular. It was proposed by Plato who limited its scope to the ruling class or the 'philosopher-rulers'. But his suggestion was not liked by others, and he himself had to revise his opinion. 

During the past century, Frederick Engels, the second father of communism, put forward this idea and strongly advocated it. But it was not accepted by the communist world. It is said that the Soviet Union tried to implement the family theory of Engels, but following some bitter experience had ultimately to recognise monogamy as the official policy. 

Polygamy may be regarded as a matter of pride for man, but polyandry has never been and will never be a matter of pride for woman. The reason is that man wants the body of woman and woman wants the heart of man. So long as man controls the body of woman, it is immaterial for him if he loses her heart. That is why man attaches no importance to the fact that, in the case of polygamy, he is deprived of the love and devotional sentiments of woman, But for woman the main and the most important thing is man's heart and his sentiments. If she loses them, she loses everything. 

In other words, there are two important elements of matrimonial life, one material and the other sentimental. The material element of matrimony is its s*xual aspect, which is at its height during youth and gradually declines afterwards. The sentimental element consists of mutual tender feelings and earnest devotion. It grows and becomes stronger with the passage of time. The nature of woman being different from that of man, she attaches more importance to the sentimental aspect of matrimony. But for man either the material aspect is more important or, at least, both the aspects are of equal importance. 

We quoted earlier a lady psychologist who is of the view that woman has a mental disposition of her own. The child develops and grows in her womb and is nursed on her lap. She badly needs the devotion and attachment of her husband in the capacity of the child's father. Even the amount of her own affection and love for her children is directly in proportion to the amount of the love shown to her by their father, Only monogamy can meet this requirement. 

It is a grave mistake to compare polyandry with polygamy and to say that there is no difference between them. It is also wrong to say that polygamy became popular in certain parts of the world, because man belonged to the stronger s*x, and polyandry could not do so, because woman belonged to the weaker s*x. 

A contemporary writer, who happens to be a woman, says: 

"We can say that as man can have four wives, woman also should have a similar right, for both are human beings. This logical conclusion is most appalling to men. They are enraged on hearing such an argument and shout: "How can a woman have more than one husband?" In reply we quietly say: "How can a man have more than one wife?" 

She further says: "We do not want to promote immorality or to belittle the importance of chastity. We only want to make men understand that the views held by them, about women, are not based on any solid ground. Man and woman are equal as human beings. If man has the right to have four wives, woman also must have the same right. Even if it is granted that woman is not intellectually superior to man, it is certain that spiritually and mentally she is not weaker than he is." 

As you might have observed, the above statement makes no distinction between polyandry and polygamy, except that man being the stronger s*x has adopted polygamy to his own advantage, and woman being the weaker s*x could not do so. 

The above writer further says that man regards woman as his property, and that is why he wants to have several wives. In other words, he thus wants to acquire as much property as practicable. Woman, being in the position of a slave, cannot have more than one master. 

Contrary to the views of this writer, the fact that the system of polyandry has never been accepted by any large section of people proves that man does not regard his wife as his property, for, as far as property is concerned, it is a common practice all over the world to own it jointly and to be benefited by it jointly. Had man considered woman to be his property, he certainly would have had no objection to sharing it with others. There is no law in the world, restricting the ownership of a property to one owner only. 

It is said that the husband is one individual and the wife is another individual. They should have equal rights. Why should the husband have the right of enjoying polygamy and why should the wife not have the right of enjoying polyandry?" 

We say, here lies the mistake. You presume that polygamy is a part of the rights of the husband and polyandry a part of the rights of the wife. The fact is that polygamy is a part of woman's rights and polyandry is neither a part of man's rights nor of woman's rights. It is against the interests of man and woman both. We shall prove later that the system of polygamy has been laid down by Islam with a view to safeguarding the interests of woman. Had the intention been to be partial to man, Islam could have allowed the husband to have extra-marital affairs with a woman other than his wife and would have laid no responsibility on him with regard to his legal wife and legal children. 

Polyandry has never been in the interests of woman. It is not a right of which she has been deprived. 

The writer whose views we have quoted has said: "We want to make men understand that the views held by them about women are not based on any solid ground". 

Coincidentally, that is what we also want to do. In the following chapters we propose to explain the basis of the Islamic views regarding polygamy. 

We invite all thinking people to look into it and see if the Islamic views are, or are not, based on any solid ground. We give our word of honour that we shall withdraw all what we have said, if it is proved by anybody that the basis of the Islamic viewpoint is defective. 


Man's lust for indulgence in sensual pleasure and his unrestricted domination alone are not a sufficient cause for the emergence of polygamy. There must be some other contributory causes also for a licentious man to satisfy his taste for variety. It is easier and less cumbersome to indulge in free love instead of having a woman of his choice as his legal wife and shouldering the responsibility of the maintenance of her possible future children. Plurality of wives gains popularity only in the societies where there are moral and social restrictions on free love and a voluptuary has to pay the price of seeking variety by accepting the woman concerned as his legal wife and by shouldering the responsibility of fatherhood of her children. 

Now let us see whether there is any contribution of geographical, economic or social factors in this respect. 


Montesquieu and Gustav Leobeon insist that climatic conditions are the main cause of the development of polygamy. These intellectuals believe that the climate of the East is such that this custom is inevitable there. In the Eastern countries puberty and old age in females commence earlier and, therefore, a man requires a second and a third wife. Moreover, they think that one woman cannot satisfy the s*xual needs of a man brought up in the Eastern climate. 

Gustav Leobeon in his book, History of Islamic and Arab culture says: "The custom of polygamy was not introduced by religion. It is an outcome of the climatic conditions, the racial characteristics and other causes related to life in the East. It needs not be emphasised that these are very strong and effective factors. Furthermore, their physical and temperamental traits, their nursing of children and their ailments and diseases often 

force the women of the East to keep themselves aloof from their husbands. As the climatic conditions and the national characteristics of men in the East are such that they cannot bear even temporary separation, polygamy has become customary". 

Montesquieu in his book, the Spirit of Law says: 'In tropical countries women attain puberty at the age of eight, nine or ten years and after being married, soon become pregnant. It may be said that in tropical countries, pregnancy immediately follows marriage". 

Predo, giving an account of the life of the Prophet of Islam, states that he married Khadijah, at the age of five and consummated the marriage at the age of eight. Because of a very early marriage, women in the tropics become old at the age of twenty. He says that before they become mature, they are already old. In the countries having a temperate climate women retain their charm and beauty for a long time. They attain puberty at a later age and they are more mature and experienced at the time of their marriage. They have children at a comparatively advanced age and the husband and the wife become old almost at the same time. That is how equality between man and woman is established and men do not need to have more than one wife. 

Thus it is because of the climatic conditions that the law prohibits polygamy in Europe and allows it in Asia. 

The above explanation is in no way correct. The custom of polygamy is not confined to tropical regions in the East. During the pre-Islamic period this custom was common in Iran, where the climate is temperate. It is purely fictitious to say that in the tropics, women get old at the age of twenty, as alleged by Montesquieu. It is even more fantastic to say that the Prophet of Islam, married Khadijah at the age of five and consummated it at the age of eight. Everyone knows that at the time of their marriage Khadijah was forty and the Prophet was twenty -five. 

Secondly, if it is accepted that the early onset of old age in women and the intense virility in men are the causes of this custom, why did the people of the East not adopt the practice of free love and debauchery, as the people of the West did both during the Middle Ages and in the modern times. In the West, as Gustav Leabeon has pointed out, monogamy is found only in the legal books and there is no trace of it in daily life. 

Again, in the East polygamy exists in its legal form. The man has to accept the woman as his legal wife and has to bear the responsibility of her children. In the West, it exists in an illegal and clandestine form. Man indulges in free love and escapes all matrimonial responsibility. 


We deem it necessary to give a brief account of polygamy in Europe during the Middle Ages, as described by an eminent Western historian. This account should convince those who criticise the East for polygamy that in spite of all its defects it is much more dignified than what existed in Europe. 

Will Durant in his book, History of Civilization, vol.17, gives an interesting account of the state of morality in Italy during the renaissance. We give below a summary of what he has said under the heading 'Morals in Sexual Relations'. 

In the course of his brief introduction he says that before describing the morals of the laity it may be pointed out that by nature man is polygamous. Only strict moral restrictions, an adequate amount of hard work and poverty, and a continuous vigilance of the wife can compel him to maintain monogamy. 

Then he says that adultery was not uncommon during the Middle Ages, prior to the Renaissance. As during the Middle Ages the guilt of adultery was extenuated by chivalry, similarly, during the Renaissance period, it was watered down among the educated classes by the craving for the polished manners and the refined spirit of the females. Girls belonging to respectable families were, to a certain extent, kept segregated from the males not connected with their own family and were taught the merits of pre -marital chastity. Sometimes these instructions were exceptionally effective. It is reported that a young woman, after being assaulted, drowned herself. That must have been an exceptional case, because a bishop took the trouble of installing her statue after her death to commemorate her chastity. 

The number of pre-marital affairs must have been considerable, because there were innumerable children born of illegitimate relations in every town of Italy. It was a matter of pride not to have an illegitimate child, but to have one was not a matter of shame. Usually a husband persuaded his wife at the time of the marriage to bring her illegitimate child with her, to be brought up along with his children. Illegitimacy was not a slur on the reputation of anyone. Furthermore, a certificate of legitimacy could easily be obtained by bribing a clergyman. In the absence of other lawful or eligible heirs, an illegitimate son could inherit property and even a crown, as Frante-I, succeeded Alfonso-I, King of Naples. When in 1459 Pius-II came to Bavaria, he was received by seven princes, all of whom were illegitimate. Rivalry between the legitimate and illegitimate sons was an important cause of a long series of commotions during the Renaissance period. As far as homos*xuality is concerned, it was only a revival of the ancient Greek tradition. 

San Bernardino found this sort of perversion so common in Naples that he thought it to be threatened with the fate of Sodom. Artino found the perversion equally prevalent in Rome. The same thing can be said about prostitution. In 1490, out of a total population of 90,000, there were 6,800 registered prostitutes in Rome. Of course, this figure does not include clandestine and unofficial prostitutes. According to the statistics of 1509, out of a population of 300,000 of that city, there were 11,654 prostitutes. In the 15th century, a girl who had reached the age of 15 without having a husband, was regarded as a slur on the fair name of her family. In the 16th century, the 'age of disgrace' was extended up to 17 years, to enable the girls to receive higher education. Men, who enjoyed all the facilities provided by widespread prostitution, were attracted to marriage only if the woman concerned promised to bring a considerable dowry. According to the system of the Middle Ages, husband and wife were expected to love each other and share each other's joy and grief. Apparently in many cases this expectation came true, but still adultery was rampant. Most of the marriages of the upper classes were diplomatic unions contracted for political and economic gains. Many husbands regarded it as their right to have a mistress. The wife might feel dejected, but usually connived at the situation. 

Among the middle classes, some people thought that adultery was a lawful pastime. Machiavelli and his friends apparently did not feel uneasy about the stories of their unfaithfulness which they exchanged with each other. When in such cases, the wife followed the example of her husband to wreak vengeance upon him, he usually connived at her behaviour and did not feel jealous or perturbed. 

This was a specimen of the life of the people who regard polygamy as an unpardonable crime of the East and have occasionally blamed its climate for this supposedly inhuman custom. As far as their own climate is concerned, it does not allow them to be unfaithful to the wives and to exceed the limits of monogamy! 

By the way, it should be remembered that the absence of lawful polygamy among the Europeans, whether good or bad, has nothing to do with the religion of Christ, who never prohibited it. On the other hand, it confirms the rules of the old Testament, which expressly recognise polygamy. Thus we can say that, in fact, the religion of Christ allows polygamy, and the ancient Christians have actually practised it. Hence, the legal abstinence of the Europeans from it must have some other reason or reasons. 


Some others attribute polygamy to woman's menstrual periods and her aversion to s*x during that time as well as to her exhaustion after child-birth and her desire to avoid s*xual intercourse during the nursing period. 

Will Durant says that in the primitive societies women grow old quickly. That is why, in order to be able to nurse their children for a longer period, to lengthen the interval between their own pregnancies, without interrupting the husband's desire to have children, and to enable him to satisfy his s*xual urge, they encourage their husbands to have a new wife. It has been often observed that the first wife, with a view to making her own burden lighter, has persuaded her husband to contract another marriage in order to have more children and to acquire more wealth. 

There is no doubt that woman's menstrual periods and her exhaustion as the result of child-bearing place man and woman, s*xually, in dissimilar positions. 

These reasons often make men turn to another woman, but they alone cannot be a sufficient cause of polygamy, unless there exists some social or moral impediment preventing man from indulging in free love. The above factors can be effective only when man is not free in the pursuit of his s*xual desires. 


Some believe that the limitation of the period of fecundity of a woman and her menopause, are one of the causes which gave rise to polygamy, for it may happen that a woman reaches this age without being able to bear enough number of children. It is also possible that her children may have died. 

In such cases, if the husband does not like to divorce his first wife and at the same time wants to have more children, he has no alternative but to have a second, or sometimes even a third wife. Similarly, the sterility of the first wife may be another reason for the husband in contracting a second marriage. 


Some economic factors have also been mentioned as the cause of polygamy. It is said that in ancient times, several wives and a large number of children were regarded as an economic asset. Man extracted work from his wife and children and treated them like slaves. Sometimes he even sold them out. Most of the slaves were not captured in battles, but were sold by their fathers. 

This may be a cause of polygamy, because man can have children only by accepting the woman as his legal wife. Free love cannot ensure this advantage. Anyhow, this cause cannot explain all the cases of polygamy. 

Some primitive people had several wives with this idea. But that was not the case with all the people. In the ancient world polygamy was customary among the classes which lived with dignity and decorum. The kings, the princes, the chiefs, the divines and the merchants had several wives. 

As we know, these classes never exploited economically their wives and children. 


Interest in the numerical increase of the children and the expansion of the family has been another cause of polygamy. The position of a man and a woman with regard to the number of children each of them can have is different. The number of children a woman can bear is very limited, whether she has one husband or several husbands. But the number of children which a man can beget depends on the number of women he has at his disposal. It is theoretically possible that a man may have thousands of children by hundreds of wives. Unlike the modern world, in the ancient world the number of family members was counted as an important social factor. The tribes and the clans did all they could to increase their numbers It was a matter of pride for the ancient people to have a large tribe. It is obvious that polygamy was the only means of achieving that end. 


The last and the most important factor, which has contributed to the emergence of the custom of polygamy, is that women have always outnumbered men. It is not that the birth-rate of females is greater than that of males. If occasionally in certain places more females are born, in other places more males are born. But still the number of the women eligible for marriage is always higher than the number of men so eligible. The reason is that the mortality rate among men has always been higher. It is possible that, in case monogamy is enforced strictly, a large number of women will go without having legal husbands, legal children and a household life. 

There can be no doubt that at least in the primitive societies this was the position. We have already quoted Will Durant, who says that in primitive societies the life of man was constantly in danger because he was always busy with hunting and fighting, and that is why the rate of mortality among men was higher than among women. As the number of women increased, there were only two alternatives: either to adopt polygamy or to force a large number of women to pass their entire life as spinsters. 


We have described above all the causes which can be presumed to be the source of polygamy. As you must have observed, some of these causes such as climate are actually no causes at all. Hence we ignore them. Other causes can be classified into three categories. The first category includes those causes which might have been effective in persuading man to adopt polygamy, but they provide no justification for his action. They have an aspect of oppression, high-handedness and cruelty. The economic causes come under this category. 

It is evident that the sale of children is one of the most cruel and barbaric human acts. To resort to polygamy for this purpose is as unlawful as this act itself. 

The second category includes those causes which may be regarded as a justification as far as the husband or society is concerned. Sterility of the first wife, her reaching the age of menopause while the husband still requires a child or the need of a large body of people by the tribe or the country, are such causes. As a general rule, all causes, which emanate from the dissimilarity between husband and wife as regards their s*xual needs or procreation power, have a justifying aspect. 

The third category consists of a cause which, if it is admitted that it ever existed or still exists, not only provides a justification for polygamy, but also makes it obligatory. In this case, polygamy is a woman's right which man and the society must discharge. This cause is the numerical superiority of women over men. In case the number of women eligible for marriage is larger than the number of such men, polygamy becomes an obligation of men and a right of woman, for, in the case of legally enforced monogamy, a number of women are bound to be deprived of their right of family life. 

The right of marriage is a basic human right and no one can be deprived of it under any pretext. Society cannot take any action which may deprive a section of the people of this right. 

The right of marriage is as natural a right as the right of freedom, the right to work and the right to get food, shelter and education. Hence, the law of monogamy is repugnant to the natural human rights in the case of the existence of a larger number of women eligible for marriage than the number of available men. 

This, at least, has been the case in the past. In the next chapter we shall see whether there still exist circumstances which not only justify polygamy, but also create a woman's right to it. And if such circumstances do exist what is the position of this right vis-a-vis the right of the first wife? 


We have explained the causes of the failure of polyandry and the prevailing of polygamy and have shown that multifarious causes have contributed to the origin of the latter custom. Some of the causes originated from the man's spirit of oppression and domination and others from the disparity between man and woman as regards the duration of their power or procreation and the number of children which each of them can beget. The latter type of causes can be regarded as a justification for polygamy. But its main cause, throughout history has been the numerical superiority of women eligible for marriage over such men. This cause leads to the creation of a right of woman and an obligation of man. 

To avoid a lengthy discussion, we skip over those causes which can be regarded merely as a justification for polygamy and confine our attention to its main cause which, when in existence, turns it into a right of the fair s*x. 

To prove the case two preliminary points have to be established. First it is to be proved that according to the reliable statistics the women eligible for marriage actually outnumber such men. The second point to be proved is that the actual existence of circumstances creates a right which married men and women owe to the women who have been deprived of marriage. 

As for the first point, fortunately almost authentic statistics exist in the modern world. A census is taken in every country periodically. In the advanced countries not only are the total figures of males and females collected, but the number of men and women in various age groups is also shown. These figures are regularly published by the United Nations in its annual reports on world population.(We have before us the 1964 report, republished in 1965.) 

It may be pointed out that for our purpose it is not enough to know the total number of males and females in any given country. Simultaneously, we should also know the ratio between the number of men and the number of women eligible for marriage. In most cases this ratio is different from that which exists between the total population of males and the total population of females. There are two reasons for this difference. One is that the onset of puberty in females is earlier. That is why in most countries the legal age of consent in the case of girls is lower than in the case of boys. Practically in most of the countries of the world the husband is on an average five years older than the wife. 

The other and the more important reason is that the mortality rate among the boys is higher than among the girls, with the result that during the marriageable age the balance between them is upset. Sometimes the disparity becomes very marked. It may be that the total number of males and females in a country is almost equal, or even the number of males is higher, but still the girls of marriageable age far exceed the boys of the corresponding age group. 

The United Nations Population Report for the year 1964 bears witness to this fact. 

For instance, according to this report, the total population of the Republic of Korea is 26,277,635 people. Out of this total 13,145,289 are males and 13,132,346 are females. Thus the number of males is 12,943 more than that of females. This ratio is maintained in the children of less than one year, of 1 to 4 years, of 5 to 9 years, of 12 to 14 years and of 15 to 19 years. 

Statistics show that in all these age groups the number of males is larger than that of females. But in the age group of 20 to 24, the ratio changes. In this age group the total number of males is 1,083,364 and the total number of females is 1,110,051. In all the higher age groups, which are the groups of marriageable age, the number of females is greater. 

Still the case of the Republic of Korea, where the total number of males is greater than females, is exceptional. In almost all other countries, not only in marriageable age groups but also in the total population, the females outnumber the males. For instance, the total population of the Soviet Union, is 216,101,000 and out of this total 97,840,000 are males and 118,261,000 are females. This disparity is maintained throughout all age groups, pre-marriageable as well as marriageable, that is from 20 years to 24 years, from 25 years to 29 years, from 30 years to 34 years and even from 80 years to 84 years. 

The same is the case with other countries, such as England, France, West Germany, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, Hungary, U.S.A., Japan etc. Of course at certain places, such as West Berlin and East Berlin, the disparity between the number of males and the number of females is abnormally large. 

In India, in the marriageable age group the number of men exceeds the number of women. Only in the age group of 50 and above, the number of women is greater. Apparently the supposed paucity of women is due to the fact that many people in that country do not like to mention the names of their young wives and young daughters at the time of census. 

According to the figures of the last census, Iran is one of the exceptional countries, where the number of males exceeds the number of females. 

It is surprising that some critics insist that the law allowing polygamy should be abolished at least in those countries where the number of men exceeds the number of women. In the first instance, this law is universal. It is not meant for any particular country. Secondly it is not enough to know the ratio of males and females in the total population. We have seen that in the Republic of Korea, though the number of males is greater in the total population, there are more females in the marriageable age group. Furthermore, the census figures are not very reliable in many countries. For example, we know for definite that though polygamy has been customary in Iran, both in the urban and the rural areas, yet never has a shortage of would-be brides been felt there. This fact speaks better than the census figures. 

Ashley Montague, in his book, 'Woman the Superior Sex', admits that throughout the world the number of women in the marriageable age exceeds the number of men. 

The statistics of 1950 show that the number of women of marriageable age in America exceeded the number of men by about one million four hundred and thirty thousand. 

Bertrand Russell in his book, 'Marriage and Morality' says that, in the present day England, more than two million women exceed men. According to the custom they should forever remain childless, which is a big privation for them. 

Some years ago a news item appeared in the press. It said that following much pressure by those German women, who were unable to get husbands and family life, because of the huge German casualties in the Second World War, the German Government had approached Al-Azhar University to provide it with the formula of polygamy. Later it was learnt that following serious opposition by the Church the proposal had to be dropped. The Church preferred the privation of women and the spread of licentiousness to the system of polygamy, because this system is Eastern and Islamic. 


Though the birth rate of girls is not higher than that of boys, yet there are more women of marriageable age than men. The reason is clear. The mortality rate of men is higher. Deaths usually occur at the age when man should normally be the head of a family. If we take into consideration the deaths which occur following accidents such as, wars, drowning, falls, motor collisions etc. we shall find that most of the victims are men. 

It is seldom found that woman is among the victims. Whether it is a case of a clash between human beings or between man and nature, most of the victims are male adults To know why the balance between men and women of marriageable age is upset it is enough to realise that since the beginning of human history there has not been a single day when wars have not been waged and men have not perished. 

The casualties resulting from wars in the industrial age are a hundred times more than those which occurred in the hunting age or in the age of agriculture. During the last World War, the casualties numbered about seven million. You will agree with us if you calculate the casualties of the regional wars in the Far East, the Middle East and Africa during the past decade only. 

Will Durant says that several factors have contributed to the decline of this custom (polygamy). Stable agricultural life has lessened the hardships and perils of the life of men, with the result that the number of men and women has almost equalised. 

What Will Durant has said is quite amazing. Had the losses of human life been confined to the struggle of men against nature, there would have been a difference between the hunting age and the agricultural age. But the wars have taken a greater toll of men's lives and the number of war casualties has not gone down in any age. Further, the main reason why women have suffered less casualties is that men have always protected them and have themselves shouldered the most dangerous jobs. Thus like the hunting age disequilibrium has continued during the agricultural age also. 

Will Durant has not uttered a word about the industrial age, though this is the period which has witnessed the greatest killings of men and during which the balance has been badly upset. 


It has been lately discovered that man possesses lesser power of resistance against disease than women. This is another reason why the mortality rate among men is higher. 

Some years ago, the French Bureau of Statistics reported that in France, 105 boys were born against every 100 girls and the number of women exceeded the number of men by one million, seven hundred and fifty-eight thousand. It attributed the difference to the female power of resistance against disease. 

Not long ago an article was published in the illustrated UNESCO magazine, Courier. According to this article, woman is intellectually superior to man. Her average longevity is more. Usually she is healthier than man and has a greater power of resistance against disease. She is cured earlier. Against one stammering woman there are five stammering men. Against one colour-blind woman there are 16 colour-blind men. Haemorrhage is almost confined to men. Women are more immune against accidents. During the last World War it was proved that, in similar circumstances, woman could bear the hardships of blockades, prisons and concentration camps better than man. Almost in all countries the cases of suicide by men are three times those by women. 

Ashley Montague has mentioned his theory of woman's greater power of resistance against disease in his book, 'Woman - the Superior Sex'. 

If by chance one day man decides to wreak his vengeance upon woman and succeeds in plunging her into the most dangerous and fatal jobs or pushes her into the battlefield to face the guns and the bombs, even then the balance between men and women will not be restored, because she has a greater power of resistance against disease. 

This much is about the first point viz. numerical superiority of the women of marriageable age over the men of marriageable age. We know that this superiority is an actual fact. We also know its causes. And its cause or causes from the beginning of the human history do exist even now. 


The second point is that the numerical majority of women of marriageable age not only creates a right for them but also an obligation for men and married women. 

There is no denying the fact that marriage is one of the most natural and most basic rights of human beings. Everybody, whether man or woman, has the right to lead a family life and have children. This right is similar to that of doing work, having a house, receiving education, utilising the health services and enjoying freedom and security. 

It is the duty of the society not to place any obstacles in the way of the enjoyment of this right. On the other hand, it should provide all possible facilities for this purpose. 

In our opinion it is a big drawback of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it has not paid any attention to this right. It has recognised the right of liberty and security, the right of approaching competent national tribunals, the right of having a nationality and changing it, the right to marry without any limitation of race or religion, the right to own property, the right to form an assembly, and the right of rest and leisure, but it does not mention the right of leading a legal family life. 

For a woman this right is of utmost importance, for she needs a family life more than a man. As we have already said, to a man the material aspect of marriage is more important and to a woman its spiritual and sentimental aspect. If man has no family, he can at least partially fulfil his needs by indulging in free love and debauchery. But to a woman a family has a greater importance. Debauchery cannot even partially fulfil her material and sentimental needs. 

To a man the right of having a family means the right to satisfy his lust, the right to have a partner in life and the right to have legal children. But to a woman it also means the right to have a protector and patron and the one from whom she may draw moral support. 

After the establishment of the two premises, viz. the number of women eligible for marriage is larger than the number of men and it is a natural human right to have a family life, it is easy to draw the conclusion that if monogamy is regarded as the only legal form of marriage, a large number of women are bound to be deprived of their natural right, and it is only polygamy, which of course with specific conditions, can restore it. 

It is the duty of liberal-minded Muslim women that they, in the name of defending the just rights of women at large, in the name of protecting morality and in the name of protecting the human race, call upon the U.N. Commission for Human Rights to recognise officially the Islamic system of plurality of wives as a human right, and thus render a great service to the fair s*x and to morality. The fact that a formula has come from the East and the West has to follow it, should not be regarded as a sin. 


As pointed out earlier, Bertrand Russell was conscious of the fact that in the case of monogamy being the sole form of marriage, a large number of women are to be deprived of their right. He has suggested a very simple solution to the problem. He wanted women to be allowed to entice men and bear father-less children. As the father usually supports the children, the government should take his place and give a subsidy to the unmarried mothers. 

Russell says that at present, in Britain, there are more than two million surplus women who cannot ever hope to have children because of the law of monogamy. This is a big privation. He says that the system of monogamy is based on the presumption of approximate numerical equality between men and women, but where no such equality exists it gives a raw deal to those women who, in accordance with mathematical law, are doomed to remain unmarried. Anyhow, if it is desired to increase the population, such a raw deal is not even in the public interest, let alone in the private interest. 

This is the solution of this social problem, as suggested by a great philosopher of the 20th century. But, according to Islam, the whole problem is solved if an adequate number of men having the necessary financial, moral and physical qualifications agree to bear the responsibility of more than one legal wife showing no distinction between her and his first wife and between the children by both of them. The first wife should accept the second one cheerfully with the spirit of doing a social duty, which is most necessary and the best form of morality. 

Contrary to the Islamic mode of thinking, this philosopher advises the deprived women to steal the husbands of other women and call upon the government to support the children born of such illicit connections. 

It appears that this philosopher of the 20th century maintains that woman needs marriage only for three reasons: 

to satisfy her s*xual needs, to get children and to meet her economic requirements. The first two needs can be met on the sly. As for the third one, it should be looked after by the government. He forgets that woman also has some sentimental needs. She wants that she should be under the protection of a loving husband and that her contact with him should not be merely of a s*xual nature. Another point to which this philosopher attaches no importance, is the position of the children born of illicit connections. Every child needs well-recognised parents and their sincere love and affection. Experience has shown that the mother seldom shows affection to that child of hers whose father is not known. How can the lack of this love be compensated? Can the government do anything in this respect? 

Lord Russell regrets that a large number of women will have to remain childless unless his proposal is given a legal form. But he should have known that the British women cannot wait for any law. They themselves have already solved the problem of maidenhood and the fatherless child. 

In the annual report for 1958, prepared by Dr. Z.A. Scott, head of the Medical Department of the London Council, it was pointed out that out of every ten children born in the previous year one was illegitimate. The report further said that illegitimate births were constantly on the increase. The figures of illegitimate births shot up from 33,838 in 1957 to 53,433 in the following year. 

It appears that the British people have solved their problem without waiting for the enactment of Lord Russell's suggestion. 


The British Government instead of acting upon the advice of Lord Russell and solving the problem of unmarried woman has taken a step in the opposite direction. It has more than ever deprived woman of the male s*x by legalising homos*xuality. At present polygamy is prohibited in Britain, but homos*xuality is lawful. 

In the eyes of the British people it is inhuman to have a woman as a second wife. But if the second "wife" happens to be a male, then there is no harm. They regard homos*xuality to be a dignified act in conformity with the requirements of the 20th century. According to the verdict of the British authorities, plurality of wives is not objectionable provided the wives other than the first one have whiskers. It is said that the Western world has solved the s*xual and family problems, and we should follow its example. This is how it has solved them. 

This Western action is not surprising in the least, for it is a logical outcome of the way the West is going. 

What is surprising is that our people, especially the educated young men, have lost their power of independent thinking and analysing problems. They have lost their personalities. They are too credulous. If they have a diamond in their hand and the people from the other side of the world say it is a walnut, they throw it away. But if they see a walnut in the hand of an alien and are told that it is diamond, they readily believe that. 


You will be surprised if you are told that the psychologists and the social philosophers in the West believe that man is born polygamous and monogamy is against his nature. 

Will Durant, explaining the present day moral chaos, says that much of it is due to our incurable interest in variety. Man by nature cannot be content with one woman. 

He says that by nature man is polygamous. Only the strongest moral restrictions and an appropriate amount of poverty and hard work, along with the external vigilance of the wife, can impose monogamy on him. 

The German professor, Schmidt, says that throughout history man has been unfaithful to his wife. There are indications that even during the Middle Ages the young men changed their sweet-hearts again and again, and 50% of the married men were unfaithful to their wives. Robert Kinsey in his report, known as the Kinsey Report, says that American men and women surpass all other nations in unfaithfulness. In another section of the report he says that, unlike man, woman dislikes diversity and that is why she often does not submit to his overtures, but man regards diversity as an adventure. What is more important is that he is more interested in physical pleasure than in spiritual and sentimental pleasure. Man pretends to have a purely sentimental and spiritual relation only so long as he does not get an opportunity to have physical contact. A famous physician told Kinsey that obviously man was polygamous and woman monogamous, because millions of sperm developed in man while one ovum was produced in the ovary of woman during each period of fecundity. Apart from the theory of Kinsey, it will not be a bad idea if we ask ourselves whether it is difficult for a man to be faithful. 

A French sociologist answering this question says that for a man to be faithful is not merely difficult but it is impossible. One woman is born for one man, but one man is born for all women, If a man is unfaithful and betrays his wife, he is not to blame. It is the fault of nature, which has put all the forces of unfaithfulness in him. 

A French magazine under the heading, "French way of Love and Marriage", writes that French couples have solved this problem. They know the rules of the game. So long as the husband does not exceed the limits, his occasional affairs with other women are of little importance. As a rule a husband can in no case remain faithful after two years of married life. It is somewhat different in the case of women and fortunately they are aware of this difference. In France, a wife does not feel offended if her husband commits adultery 

She consoles herself by saying that he might have taken his body to another woman, but his soul and sentiments continue to be her own. 

Some years ago there was a controversy on the views expressed by a biologist named Dr. Russell Lee. He was of the view that a man's contentment with one wife weakened his progeny and hence this action amounted to an act of treachery against the human race. He thought that the system of multi-relations made the children healthy and strong. 

We believe that the above descripttion of the nature of man is not correct at all. These thinkers appear to have been inspired by the particular atmosphere prevailing in their own part of the world. 

Anyhow, we believe that both biologically and psychologically man and woman are dissimilar to each other and nature has purposely made them so. Therefore, the equality of their rights should not be used as a pretext for the uniformity of their rights. Even from the viewpoint of those who support monogamy, the spirit of woman is different from that of man. Woman is monogamous by nature. Polyandry is against her spirit and does not conform to what she expects of her husband. But man is not monogamous by nature in the sense that polygamy is not against his spirit and is not inconsistent with what he expects of his wife. 

But we do not agree with the view that the spirit of man does not conform to monogamy. It is absolutely incorrect to say that his passion for diversity is incurable. We also do not believe that man cannot be faithful, or that one woman is born for one man and one man is born for all women. 

To our belief the causes of man's unfaithfulness are related to the social atmosphere and man's nature is not responsible for it. Factors causing unfaithfulness stem from that atmosphere which, on the one hand, encourages woman to employ all sorts of temptations and seductions to lead a stranger astray and, on the other hand, deprives millions of women of their right of marriage by enforcing the law of monogamy. 

In the Muslim East, prior to the introduction of Western ways and manners, 90% of the men adhered to monogamy in the real sense. They neither had more than one legal wife nor did they indulge in concubinage. 


You will be surprised if we say that polygamy was the most important factor which served monogamy in the East. Its legality is really the biggest saving factor, in case the number of women requiring marriage exceeds the number of men eligible for it, because if the right of the surplus women to marriage is not recognised and the morally, financially and physically well-qualified men are not allowed to have more than one wife, free love and concubinage are bound to become rampant, destroying the very basis of real monogamy. 

In the Muslim East, on the one hand polygamy was permissible and, on the other, temptations and provocations to immorality did not exist. Therefore, true monogamy prevailed in most of the families. Concubinage never developed to the extent that gradually a philosophy had been invented to justify 

it. In the East, it was never claimed that man was born polygamous and could not at all adhere to monogamy. 

It may be asked what alternative a man has when polygamy is legally prohibited and, as the intellectuals say, man is polygamous by nature. 

According to the thinking of these gentlemen the answer is quite clear. Man should be legally monogamous and practically polygamous. He should not have more than one legal wife, but he can cohabit with any number of women he likes. Concubinage is the natural right of man. It is unchivalrous to restrict him to one woman. 

We believe that the time has come when the readers should have a clear idea of the problem and should know what the question really is. It is not the question whether polygamy is better or monogamy. There is no doubt that monogamy is preferable, for monogamy means an exclusive family life. In this system the body and the soul of each of the husband and the wife exclusively belong to the other. It is obvious that the spirit of marriage is the union of hearts which manifests itself better in an exclusive marriage. Humanity does not have to choose between monogamy and polygamy. 

The only problem is that absolute monogamy is not practical in certain social circumstances, especially when the number of women in need of marriage is greater than the number of eligible men. Absolute monogamy pervading every family is only a fiction. There are only two alternatives: either to officially recognise polygamy or to encourage unrestricted concubinage. In the case of the first alternative only a small percentage of married men, in no case more than 10% will have more than one wife and all women in need of a husband will be able to secure a home and family life. In the case of the second alter-native every woman having no legal husband will have s*xual relations with several men, and thus almost all married men will become practically polygamous. 

This is the correct picture of polygamy. But the partisans of the European way of life are not prepared to present the true picture of the problem. They do not want to tell the truth openly. In reality they defend concubinage. They regard the legal wife as a burden and a stumbling-block in their way. T() them even one wife is too much, let alone two, three or four. They pretend to be the supporters of monogamy, but, in fact, complete freedom from matrimonial restrictions is what they would like to have. 


The 20th century man has succeeded in befooling woman on many questions related to family rights. He uses the high-sounding words of equality and liberty to reduce his own commitments and to add to his opportunities of enjoyment. But there are few questions in respect of which he has been so successful as in disparaging polygamy. 

Occasionally we come across writings that make us wonder whether their authors are simpletons or rogues. One writer says: At present, in the advanced countries relations between husband and wife are based on a system of reciprocal rights and obligations, and for that reason it is as difficult for a woman to recognise polygamy in any form, as for a man to bear the existence of rivals in the field of his conjugal relations. 

We do not know whether that is their conception of the problem, or they really do not know that polygamy has resulted from a social problem, which puts a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of married men and women and of which, so far, no solution other than polygamy has been discovered. Shutting the eyes to the real problem and raising the slogans 'long live monogamy' and 'down with polygamy' can serve no purpose. 

Do they not know that polyandry is neither a part of woman's rights nor a part of man's rights. It has nothing to do with their reciprocal rights. 

It is ridiculous to say that it is as difficult for woman to agree to polygamy as it is for a man to tolerate the existence of rivals in the matter of conjugal relations. Apart from the fact that such a comparison is wrong, it appears that these gentlemen do not know that the present-day Western world, by the glitter of which they are so greatly dazzled, actually requires the husband to respect the love-affairs of his wife and tolerate the existence of rivals. It deprecates any interference on the part of the husband as jealousy and fanaticism. We wish that our young men had a deeper knowledge of what is going on in the West. 

As polygamy is the outcome of a social problem and is not man's instinct, it is obvious that in a society where women are not in a numerical majority, it should automatically disappear or at least its incidence should be minimised. But it will not be proper to ban it even in such circumstances, if such circumstances exist at all. Legal prohibition of polygamy is neither sufficient nor something correct. There are certain prerequisites to achieve this end. First of all, social justice should be ensured and adequate opportunities of suitable employment made available for every man, so that everyone eligible for marriage should be in a position to have a family life. The second condition is that every woman should be free to choose her husband and should be under no compulsion by her guardians or anyone else to marry any particular person of their choice. It is obvious that a woman who has a chance to marry a bachelor will never like to marry a man who has a wife. It is only their guardians who sell women for the sake of money and give them in marriage to the moneyed people. 

The third condition is that there should not exist too many temptations that seduce even women having husbands not to mention women having no husbands. 

Should society be earnestly interested in reformation and in enforcing true monogamy, it should endeavour for the fulfilment of the above three conditions. Otherwise, a legal ban on polygamy will only lead to moral depravation. 


If the women in need of marriage outnumber such men (bachelors), the prohibition of polygamy is a treachery to 

humanity. It is not merely a question of suppressing the rights of some women only. Had it been so, it could have been tolerated to a certain extent. The crisis which society faces as a result of legally enforced monogamy possess a bigger danger than any other crisis, for the family organisation is more sacred than any other organisation. 

A woman who is deprived of her natural right is a living being prone to all the reactions of a living being such as in the case of privation. She is a human being who is susceptible to psychic disorders and complexes. She is an Eve armed with the weapons for seducing men. 

She is not wheat or barley, the surplus stock of which can be dumped into the sea or stored for any future emergency. She is not a house or a room which, if not acquired immediately, can be locked. She is a living person. She is a human being. She is a woman. She has marvellous potentialities. If she is frustrated she can ruin the society. She cannot be an idle onlooker while others enjoy life. Her privation will give rise to complexes and malice. If malice and instinct join hands together, the consequences can only be catastrophic. 

The women deprived of family life will do their utmost to seduce men and to exploit their weakness in this respect. Even then the matter will not end. The wives who will find their husbands to be unfaithful, will think of taking revenge upon them and thus will themselves become unfaithful. About the final result the less said the better. 

This final result has been summarised in the well-known Kinsey Report in one sentence: "The men and women of America have surpassed all other nations in unfaithfulness." 

It is to be noted that the matter does not end with the corruption and perversion of men. The conflagration in the end also engulfs the women having husbands and families. 


The phenomenon of the comparative super-abundance of women has always existed in human history, but the reactions to this phenomenon, which create difficulties for the society, have not been the same in all societies. The people who were more attached to the spirit of piety and chastity and were guided by the teachings of the great heavenly religions, solved the problem by adopting the system of polygamy. Other people who were not so greatly attached to this spirit used the phenomenon as a means of indulging in debauchery. 

Neither was polygamy in the East introduced by Islam, nor its prohibition in the West in any way related to the religion of Christ. This custom existed in the East before the inception of Islam and was sanctioned by the Eastern religions. Even in the Bible, it has not been prohibited expressly. 

A greater blow has been given to monogamy by the nations, which have taken to debauchery, than by those which have adopted polygamy. 

Dr. Muhammad Husayn Haikal, author of the book, 'Life of Muhammad' after quoting several verses of the Holy Qur'an on the question of polygamy, says: These verses favour adherence to monogamy. They say that if you fear that you will not be able to do justice to more than one wife, then have only one. Incidentally, they emphasise that absolute justice is not possible. Anyhow in view of the fact that there may be occasions when polygamy is unavoidable, they allow it conditionally. The Holy Prophet himself contracted several marriages, when a large number of Muslim women lost their husbands during the early battles of Islam. Is it possible to say that following wars, epidemics and disturbances which take a toll of thousands and sometimes millions of people, it is still preferable to adhere to monogamy rather than to adopt polygamy as an exceptional case and with the condition of doing justice to their wife or wives? Can the people of the West claim that after the World War the law of monogamy has been enforced in the same way in which it now exists in name? 


A happy married life depends on sincerity, tolerance, sacrifice and unity. All these things are endangered in the case of polygamy. Apart from the unenviable position of the wives and the children in a plural marriage, the responsibilities of the husband himself are so heavy and crushing that it is no fun to shoulder them -Most of the men, who are happy and satisfied with polygamy, are those who practically evade their legal and moral responsibilities. They turn all their attention to one wife and ignore the other, whom they leave, in the words of the Holy Qur'an, 'hanging', What is called polygamy by such people is in reality a sort of monogamy coupled with high-handedness, tyranny and criminal injustice. There is a proverb current among the common people which says: 'One God, One Wife'. 

That has been and is the belief of most of the people and, if we measure the problem by the standard of individual happiness, it is correct. The rule of monogamy, if not applicable to all men, is certainly applicable to most of them. 

If someone thinks that polygamy, with all the legal and moral responsibilities it entails, is a bed of roses, he is sadly mistaken. From the angle of personal comfort and happiness, monogamy is definitely preferable. 


Anyhow, a correct appraisal of the system of polygamy, which emanates from personal and social needs, cannot be made by comparing it with monogamy. The right way of evaluating such a system is to give consideration to the causes which give rise to it, to see what evil consequences will follow, if those causes are overlooked, and at the same time to give a thought to the defects and drawbacks of the system itself. It is only after fully weighing all the pros and cons of a system that we can arrive at the right conclusion. To illustrate the point we give an example. If we look at the system of conscripttion only from the angle of the interests and inclinations of a family, to which a recruit belongs, there can be no doubt that the law of conscripttion is not a good law. It would have been much better if there had been no such law, and no darling of a family had been snatched from his family and, occasionally, sent to the warfront. 

But this is not a correct evaluation of the question. Along with the separation of a son from his family, we should also take into consideration the defence requirements of the country. If we do that, it will appear perfectly reasonable and logical that an adequate number of citizens should always be kept ready for the defence of the country and their families should willingly put up with the inconveniences caused by the compulsory military service. 

Earlier we referred to some individual and collective needs which sometimes justify polygamy. Now, to prepare the ground for an overall judgement, let us discuss the defects and drawbacks of this system. We admit that it has certain demerits, but we do not believe that all that is said against it is valid. Anyway, we propose to discuss its defects from various angles. 


The conjugal relations are not confined to such material and physical matters as bodily contact and financial support. If they had been so confined, it would have been easy to justify polygamy, for material and physical matters are divisible between several people, each having a share. 

The basis of conjugal relations is emotional and psychological. They are based on such things as love, emotions and feelings. Married life means the union of hearts. Like all metaphysical things, love and feelings are not divisible. They cannot be rationed among several people nor can a definite quota thereof be allotted to any one. A heart cannot be divided between two people. Love and worship are concomitant. They do not admit a rival. Love cannot be measured and distributed like wheat and barley. Furthermore, feelings cannot be controlled. 

The heart dominates man, man does not dominate the heart. The spirit of marriage, that is, its human aspect, which distinguishes the relations between two human beings from the purely instinctive relations between two animals, is neither divisible nor controllable. Hence, polygamy should not be permitted. 

To our belief the above statement is exaggerated. It is true that emotions and feelings constitute the spirit of marriage. It is also true that feelings are not controllable. But it is pure fancy, rather a fallacy, to say that feelings are not divisible. 

It is not a question of dividing and distributing feelings in the same way as a material object is divided and distributed. It is a question of the mental capacity of man, which is not too limited to accommodate relations with two people. A father having ten sons loves all of them to the extent of worship and makes sacrifices for them. 

Anyhow, one thing is definite. Love cannot be as intense in the case of several wives as it can be in the case of one. Intense love is not consistent with plurality, but it is not consistent with reason too. 

Russell in his book, 'Marriage and Morality'. says that many people today regard love as a fair exchange of feelings. This argument alone, irrespective of all other arguments, is enough to condemn polygamy. 

If it is only a question of fair exchange of feelings. we wonder why the exchange should he monopolistic. A father having several children loves them all and they all reciprocally love him. Is not the exchange of feelings between them fair? Incidentally even in the case of several children, a father's love for each of them is always greater than the love of each child for the father. 

The most amazing part of the above statement is that it has been made by a person who advises the husbands to respect their wives' love-affairs with strangers and not to interfere in them. He gives the same advice to the wives also. Does he believe that the exchange of feelings between a husband and a wife will still be fair? 


In the case of polygamy the relations between co-wives are proverbially notorious for incongruity. A woman usually regards the co-wife as her worst enemy. Plurality often induces wives to action against each other and occasionally against the husband also. It creates malice and turns the family atmosphere, expected to be an atmosphere of sincerity and serenity, into a veritable battlefield. Enmity and rivalry existing between the mothers passes on to their children and two or more blocs are formed. The family atmosphere, instead of being the first school of moral training for the children, turns into a school of dissensions and inhuman behaviour. 

There is no doubt that polygamy has all these evil effects. But one point must not be overlooked. We have to see whether they are the natural effects of plurality or the product of the unreasonable attitude of the husband and the second wife. We believe that most of the evil effects are not the direct result of plurality, but are the consequences of its wrong implementation. 

Suppose a husband and a wife live together and lead a normal life. In the meantime the husband comes across another woman and takes a fancy to her. After a secret understanding between the two, the second woman raids the house and takes undue advantage of the husband, and challenges the authority of the first. It can be easily imagined what the reaction of the first wife would be. There is nothing more disturbing to a woman than the impression that her husband despises her. To be unable to retain the affection of her husband is the biggest failure of a wife. When the husband takes to arrogance and licentiousness and the second wife plays the role of a freebooter, it is useless to expect the first wife to be patient. 

But the things will be different and the internal conflict will be greatly reduced if the first wife knows that her husband is justified in having a second wife and that he is not fed up with her. The husband also must not assume arrogance nor should he indulge in sensuality. After having a second wife, he should more than ever be kind to his first wife and should more than ever respect her feelings. The second wife also should remember that the first wife has certain rights which are to be respected. In short, all the parties concerned should remember that they have taken a step to solve a social problem. 

The law of polygamy is a progressive solution of a social problem and is based on the broader interests of the society. Those who execute it, should possess a standard of high-thinking and should be well-trained in the Islamic ways. 

Experience has shown that if the husband is neither licentious nor arrogant and the wife is convinced that he needs a second wife, she herself volunteers to arrange the second marriage of her husband. In such cases the aforementioned troubles do not arise, as most of them result from the misbehaviour of the husbands. 


It is said that polygamy means indulgence in sensuality. Morality demands that the gratification of s*xual desire is minimised, for the nature of man is such that the more he indulges in s*x, the more intense his yearning for it becomes. 

Montague in his book, 'Spirit of Laws', while dealing with the question of polygamy, says: "The King of Morocco has, in his harem, women of all races including white, yellow and black. Even if this man had twice as many women as he has, he still would have craved for more. Sensuality is like miserliness. The more it is practised, the more intense it becomes. As the collection of more and more gold and silver intensifies greed and avarice, indulgence in polygamy promotes vicious and unnatural ways of love-making, for in the field of sensuality every act which exceeds the limit encourages perversion. When disturbances broke out in Istanbul, not a single woman was found in the harem of the ruler, because he indulged in unnatural love-making (homos*xuality). 

This objection can be looked at from two angles. Firstly, it has been claimed that s*xual acts are repugnant to pure morality and that s*xual desire should be controlled to the utmost extent. Secondly, it has been asserted that human nature is such that the more a man indulges in s*x, the more intense his yearning for it becomes. 

As regards the first view, it may be said that unfortunately it represents a wrong thinking. It has been inspired by Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Cynic ideas of morality based on renunciation. From the Islamic point of view, it is not correct to say that the less the gratification of s*xual desire, the more moral it is. (Perhaps according to this theory perfect morality means no gratification at all). It is only excessive indulgence which is regarded by Islam as repugnant to morality. 

To ascertain whether polygamy means excessive indulgence let us see whether by nature man is or is not monogamous. As stated earlier, now nobody believes that man is purely monogamous or that polygamy is an act of perversion. To the contrary many sociologists are of the view that by nature man is polygamous and monogamy is as unnatural as celibacy. 

Though we do not believe that man is polygamous by nature, we also do not believe that he is purely monogamous and that polygamy is unnatural and a sort of perversion like homos*xuality. 

Those who, like Montesquieu, regard polygamy tantamount to licentiousness, have harems in their mind. They think that Islam, by allowing plurality, wants to provide an excuse for the harems of the Abbasid Caliphs and the Ottoman Sultans. But in fact Islam is totally opposed to such a thing. The terms and conditions laid down by Islam in respect of plurality are such that the chances of licentiousness are absolutely eliminated. 

As for the second point: that the more the natural desires are satisfied, the more they grow and the more they are suppressed, the more they are pacified, it is diametrically opposed to the current Freudian theory. 

According to the Freudists, instinctive desires are pacified if they are satiated, hut if they are suppressed, they become violent. That is why the Freudists advocate complete freedom and the violation of all traditional restrictions and restraints in s*xual matters. I wish that Montesquieu had been alive today and had seen how his theory is being ridiculed by the Freudists. 

From the Islamic point of view both the theories are false. Human nature has its own laws and limits which must be recognised. It becomes passionate both as a result of privation as well as unrestricted freedom. 

Anyway, neither polygamy is immoral and disturbing to spiritual peace, as Montesquieu and the like presume, nor is it against human nature, to be content with one or more legal wives as the Freudists claim. 


By virtue of a marriage contract both the husband and the wife belong to each other, and each of them has a right to enjoy the other. As far as the marital benefits are concerned, the marriage contract creates a sort of proprietary right. In the case of polygamy it is the first wife who has the first claim to the marital benefits, and as such any transaction between the husband and another wife is ultra vires, for the goods under transaction, as marital benefits may be called, have already been sold to the first wife. Hence no subsequent transaction can be valid without her consent. As such, if polygamy is to be allowed, its validity must depend upon the consent and agreement of the first wife. She should have the right to decide whether she can or cannot allow her husband to have another wife. 

This means that to have a second, third and fourth wife is just as if a person had sold his property to a person and then resold it to a second, third and fourth customer. The validity of such a transaction will depend on the consent of the first, second and third buyers respectively. If the vendor actually delivers the property to the subsequent buyers without such a consent, he is liable to prosecution. 

This objection is based on the presumption that the legal nature of marriage is that of exchange of benefits, and that each of the husband and the wife owns the marital benefits accruing from the other. Though this presumption is not sound, for the present we do not want to dispute it. Let us presume the position to be actually so. But this objection can be valid only in case the husband takes another wife only for fun. Obviously if it is admitted that the legal nature of marriage is that of exchange of marital benefits, plurality of marriage is not justifiable only so long as the wife can in every respect meet the lawful needs of her husband. But if there exists any of the justifying causes mentioned earlier, the objection becomes void. For instance, if the wife is barren or has attained the age of menopause and the husband is still in need of a child, or the wife is sick and not fit for cohabitation, the right of the wife will be no bar to plurality of marriage. 

This is the position in case polygamy is only a personal requirement of the husband. But if it is a social requirement, for example, if women outnumber men in a society or the society needs a larger population, then the case is quite different. In such cases, plurality is a duty which is to be performed by an adequate number of men. It is a duty to be carried out to save the society from corruption and prostitution or to increase the population of the community. When it is a question of social duty, obviously the question of the consent and permission of the wife does not arise. Suppose in a society women outnumber men or the society needs a larger population, then a social duty devolves on all married men and women which should be carried out by an adequate number of them in the spirit of self-sacrifice. This is exactly like the case of conscripttion. The defence of the country devolves a duty on all families to send 

their dear ones to the front for the sake of the society. In such cases there is no question of the consent of the parties concerned. 

They who maintain that justice demands that polygamy must depend upon the consent of the existing wife, look at the question from a narrow angle. They think that a husband always wants to have more than one wife only for pleasure and variety. They forget that there can be other individual and social needs also. Basically plurality of marriage should not be acceptable even with the consent of the existing wife, if no individual or social need is involved. 


The law of polygamy is repugnant to the principle of equality between man and woman as human beings. As man and woman both have equal rights, either both of them should be allowed to practise polygamy or neither of them. It is a pure and simple discrimination to allow man to have several wives and not to allow woman to have several husbands. To allow man to have up to four wives means that the value of a woman is only one-fourth that of man. This position is derogatory to woman and is not even in keeping with the Islamic view in respect of inheritance and evidence. In respect of giving evidence, two women are regarded as equal to one man. 

This is the most flimsy objection. It seems that the critics have paid no attention to the individual and the social causes of polygamy. They think that it is only a question of passion. Hence man and woman should be treated equally. We have already discussed the cases in which polygamy is justified. We have also pointed out the circumstances in which a duty in respect of a husbandless woman devolves on all married men and women. Hence, it is not necessary to dwell on this question any more. 

It is enough to say that if the teachings of Islam in respect of polygamy, inheritance and evidence had been due to any apathy to woman's rights, and had Islam discriminated between man and woman as human beings, it would have held a uniform view on all relevant questions. In the case of inheritance it would not have allowed woman only a half of the share of man in some cases and an equal share in others. Similarly, in the case of evidence there would not have been different rules in different cases. All this shows that Islam has some other philosophy. We have already explained the question of inheritance in a preceding chapter. We have also pointed out elsewhere that from the Islamic point of view the question of equality between man and woman as human beings is a part of basic human rights. Anyhow, while dealing with family rights, Islam has taken into consideration certain other aspects also which are more important than the question of mere equality. 


Islam neither invented polygamy (for it had been in existence for centuries before the inception of Islam), nor did it abolish it, for there existed no other solution of certain social problems. Islam only reformed this ancient custom. 


Before Islam, one could have an unlimited number of wives and could form a harem. Islam prescribed a maximum limit. It did not allow anyone to have more than four wives. Those who had more than four wives at the time of embracing Islam were required to release the extra wives. 

We come across the names of several such people in the early history of Islam. A man named Ghaylan bin Aslamah had ten wives. Another man named Nawfal bin Mu'awiyah had five. The Holy Prophet ordered them to part with their extra wives. 

The Shi'ah traditions report that during the days of Imam Sadiq (P) a Zoroastrian embraced Islam. He had seven wives. The Imam was asked as to what that man should do with his wives. The Imam said that he must part with three. 


Another reform introduced by Islam was the condition of giving equal treatment to all the wives. Islam does not allow any discrimination between the wives or between their children. The Holy Qur'an expressly says: "If you [ear that you will not do justice (to them) then have one only". (Surahan-Nisa,4:3

The Pre-Islamic world observed equality neither between the wives nor between their children. We have already quoted Christenson and others who say that during the Sassanian period polygamy was customary in Iran. One or more wives were called favourite wives and they enjoyed full rights and others known as servant-wives had lesser legal rights. Only the male children of the servant-wives were recognised to be the members of the paternal family. 

Islam abolished all such customs and usages. It does not allow any wife or her children to be regarded as inferior to the other wife or children of her husband. 

Will Durant in his book, History of Culture, Vol. I, says: 

"When a person accumulated wealth he feared that if it would be divided among all his children, each one of them would receive only as small portion of it. So he felt anxious to make a distinction between his real and favourite wife and other mistresses to enable the children of the real wife only to inherit from him." 

This shows that in the ancient world discrimination between the wives and between their children was common. Anyhow, surprisingly enough Will Durant adds: "Till recently this continued to be the case in Asia. Gradually the real wife took the position of the sole wife. Other wives either disappeared or became clandestine mistresses." 

Will Durant did not take notice of the fact, or he did not want to do so, that 14 centuries ago Islam abolished discrimination between the children. To have one real wife and several secret concubines is a European and not an Asian custom. It has only lately infiltrated into Asia. 

Anyhow, the second reform which Islam introduced in the domain of polygamy was the abolition of discrimination between the wives and between their children. No form of favouritism with any particular wife is permissible. Almost all jurists are unanimous on this point. Only a few minor juristical schools have interpreted the rights of women in a way that smacks of discrimination. But there is no denying the fact that their view is in contradiction with the correct interpretation of the Qur'anic passage. The Holy Prophet is reported by both the Shi'ah and the Sunnis to have said: "He who has two wives but does not treat them equally and shows leaning towards one of them, will be raised on the Day of Resurrection in such a state that one side of his body will be dragging along the ground. He will eventually go to Hell". 

Justice is the greatest moral virtue. To prescribe the condition of justice and equal treatment means that the husband is required to be in possession of the highest moral qualities. As the feelings of man in respect of all his wives usually are not the same, observation of justice and abstinence from unequal treatment is one of his most onerous duties. 

We all know that the Holy Prophet, during the last ten years of his life, that is, during the period of his stay in Madina, married several women. This was a period of Islamic wars and at that time the number of women, who had nobody to look after them, was quite large. Most of the wives of the Prophet were widowed and aged. Several of them had children by their former husbands. 

The only maiden he married was Ayesha, who often proudly said that she was the only woman whom no husband other than the Prophet, had ever touched. 

The Holy Prophet, always gave strict equal treatment to all his wives and never discriminated between them. Urwah bin Zubayr was a nephew (sister's son) of Ayesha. He inquired of his aunt as to how the Holy Prophet treated his wives. Ayesha said that he treated them with justice and complete equality. 

He never gave preference to anyone of them over anyone else. Almost daily he called on every wife and inquired after her health etc. He passed the night with one wife, turn by turn. If by chance he wanted to pass a night with another wife, he formally came to the wife whose turn it was and took her permission. If the permission was given, he would go, otherwise he would not. Ayesha said that she personally declined to give permission as and when he asked for it. 

Even during his last illness which led to his death and when he was too weak to move, the Holy Prophet scrupulously adhered to the principle of equality in his treatment with his wives. His bed was shifted from one room to another daily. At last, one day he called all his wives and asked them to permit him to stay in one room. With their permission he stayed in the room of Ayesha. 

At the time when he had two wives, Imam Ali (P) was so particular that he performed even ablution before prayer (wuzu) in the house of the wife whose turn was there. 

Islam attaches so much importance to the principle of justice and equality in treatment that it does not allow the husband and the second wife to enter into an stipulation at the time of their marriage, by which the second wife agrees to live on unequal terms with the first wife. This means that it is an obligatory duty of the husband to treat each wife on terms of strict equality, and that he cannot renounce this responsibility by entering into a prior agreement with anyone of his wives. All that the second wife can do is to forego some of her rights for practical purposes. But no such condition can be stipulated, nor is it possible that she should not have equal rights. Similarly, the first wife also can voluntarily forego some of her rights for practical purposes, but she cannot formally renounce them. 

Once Imam Baqir (P) was asked whether by mutual consent it could be stipulated that the husband would visit one of his wives only once a week or once a month, or that the maintenance allowance of one wife would not be equal to that of another wife. The Imam said that such stipulations were not valid even with the consent of any wife. By virtue of marriage, every wife was entitled to full marital rights. All that she could do was to forego some or all of her rights after marriage, either to please her husband or for some other reason. 

With all these strict moral conditions polygamy becomes a duty instead of being a means of pursuit of pleasure. Pursuit of pleasure and licentiousness are possible only in an atmosphere of complete freedom to pursue one's desires. But where there is a question of discipline, justice and duty, there can be no room for lewdness. 

Those who indulge in licentiousness under the pretext of polygamy misuse an Islamic law and the society has every right to call them to account and punish them. 


To be fair, it must be admitted that the number of those, who observe in letter and spirit all the conditions laid down by Islam in respect of polygamy, is very small. According to the Islamic law, if a man apprehends that the use of water may be harmful to him he should not perform ablution for prayers, and if he apprehends that fasting may be harmful to him he should not keep fast. You come across many people who inquire of you whether they should or should not perform ablution, or whether they should or should not keep fast, for they apprehend that performing ablution or keeping fast might be harmful to them. Such inquiries are in order. Such people should not perform ablution and should not keep fast. 

But the Holy Qur'an specifically says that if you fear that you will not treat your wives equally, you must have only one wife. Still you do not come across a single person who may say that he apprehends that he might not be able to treat two wives equally, and may inquire whether in his circumstances he should or should not have a second wife. It is evident that some people knowing well that they will not be able to do justice, still have several wives. They do so under the cloak of Islamic law. These are the people who bring a bad name to Islam by their unworthy action. 


Another reason why Islam is criticised for polygamy is the system of harems adopted by the former caliphs and sultans. Some Christian writers and missionaries have described polygamy in Islam as equivalent to the system of harems with all its shameful and cruel aspects. 

Unfortunately some of our own writers who, like a parrot repeat the ideas expressed by the Europeans, unnecessarily associate polygamy with harems. They are not endowed with enough independence of thinking to be able to distinguish between the two. 


Besides the condition of justice and equality of treatment, there are also other conditions which a husband has to fulfil. We all know that a wife has a number of financial and other rights which the husband has to discharge. A husband has the right of having more than one wife, provided his financial condition allows him to do so. Financial soundness is a pre-requisite to monogamy also. Anyhow, we skip over further discussion of this question. 

Physical and s*xual potentialities are another pre-requisite. 

It is reported in Al-Kafi and Al-Wasail that Imam Sadiq (P) has said that in case somebody collects several women, while he is not fit to satisfy them all, he will bear full responsibility if any of them takes to sin. 

The historical accounts of the harems narrate many stories of young women, who, forced by the pressure of their s*xual urges, had recourse to sin and occasionally became the cause of crimes and murders. 

By now our readers should have become aware of the causes of polygamy and why Islam has not abolished this system. They should also have become aware of the conditions and limits prescribed by Islam in this respect. Islam has not disparaged women by allowing this system, but has rendered a great service to them. If polygamy is not allowed even where women of marriageable age outnumber men, women may become worthless toys in the hands of men. They may be treated worse than slave-girls, for man recognises the child of a salve-girl as his own, but he makes no such commitment in respect of his mistresses and concubines. 


Modern man is averse to polygamy, not because he wants to be content with one wife, but because he wants to satisfy his sense of variety by indulging in unlimited adultery, for which ample facilities are available. Sin and not fidelity has taken the place of polygamy. That is why modern man is opposed to plurality of wives which commits him to many duties and responsibilities, financial and otherwise. In the past, even for a licentious man, opportunities of sin were limited. That is why he had to take recourse to polygamy and, in spite of evading many duties, he still had to shoulder certain responsibilities in respect of his wives and children. The modern man who has ample opportunities of enjoyment does not see any necessity of making the least commitment. Hence he is averse to polygamy. 

The modern man employs women as secretaries, typists etc. for his enjoyment, and credits the expenses to the account of the government, his firm or any other organisation in which he may be working, without having to pay a single penny from his own pocket. 

The modern man changes his mistress after every few days without undergoing any formalities of dower, maintenance and divorce. M. Tshombe was vehemently opposed to polygamy, but he always had a young, beautiful secretary at his side whom he changed every year. With such possibilities there is evidently no need to countenance polygamy. 

We read in the life account of Bertrand Russell, who was a severe opponent of polygamy, that two women, besides his grandmother, played an important role in his life. One was his wife, Alice, and the other was his sweet-heart, Morrel. Morrel who was one of the most prominent women of that period, was on friendly terms with a number of the writers of the early 20th century. Evidently such a man could not support polygamy. 

Apparently it was Russell's extra marital love which put an end to his relations with Alice. He himself writes that one afternoon, while he was going on a bicycle to a summer resort in the suburbs, he suddenly felt that he no longer loved Alice. 







 2 Replies

Raj Kumar Makkad (Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh)     22 October 2011

A very good and knowledgeable article has been published by Nadeem.
1 Like

satish (EXECUTIVE)     23 October 2011

Thanks Nadeem for this beautiful and Knowledge unhenceing artical. Please also guide me how to save this  future reference.

Regards Satish

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