Redundant Revelation? The Question of Polygyny

Say: “If the ocean were ink to write the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it for its aid.”  (Holy Qur’an 18:109)

 

I would like to take the time to address two situations both in relationship to marriage.

I have singled the following verses in particular because of the attempt of spokespersons for Islam past and present, albeit unwittingly, to regulate these verses to redundancy.

“And [recall] when you said, “O Moses, we can never endure one [kind of] food. So call upon your Lord to bring forth for us from the earth its green herbs and its cucumbers and its garlic and its lentils and its onions.” [Moses] said, “Would you exchange what is better for what is less? Go into [any] settlement and indeed, you will have what you have asked.” And they were covered with humiliation and poverty and returned with anger from Allah [upon them]. That was because they [repeatedly] disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing.” (Holy Qur’an 2:61)

We could argue that the above verse is ‘redundant’.  We could say that it is not necessary to tell us a number of food items.  We could say it would have been sufficient to simply say ‘green herbs’.

Yet, amazing it is to see Allah (swt) list out several food items that the Children of Israel asked Moses for. So here you have this example and hopefully you ponder it.  There are many Muslims who do not think that the Holy Qur’an would detail issues of concern that would require more immediate attention.

“The example of [this] worldly life is but like rain which We have sent down from the sky that the plants of the earth absorb – [those] from which men and livestock eat – until, when the earth has taken on its adornment and is beautified and its people suppose that they have capability over it, there comes to it Our command by night or by day, and We make it as a harvest, as if it had not flourished yesterday. Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought.” (Holy Qur’an 10:24)

Allah (swt) has told us in several places through out the Holy Qur’an that he details his signs, both in the Holy Qur’an and in the previous revelation.

So it is disheartening to see both ‘traditionalist’ and ‘modernist‘ turn certain verses in the Holy Qur’an to redundancy.

Also we all need to be very careful not to prohibit that which Allah (swt) has made permissible.

“O you who have believed, do not prohibit the good things which Allah has made lawful to you and do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.” (Holy Qur’an 5:87)

“This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers. And whoever denies the faith – his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.” (Holy Qur’an 5:5)

I have dealt with this in more detail in another entry here:

https://primaquran.wordpress.com/2017/11/06/imam-shafi-versus-gods-words-the-holy-quran/

In that entry,  we have shown where the jurisprudence of Imam Shaf’i  (may Allah have mercy on him) was in conflict with clear revelation of the Holy Qur’an.

We also showed how the following verse could not be used in support of Imam Shaf’i and his view.

“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember.” (Holy Qur’an 2:221)

Though this verse in no way, shape or form is directed at the Jews and Christians, an argument from analogy or ‘qiyas‘ could be used to suggest that such marriages (to Jews and Christians) are discouraged.

The verse above is clearly directed at the mushrik and not the ahl kitab.

 

Redundant Revelation: The Question of Polygyny.

Another example is the following verse:

“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphans, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (Holy Qur’an 4:3)

I would also have to rank this particular verse of the Holy Qur’an as the one most used and abused.

I would have to say those who ‘use and abuse’ it the most are those who follow under three broad categories

Category A)

‘modernist’ or ‘reformers’.   

Category B)

The next group most likely to abuse these verses are those Muslims who consider themselves ‘traditionalist’. Often they are trying to find favour with post-modern liberalism.

Category C)

The last group that I would say that are most likely to abuse these verse are the ‘Qur’an only’ Muslims.

What do I mean by abuse the text?

By this I mean those who are usually not favorable towards traditionalist interpretation will tell you how this verse was ‘revealed during the context of a war’.   They will mention how there was a ‘surplus of all these widows’ and ‘men just rushed out to marry them all.’   This is to illicit the ‘Oh, so very noble‘ response from you.

The reality of this verse is that it does no such thing.  It doesn’t tell me to marry widows.

What is the context of Holy Qur’an 4:3 ?

The whole context of the Holy Qur’an 4:1-12 is distribution of wealth and property.

Quite a number of conflicts in tribal society would erupt over this.  It happens until this very day. We find people fighting over distribution of property and wealth even in our times.

So let us look at the verse in question again.

“And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphans, THEN marry those that please you of [other] women, TWO or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].” (Holy Qur’an 4:3)

Note three interesting points.

POINT 1)

The verse starts off with ‘And if you fear that you will not deal justly with orphans , then.….”

So let us look at the verse before this one.

“And give to the orphans their properties and do not substitute the defective [of your own] for the good [of theirs]. And do not consume their properties into your own. Indeed, that is ever a great sin. (Holy Qur’an 4:2)

This is in context with a verse that comes latter:

“Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze. (Holy Qur’an 4:10)

POINT 2)

After orphans it addresses marrying women whom are neither orphans or slaves.

Notice that it starts off by saying, “marry 2, or 3 or 4. It is interesting that it does not start off by saying, ” marry 1.”

Now if one wanted to manipulate the Holy Qur’an in the way that Muslims whom pander to post modern liberalism do, you could make the argument that marrying 2 was imperative!

You could also make the argument that 2 was optimal followed by more; as 1 was simply offered up as a ‘better than nothing’ solution.

So the fact that it starts off with saying “marry 2” is interesting and flat out neglected (ignored?) by post-modern liberal interpretations.

However, I have also noted that those given to post modern- liberal interpretations will say,  “2 or 3 or 4 but if you cannot deal justly with them than only one”.

Yet the text does not stop there.  There is a conjunctive.

The Arabic word ‘aw’ which means ‘or’  

There is a flow that I feel is ignored by the three categories (mentioned above).

So than the verses pick back up with saying, “but if you fear that you will not deal justly than marry those whom your right hand possesses.”

This is addressed here:

“And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slaves . And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free women. This is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Holy Qur’an 4:25)

So if we are to follow the approach that some people take , and we are to be consistent we should understand Holy Qur’an 4:2-3 as this.

1) You should marry orphans first and foremost.

2) Failing to do justice with them, you should marry free believing women.

3) Failing to deal with them justly you should marry those ‘whom your right hand possesses.’

However, notice it stops here.  Why does it not continue and say, failing to do justly with them…. etc?

Ponder some of the translations of this verse:

http://quran.com/4/3

& here as well:

http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/3/

Please take note on two points:

1) How the translators have used the conjunction ‘aw‘.

2) How they have translated ‘Thus it is more likely that you will not do injustice.’

The whole thrust of Holy Qur’an 4:3  if one looks at it in light of the over all context of distribution of wealth and property  is  what is a man looking at getting married for? What may he find beneficial for him.  In fact the verse itself is obviously directed towards men.

It tells us that men may find the idea of marrying an orphan appealing; as some may want to usurp their property as we are told in Holy Qur’an 4:10.

“Indeed, those who devour the property of orphans unjustly are only consuming into their bellies fire. And they will be burned in a Blaze. (Holy Qur’an 4:10)

It than goes into the idea of marrying free believing women.  Nowhere does the verse say that we are to marry one woman. Interestingly enough it starts off with the number two.

However, a man may find that he is still having financial constraints in trying to marry free believing women.

Thus it is simultaneously brought to his attention to marry his slave women.

This is dealt with in more detail in Holy Qur’an 4:25.

“And whoever among you cannot [find] the means to marry free, believing women, then [he may marry] from those whom your right hands possess of believing slave girls. And Allah is most knowing about your faith. You [believers] are of one another. So marry them with the permission of their people and give them their due compensation according to what is acceptable. [They should be] chaste, neither [of] those who commit unlawful intercourse randomly nor those who take [secret] lovers. But once they are sheltered in marriage, if they should commit adultery, then for them is half the punishment for free women. This is for him among you who fears sin, but to be patient is better for you. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Holy Qur’an 4:25)

So let us look at the other verse that is brought in to say that Muslim men can only marry one woman.

And you will never be able to be equal between wives, even if you should strive [to do so]. So do not incline completely [toward one] and leave another hanging. And if you amend [your affairs] and fear Allah – then indeed, Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful. (Holy Qur’an 4:129)

This verse is no where telling men that because they cannot deal justly with more than one wife that they should marry only one.   The context itself tells us this.  The following sentence reminds the man not to incline towards one wife letting the other feel neglected.

What I feel many of us neglect when reading the Holy Qur’an 4:129 is that not only do men read this verse but women do too!  Thus, women are reminded that men won’t be able to totally equal in all respects.  Some women may have more needs than others. You may have a wife who has a mental or physical handicap. So this verse is also a reminder to women to keep the larger picture in mind.

In fact you will see that the post-modern  ‘free minds translation’ of the Holy Qur’an being manipulated right here:

http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/129/

& here:

https://www.free-minds.org/quran/PM/4

“And you will not be able to be fair regarding the women even if you make every effort; so do not sway too greatly and leave her as one hanging in a void. And if you reconcile and do right, then God is Forgiver, Merciful.”

Wouldn’t be surprised if they ‘clean up’ this translation latter.  Notice the verse is obviously addressing women (plural) and than suddenly the theme is switched to one woman (the wife) ?

Manipulation of the text at its best.

Because  we have dealt with the issue of ‘Marriage to the People of the Book‘  in the link provided above, I wanted to spend some time on the issue of polygyny.

If Allah (swt) wanted us to not marry Jews and Christians he would have told us this in very clear terms.

If Allah (swt) wanted Muslim men to marry only one woman, he would have told us this in very clear terms.

To mention 2 or 3 or 4 and than say, well in reality it only means one is to say the Holy Qur’an is not only couched in obfuscation but that it contains redundant language.

Surely as Allah (swt) says if the oceans were ink to write his words, the oceans would deplete before Allah (swt) would run out of things to say.

Say: “If the ocean were ink to write the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it for its aid.”  (Holy Qur’an 18:109)

Surely, the Allah (swt) would say simply marry only one.  Simple.

Now one thing I want to clear up is that the Holy Qur’an is not saying that it is mandatory for a man to marry more than one woman.

However, to say that the Holy Qur’an does not allow men to marry more than one wife is simply pandering to a post modern liberal world view.

Mind you there are also those who say, well if a man marries another woman, she should be absolutely destitute, having been divorced and so forth.

The Holy Qur’an also does not say that marrying women whom are destitute, or divorced are a priority.   Again these are people who seek to impose their own criteria of whom a man may or may not marry.  Did these very people go and seek to marry the handicap, the most destitute, those considered ‘undesirable’ by society?

To marry such people is a choice.  The irony is that many men and women who claim that the verse in Holy Qur’an 4:3 is only in regards to women who are destitute and down and out not only ignores the verse itself but gives the impression that women are weak and powerless.

Note the following part of the verse again,

THEN marry those that please you of [other] women, TWO or three or four.”  These “other women” are not slaves nor orphans. There are women in society that are socially upwardly mobile. Women in society that are wealthy or have careers.  These women want husbands because they have any number of needs.

They could want children. They could simply want affection and male companionship. They could want sexual gratification.  They might feel more secure being in a relationship with a man that has already proven he can be good Imam of his children and household.

The point being is that if a woman or any women marry a man of their own free will and volition are in agreement to such an arrangement than who are we to impose post-modern liberal values upon them?

It is also interesting to note that verse 4:129 does not say “You will not be able to love them equally.”   The theme is justice.

Allah (swt) is admonishing the husband by taking the perspective of one of the wives. Allah (swt) is also re assuring a husband who maybe having doubts about his ability to be a good husband that He (Allah) is forgiving and merciful.

In the end the perfect justice is the purview of the divine; and complete and perfect justice belongs only to Allah (swt).

“Have you not turned Your  vision to those who claim sanctity for themselves? Nay-but Allah Does sanctify whom He pleases . But never will they fail to receive justice in the least little thing.” (Holy Qur’an 4:49)

Conclusion: From the perspective of Prima-Qur’an. Islam can be pro-polygyny or pro-monogamy.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Redundant Revelation? The Question of Polygyny

  1. Pingback: Do Muslim women need a guardian (wali) for a marriage contract according to the Qur’an? | primaquran

  2. Hossain Salauddin

    Salam Brother
    Thank you fro your article about 4.3. You did very good job to explaining it . But I have one question about your translation of the Ayat.
    ‘And if you fear that you will not deal justly with orphans girls, then.
    where it saying it is orphans girls? l-yatāmā meaning is the orphans not orphan girls. If you translate it correctly as the orpahns then your hole argument not making any sence. You can say many translator translate as orphan girls, i will say why you use their translation not your own and then explain the Ayat. l-yatāmā word used it Quran in many Ayats all of them mean orphan not specificly orphan girls. Lets translate the Ayat as orphan then explain what is the Ayat telling us.
    Thank you brother for your good work .I liked your other article .

    Hossain

    • Walakum salaam wr wb.

      Dear respected brother Hossain you have stated:

      ” I have one question about your translation of the Ayat.
      ‘And if you fear that you will not deal justly with orphans girls, then.
      where it saying it is orphans girls? l-yatāmā meaning is the orphans not orphan girls. If you translate it correctly as the orpahns then your hole argument not making any sence.”

      I have went with a more direct translation of ‘orphans’ rather than ‘orphan girls’ thank you for pointing this out. Especially in the modern hysterical environment that we live in. I do want to emphasize that the orphans in question are in reference to women. What I am curious is to your statement “If you translate correctly as the orphans then your hole argument not making any sence.” In what way would it not make any sense? Would you like to elaborate.

      Thank you noble brother.

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